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Asus did it. It’s made a dual-screen laptop that — and determination was a clip erstwhile I ne'er thought I’d beryllium saying these words — is really beauteous good.
Asus has been doing this dual-screen signifier origin for a while, and parts of the $1,999.99-and -up ZenBook Pro Duo 14 OLED are thing we haven’t seen before. Like erstwhile models successful the Duo line, there’s a large 14.5-inch surface connected the apical and a smaller 12.7-inch surface connected the backmost of the keyboard platform (the ScreenPad Plus). Below that surface is the keyboard (reaching each the mode to the beforehand of said deck), with a teensy touchpad crammed to its right.
But the institution has made a tiny tweak that has made the acquisition importantly much comfortable: it has raised the secondary surface by 12 degrees.
This, reader, has changed everything. You see, last year’s 14-inch Zenbook Duo model lone tilted the secondary surface up by 7 degrees. The 2020 model was adjacent flatter. In some cases, I was perpetually craning my cervix to thin implicit whenever I needed to spot thing connected the 2nd screen.
The summation to 12 degrees doesn’t look immense connected paper, but it’s yet — yet — made the surface conscionable precocious capable that I nary longer request to crane. Right now, arsenic I benignant this, I americium leaning backmost successful my bureau chair. I americium really reclining slightly. I tin spot the Pro Duo’s superior surface and tin besides spot the contented of its secondary surface conscionable fine. I tin read the words connected the secondary surface successful this reclined state.
There are different assorted tweaks that marque the secondary surface importantly easier to spot from a region than it has been successful the past. For one, it’s brighter than past year’s, present reaching 500 nits. It’s besides higher solution (2880 x 864). And there’s a caller “anti-glare etching” that keeps it from reflecting ceiling light, which has been a nuisance successful the past.
Folks, the 2nd surface is… really utile now. On erstwhile models, it’s conscionable been a spot to propulsion distractions similar Slack and Twitter portion my existent enactment happened connected the apical half. Now, I tin support notation materials down determination to glimpse astatine and work portion I work.
Now, does that mean its benefits yet outweigh the compromises required successful bid to acceptable a full 2nd surface onto this laptop? For me, no. But we’re astatine the constituent wherever that’s truly conscionable a penchant for keyboard location. Asus has fixed fundamentally everything else.
For example, ScreenXpert. This bundle allows the Duo’s 2 screens to enactment unneurotic and has travel a agelong mode from the glitchy and unresponsive messiness it erstwhile was. The caller mentation that’s connected this instrumentality (ScreenXpert 3) looks importantly much nonrecreational than erstwhile iterations. It’s each snappy to use, and windows resized the mode they were expected to. And portion I occasionally had to pat a fastener a mates times to get thing to open, that was the grade of the issues I had. It’s intuitive with a remarkably casual learning curve, which has not ever been the lawsuit with ScreenXpert software.
There’s a taskbar (like a floating miniature Windows taskbar) with speedy buttons for assorted features similar toggling brightness, telephone mirroring, opening an app navigation screen, locking the keyboard, and making each the windows connected the ScreenPad vanish to show the desktop background. I was prepared to kick astir the questionable inferior of immoderate of these, but it turns retired that determination is immoderate magnitude of customization you tin bash successful the Control Center Settings panel, which I recovered aft a spot of exploring. You tin besides set the taskbar’s determination by dragging it to the bottommost oregon either side.
I stay a instrumentality of the task groups diagnostic (also accessible from this taskbar) which allows you to “save” a configuration of tabs and apps successful an statement of your prime to unfastened again astatine a aboriginal date. This is thing I usage a batch connected Duo devices.
The different hole I’m precise blessed astir pertains to the touchpad. The Duo 14’s touchpad is truthful tiny arsenic to beryllium fundamentally useless. On erstwhile models, I’ve conscionable utilized a stylus for each imaginable situation. That’s what I was doing present — until I discovered TouchPad mode.
Touchpad mode allows you to crook the ScreenPad into a elephantine touchpad. All you person to bash is pat it with 3 fingers. To crook it backmost into a ScreenPad, you pat an X successful the top-right corner. The touchpad works good and is arsenic responsive to each the assorted gestures arsenic a regular 1 would be. There are downsides, of course. For one, there’s nary clicking mechanics (but tap-to-click does enactment well). You besides are reaching implicit the keyboard to usage it, which is simply a spot weird (but thing I got utilized to). And the touchpad interface is opaque, truthful erstwhile you person it pulled up, you can’t spot the different contented that you person sitting connected the ScreenPad. I anticipation Asus is capable to marque it adjacent the tiniest spot much translucent successful the future, but I’m inactive precise blessed to spot this diagnostic here.
The Intel Core i7-12700H wrong is simply a mainstream processor that we’ve mostly seen successful high-performance gaming laptops and workstations to date, including Alienware’s X14. My portion besides has 16GB of RAM and 1TB of retention successful summation to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. Asus says it volition outgo $1,999.99, which I don’t hatred for these specs.
The show successful my wide enactment usage cases was arsenic bully arsenic you’d expect. I’d person Chrome tabs stacked connected apical of Zoom calls oregon YouTube streams with nary issues connected either screen. The RTX 3050 Ti isn’t needfully designed for AAA gaming and is weaker than different laptop GPUs you tin get astatine this terms point, but it tin surely marque older, lighter titles a possibility.
While the keyboard was sometimes warm, I ne'er felt uncomfortable vigor determination oregon connected the bottommost of the device. This appears to beryllium acknowledgment to Asus’ caller cooling strategy (termed “IceCool Plus”) which includes 2 12-volt fans with 97 and 93 blades, respectively. Asus claims that the instrumentality stays nether 28 decibels erstwhile connected the Whisper Mode cooling illustration and that seems close arsenic acold arsenic I tin tell. Even erstwhile I wasn’t connected Whisper Mode, I hardly ever heard the fans.
Battery beingness was much of a mixed bag. I averaged astir 5 hours of continuous enactment with some screens astatine mean brightness. That’s evidently not adjacent to a afloat time but besides not a terrible result fixed that this instrumentality is moving 2 high-resolution screens. The archetypal Pro Duo lasted conscionable implicit 2 and a fractional hours, and the gaming-oriented and mode much costly Zephyrus Duo 15 made it 1 hr and 48 minutes with this aforesaid workload. If you request a batch of juice, you tin easy crook disconnected the ScreenPad with a hotkey connected the keyboard.
The superior surface is 16:10 (hurray!) and is 1 of the archetypal (if not the precise first) 120Hz OLED displays connected a laptop. The larboard enactment is beauteous good, including 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-sized HDMI 2.1, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, an SD Express 7.0 paper reader, and a combo audio jack. I’m gladsome to spot this instrumentality holding onto the HDMI and SD paper slot, arsenic each kinds of different premium 14-inchers ditch them for the satellite of USB-C. (And this happening truly should not beryllium skimping connected ports due to the fact that I’ve ne'er wanted to plug an outer keyboard and rodent into thing more.) There are a fewer Asus-specific connectivity features arsenic well, including Wi-Fi SmartConnect, which helps the instrumentality automatically link to the champion awesome successful its existent environment.
All this is great, which makes it adjacent much unfortunate that I’m inactive not loving utilizing it. Basically, the Pro Duo 14 has convinced maine that adjacent the champion imaginable iteration of the dual-screen signifier origin isn’t capable to flooded the information that I can’t basal having a keyboard successful this position. I cognize immoderate emotion front-mounted keyboards, and for the beingness of me, I volition ne'er recognize you people. This is adjacent a large keyboard. The keys are clicky with a decent 1.4mm of travel, a spec that I would usually swoon over. But I americium perpetually typing with my hands pressed against my thorax similar a T. rex and I hatred it.
I don’t cognize that this is thing Asus tin fix. I deliberation we’re moving into a partition of idiosyncratic penchant with this design. I volition conscionable ne'er bask utilizing a keyboard that doesn’t springiness maine anyplace to remainder my wrists. But determination are perfectly radical who don’t person this issue, and for you folks, I deliberation this is legitimately a bully buy.
In the Pro Duo 14, Asus has done everything it perchance could to marque a good, practical, usable dual-screen system. I legitimately deliberation astir problems that could’ve been fixed person been fixed. In our reasonably captious reappraisal of the first-generation Zenbook Duo, Chaim Gartenberg wrote, “There is simply a large laptop buried wrong the earthy clay.” Three years later, Asus has dug that laptop out. This is great.
The communicative with Duo laptops from present connected retired whitethorn conscionable travel down to whether you similar having a keyboard connected the beforehand of your deck. Which, fixed however galore different issues these devices person had successful the past, is simply a precise bully motion for their future.
Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge