Throughout its existence, the classic shape of the laptop has not changed globally. These are also two parts of the box where the top includes a display and the bottom carries all the accessories and manipulators. Time only updates design, dimensions and other small things, but the shape of the world has not changed. There are exceptions that seem like bold experiments, not working samples. True, some of them go on sale. For example, ASUS had a Taichi laptop model that had two displays in the top cover, inside and out, and Lenovo replaced the keyboard with a display. The new Computex 2019 "chip" was dual-screen laptops, where the second was built into the top box. For a while, we received an engineering sample of the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, also in the above configuration, which we'll talk about today.
As we have a model with the prefix Pro, it is not necessary to include only a laptop with a block. power, plus a stylus and palm rest. Unfortunately, there are no accessories with a test sample, so far they will not be able to evaluate their quality and performance.
Branded backpacks are often found in some packages from the manufacturer's kit and in this case would be very useful as the laptop is large and even for short trips it is worth buying at least a bag for it. It will be more comfortable and safer.
As you can see, the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is currently one of the most unusual laptops that will still reach the end customer and will not become another forgotten concept from any consumer electronics show. Along with the two screens, some design elements from other models have accidentally appeared here, which were found in both the usual and the game lines of the manufacturer.
For example, the ErgoLift system – part of the upper lid in the open position raises the upper case by the hinge, thus creating a more comfortable angle for the keyboard and opening up additional airflow space. But in this case, it is also useful for handling the second screen, as it makes the viewing angle a little more comfortable for it. The keyboard itself is based on the principle of the early ROG Zephyrus models we visited, and in the virtual built-in virtual NUM block.
Everything seems futuristic and unusual, at the same time with a decent "stuffing", which accordingly affected the size of the case. So, the 15-inch laptop weighs 2.5 kg and measures 359 × 246 × 24 mm. Therefore, a backpack in the kit would not be superfluous. The color of the case is only one – sky blue (sky blue). The traditional ASUS hub concentric circles also have this model. There is also a small diode strip on the front of the top box. For example, it may "wink" when talking to a voice assistant, but when working with a laptop, it will be almost imperceptible.
What I didn't really like is the number of ports. To the left of the box there is only a charging slot, HDMI and USB-A (3.1), and to the right is another USB-A (3.1), USB-C (Thunderbolt 3 support) and a 3.5mm jack. In such a big case, there may be room for a cable network connection, a card reader, and probably at least one more USB. That would be logical, since the laptop is positioned as a pro tool and, as experience has shown on the latest MacBook Pro lines, consumers don't really like messing around with adapters and hubs (though they do anyway). In any case, with ZenBook Pro Duo, thoughts about adapters still don't work if you need to use memory cards on a normal business day or if you need to connect to the network by phone.
If you are not paying attention to the second display yet, then the following impressions are formed for the laptop. Like many gaming models with similar components, the ZenBook Pro Duo is large and heavy. Among other features, you have to put up with its size. But then it is perfectly assembled and the aluminum case with polished edges does not look cheap. Overall appearance is still a subjective factor, but personally I liked it, even in places it looked more like a concept than a production model.
However, the main "trick" of the model is not the design, not the configuration and the two screens. The main 15 inch diagonal received 4K resolution (3840 × 2160 pixels). Additional (ScreenPad Plus), though smaller, 14 inches diagonally and twice as narrow, but also with 4K resolution (3840 × 1100). In addition, they are both sensory. There is also a stylus of its own, which is complete with such a model, but, again, it did not reach us.
The color rendering of the two screens is different. For starters, the main display has a glossy surface and the secondary display is frosted (otherwise glare from interior lighting would be difficult to avoid). Different matrices are also used here: OLED for the primary and IPS for the secondary. Of course, we have a test sample that is certainly different from the final version. So, with brighter colors on the main display, they both deviate to the "warm" side. However, the rest of the screens are good and will certainly not only be suitable for the average user, unless, of course, the temperature is corrected (I think the calibration of the production model will be different).
Main Display Measurements:
Secondary Display Measurements:
Their backlight is also different. The main screen can adjust the brightness in the range 3.4-381 cd / m² and the second – 10-277 cd / m². Both will be sufficient for most everyday situations, in any case, during a brief introduction to the laptop, I did not feel the lack of brightness on either screen. Sensor responsiveness is also in order.
Two screens in operation
And the most interesting is how everything works. Now I suggest looking at the laptop from the perspective of the average user who does not have specific custom software for such a set of screens. In addition, not all users generally work with a pair of monitors. In this section, I will try to convey the essence of the idea of such a setup and a first look at implementation.
The essence of both displays is to increase productivity and multitasking. With two screens you can really speed up workflows, keep more windows open in front of you, and get more information. Even if there is just a separate space for messenger, mail and, say, a music player, it's much easier to work without minimizing and maximizing windows, but having them right in front of your eyes. Here, too, anyone can use the extra space exactly as they need it right now.
For professionals, this is a separate field that will greatly assist in the work. For example, when editing a video, you can display a timeline or library of files that the user currently works with on a separate screen. Or, carry a set of tools in the photo editor there and do not shrink them close to the photo. It may be all small things for some, but those users who have worked with multiple screens for a while will hardly want to give up this opportunity in the future, especially at work. For fun, this is also a good solution that allows you, for example, to see Discord and Steam information during the game, or display system monitoring in a separate window, network status, and other things that should be / are interesting to watch. After all, a look from the corner of the eye.
But with screen layouts like the ZenBook Pro Duo, the experience is a bit different than with regular screens. For starters, because of the extra position, I personally all the time intuitively wanted to lean a bit towards it to get a better view of the information (with two ordinary monitors, for example, you can just look sideways). It is therefore trivial to lean back in a chair and work fully with both screens, reaching your hands toward the keyboard is difficult.
Secondly, the window that hits the second screen becomes noticeably smaller and becomes much smaller. Accordingly, all labels, buttons, icons and other elements become less readable. I have good vision and even with it I still had to look closely. Alas, not every app will be tailored to work with such a combination of screens, so you need to be prepared for the inconvenience when using the second display at the top.
The second screen also has a number of additional features, in the style of handwriting with subsequent text recognition, launch a pre-configured location of application windows or pop up popular shortcuts (yes, "copy and paste" even faster). Again, almost all of these tricks are more like a demonstration of technology than something I would use in real life. Except, perhaps, presets for quickly opening the right applications and automatically placing them in the correct order on an additional screen. It really saves time and clicks.
In the system, the second monitor is displayed in the same way as any external monitor. Windows does not have additional settings for this, but there are a number of parameters that can be adjusted using the native interface. What I really want is the ability to control the backlight on both screens at once, but at least there is no such setting in the test sample.
In my opinion such a solution would not replace the full second monitor in its classic form. However, it is possible to slightly expand the capabilities of the laptop, especially under some unusual working conditions (such as on a business trip, for example), even though it may not be as comfortable as we would like.
Keyboard, trackpad, multimedia
As mentioned before, and generally speaking, the placement of the keyboard here is not the most standard. Some ROG models already have this, for example. Only in this case a slightly different keyboard is used. It looks slimmer than the game models, and has a plain white backlight. Printing on it is quite pleasant and is obtained without taking your eyes off the monitor. You just have to get used to the "arrows" and all the function keys, but it doesn't take long.
A small trackpad here is also located in a not very standard position. It is located in the lower right corner of the upper housing and is positioned vertically. It works fine but because of its small size and location it is not very convenient to use it. But as a bonus, it has NUM block mode.
The speakers are located on the lower side faces closer to the user. The Harman / Cardboard logo hints that the sound should be better than most regular laptops. Indeed, even in the test sample, the playback quality is not bad, but I would still like more bass than such a large laptop.
We didn't experiment with the position of webcams here – it was built above the display. Its quality is fairly standard for portable sensors with megapixel resolution. Next to this camera is an infrared camera that implements Windows Hello, which lets you sign in without a password.
Productivity and Software
The test sample contains a top-class configuration with an eight-core Intel Core i9-9980HK (2.4 -5 -5 GHz) processor and a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6 GB) discrete graphics card. Flavored with 32 GB RAM (DDR4) and a terabyte hard drive. Based on the Pro model, it will be possible to get Intel Core i7-9750H, 8 GB RAM and 256 GB SSD, but the graphics will remain the same. This is also the first laptop I got with Intel Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). For wireless accessories, of course, there is Bluetooth 5.0.
The test results are probably not the most telling, since we do not have the final sample of the device, but rather an engineering sample with raw software. The numbers are still not the most modest. Even in games you can get a good number of frames, which is also stable. Later we will have to get the final version of the laptop where we can talk more about performance.
Another thing is heating and noise. Under load, of course, the cooling system sounds good, it's strong. It removes heat from the laptop through the side slots on the left and right, thus warming whatever is nearby. For example, during games, this heat over time becomes uncomfortable with a mouse. Of course, in winter it may seem like a plus, but now, in mid-August, I don't like it.
The keyboard stays at an acceptable temperature, the area of the second display heats more. Monoblock desktops have experienced cases where hot components have affected the matrices, leaving yellow spots. May it not happen here. At load, the sensors showed about 85-90 ° C, while for non-trivial tasks this indicator fluctuated slightly at about 40 ° C.
Windows 10 is almost untouched here. Unless there is a menu for setting up and handling additional features on the additional screen. Now it doesn't make sense to go into the details of the software, since it is not yet complete and is now manifesting itself in the form of not the most stable second screen. We will discuss this in more detail with the final sample.
To maintain the battery life of a similar "charge" (after all, along with the "iron" at the top, there are two 4K screens), an eight-cell battery was inserted into the ZenBook Pro Duo 71 Wh The PCMark 8 running test runs only 2 hours 24 minutes. A two-hour movie with convenient settings for brightness and volume selects about half the battery power.
These are indicative results that are likely to change with the finished laptop. But if not, then given the performance and the two displays, even such results cannot be considered the worst, for gaming computers with the same "guts" these are quite expected indicators of autonomy.
Instead of Exit
Over the time spent with such an unusual laptop, there are mixed feelings. On the one hand, there is a powerful base for the discerning user, good high resolution screens and touch input, an unusual WOW effect design. But in practice, the second display is unlikely to be appreciated by all fans of multitasking. Due to the high zoom, it is not convenient to work with every application and it will not be convenient to look at the second screen in every position. Of course, it is impossible to say unequivocally for all users that to someone this combination will obviously be very interesting and useful.