I’ve had access to pretty killer, cutting edge hardware over the years as a reviewer. From unreleased products, to prototype machines never meant to see the light of day, I’ve been privy to have gotten my hands on them.
However, none of them can hold a candle to my anticipation for the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo. Ever since it was rumored (and eventual reveal), I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on it.
Not only could it be a decent gaming machine, but it’s also promising to be a damn good working computer too!
So when ASUS offered me a chance to review this bad boy (thanks Hugo!), I pretty much shouted ‘YES!’.
So, now that I’ve a few weeks of experience with the machine, how does it fare? SPOILER WARNING: Pretty damn good.
What is the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo?
It’s also packing audio by Harmon Kardon, with a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C USB port, 2 USB 3.1 ports, a HDMI port and an audio jack. These are array along the sides of the machine; unlike some notebooks, the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo’s back is free of clutter.
All this for an asking price of $4,998.
I honestly like it this way as I hate having to reach behind a notebook, whether it’s to unplug the AC adapter or to remove something from a port.
However, I do wish there were more USB ports (2 more would be great) since what’s here gets used up mighty quick. 1 is already reserved for my mouse, which leaves only a single free USB 3.1 port.
The lack of a memory card reader is also another minor strike against the machine. If you’re regularly transferring content from a microSD card (like me), you better have an adapter handy.
Weirdly, there’s also no LAN port though it certainly seems like there’s ample space for one.
Considering that ASUS pretty much covered all their bases with the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, it’s weird that these minor issues made it through at all. They’re certainly not deal breakers, but are annoyances nonetheless.
The added room in the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo also means that ASUS’ designers had a chance to include a better keyboard with the machine. It’s not a mechanical keyboard (sadly) but it does a pretty good job. The keys have decent travel to them, with a nice auditory feedback accompanying each button press.
Finally, stashed in the lower right hand side of the machine, just beside the keyboard, sits the digital numpad/ trackpad. If you’ve used similar digital numpads, this one won’t feel any different.
The keys are responsive, but I found myself being more careful and using more pressure than I should to get them to register right. Hitting them in quick succession also seems to make it harder to register button presses, though practice soon makes using it second nature.
As a trackpad, it fares better; the matte surface feels smooth to the touch and there are actually clickable buttons under the last row of the numpad. I stumbled upon that feature by accident, as the numpad/trackpad is seamlessly integrated into the keyboard. Very nice feature ASUS!
The matte surface also seems to be rather resistant to finger oils, taking much longer than usual to get dirty, another plus.
But I digress, you didn’t come here to find out about these minor issues. You’re here to know more about the fabled second screen on the machine; the ScreenPad Plus!
In that regard, the ASUS ZenBook Pro is unmatched in its awesomeness as a notebook. Both the regular and ScreenPad Plus displays are in 4K (3840 x 2160 for the main one, 3840 x 1100 for the ScreenPad Plus) with HDR support, making for incredible picture quality. They’re both touchscreens too, which means you can skip using the built-in keyboard altogether if you desire.
Both displays looked great with any piece of content; games, movies or images. They have great viewing angles too, meaning even people at the side of you can see what’s going on the screen without any glare or reflections.
I honestly LOVE the inclusion of the ScreenPad Plus. It’s like having a second display on a desktop, except this time it’s integrated into a laptop. I love having my Whatsapp Web and Gmail pages open on the Screen Pad Plus; just a peek at it lets me know if there are new messages and a touch is all I need to focus on them.
When editing content on Adobe Photoshop and After Effects, having a second display below for my content libraries is a godsend! Just a simple drag and drop; no more minimizing windows and folders!
There’s ZERO lag or slowdown at all when navigating between both displays, which is due in no small part to the 32GB RAM in the machine. Even RAM Preview (a notoriously RAM hungry process) in After Effects is smoother than I’ve ever experience before on any other machine.
What’s even greater is that ASUS has made shortcuts for the machine easily available on the keyboard, right above the numpad.
You can turn on Turbo mode, swap the content on either display or even choose to turn off the ScreenPad Plus…all with their own handy button shortcuts.
However, gaming with the ScreenPad Plus enabled is a bit of a letdown. Unless you’re playing windowed, interacting with the ScreenPad Plus ALWAYS minimizes whatever game I have running on the main display. It’s like if you hit ALT+TAB to switch windows.
I’ve tried it on The Old Republic, Cities Skylines, FTL and Three Kingdoms; the results were the same every time. Since the ScreenPad Pro is a touchpad too, hitting it by mistake (a weirdly common enough occurance) is an annoyance too, since it takes you out of the game you’re playing.
My advice? Turn of ScreenPad Pro unless you’re playing a game in Windowed mode. It’s just not worth the hassle.
If you’re a content creator, here’s where you should take note.
Content rendering is insanely fast on this bad boy; I’m able to render 1080p/60FPS video with 32-bit audio in just a few minutes (depending on the length). If you’re a content creator who needs a mobile workstation, there’s nothing better than this machine.
Don’t take my word for it though; here are our regular benchmarks so you can see for yourselves.
The scores hold up, even under tests like PCMark 10’s. 6213 for Digital Content Creation is mighty impressive and that’s without even factoring in how useful the ScreenPad Plus can be!
3DMark score is similarly impressive, though the RTX 2060 (6GB) isn’t a high end graphics card. You’ll be able to play the most demanding games, but maaaaaaybe not in 4K or with everything (especially ray tracing) turned on. 1080p gaming is sublime though.
What impressed us the most is the comparison feature that 3DMark has, which shows you where a machine stands when compared to others.
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is ahead of a 4K Gaming PC! Good lord that’s impressive as hell!
We also benchmarked it on Three Kingdoms and the Final Fantasy XV Benchmark, just to see how it performed on modern titles and it didn’t disappoint there too.
Here’s how Three Kingdoms (Battle Benchmark) did on 4K.
Here are the 1080p scores.
Pretty decent scores for 4K gaming, but it’s 1080p where the gaming’s the best.
How about Final Fantasy XV’s benchmark?
Take a look at the 4K scores first!
Here’s how the notebook fared on 1080p!
Again, the 4K scores are decent but 1080p gaming is clearly where the sweet spot for games are.
Nonetheless, both titles had great scores, even on 4K which is mighty impressive considering the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo isn’t primarily a gaming machine.
The bottom line.
There are great machines and there’s the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo.
To say that it belongs in a class of its own is no understatement.
It’s not the most powerful notebook in the world (there are others stronger in the Force) but it is undoubtedly one of the best multi-taskers I’ve ever seen.
Be it gaming, content creation or work, the notebook handles them all without even breaking a sweat.
Plus, the ScreenPad Plus really does elevate your productivity to levels unheard of with a laptop. Sure, it’s a tad unwieldy at times but it’s still better than just using a single screen for everything.
The only thing that comes close is using two displays, but even then, there are times that’s just not practical.
The only downsides that the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo has are the lack of ports (and a memory card reader) along with its rather steep asking price.
$4,998 isn’t cheap by any standard but you DO get what you pay for in this case; both in the hardware that you’re paying for and the inclusion of the ScreenPad Plus.
If you have the cash, there’s really nothing else to say; the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is something you NEED.
– TWO 4K displays!
– Great hardware.
– ScreenPad Plus is awesome for everything.
– Feels premium.
– Could use more USB ports, a memory card reader and LAN port.