Asus Zenbook Duo review: Two screens, a logical progression for Windows laptops - Hindustan Times

Asus Zenbook Duo review: Two screens, a logical progression for Windows laptops

Apr 16, 2024 09:02 AM IST

Two screens can always be useful, particularly at work. To make Windows 11 work properly on both screens, Asus has built an entire suite of tools

Dual screen laptops have finally reached that fork in the road. Do they go down the path that defines utility and a next chapter for laptops as a collective? It won’t be easy. Foldable phones are still making a fervent pitch of relevance. Or do laptops with more than one screen simply falter (perhaps due to pricing, longevity, reliability and so on), much like 3D TVs did many years ago? That’s a shining example of technology not delivering on any sort of promise. It could go either way, but one thing is clear (and that should help long term), this does not feel like a gimmick. For the most part.

The Asus Zenbook Duo laptop. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)
The Asus Zenbook Duo laptop. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)

To be fair, the Asus Zenbook Duo (2024) pricing begins at a point lower than what we expected, at 1,59,990 while the top spec variant we tested is at par with expectations, sporting a tag of 2,39,990. By reducing the entry price point (albeit with a different processor, lesser RAM and storage to match costs), Asus will likely be able to get a broader demographic to consider this too. While this isn’t a first of its kind laptop, it has definitely imbibed refinements borne by the passage of time. A refined yet more robust hinge, keyboard’s physical connectors and the convenient on-screen pinned utility for the dual-screen modes.

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Some previous experiments that I’m referring to, include the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i, HP Spectre Fold and curation of the Zenbook Duo’s elder siblings such as the Zenbook Pro Duo and ROG Zephyrus Duo – two full size screens, a second albeit slightly smaller display, a screen behind the touchpad, and so on.

The premise of two screens: Dual advantage

This is why you’d be considering spending top money. The dual screens. With the 2024 edition Asus Zenbook Duo, there are two 14-inch displays at work. Both OLED, 1920 x 1200 resolution, 500-nits peak brightness and HDR support. Really vivid screens too. You could point to the 60Hz refresh rate and say 120Hz is now par for course with laptops, but this isn’t a standard implementation. For most intents and purposes, the second screen remains nicely hidden away till you call out for it. That is, till you pull up the keyboard to detach it, and reveal the second screen beneath.

Writers could have one screen dedicated to the documents they’re working on and the other for sharing between emails and PDFs they may be reading (or for whiling away some time on social media). Heavy multi-taskers would appreciate doubling of the display real estate to have more apps share screen space simultaneously. Except for gaming (do not, if you somehow are, expecting this to run two games at the same time), there is use for the two screens whenever possible.

In case you are wondering, there’s an integrated hinge that allows for both screens to be used when this laptop is placed on a desk and remains largely in your eyeline. You’ve the flexibility of this being either in landscape (that can be between 40-degrees to 70-degrees angle) or the vertical placement that’d have the laptop essentially on its side, with the two screens side-by-side in a desktop-esque mode. The really slim keyboard goes into Bluetooth mode when two screen are in use.

Mode change detection is instant, wherein the second screen also powers on. The choice is yours, whether you want to extend the first screen to the second, use it as a second screen for another set of apps or simply make this into a full-sized touch keyboard. The latter takes getting some used to, because as a touchscreen’s basis of existence is, you don’t get any feedback from the keys you tap. For the first two modes, the keyboard you’ve just detached from the laptop, transforms into a bluetooth keyboard (it charges, when docked back on).

There is the very neat ScreenXpert Control Center which presents itself as a shortcut on the Windows desktop itself. It is from here that you can easily access controls for brightness levels on the two screens (matched, or individual), bring up the on-screen keyboard, lock screen rotation (useful is used in desktop mode, on its side) and quick access to task swap, print screen and the snipping tool as well as app task groups for each screen. A multitude of touch and swipe gestures too, which do present a bit of a challenge to the memory.

Asus will have the full spectrum of processor choices – the Intel Core Ultra 5, Core Ultra 7 and Core Ultra 9. There is very little to complain about real-world performance. This isn’t meant to be a desktop replacement device, in case that’s how you judge laptops’ performance potential. The Asus Zenbook Duo is, in fact, a very powerful laptop which doesn’t compromise on portability either. For most day-to-day workflows at work and then doubling up as an entertainment hub at home, this holds its end of the bargain without any complaints.

App responsiveness doesn’t struggle if there are bunch of carelessly left Edge tabs and Word documents open, but for some strange reason, there are occasional brief pauses when on battery power (that must be the processor clocking down).

What works, and evolutionary learning curves

When the keyboard is put back in place (and also when the lid is closed), the Asus Zenbook Duo (2024) looks very much like a conventional laptop. Albeit a bit thicker than what we’re become used to, but not any heavier. The latter, for a laptop with two OLED screens, is creditable.

The way Asus has put together a proposition for this Zenbook Duo, there’s utility to be found if you approach this laptop with certain workflows that would be ideal for dual-monitor setups. That said, there are some compromises that cannot really be ignored, such as the laptop’s battery life isn’t the best when both screens are in use, the keyboard’s battery on Bluetooth is limited. There is the option of USB-C charging with a port on the keyboard too, but it isn’t a wireless keyboard for that duration then, is it?

Even when not strained with too many apps or web browser load, there’s perceptible heating on the underside. I double-checked to ensure the Asus Zenbook Duo is running the latest available firmware too. And while at it, the webcam quality too could do with a bit of a clarity boost, even though the sensor is Full HD resolution.

There are software bugs that need fixing too. For some reason, I was unable to change the wallpaper on either of the screens (Windows 11’s curation, or a photo saved on the cloud), and it’s been impossible to find the obstacle. This could also be due to the fact that Windows 11 itself doesn’t feel ready for a dual-screen laptop, with every overlay to make it work, made by Asus. They’ve done a commendable job of making this extremely usable, with little or no help from Windows 11 as the foundation.

As a result of temperatures going up, and with two screens to power on as well, battery life does end up being compromised. In single display mode all through and used as a conventional laptop, the Asus Zenbook Duo lasted around 11 hours on a single charge. With both screens (and the keyboard also drawing power a couple of hours in), this drops to just more than 8 hours. Barely enough to get you through a typical workday if you’re visualising a scenario where the charger can be left behind.

Speaking of which, Asus has done a commendable job of reducing the footprint of the 65-watt charger. It is now as compact as a smartphone charger of similar specs, a far cry from the massive bricks with long wires either side, we usually associate with laptops.

Are you ready for a two screen laptop?

That’s the question to answer, before we can get to the point of discussing whether the Asus Zenbook Duo (2024) is worth the premium price tag it rightly commands. Two screens are always useful, particularly at work. If a laptop gives you that flexibility without needing an external monitor, and whilst on the move too, there’s little to argue against the convenience. You just have to be a bit more circumspect with usage, because two big glass panes will have limited tolerance for rough usage.

Asus has done what it could have, to get the software smarts in place to make Windows 11 very usable across one and both screens. Quite how your workflows fit into this, is subjective. Performance leaves little to chance, and battery life is more than acceptable for the overall proposition of this dual-screen portable computing device. With a stylus thrown in for good measure, it is a rather versatile package for a laptop that is more than a laptop.

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    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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