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Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED review: a dual-screen laptop that works

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Asus did it. It’s made a dual-screen laptop computer that — and there was a time once I by no means thought I’d be saying these phrases — is definitely fairly good.

Asus has been doing this dual-screen kind issue for some time, and components of the $1,999.99-and -up ZenBook Professional Duo 14 OLED are nothing we haven’t seen earlier than. Like earlier fashions within the Duo line, there’s an enormous 14.5-inch display screen on the highest and a smaller 12.7-inch display screen on the again of the keyboard deck (the ScreenPad Plus). Beneath that display screen is the keyboard (reaching all the best way to the entrance of stated deck), with a teensy touchpad crammed to its proper.

However the firm has made a small tweak that has made the expertise considerably extra comfy: it has raised the secondary display screen by 12 levels.

This, reader, has modified all the pieces. You see, last year’s 14-inch Zenbook Duo model solely tilted the secondary display screen up by seven levels. The 2020 model was even flatter. In each instances, I used to be always craning my neck to lean over at any time when I wanted to see something on the second display screen.

The rise to 12 levels doesn’t look large on paper, however it’s lastly — lastly — made the display screen simply excessive sufficient that I not must crane. Proper now, as I sort this, I’m leaning again in my workplace chair. I’m really reclining barely. I can see the Professional Duo’s major display screen and also can see the content material of its secondary display screen simply wonderful. I can learn the phrases on the secondary display screen on this reclined state.

The touchpad of the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED seen from above.

In case you have been skeptical in regards to the touchpad being tiny.

The logo on the lid of the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 OLED seen from above.

New brand, similar concentric design.

There are different varied tweaks that make the secondary display screen considerably simpler to see from a distance than it has been up to now. For one, it’s brighter than final 12 months’s, now reaching 500 nits. It’s additionally greater decision (2880 x 864). And there’s a brand new “anti-glare etching” that retains it from reflecting ceiling gentle, which has been a nuisance up to now.

People, the second display screen is… really helpful now. On earlier fashions, it’s simply been a spot to throw distractions like Slack and Twitter whereas my actual work occurred on the highest half. Now, I can hold reference supplies down there to look at and browse whereas I work.

Now, does that imply its advantages lastly outweigh the compromises required in an effort to match an entire second display screen onto this laptop computer? For me, no. However we’re on the level the place that’s actually only a desire for keyboard location. Asus has fastened principally all the pieces else.

The Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo angled to the left side on a brown couch. Both screens display a multicolor background with the Asus Zenbook Pro OLED logo.

If you happen to have been having bother picturing the deck format, simply look right here.

For instance, ScreenXpert. This software program permits the Duo’s two screens to work collectively and has come a good distance from the glitchy and unresponsive mess it once was. The brand new model that’s on this system (ScreenXpert 3) seems considerably extra skilled than earlier iterations. It’s all snappy to make use of, and home windows resized the best way they have been speculated to. And whereas I often needed to faucet a button a pair instances to get one thing to open, that was the extent of the problems I had. It’s intuitive with a remarkably simple studying curve, which has not at all times been the case with ScreenXpert software program.

There’s a taskbar (like a floating miniature Home windows taskbar) with fast buttons for varied options like toggling brightness, telephone mirroring, opening an app navigation display screen, locking the keyboard, and making all of the home windows on the ScreenPad disappear to show the desktop background. I used to be ready to complain in regards to the questionable utility of a few of these, however it seems that there’s some quantity of customization you are able to do within the Management Middle Settings panel, which I discovered after a little bit of exploring. You too can alter the taskbar’s location by dragging it to the underside or both aspect.

I stay a fan of the duty teams function (additionally accessible from this taskbar) which lets you “save” a configuration of tabs and apps in an association of your option to open once more at a later date. That is one thing I exploit rather a lot on Duo gadgets.

The opposite repair I’m very completely happy about pertains to the touchpad. The Duo 14’s touchpad is so tiny as to be principally ineffective. On earlier fashions, I’ve simply used a stylus for each doable state of affairs. That’s what I used to be doing right here — till I found TouchPad mode.

Touchpad mode permits you to flip the ScreenPad into an enormous touchpad. All you must do is faucet it with three fingers. To show it again right into a ScreenPad, you faucet an X within the top-right nook. The touchpad works effectively and is as aware of all the assorted gestures as an everyday one could be. There are downsides, after all. For one, there’s no clicking mechanism (however tap-to-click does work effectively). You are also reaching over the keyboard to make use of it, which is a bit bizarre (however one thing I acquired used to). And the touchpad interface is opaque, so when you might have it pulled up, you may’t see the opposite content material that you’ve got sitting on the ScreenPad. I hope Asus is ready to make it even the tiniest bit extra translucent sooner or later, however I’m nonetheless very completely happy to see this function right here.

The ports on the right side of the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 OLED.

Two USB-C and a USB-A on the best. (There are ports on the again too.)

The Intel Core i7-12700H inside is a mainstream processor that we’ve largely seen in high-performance gaming laptops and workstations so far, together with Alienware’s X14. My unit additionally has 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage along with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. Asus says it’s going to value $1,999.99, which I don’t hate for these specs.

The efficiency in my common work use instances was pretty much as good as you’d anticipate. I’d have Chrome tabs stacked on prime of Zoom calls or YouTube streams with no points on both display screen. The RTX 3050 Ti isn’t essentially designed for AAA gaming and is weaker than different laptop computer GPUs you will get at this value level, however it might probably definitely make older, lighter titles a risk.

The lid of the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo seen from above.

New brand, by the best way.

Whereas the keyboard was generally heat, I by no means felt uncomfortable warmth there or on the underside of the system. This seems to be due to Asus’ new cooling system (termed “IceCool Plus”) which incorporates two 12-volt followers with 97 and 93 blades, respectively. Asus claims that the system stays beneath 28 decibels when on the Whisper Mode cooling profile and that appears correct so far as I can inform. Even once I wasn’t on Whisper Mode, I barely ever heard the followers.

Battery life was extra of a blended bag. I averaged round 5 hours of steady work with each screens at medium brightness. That’s clearly not near a full day but in addition not a horrible outcome provided that this system is operating two high-resolution screens. The unique Professional Duo lasted simply over two and a half hours, and the gaming-oriented and far more costly Zephyrus Duo 15 made it one hour and 48 minutes with this similar workload. If you happen to want a number of juice, you may simply flip off the ScreenPad with a hotkey on the keyboard.

The keyboard deck of the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 seen from above. The ScreenPad displays a multicolor background with a task bar on the left side.

Look how good it’s!

The first display screen is 16:10 (hurray!) and is among the first (if not the very first) 120Hz OLED shows on a laptop computer. The port choice is fairly good, together with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-sized HDMI 2.1, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Sort-A, an SD Specific 7.0 card reader, and a combo audio jack. I’m glad to see this system holding onto the HDMI and SD card slot, as all types of different premium 14-inchers ditch them for the world of USB-C. (And this factor actually shouldn’t be skimping on ports as a result of I’ve by no means wished to plug an exterior keyboard and mouse into one thing extra.) There are a couple of Asus-specific connectivity options as effectively, together with Wi-Fi SmartConnect, which helps the system mechanically connect with one of the best sign in its present atmosphere.

The ports on the left side of the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED review.

These are vents, not ports — artful Asus!

All that is nice, which makes it much more unlucky that I’m nonetheless not loving utilizing it. Principally, the Professional Duo 14 has satisfied me that even the very best iteration of the dual-screen kind issue isn’t sufficient to beat the truth that I can’t stand having a keyboard on this place. I do know some love front-mounted keyboards, and for the lifetime of me, I’ll by no means perceive you individuals. That is even an amazing keyboard. The keys are clicky with a good 1.4mm of journey, a spec that I might normally swoon over. However I’m always typing with my palms pressed in opposition to my chest like a T. rex and I hate it.

I don’t know that that is one thing Asus can repair. I believe we’re operating right into a wall of non-public desire with this design. I’ll simply by no means take pleasure in utilizing a keyboard that doesn’t give me anyplace to relaxation my wrists. However there are completely individuals who don’t have this difficulty, and for you people, I believe that is legitimately a great purchase.

The Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 seen from above. Both screens display a multicolor background.

As a frequent lap consumer, it’s not for me.

Within the Professional Duo 14, Asus has performed all the pieces it probably may to make a great, sensible, usable dual-screen system. I legitimately suppose most issues that would’ve been fastened have been fastened. In our pretty essential assessment of the first-generation Zenbook Duo, Chaim Gartenberg wrote, “There’s a nice laptop computer buried throughout the uncooked clay.” Three years later, Asus has dug that laptop computer out. That is nice.

The story with Duo laptops from right here on out could come down as to if you want having a keyboard on the entrance of your deck. Which, given what number of different points these gadgets have had up to now, is an excellent signal for his or her future.

Pictures by Monica Chin / The Verge

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