This article has been just updated: February 16th, 2020
The ASUS ZenBook Duo laptop has two screens but is around half the price of the more expensive Pro Duo version that I’ve previously covered. In this review, you’ll find out what features this cheaper version has to offer and find out if it’s worthwhile.
Starting with the specs I’ve got a 10th gen quad-core Intel i5 CPU, Nvidia MX250 graphics, 8gb of memory in dual channel, two screens which we’ll look at in-depth soon, and a 512gb M.2 NVMe SSD. For network connectivity it’s got the latest WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5, no ethernet port though, so you’ll need to use an adapter if you need it.
It’s available with different specs though, including i7 CPU, up to 16gb memory or 1TB SSD, you can find examples and up to date pricing below.
ASUS ZenBook Duo Laptop Review
The ZenBook Duo is basically the baby version of the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo. The pro model is larger and offers all the bells and whistles, while the Duo we’re looking at here is meant to be more of a budget-friendly option, so it’s lower specced and not quite as feature-rich as a result.
On the spun metal lid we’ve just got the ASUS logo on the celestial blue finish. The interior is the same color, and we can see that the second screen above the keyboard which is pushed down to the front as a result with the touchpad on the right. Overall the build quality was good, the all-metal design was solid and there were no sharp corners or edges anywhere.
ASUS lists the weight at 1.5kg or 3.3 pounds, and mine was just a little above this. With the small 65W power brick and cables for charging the total weight rises to just below 1.9kg, it’s quite portable. As a 14” machine the width and depth are noticeably smaller compared to the 15” laptops I typically deal with, and it’s not too thick either.
Also Read: Microsoft Surface Pro VS Surface Go
The height will change when you open the lid. When you open it up, the bottom of the screen props up the rear. This has the advantage of improving cooling as more air can get in underneath. It also improves the viewing angle for the second screen, the keyboard is raised to be on a better angle for typing, and the speakers aren’t pressed flat against the desk.
ASUS ZenBook Duo-Dual Screen Laptop
With the basics out of the way, let’s get into the most interesting part of this laptop, the dual screens. The bottom screen, what they’re calling screen pad plus, is a 12.6” touchscreen with 1920 by 515 resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate. It’s got a matte finish and a 178-degree viewing angle. You can use either your finger or pen, however, mine didn’t come with a pen in the box despite there clearly being a spot for it, so I’m not sure if that’s meant to be included, it’s not listed as included in the box on the website though.
The primary display is a 14” 1080p 60Hz panel, however, there’s no touch screen functionality here, only on the lower screen. It’s got 8mm screen bezels based on my own measurements, giving it a 90% screen to body ratio. I’ve used the Spyder 5 on both screens, for the main 14” panel we’re looking at 95% sRGB, 66% NTSC, and 72% AdobeRGB.
The 12.6” screen pad, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as good, I measured it with 67% sRGB, 48% NTSC and 50% AdobeRGB. I don’t think it’s a big deal if it’s not as good, it’s mostly meant to be used for showing extra things like tools or additional content rather than being the primary display source, so doesn’t need to be as impressive as the main screen.
The primary panel was also a bit brighter at full brightness, and also had a higher contrast ratio, overall it did look better to me than the screen pad.
As for backlight bleed, there was a little in the main panel, but I never noticed this when during normal use. The screen pad was harder to get a photo of, but it also appeared to have a little bleed, however, this will vary between laptops and panels. That’s a lot of information on the screens, now let’s get into how they actually work.
Basically the screen pad, so the one on the bottom acts as a second monitor. This means you can simply drag things between the two screens in Windows, just like with dual monitors on a desktop PC.
The ASUS ZenBook Duo comes with the ScreenXpert software installed, and this helps you manage the second screen. It’s got some useful features, for example, if you start dragging a window on either screen it offers a shortcut for you to quickly move it to the other screen. You can also use the ViewMax option on the end to make the window fully take up both screens, and you can drag an application to the pin icon which adds it to the app launcher.
On the bottom screen it’s easy to set two windows side by side with the standard Windows method of dragging the windows over to the far sides, however the software also lets you set three side by side. I didn’t find a limit of apps I could have on the bottom screen, it’s just a second monitor but the software only lets you easily tile 3 side by side.
On the second screen there’s this faint arrow icon on the left that you can press to bring up the screenpad options, and this displays the app launcher, allowing you to quickly open apps you’ve added here, and you can also change the order or remove icons.
This is also where you adjust the brightness of the lower screen, I wasn’t able to change it through Windows. If you go deeper in to the settings you get more granular brightness control.
The next option lets you configure up to four task groups. Basically you set up the apps you like using on the screenpad how you like them, click the capture button and it will remember them. That way you can easily select the task group and it will automatically open up the same apps. If you have more than 3 apps when making the task group it will only show the first three tiled side by side, and you can only have up to four groups.
Below that is a shortcut to quickly swap the windows open on each screen, so the windows up top move below, and the ones on the bottom screen move up to the top one. There’s also a dedicated key on the keyboard to do this as well just above the touchpad.
The next option is the app navigator, which just lets you see the open apps on the screenpad so you can swap between them.
The last icon locks the keyboard, preventing the keys from being used. This could be useful for drawing on the screen pad without worrying about pressing keys with your hand.
Otherwise, there’s also the screen pad settings, which along with what you can see here allows you to make that hovering arrow icon disappear until you need it and other options.
If you don’t want to use the second screen, you can quickly disable it by pressing the button next to the power button, this lets you turn it on or off.
ASUS ZenBook Performance
I could spend 10 minutes going through possible use cases for the second screen, but instead, I’ll refer you to the review of the pro duo linked in the description, as you can use it for the same things, which includes streaming, gaming, editing and more. It’s literally just a second monitor, so you can use your imagination as to how it would benefit your workflow.
There was only a little screen flex, the metal lid was fairly sturdy. I wasn’t really able to film it, but the hinges are out towards the far corners which help with stability. Despite feeling lightweight I was still able to open it up with one finger, so weight is distributed fairly. It was a little awkward feeling using it on my lap due to the way the back raises it up, but it worked well enough.
Also Read: ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 (2019) review
Although the screen has a thinner bezel, the 720p camera is still located up the top, and it’s got IR for Windows Hello support.
- The camera looks pretty blurry, but the audio sounds pretty good. Although typing on the keyboard normally is pretty quiet, with the camera on you can hear it quite a lot.
- I found the 5.5 degrees angled keyboard fine to type with, so long as you’ve got adequate space on your desk to push it back a bit as it’s right down the front. Unlike the more expensive Pro version, no wrist rest was included.
- The keys have 1.4mm of key travel, and here’s how typing sounds to give you an idea of what to expect, note how much quieter it is compared to what we heard through the camera.
- The keyboard has white backlighting which can be adjusted between three levels or turned off with the F7 key, and all keys and secondary key functions are illuminated.
Despite being elevated off the desk, there was minimal keyboard flex even when pushing down hard, the metal chassis was fairly sturdy, and I found the letter keys needed 56g of force to actuate.
As a result of the keyboard being right down the front, the precision touchpad has been moved over to the right. It’s smaller and narrow so you’ll probably want to use a mouse, however after a bit of use I did get used to it. The touchpad itself doesn’t actually click down, it’s instead got physical left and right-click buttons which weren’t too loud to press. Unlike the pro model, there’s no option of turning this into a Numpad.
Fingerprints don’t really show up on the keyboard and touchpad, after a lot of screenpad use they were a bit more obvious but it was easy to clean. They’re easier to see on the metal lid, but as it’s a smooth surface they were easy enough to clean.
Around the Laptop
Although it does slide around a bit like this when actually open it was a bit more stable due to the rubber feet on the back which come into contact with the desk when open. There’s nothing on the front side.
On the left from the back there’s the power input, HDMI output, the version isn’t specified but I could only run a 4K monitor at 30Hz so it’s not 2.0, USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port, and USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port, no Thunderbolt though.
On the right from the front, there are a couple of status LEDs, a MicroSD card reader, 3.5mm audio combo jack, and a USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port.
Underneath there are just some small air vents in the center, we’ll check out thermals soon.
The two speakers are found towards the front left and right corners, they sounded above average with a little bass, and perhaps better due to the extra space between them and the desk which is caused by the back being raised up. They seemed fairly loud when playing music at maximum volume, and the latencymon results looked good.
The bottom panel was easy to remove after taking out 10 TR5 screws. Inside we’ve got the battery down the front and single M.2 drive, that’s pretty much it, the memory is soldered to the motherboard and can’t be upgraded, so you have to buy it with what you need from the start.
ZenBook Duo is Powered by 4 cells 70wh Battery
The ASUS ZenBook Duo is powered by a 4 cell 70wh battery. I’ve tested it both with the two screens on, and also with just the main screen on and the second screen underneath off. Both screens were at 50% brightness for this test and keyboard lighting was disabled. As expected, with both screens on the battery drains faster, however even with it on the results are still well above most other laptops.
Although the game test ran the longest, it’s important to note it only ran at 21 FPS rather than the usual 30 FPS from the Nvidia battery boost cap, as the battery didn’t seem to be able to provide enough power to run it higher. It was still usable, until there was 5% left where it dipped to 5 FPS, where it lasted for a further 9 minutes than what I’ve shown on the graph.
The small 65-watt power brick seemed to be adequate for these specs, I didn’t have any battery drain during any of my testings. You can use the MyASUS software to change the charge level limit though, I left mine set to 100%.
Let’s move onto the thermal testing. The cooling solution is just a couple of fans in the middle with three total heat pipes. Air is pulled in from underneath and then exhausted out below the screen.
The MyASUS software allows us to pick between the default auto mode for best performance or silent mode which runs quieter with slower fan speed.
Thermal testing was completed with an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. At idle the temperatures were quite cool. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU stress tests and are meant to represent a worst case where both are being loaded up.
I’ve used Aida64 with the stress CPU the only option checked and the Heaven GPU benchmark at the same time to fully load the system. Even worst case in silent mode the CPU is reaching 75 degrees Celsius, there was no thermal throttling under sustained heavy load.
These are the clock speeds for the same tests just shown. The GPU speed basically doubles by enabling auto mode, and we also see a boost to the CPU clock speed as the CPU TDP limit increases to 15 watts, which is the default of the i5-10210U CPU. Undervolting then helped improve things just a little more, the main limitation here was that 15-watt power limit.
Here’s how CPU only performance looks in Cinebench. Auto mode improved performance a little as the CPU power limit on average rose from 11 to 15 watts, however, we could get a fair boost to multicore performance with the small undervolt, granted this seemed to negatively affect the single-core result.
As for the areas where you actually touch, at idle the keyboard area was quite cool. The screenpad looks warmer comparatively, but most laptops at idle are around the same 30 degrees Celsius, so not really an issue. With the stress tests running the keyboard is a little warmer, but still on the cooler side. The screenpad was now warm, up to 40 degrees, this is expected given the heat-generating components are directly underneath, and right up the back is in the mid-50s as the air gets exhausted just below the screen.
At idle it was completely silent. WIth the stress tests running in silent mode the fan was extremely quiet, I could only just hear it by putting my ear right next to it, then in auto mode it’s still realistically fairly quiet compared to most other laptops I’ve tested.
All things considered, there were no issues with the thermal performance at all, it ran on the cooler side due to the lower specs with low power limits. The fan noise is on the quieter side, even under worst case load, but I’m not sure how the screenpad will go long term with the hot CPU and GPU below, I presume ASUS have considered this though and put something between them to protect it.
Take a Look at Gaming Performance
Next let’s take a look at gaming. Although the ASUS ZenBook Duo only has Nvidia MX250 graphics, it should still be capable of playing some lightweight titles, so let’s see what it can do.
Fortnite was tested with the replay feature, and it was only really running well with the low setting preset, at any other setting level the frame rate seemed to drop quite substantially.
Dota 2 was tested playing in the middle lane, and at maximum settings it was still playing ok with above 60 FPS averages, however medium and below was much better, where even the 1% low was higher than this.
Overwatch was tested in the practice range with a 100% render scale, medium settings was needed to average above 60 FPS and it was playable, but higher settings weren’t running too well. CS: GO was tested with the Ulletical FPS benchmark tool, and medium settings was able to score above 100 FPS in this test, however, the 1% lows were quite weak.
You can still play esports titles pretty well even at 1080p, however, lower settings are needed as we just saw. For more demanding games you’ll either want lower resolutions or ideally a laptop with more powerful graphics if gaming is a priority.
I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the 512gb NVMe SSD, and it’s performing ok, but according to the ASUS spec sheet it only uses 2 PCIe lanes, the 1TB option is apparently 4 lane though. Unfortunately, I can’t test the Micro SD card slot as I don’t have any cards that size.
ASUS ZenBook Duo Laptop Price
I can’t really see it for sale in the US so it may not be available quite yet. Here in Australia with the specs I’ve got, it’s available for $1700 AUD, which with taxes removed and converted is about $1030 USD.
Alternatively, we can get double the memory, double the storage space, and i7 CPU for $600 AUD more, or about $365 USD extra.
For comparison, The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is substantially more expensive, however, it does have more powerful specs, OLED screens, and the option of upgrading further to the i9 version. It’s just a way more premium option. With all of that in mind let’s conclude by going through the good and bad aspects of the ASUS ZenBook Duo laptop.
ASUS ZenBook Duo laptop Pros and Cons
- Basically it’s a cheaper alternative to the more expensive and feature-rich ZenBook Pro Duo. It still offers the key feature of the Duo series, being the two screens, however, the nonpro version we’re covering here has fewer features and weaker specs which is why it’s cheaper.
- With that in mind though, it’s still one of the few laptops available with a somewhat large secondary screen built-in, so if that’s going to be useful to you and you aren’t made of money then it’s definitely worth considering.
- Overall I found the second screen beneficial, and the screenxpert software helped in managing it. It will depend on how you plan on using the screen, for instance getting games to make use of it will vary wildly based on the specific game, but for simply being able to watch a video or have a browser window in view that you couldn’t before it’s a nice addition.
- The content creator side of it was also interesting, but again it will depend on the application. When it comes down to it, it’s just a physically separate screen below the main one, so you can use your imagination as to how that might benefit your individual workflow. An external screen may be more beneficial as it can be larger, but that’s an extra piece of hardware to carry around with you. Despite the secondary screen, we’ve still got a fairly small and lightweight 14” laptop here.
- The main tradeoff with the unique design is the forward placement of the keyboard and requirement for an off to the side narrow touchpad, however, if you have desk space to push the machine back typing was still fine, and you can always use a mouse.
- The additional screen does affect battery life, but you’ve got the option of disabling it if not in use, but either way, the battery life was quite good.
- As the specs are on the lower side, thermals weren’t an issue, it ran quietly even under heavy load and didn’t feel too warm to the touch in the areas where you’ll actually be placing your hands.
- The MX250 graphics is a nice step up over Intel integrated graphics, however in terms of gaming it’s still only able to handle lightweight esports titles at lower settings at 1080p.
- It’s not really a gaming laptop, but light gaming was possible, and the graphics would be beneficial for GPU acceleration in some content creation workloads like video editing.
- There’s not much room in the way of upgradeability, all you could do is swap out the M.2 drive, but that would require either cloning the drive or installing Windows fresh as there’s only room for one slot.
- The memory, CPU and GPU can’t be upgraded, so you’ll have to try and buy with the future in mind. I thought there was a fair selection of I/O, but I think Thunderbolt on a machine like this would have been great to see.
- For the price I think the ASUS ZenBook Duo is an interesting laptop, it’s offering a second screen at a cheaper price point compared to the Pro Duo model while still maintaining a good build quality, and there’s just not much else to compare it to at the moment, it’s quite unique.
If you think you may benefit from more screen real estate and don’t want to pay more for the higher specced Pro model then it’s definitely worth considering.
Let me know what you thought about the ASUS ZenBook Duo laptop down in the comments.