asus-zenbook-duo-assessment-(2021):-a-greater-dual-screen-pocket-book-for-much-less

Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Beyond the revamped ScreenPad Plus, the ZenBook Duo appears to be like nearly the identical as final yr, with ASUS’s normal magnesium alloy body and sharp strains. There’s additionally a greater collection of ports, together with two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports (the final mannequin had USB-C however no Thunderbolt); one USB 3.1 Type-A; a full-sized HDMI connection; a microSD card reader and the standard headphone jack.

The most notable upgrades are contained in the ZenBook Duo: It now contains Intel’s Eleventh-generation Tiger Lake processors; extra highly effective Intel Xe built-in graphics; an non-obligatory NVIDIA MX450 GPU; and as much as 32GB of RAM. The Duo can be Intel Evo licensed, which is advertising communicate for a strong ultraportable with lengthy battery life.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Despite seeming like a fast branding alternative, the Zenbook Duo lived as much as that Evo badge in my testing. Our assessment unit featured an Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU with solely 8GB of RAM, however it nonetheless felt snappy as I juggled a number of apps without delay. To be trustworthy, I’d actually solely advocate the Duo with 16GB of RAM to actually maximize your multitasking potential. But I used to be nonetheless in a position to run dozens of browser tabs, Evernote, Slack, Spotify and YouTube throughout each screens with none bother.

Intel’s Xe graphics additionally proved worthy, scoring almost 4,000 factors greater than final yr’s mannequin in 3DMark Night Raid. I did not have an opportunity to do a lot gaming on the Duo, however that rating alone makes it clear it’s going to be capable of play a low-impact title like Overwatch. NVIDIA’s MX450 ought to supply extra GPU energy, however I have never been in a position to take a look at that but. More essential than video games, although, is the ZenBook Duo’s uncooked computing energy. Its vastly improved PCMark 10 and Geekbench scores make it clear that Intel’s Tiger Lake {hardware} is a serious improve. It additionally lasted 11 hours and 40 minutes in our battery take a look at, which is near many ultraportables, although 5 hours lower than the XPS 13. 

For essentially the most half, I discovered the ScreenPad Plus to be much more helpful than final yr, just because I might see it higher. But it is nonetheless a bit too brief for a lot of apps. Technically, you possibly can run three tiny home windows side-by-side, however I discovered that too small to be helpful. Instead, I usually had an internet browser or a productiveness app like Evernote up on the principle display screen, whereas two different apps sat under. Most of the time, it was a mixture of YouTube and Spotify on the ScreenPad Plus for simply controlling media (and a pleasant approach to sneak in my favourite YouTube channels whereas working).

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The ZenBook Duo’s important 1080p 14-inch display screen appears to be like nice as properly, with loads of brightness and vibrancy to make movies and images pop. You can undoubtedly inform that it is of a better high quality than the ScreenPad Plus — it helps 100% of the SRGB gamut — however the truth that each can attain 400 nits of brightness makes it simpler to faux as in the event that they’re one single show. I simply want ASUS included a approach to change the brightness of each screens concurrently. As it stands you should use the operate keys for the principle show and the ScreenPad Plus’s touchscreen settings to take care of brightness individually.

One main draw back to the ZenBook Duo is that, as soon as once more, ASUS needed to shove the keyboard and trackpad under the ScreenPad Plus. The keyboard is a bit cramped and uncomfortable to make use of with out a built-in wrist relaxation, although I received used to it after a couple of hours. The keys themselves supply an honest quantity of journey and suggestions. The trackpad, although, is a serious difficulty if you happen to’ve been spoiled by the big touchpads on most ultraportables. It’s vertical and shoved to the correct, with little room for multitouch gestures. Again, I might stay with it, however it wasn’t precisely nice to make use of.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

If you are contemplating the ZenBook Duo, you will should assume arduous on whether or not a brief second display screen is value shedding a extra ergonomic keyboard and touchpad. At least this yr, you will should pay loads much less for the privilege of proudly owning the Duo: It begins at $1,000 with a Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Those are literally helpful specs for mainstream customers, however if you happen to’re actually planning to place it by way of its paces, I’d advocate the $1,500 mannequin with 16GB of RAM and an MX450. Our assessment unit, which once more was restricted to 8GB of reminiscence, sells for $1,300. And you possibly can spec the ZenBook Duo all the way in which as much as $1,700 with 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and NVIDIA’s MX450.

ASUS’s ZenBook Duo is not good, however it’s surprisingly compelling and a notable improve over final yr’s mannequin. It’s no marvel why it gained our Best of CES 2021 award for PCs: the Duo is genuinely progressive in a time when many ultraportables are beginning to really feel stale. Dual-screen notebooks aren’t for everybody simply but, however ASUS has made a stronger case for why you’ll need one.