If you, like me, thought innovation in the tech space has started stalling, then you just need to take one look at the ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581). Don’t dare call it a laptop because it is anything but one and I have many reasons for making this statement. This could well be the computing device of the future, but maybe also a device that came out a bit before its time.
The ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581) is a laptop that is larger than normal. In fact, it is more like a desktop replacement than a notebook you can carry around. It looks heavy from the outside and once you hold it you realise it is actually heavy at about 2.5 kg without the charger.
It has the trademark Asus design on the outside and is built like a tank. It has prominent fan grills on the sides and even a pad at the bottom to prevent the heat from hitting your laps. All this makes it look more like a gaming laptop than a workstation.
There is a reason behind why the ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581) has put on so much weight and so much preparation to dissipate heat. This laptop has two screens inside. Let me correct myself, two 4K screens inside. That also explains the Duo in the name of this laptop.
With the ZenBook Pro Duo, Asus is attempting to bring in a new way of working. So along with the stunning 15.6-inch 4K OLED HDR touchscreen, there is the new 14.1-inch 4K panel ScreenPad Plus just below. This screen can do everything you would expect an extra screen to do. It is an extension of the big screen when needed, it is also an add-on screen, it is an input screen, it can be an app tray, it can be your folder location. The possibilities are almost endless, especially when third parties start working on this.
But to start with, this is a new way of working. So I fumbled every bit of my first two days with this device. It started with the onboarding programme that Asus has loaded for first-time users. I struggled to get it to move from one screen to another and did not know how to get rid of it. Then when it was finally out of the way, I had to pretty much learn how to use the second screen, and in the process unlearn how I use the PC. Yes, I use a MacBook Pro with the Touchbar, but that’s there only when you need it, the ScreenPad Plus, however, is right there in your face.
But once you start getting the hang of it, which could be a week or so, you start enjoying the extra screen and what it can do for you. If you are a regular browse and type person, this makes no sense for you. But for people who work on apps like Corel Draw and Photoshop, or even the rest of the Adobe suite this is a dream come true.
However, the extra screen also presents a different issue. Despite the large size of this device, it has a very cramped keyboard with no space for a trackpad. Asus has innovated around this problem with a touch panel number pad which you can use to move the cursor around. However, I kept going for the second screen to control the first. Even though the first is also a touchscreen. It is a constant fight against muscle memory.
Asus has gone a step further and put the AsusPen in the box. This is a bit like the Surface Pen and lets you do a lot of stuff well. But my experience with handwriting was not all that great and there was a bit of a lag in response.
For all the shock and awe of the 4K screen, the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired though.
The performance of the ZenBook Pro Duo should not be a problem at any stage as it is powered by a ninth-generation Intel Core i9-9980HK processor which was do anything you ask it to. But, yes, this computer does get hot especially when you are making it do something really stressful.
The battery life also needs to be managed accordingly, by keeping the second screen at minimum brightness or eco mode. But I don’t think this will be a problem as you will not be taking this device around a lot.
Overall, this is not a device I can recommend for everyone because this is not a device for everyone. But for the very creative among us, especially those in the Microsoft universe, this is a dream device. Yes, it is pricey, but the bump you will get in productivity will balance out the costs in a while. But this is also not a perfect device, as many innovative devices tend to be. But that is the risk you will take as a first mover.