This wild new computer with two screens made me excited about what could be next for the laptop
- Asus is launching a new dual-screened laptop called the ZenBook Pro Duo, which has a second 14-inch display built into the keyboard deck.
- That secondary screen can be used for multitasking, or just extending your laptop's display.
- Asus is one of several technology companies experimenting with new laptop designs, along with Intel and Razer.
- For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.
Laptops went through a transformation around 2012 and 2013 when Microsoft launched its much-criticized Windows 8 operating system, which ushered in a new era of PCs that function as both laptops and tablets. But even then, the basic form factor remained the same: a screen that worked in tandem with a keyboard.
In recent years, however, laptop makers seem to be trying to change that with new designs that incorporate a second screen. One recent example of this is the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, which has a 14-inch 4K touch display that sits right above the keyboard in addition to its 15.6-inch OLED 4K primary screen.
It's available in 9th generation Intel Core i7 and Core i9 variants and comes with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics. The ZenBook Pro Duo can be configured to include up to 1TB of storage and 32GB of RAM, and the main display has a resolution of 3840 x 2160.
Asus unveiled the double-screen laptop in late May, but has not yet announced availability or pricing. The company is one of several PC firms making new laptops with multiple screens, along with Intel,HP, Lenovo, and Razer - although it's worth noting that several of these designs are only meant to be concepts, not commercial products.
The screen on the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, which the company calls the ScreenPad Plus, slightly resembles a much, much larger version of the Touch Bar on Apple's newest models of MacBook Pro. It's certainly an unconventional look that makes the second screen seem a bit excessive at first glance.
But the more time I spent with the ZenBook Pro Duo, the more I found myself wishing I had a laptop with two screens. The secondary display is large enough to actually use it as a supplemental monitor. That's unlike previous concepts I've seen like Razer's Project Linda, which is powered by the company's Android smartphone and allows you to use the phone as a second screen. Asus' ScreenPad Plus also seems more useful than Apple's Touch Bar, since it's large enough to run apps and can be used for more than just keyboard shortcuts and controls.
There are a couple of ways you can use the second screen on the ZenBook Pro Duo: as a second display that can run apps separately from the primary screen or as an extension of the main screen. The first scenario seems to be the most useful, as I can imagine using the smaller ScreenPad Plus to keep an eye on my email and work chatroom while dedicating the laptop's entire screen to the projects I'm working on.
Transferring apps between screens was also easy and didn't require much of a learning curve. When pressing and holding on a window on the main screen, a small toolbar pops up with icons for sending that window to the ScreenPad Plus or extending the primary display. All I had to do was simply drag the window to the corresponding symbol.
The interface also has controls for snapping two or three windows alongside one another on the ScreenPad so that you can evenly divide the space amongst those apps, and a button for swapping the content being displayed on the two screens.
During my time with the Pro Duo, I used the laptop in both of these ways, browsing websites in separate windows, or stretching the web browser across both displays. Regardless of whether or not the latter is the most practical way to use the Zenbook Pro Duo's second display, it still worked impressively well. The experience of scrolling through websites between the two screens was smooth and seamless, and I never noticed any stuttering or lag.
Given its excessive screen real estate and hefty build, the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo is probably best for those who are seeking a laptop suitable for replacing their desktop PC. It weighs 5.51 pounds, making it heavier than the 4.02-pound 15-inch MacBook Pro and the 4.5-pound Dell XPS 15.
Because the second screen occupies a significant amount of space on the Pro Duo's keyboard deck, that also means Asus had to shift the keyboard down, leaving no room for a built-in palm rest. Presumably for this reason, the company includes a detachable palm rest in the box with the laptop as well as a stylus. During my brief time with the Pro Duo, I only had the chance to try the laptop while it was resting on a table. But I imagine using it in your lap in cramped settings, like on an airplane or while sitting in the audience at a conference, might take some getting used to considering the unusual keyboard placement.
The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is yet another sign that electronics makers are thinking about what the next iteration of the gadgets we use today will look like. Like Asus, Intel is also experimenting with dual-screened laptops as evidenced by its recently unveiled Honeycomb Glacier concept - a different take on the dual-screen laptop that elevates its two displays above the keyboard. Back in 2017, Razer unveiled a concept called Project Valerie, which packs three displays into a single laptop. A similar shift is starting to occur in the mobile space as well, with gadget makers like Samsung and Huawei showing off foldable devices that offer much more screen space than traditional smartphones earlier this year.
It's unclear if dual-screen devices like the Zenbook Pro Duo will prove to be a hit. Pricing has yet to be announced, but there's a good chance it could be noticeably pricier than Asus' standard ZenBooks. It's success depends on whether consumers are willing to pay a premium and embrace unconventional designs to get the benefit of a laptop that packs more screen space into a relatively portable form factor. But even if today's crop of dual-screened laptops doesn't resonate just yet, they could be laying the foundation for something better in the near future.
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