Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 Review: Two screens too good?
Asus has never shied away from innovating in the laptop space, and if not the best but are definitely among the best in pushing out new designs and concepts to lead the way in a normally very static market. Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 is just another example of the same, ZenBook is a product that has been around for a few years and I feel the device is constantly being improved year on year.
Ultrabooks have moved from being a slim laptop good enough for checking your work E-mails to being a powerhouse on the go, good enough to render your high production videos.
Asus ZenBook Duo comes in a hefty form factor in a 14-inch form factor, which is heavier than any usual ultrabook you could find in the market. The differentiating factor for the ZenBook Duo is guessing by the name dual screens, which are probably the best implementation of two screens.
But does the best implementation of a second screen means that it is now more than just a quirk or does it improves the user’s whole experience and productivity? Are the sacrifices you would be making in regards to a normal ultrabook to buy the quirky full ZenBook Duo worth your effort and especially your wallet?
Asus ZenBook UX481 design: A guaranteed head-turner
The ZenBook, unlike its predecessors, is a hefty laptop in an era where even gaming laptops are getting thinner and lighter, but it is by no means unmanageably heavy. It is a very elegant design on the outside and bizarre head-turner the second you open the hinge, to reveal the dual-display setup to the world.
The design philosophy of Asus is stoned for a few years now, and I guess it’s true, why change what’s not broken. The design looks different, yet very classy. I would have liked for the device to be offered in more colours but what’s on offer is very good. The mix of metal and other materials is perfectly used to have good heat management while also having Aluminum chassis making the ultrabook very premium.
Asus has done a good job at letting their design team run free with their imagination in a market that has been stagnant in the design area for a long time, so the refreshing change is one we welcome with our hands and hearts open.
The device comes in a 14-inch form factor but the size is smaller due to very thin bezels around both the screens to give a relatively good screen-to-body ratio. Asus also has its trademark Ergolift hinge design, which elevates the lower deck to sit on an angle which is more comfortable to see and operate both the screens relatively easier.
You also get an adhesive stand very similar to a tablet cover which is flat when not folded but could be folded into a triangle to make your device get a better angle for the view of the ultrabook. That is probably the idea behind the stand is but it doesn’t work to fulfil their idea behind as it feels like an afterthought to add more to their package. The stand doesn’t really stick to a surface well to hold the device in place, also with the Ergolift it makes the angle somewhat uncomfortable to use.
Asus ZenBook UX481 Keyboard: A fair compromise?
Because there is a second whole screen, the placement and the size of the keyboard and the trackpad are obviously compromised to make space in such a small form factor. Both the keyboard and the trackpad are squeezed down below the Screenpad plus which makes it very awkward to use the trackpad, no matter how much time you spend with it. Which is not the case with the keyboard, all though there is no palm rest and the typing position is a bit difficult to use to but it’s not unbearable, the keyboard feels good while typing, clicks are nice and the keys feel solid, but definitely not the best we have tried. If you have big hands then this whole keyboard and trackpad arrangement is going to grind your gears for sure as it is fitted in a space of 9 or 10 inches, we found ourselves hitting wrong keys quite a few times.
You don’t have a separate number pad, nor is there an option for a capacitive number pad on the trackpad on this variant like the outgoing models.
Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 specifications and performance
ZenBook UX481 features the 10th Gen Intel CPU, but you get the 14-nm chip rather than the 10-nm chip. Our unit was equipped with an i7-10510U quad-core processor. The processor on paper should help in improving performance, battery life and heat dissipation.
The primary display is a 14-inch Full HD display with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. The main display isn’t a touch screen like the ZenBook Duo Pro. The primary, as well as the secondary display both, have a matte tint so the viewing experience is good and the screens aren’t a fingerprint magnet which is a plus.
GPU capabilities for the ZenBook Duo UX481 aren’t really top of the line, at hand, we get Nvidia MX250 GPU with the Intel UHD graphics. The battery has a 70Wh capacity which is recharged through a 65W charger, which is not a Type – C charger which is a shame. Our unit came with 16GB of RAM, a 1TB PCle SSD which makes the device rapid.
The device was rapid, as it should be. The Windows 10 bootload was snappy, the whole UI felt fast and a joy to use. You could open 100 tabs and stream videos and the device will handle it easily. Waking up time is quick, the face recognition works well, most of the times.
All through the fast performance and quick response, the ScreenPad takes a second or two to boot up and resets every time the device goes to sleep and wakes up. The specs sheet does help a lot with the performance. The fan noise isn’t very loud considering the size also minus the ScreenPad, which gets heated a bit on continuous usage for hours.
We ran a couple of benchmarks on the Asus ZenBook Duo UX481. Cinebench R20 showcased a Single-core score of 450 and multi-core score of 1,279. We used AS SSD benchmark to test the performance of our SSD and got really good sequential read and write speed of 2431.63 MB/s and 835.19 MB/s respectively. While the 4K processing read and write is 41.01 MB/s and 97.13 MB/s, which would be really helpful for anyone working on editing and processing raw 4K footage.
Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 ScreenPad
By making the secondary display similar wide as the primary screen is to improve the whole process of using a second screen. This feels like a big step forward in making the secondary screen actually useful rather than just a gimmick like in the past.
Now my biggest problem with the displays is that the secondary screen recognises touch screen while the primary screen doesn’t, and it is honestly the most annoying thing when you get used to the touch screen on the lower display and my muscle memory you move hands to the main screen yet it doesn’t work, and you have to use the trackpad.
The ScreenPad works well while multitasking, and you can keep multiple tabs/programs opened. You also get a stylus from Asus with the box, which could come handy while just scribbling, writing down note, or drawing. We didn’t receive the stylus with our review unit, so we are unaware as to how responsive the stylus is while using for drawing or sketching.
We feel the ScreenPad is a big step up to the past Illustration and design of the ScreenPad, and Asus are doing well to make this concept actually useful and maybe better than the TouchBar on the MacBook Pro, as this is a fully-functional second screen, which is read by the system as a second monitor in the extended desktop mode by default, so you can easily drag and drop from the two screens conveniently.
How do we feel about the ScreenPad and is it useful? Yes! more than it ever was, once you start opening your multiple Chrome windows or just PDFs you might be referring from for your project, having them at your disposal at all times becomes contagious and switching back to a single screen device feels a stepdown.
But the ZenBook Pro Duo, with a larger 15-inch, has a bigger keyboard area, 4K displays and touch screen for both the screen and seems like a better package, while this smaller version feels like it’s trying to push above weight, with a lot of things on offer yet space is not just big enough.
But the device as it is at the price it has been offered is a step ahead for your normal Ultrabook. If you are an avid appreciator of new technological developments or you just want to show off a cool new ultrabook that stands out, the Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 should definitely be on your list.