Asus Zenbook Duo UX481 Review
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Asus Zenbook Duo UX481 Review


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Configuration of the Asus Zenbook Duo (UX481FL)

CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U at 1.80 GHz
Graphic: Nvidia GeForce MX250 (2 GB)
RAM: 16 GB DDR3 (2 133 MHz)
Storage room: 1 TB Samsung PCIe SSD
Screen: 14 inch, Full HD LCD (1920 x 1080), 12.6 inch Full HD (1920 x 515) touchscreen
Ports: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x HDMI and 1 x MicroSD reader
Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 with Gig + performance (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0
Camera: IR webcam with Windows Hello support
Weight: 1.5 kg
Cut: 32.3 x 22.3 x 1.99 cm

The Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 looks like a futuristic laptop, and this is mainly due to the presence of a second screen on the base, just above the keyboard and trackpad. With the ZenBook Duo, the company caters to a different set of users who demand performance without compromising their creative aspects. This type of form factor has never been seen before in a laptop, and therefore Asus tries to provide a balance between style and productivity.

The ScreenPad Plus, like the Asus calls it, is basically a supercharged touch bar if you know the MacBook Pro line from Apple. The same concept was adopted with a full-fledged second screen that can be used to display apps, doodle something, or just listen to music while working.

With the ZenBook Duo UX481, Asus wanted to offer users a space-saving laptop for more portability, while providing decent performance for users on the go. The smaller size is appreciated, but it also means that some compromises have been made that affect the overall usability of this device.

Price and availability

Asus ZenBook Duo (UX481) priced at 5,999 AED and available at all retailers in the United Arab Emirates.

Design

(Image credit: Future)

Taking the ZenBook Duo out of the box, we noticed that it has considerable thickness and weight, unlike other ZenBook laptops, which we consider to be thin and light. Even the price segment to which this laptop belongs is usually filled with ultra-laptops; however, with its new design, the ZenBook Duo is more than sure to turn heads.

(Image credit: Future)

The new laptop stays true to its roots and features the iconic circular metal circle on the cover with tapered edges. Only this time, it is not centered and is rather asymmetrical. It gives a spotlight effect to the Asus logo, which looks intriguing.

(Image credit: Future)

The ZenBook Duo is a bit heavier as it weighs approximately 1.5 kg and measures 32.3 x 22.3 x 1.99 centimeters. It’s not that thin either, probably due to the addition of a secondary display. It doesn’t look like anything we expected from a ZenBook machine, which has a reputation for being one of the thinnest and lightest Windows laptops.

(Image credit: Future)

The ScreenPad Plus is an impressive addition to the laptop and is probably the biggest topic of discussion. It is intended to increase your productivity by allowing you to run secondary applications that you would normally run on the main screen, such as Spotify. It also expands your office space, you can extend some applications to create rather interesting usage scenarios.

(Image credit: Future)

The position of the trackpad may also require getting used to as it is usually placed under the keyboard. Asus thinks that most of the creative professionals would use an external mouse anyway, but for the times when you have to use the trackpad, that sounds a bit annoying. The trackpad is very cramped and often didn’t record our taps, especially near the edges. Right positioning also prevents left-handed users from operating comfortably.

Another shortcoming is that the ZenBook Duo’s touchpad does not double as a numeric keypad, as it does on the Pro Duo range. Even if you connect an external mouse, the trackpad area remains useless, so it would have been great if Asus had made this particular feature common to all of its ZenBook Duo range.

The ErgoLift hinge design offers a tilt of 5.5 degrees from the laptop, but it only really benefits when the laptop is on a flat surface. If you use it on your lap while on the go, you’ll find it hard to keep things steady and deal with a rather uncomfortable strike.

(Image credit: Future)

Overall, the design of the ZenBook Duo is quite surprising and innovative, but users will have to compromise on how they use their laptops in their daily activities. Nevertheless, it’s a different form factor and a unique design for sure. The laptop has also received the MIL-STD-810G certificate, which is the standard military benchmark for durability and toughness.

Are two screens worth more than one ??

(Image credit: Future)

ScreenPad Plus is also the most notable feature of the ZenBook Duo and its USP. The main screen is a beautiful 14 inch Full HD LED panel (1920 x 1080 pixels) with minimal frame. The colors are vibrant and the contrast is excellent.

The screen can produce a 100% sRGB color gamut and is also Pantone validated. The upper screen alone means it’s a laptop you should consider if you’re looking for a machine to edit photos and videos.

(Image credit: Future)

The thin 3.5mm edges on each side give the ZenBook Duo a 90% screen-to-body ratio with a 178-degree field of view. It has a more modern feel (despite the thickness elsewhere) and ensures that the top screen remains the main focal point.

The Screenpad Plus measures 12.6 inches and looks a bit drab compared to the main screen, which has impressive dynamism and brightness. We have increased the default screen brightness to better match the upper screen, but that doesn’t help. Text readability was also a bit difficult, with text becoming slightly blurred, especially in apps like Spotify.

Readability depends on the quality of the panel used and also on the angle from which you view the Screenpad Plus. You should go ahead and look at it directly for the best readability, which can cause awkward back and forth movements in your chair.

(Image credit: Future)

Windows 10 treats the Screenpad Plus as a second monitor, so when you drag the mouse cursor down the upper screen, it will then appear on the lower screen – and the reverse happens when you move the mouse towards the top of the second screen. It essentially breaks the seamless experience that Asus is trying to provide with the addition of a second screen.

However, using ScreenPad Plus, you can easily drag windows and applications to the other screen. While many apps may seem a bit cramped, it works quite well. For example, you can drag a Chrome window with YouTube or Gmail to the lower screen and listen to music or keep an eye on emails while working on the main display.

Since the Screenpad Plus is a touchscreen, you can use your fingers to move or select open applications, or use a stylus to turn the Screenpad Plus into a graphics tablet. Curiously, no stylus is included with the Zenbook Duo, which is a missed opportunity. However, we have managed to use the Screenpad Plus with a stylus, and although the sensitivity is acceptable for quick notes and signing PDF files, its use is again rather delicate, because you often accidentally put the palm of your hand on certain keyboard keys.

(Image credit: Future)

Asus has also included its own software that can be used with the Screenpad Plus. By pressing a discreet on-screen button on the left, you can bring up a menu that allows you to pin app shortcuts or change settings for Screenpad Plus.

This is an interesting addition that makes the Screenpad Plus more useful than a simple second monitor. However, during our time with the ZenBook Duo, we were not entirely convinced that Screenpad Plus is an essential tool.

In some ways it was nice to have, but it got in the way too sometimes. For example, when you move the mouse to the bottom of the upper screen to click on the taskbar, it’s a little too easy to go past and end up on the lower screen.

The problem is even worse when you play games or run applications in full screen, because if you move the mouse cursor over the second screen and accidentally click on it, it minimizes the game or the application. You can at least avoid this by pressing a button above the trackpad that turns off the second screen. However, it does mean that you can exclude the use of the second screen while playing games – for example, having a live streaming application running on the Screenpad Plus.

While the Screenpad Plus is an exciting addition, it hasn’t turned out to be essential by any stretch of the imagination and, in some cases, has proven a bit annoying. The fact that the top screen is so good means that the Screenpad Plus looks a bit dull and lifeless in comparison. We think that doesn’t quite justify the impact it has on the dimensions and overall usability of the Asus ZenBook Duo.

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