Sir Francis Bacon once wrote that “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” And while I’m not sure he would have felt that way about the new ZenBook Pro Duo, between its cramped keyboard, awkward touchpad location and massive 14-inch second screen on Asus’ latest laptop, I can’t help but feel like that quote applies here too.
This laptop is aggressively techy, because to create it, Asus basically took all the best features from previous systems, stuffed them in a 15-inch chassis, and then topped it off with an upgraded Apple Touch Bar on steroids.
That’s because in addition to its 15.6-inch main display and 14-inch second screen – which Asus is calling the ScreenPad Plus – the ZenBook Pro Duo also comes with your choice of a 9th-gen Intel Core i9 or i7 H-series CPU, up to 32GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage and an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU, which sort of makes this a mobile creative’s potential dream machine.
The list of high-end specs don’t end there either, Asus included support for Wi-Fi 6 to deliver extra fast wireless speeds, and gave that main display a 15.6-inch OLED panel (which in itself is a rare feature among laptops) that can also cover 100 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. The ZenBook Pro Duo’s webcam even supports Windows Hello face recognition so you can login without ever needing to type out your password, while off to the right, Asus tacked on the nifty dual-function touchpad we’ve seen on previous Asus laptops that lets the touchpad transform into a number pad at the touch of a button.
But who are we kidding, the ZenBook Pro Duo is all about that ScreenPad Plus. With an extra-wide 32:9 aspect ratio and a 4K 3,840 by 1,100 resolution, the 14-inch ScreenPad Plus could almost be like having a second built-in display. Similar to the Touch Bar on modern MacBook, Asus is working with software makers such as Corel to provide dedicated shortcuts and function buttons in specific apps.
But more importantly, because the ScreenPad Plus is configured as a second display in Windows 10, you can drag any app to the lower screen as you please, or simply use that extra screen as a place to stash app icons, folders and more. The ScreenPad Plus even comes with active stylus support, so you can use it to save a quick sketch or add notes or comments to an ongoing project.
But to me, the most exciting about the ZenBook Pro Duo is what it means for the future. That’s because after introducing the ZenBook Pro 15 with the first-gen ScreenPad last year, and now one-upping that system with the ZenBook Pro Duo and its Screen Pad Plus, Asus is clearly signalling that its dual-screen Project Precog laptop is way more than just a far-out concept.
That said, there’s sure to be some growing pains as companies try to figure out how to really maximise the value of dual-screen laptops, but between this and Lenovo’s prototype laptops with a foldable screen, we could be witnessing the birth of an entirely new category of laptop, even if Dell’s Frank Azor thinks its still years away.
Unfortunately, concrete release info about the ZenBook Pro Duo is still a bit sparse. So far, Asus hasn’t provided any general figures for the ZenBook Pro Duo’s pricing, and the only thing we know about its availability is that it’s scheduled to go on sale sometime in Q3 2019. It’s a good bet to assume it will become available after Intel’s new 10th generation processor as there’s a second smaller ZenBook Pro Duo planned which is expected to feature a 10th-Gen CPU. It will have a 14-inch main display and 12.6-inch ScreenPad Plus.
All photos: Asus