It's easy to play things safe when making a laptop. Often manufacturers are tempted to produce another 'same old' notebook, which is perhaps a millimetre thinner than a previous model, or maybe has a faster processor. Some improvements may not even be noticeable, others may be somewhat worthwhile, but still unlikely to grab your attention or interest in any real way.
Asus, however, is one of those laptop makers that does things differently. Having already established a reputation for innovation, Asus isn't afraid to push the boundaries on what's possible with a notebook. Which is good news for consumers, because without some manufacturers driving forward with fresh ideas, we'd be left in a pretty stale clamshell laptop world.
The latest brainwave from the designers and engineers at Asus is a 2-in-1 device which aims to make your daily computing life a slicker, more convenient and indeed more productive experience all round. Meet the Asus ZenBook Duo which comes with two displays: a main screen (as seen on a traditional laptop) and a secondary touch display.
Now, while dual-display notebooks are still a cutting-edge idea, you may have seen that some other laptop makers have their own take on this concept. Asus, however, does things differently with dual-screen – and more to the point, does things better, with a device which is already out there and on sale now.
Typically, a dual-display notebook is one that consists of two full screens, and therefore you don’t get a physical keyboard as the base section. Instead, you have to rely on a virtual touchscreen keyboard on the secondary display, which is a far from ideal solution in terms of the typing experience therein.
Rather than giving with one hand ("here's a second screen") and taking with the other ("but you can't have a proper keyboard"), the clever move Asus has pulled with the ZenBook Duo is that the full-width secondary touch display – known as the ScreenPad Plus – only takes up half of the base of the laptop, leaving room to still fit in a seamlessly integrated physical keyboard as well.
There are no compromises here in that respect, but Asus has gone further than this in terms of the sheer range of innovative tricks which the ScreenPad Plus offers, making the ZenBook Duo a device that’ll be useful to all kinds of different users.
Although functionality would be nothing without power, so before we move on to discuss exactly how this dual-screen device offers a revolutionary new experience for laptop users, let's touch on the spec of this Asus laptop.
The ZenBook Duo offers a 14-inch Full HD main screen with vanishingly slim 'nanoedge' bezels, and the ScreenPad Plus is a full-width 12.6-inch touch display. Driving these twin screens is a 10th-generation quad-core Core i7 processor – one of Intel's most powerful mobile CPUs from its very latest range – paired with a discrete graphics card in the form of Nvidia's GeForce MX250.
That represents plenty of oomph under the hood for whatever task – or multiple tasks – you might throw at the ZenBook, and there's a high-speed 512GB PCIe SSD backing that up with extremely nippy storage performance.
Not only will this combination of hardware components cut through any everyday computing task without producing even a single drop of silicon sweat, as it were, this laptop can tackle more heavyweight work, too, like photo or video editing for example.
Creative types are going to love the ZenBook Duo not just for its performance levels, but also for the main screen which is vibrant with excellent contrast levels, and benefits from 100% sRGB coverage with accurate colours (this is a Pantone-validated display). In other words, this is a laptop suitable for serious creative professionals such as photographers, videographers or graphic designers.
And if you're working with creative applications which often have a bunch of toolbars that rather get in the way of seeing the actual photo or video you're editing, the great thing here is that these bars can quickly be dragged onto the ScreenPad Plus, where they are still handily visible and usable, but not actually in your way.
Swiftly drag and drop
And this is the key to the flexibility of the ZenBook Duo – anything can be swiftly dragged onto that secondary display. In fact, you can snap up to three app windows next to each other on the ScreenPad Plus, which can all be viewed (or used) simultaneously in conjunction with the main display.
So you can, for example, watch a YouTube video tutorial for an application on the ScreenPad Plus, as you actually follow it and work with said application on the main screen – while simultaneously opening a web browser also on the ScreenPad Plus to run a search on a term the YouTuber just used that you're not sure of.
Furthermore, it's possible to have a third app open in the secondary display carrying the live score on the big match that you can't watch right now (but at least can keep vague tabs on).
So everyday users have a range of powerful possibilities at their fingertips, and of course business users can maximise their productivity by keeping documents, spreadsheets, calendars and maybe even a videoconferencing session open at the same time, spread across the dual-displays.
Another benefit is that it's possible to create custom-made groups for your applications. In other words, you can configure several apps across both screens just how you like them, and then save that configuration, firing it back up at a later date with the touch of a button.
Alternatively, if you're only working with one app, it can be flowed across both screens which is very handy for maximising display real-estate. This is perfect for occasions when you might, say, want to fit in more rows of a spreadsheet, or view more of a web page.
The secondary touch display has other uses besides, like doubling as a jotting pad to write or doodle on, with your finger or a stylus – another boon for creative types, or indeed anyone who just wants to scribble down a quick note.
And whatever you're doing, if you're doing it on the move, the jewel in the portable crown here is the ZenBook Duo's battery. Asus claims 22 hours of battery life for this laptop, a hugely impressive figure which means that this device has not just flexibility but also longevity.
In short, this is a highly versatile dual-screen device which is perfect for work and play – and indeed everything in-between. If you're sold on the 'laptop of tomorrow' and the benefits of two screens – plus a physical keyboard – then the Asus ZenBook Duo is available now retailing at £1,499.