Updated: June 3, 2021 10:41:56 am
When I saw the first-generation ZenBook Pro Duo at the Computex tech show in Taipei two years back, I was blown away. I hadn’t seen a notebook with two 4K screens till then. I got immediately interested in Asus’ vision of creating a premium dual-screen laptop designed for creative professionals.
While the original ZenBook Pro Duo made me believe in the idea of two-screen laptops, there were certain issues with that machine. Now, Asus is out with an improved ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED (UX582), a second-generation version of a notebook that I like to call the fantasy machine for creators. Although I recently reviewed the smaller ZenBook Duo 14, there are certain differences between this crazy-looking dual-screen machine and that laptop. What better way to review a notebook that costs nearly Rs 2,79,990 amid a pandemic when pro users are stuck at home working remotely, right?
In this review, I will share some of my thoughts on the upgraded and powerful ZenBook Pro Duo and explain whether or not I would recommend it for designers and other creative professionals.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED review price in India: Rs 2,79,990
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED review: Design and build
The core idea and belief that dual-screen notebooks are better than a traditional laptop hasn’t really changed. The second-generation ZenBook Pro Duo shares similarities with its predecessor in terms of design and aesthetics yet there are subtle changes. Instead of tweaking the looks, Asus has introduced the ErgoLift hinge, which lifts the ScreenPad Plus and raises the keyboard deck at an angle. This not only improves the viewing angle but also airflow. Otherwise, the new ZenBook Pro Duo, like the original notebook, still has two screens: the main display and the secondary screen called the ScreenPad Plus. On the outside, the ZenBook Pro Duo doesn’t look too different from Asus’ popular notebooks in its ZenBook lineup. The concentric circles on the lid very much define an Asus ZenBook and so is the premium build quality.
That said, the ZenBook Pro Duo is pretty heavy for a 15-inch notebook. Even though Asus has shaved off the weight (the new one weighs 2.34 kg and is around 24mm thick), it’s hard to deny the ZenBook Pro Duo is bigger and heavier than 15-inch notebooks. Given the specs it comes with, that’s still impressive when you consider a notebook squarely aimed at creative professionals. Think of this device as a portable desktop in the laptop form factor.
The 15-inch ZenBook Pro Duo’s port selection is a mixed bag. You will find a full-size HDMI 2.1 port and a 3.5-mm audio combo jack on the left-hand side of the notebook. On the opposite side, there are two USB-C ports, all of which support Thunderbolt 3 speeds, and a single USB-A USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. Unfortunately, there’s no SD card slot on this machine. Surprisingly, the smaller ZenBook Duo 14 comes with a microSD card reader. As for wireless connectivity, there’s support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED review: Main display and the ScreenPad Plus
As I said earlier, not only is the basic design of the ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED similar to Asus’ original ZenBook Pro Duo, but also the specifications of the two displays. That means you are getting two screens — a 15.6-inch OLED 4K 3840 x 2160 resolution screen and the 14-inch ScreenPad Plus 4K UHD touchscreen, sitting under the display, above the keyboard. The 15.6-inch 4K touchscreen panel offers sharper image quality, and although it still has a 60Hz refresh rate. Since this is of an OLED variety, the display gets plenty bright and colorful. This screen is not going to make a big difference for me but it is useful for the pro user crowd. It features 100 per cent DCI-P3 and 100 per cent sRGB colour gamut, which is essential for photographers and video editors who rely on accurate colours.
The secondary 14-inch ScreenPad Plus display, meanwhile, uses an IPS panel and a resolution of 3,840 x 1,100 pixels. Both displays support touch and stylus inputs. Although the ScreenPad looks dull compared to the main display, I guess the decision to have a matte finish has something to do with reducing glare. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to like about the ScreenPad Plus. In fact, the functionality and usefulness of the secondary display have been enhanced over the previous model. There are multiple use cases of the ScreenPad Plus. For instance, I can drag a window from the main screen to the secondary display.
The other day I did a Zoom interview while editing a copy both at the same time. It wasn’t possible on a regular notebook but thanks to the ScreenPad Plus on the ZenBook Pro Duo, I was able to attend an interview simply by dragging a window down to the secondary display. The drag-and-drop feature to move a window to the lower display works like a charm.
There are multiple ways to use the secondary display on the ZenBook Pro Duo and take advantage of the ScreenPad Plus. You can open a window and span on both screens, giving users extra real estate that cannot be achieved on a single screen. I won’t say the ScreenPad Plus is perfect, but yes, Asus is slowly expanding the usefulness of the secondary screen.
If you are a professional video editor or a creative type, there’s a lot to like about the ScreenPad Plus. This year, the ScreenPad Plus gets support for core Adobe applications including Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, and Lightroom Classic. So when you open Photoshop, you will get customisable shortcuts on the ScreenPad Plus. The ScreenPad Plus also supports handwriting recognition as well as third-party apps such as Spotify. I think third-party support is key to the success of the ScreenPad Plus and the whole idea of a dual-screen notebook. I would like to see Zoom being natively supported on the ScreenPad Plus.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED review: Performance and battery
So, how does the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo perform and does it make for a sound investment considering the price tag? Asus loaned me the top-end model, which comes with the 10th generation Intel Core i9 processor, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU. For a laptop designed to appeal to graphics designers and content creators, it’s always important to go through the specs of the machine. The experience is phenomenal on this laptop.
If you’re upgrading from an old laptop, you’ll be very impressed with how fast this computer feels. For most people doing regular tasks like web browsing or occasional video/photo editing, the ZenBook Pro Duo feels like a supercomputer. But if you are someone who is involved in video editing or intense graphics work, then 32 GB or 64 GB might make more sense.
Clearly, the ZenBook Pro Duo isn’t for me and I wouldn’t recommend buying this machine unless you want a device that is critical to the work you do. The average user should stay away from the ZenBook Pro Duo as this laptop is intended for a video editor who professionally works with high-resolution video footage, or a 3D designer.
When it comes to battery life, the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo lasted close to 3 and a half hours. Laptops of this kind do not last for long hours, something you should know by now. Yes, the ZenBook Pro Duo does heat up a bit but I think that’s normal for a laptop that possesses so much power.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED review: Keyboard and trackpad
One of the biggest criticisms about the ZenBook Pro Duo is how Asus designed the keyboard and trackpad on this laptop. Sacrifices have been made to accommodate the secondary display and this led to the repositioning of the keyboard and trackpad. So unlike regular notebooks, we are used to, the keyboard on this machine has been shifted to the bottom edge. This resulted in the keyboard being a bit cramped as it lacks a rest pad. However, it’s not as bad as many have made it out to be. I, in fact, liked the keyboard. Sure, it does not have a keyboard deck but it hasn’t really impacted how I type on the keyboard. Honestly, I found the experience to be as satisfying as using a keyboard on any other laptop. The trackpad, on the other hand, is a bit taller. Yes, it’s tiny but feels smooth and responsive. And yes, it doubles as a virtual number pad.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED review: Webcam and speakers
Despite being an expensive notebook, the ZenBook Pro Duo still offers an average 720p camera. I think it’s time for Asus to bid goodbye to 720p webcams on its pro-level notebooks. The Harman Kardon speakers are absolutely excellent on this laptop. They are loud and clearest with no distortion. The sound has bass and they deliver good volume. Speakers are good for content creators and streamers or anyone who wants to attend a video call.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED review: Should I buy it?
I used the ZenBook Pro Duo for close to 10 days, and I love it. But I have to admit that this isn’t made for the work I do. If you are someone who plans to manage a growing YouTube channel, or if you are an interior designer, I see this machine as an investment. The dual-screen does have its own advantages but I still think there’s a lot to be done to improve the software experience on such notebooks.
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