An extra monitor attached to a desktop workstation can make you more efficient, but laptops need to be portable. Designers have tried to shoehorn a second display into laptops for years, but Asus might have gotten closer than ever to making dual-screen laptops practical with the new ZenBook Duo series. These laptops will start at $1,000 when they begin shipping later this month.
Asus has made a few devices in the ZenBook Duo line, which feature a secondary display above the keyboard and abutting the bottom of the primary display. The 2021 Asus ZenBook Duo lineup features 14 and 15-inch (technically 15.6-inch) models, both of which include the redesigned “ScreenPad Plus” hardware — that’s what Asus calls the secondary display.
The ZenBook Pro Duo 15 has a 15.6-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) OLED panel, and the ZenBook Duo 14 has a 14-inch 1080p LCD. Both devices will support Intel’s 10th or 11th Gen processors, and the 14 will have the latest Iris Xe integrated graphics by default. A version with a GeForce MX450 will also be available. The Pro Duo 15 will have support for up to a Core i9 CPU (10th gen) and GeForce 3070 GPU.
These laptops are more than just a spec bump, though. The new ScreenPad Plus occupies the same place on the computer between the keyboard and screen, but the ScreenPad is no longer flat on the keyboard deck. It tilts up to sit at a more comfortable angle and align with the bottom of the primary screen. Asus had to create custom software for the ScreenPad, which was a sore point for the last-gen Duos. Asus says it has improved the “Screen Xpert” suite that manages content on the secondary display. For example, there’s a new window flick feature that lets you quickly move windows between the two displays, and there are customizable touch controls for apps like Photoshop.
The main drawback to this design isn’t solved by the new screen design — your keyboard is still displaced toward the front of the laptop. With no wrist rests, it’s not going to be pleasant to type on this device for long periods of time, but that’s the price you pay for adding a second display to a laptop form factor.
The ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED will launch in April, but pricing is unknown. The ZenBook Duo 14 will be available for pre-order on January 14th and will ship on January 22nd. The base $1,000 model has a Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and Intel integrated graphics.