Ok, so Intel had an impressive dual-screen prototype on display, that lifts a second display similar to the one found on the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo to a higher angle, with some kind of eye detection system in the hinge between the two devices.
However, the big difference between Intel's prototype and the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is that the Duo will shortly be on sale in Australia and around the world, while the Intel is still a prototype, and as you can see from Engadget's photo, it does place the screen quite high – people sitting in the same cafe as you when you're working will have a much easier time of seeing what you're doing, although a 3M, Kensington or other privacy shield for your screen will also help take care of that.
The secondary display on Intel's prototype is also "only" 12-inches, rather than the 14-inch "full-width" 4K display on the ZenBook Duo, and until we get the type of holographic displays we saw in Star Wars and in some of the Iron Man movies, having two fully usable and useful displays in a single notebook productivity device is pretty amazing – even though we saw the birth of such ideas in the Nintendo DS devices of a 15 years earlier in 2004.
Naturally, for a flagship device of this kind, it does come with flagship pricing — we were told the 15.6-inch model would start at A$4999 — but it also comes with flagship specs.
On the 15.6-inch model (UX581), this includes a 4K OLED display (3840 x 2160) featuring "a frameless four-sided ASUS NanoEdge design, with ultraslim bezels for immersive visuals and an ultracompact form factor".
Asus states "the 4K UHD NanoEdge OLED touchscreen on ZenBook Pro Duo is truly amazing, with a four-sided frameless design featuring an 89% screen-to-body ratio that gives users more screen, and fewer distractions" and "delivers ultra-vivid colours and deep blacks".
We're the told that "to display the most vivid, most realistic colours possible, ZenBook Pro Duo supports an exceptionally wide colour gamut with 100% DCI-P3 coverage and HDR. The DCI-P3 colour space — widely used in the motion picture industry — is increasingly the preferred choice of creative professionals for its increased range of possible colours, and makes images on ZenBook Pro Duo look simply stunning".
Then there's the aforementioned 14-inch 4K (3840 x 1100) ScreenPad Plus display, which is full width, and unlike the main display, this second display features with a matte coating to help prevent screen glare. Both screens are touch and stylus capable, a 9th-gen Intel Core i9, gaming-grade RTX 2600 GPU, the latest Wi-Fi 6 chipset for the fastest Wi-Fi speeds when paired with a Wi-Fi 6 router, storage options up to 1TB of PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD, up to 32GB of RAM, the touchpad being able to turn into a number keypad and more.
The 14-inch ZenBook Duo (UX481) is Full HD rather than 4K, and is paired with a Full HD 12.6-inch ScreenPad Plus, Intel Core i7 CPIU and GeForce MX250 GPU.
The 14-inch model might come in a cheaper variant where only the 12.6-inch ScreenPad Plus has touch and stylus support – it will depend on pricing and what ASUS thinks is suitable for each market, but although it would increase the price, having both screens offer touch and stylus support would be the better option.
Here's a new video of the 15.6-inch and 14-inch models during the Sneak Peek session Asus organised for the media, at the end of the article are two videos I already shared from ASUS along with another new one – please read on!
ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo with dual displays – 15.4-inch and 14-inch models
Naturally, ASUS bills the ScreenPad Plus as "offering endless creative possibilities for content creators, allowing productivity-enhancing workflows and easy multitasking".
"It integrates seamlessly with the primary display, and the built-in ScreenXpert software includes a wide selection of useful apps, tools and utilities that allow users to easily enjoy the efficiency benefits of ScreenPad Plus."
The case is billed as being a brand new Celestial Blue colour that gives ZenBook Pro Duo "a sophisticated air of timeless innovation", while the top of the notebook is "decorated with a unique asymmetric version of the iconic Zen-inspired spun-metal finish: an intriguing design detail that gives ZenBook Pro Duo a totally unmistakable identity" - or at least, according to ASUS.
Create the uncreated: ultimate productivity
ASUS tells us its "unique 4K ScreenPad Plus on ZenBook Pro Duo gives users the ability to enjoy the productivity and efficiency benefits of using two separate LCD displays on a single portable device. The full-width, high-resolution 32:9 aspect-ratio touchscreen sits directly above the laptop's keyboard, providing a greatly enlarged visual workspace while preserving the standard laptop form factor.
"ScreenPad Plus can be used just like any standard second display in Windows to display visual content, or users can take advantage of many time-saving features and functions built into the ScreenXpert control software to simplify multiscreen window and app management.
"These include handy quick controls such as App Switcher, ViewMax and App Navigator that enable intuitive interactions and easy cross-screen referencing between the main display and ScreenPad Plus. Task Group lets users lock instantly into work mode by opening multiple tasks with a single touch.
"Users can also drag discrete apps, toolbars or menus onto ScreenPad Plus to reduce clutter on the main screen and enhance work efficiency. Creators can dock their tools such as video previews, timeline controls, code windows or audio mixer panels onto ScreenPad Plus to optimise their workflow.
"Social communications apps placed on ScreenPad Plus allow users to keep up to date and respond instantly to messages while working, without having to switch between windows.
"Adaptive functions, pioneered in the original ScreenPad, also offer enhanced workflow. ASUS is working with developers including Corel® to optimize adaptive ScreenPad tools for the ultimate productivity. However, any Windows app can be used with ScreenPad Plus, with no need for a specific ScreenPad Plus-enabled version .
"Using the bundled stylus — or any other active stylus — enables yet another layer of interactivity for users, with ScreenPad Plus offering a superbly stable platform for writing or drawing. A bundled deluxe palm rest enhances the ErgoLift tilting keyboard design even further for the most comfortable drawing or typing experience ever.
"ZenBook Pro Duo features the latest version of the ASUS NumberPad, an LED-illuminated numeric keypad integrated into the touchpad. There's also Amazon Alexa voice support, with a dedicated light bar at the front of the laptop that illuminates to indicate it’s listening".
Ultrapowerful performance specs
The 15.6-inch ZenBook Pro Duo is "designed for extreme performance to enable effortless creativity. It's powered by up to a 9th Generation Intel Core i9 eight-core processor with up to an unprecedented 5GHz Turbo Boost frequency and 32GB of DDR4 RAM.
"The gaming-grade NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, powered by the NVIDIA Turing architecture, is a game-changing GPU that offers users the power of ray-tracing for the ultimate visual realism.
"An up to 1TB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD ensures ultrafast data access at all times, and the full set of I/O ports includes a Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB Type-C (USB-C) port.
"The latest Intel Wi-Fi 6 with Gig+ (802.11ax) takes wireless speeds to the next level, for supersmooth connections to the world."
Also, in case you were wondering what thermal issues there might be with two screens and an Intel Core i9 processor, ASUS advises that "to ensure silky-smooth operation and maximum performance are available at all times, there’s a dedicated Turbo Fan button to boost cooling at any time, and the ErgoLift hinge improves airflow under the laptop for better thermal performance".
So, it should come as no surprise whatsoever to see ASUS proudly boast that "this potent specification makes ZenBook Pro Duo one of the most powerful laptops available for discerning on-the-go creative professionals, and ensures an ultra-fluid cross-screen workflow when using ScreenPad Plus."
So, it will be great to see what the Australian prices are and to review one to see how practical the promise is in day to day use.
In addition, as a Mac user for my primary computing environment, it will be interesting to see whether Apple will ever go down such a path, although you can use the paid Duet app for Mac and PC to turn your iPad into a second screen.
ASUS itself also sells a range of external, portable monitors with battery life, alongside new models with touch support that sends the touch input direct to your Android phone or Windows PC (and even a Mac but only with a single touch point), so the dual-screen revolution is definitely upon us, and you don't need to buy an entirely new notebook to take part – although you now have that option, too!
1. How to make the best use of ScreenPad Plus | ASUS
2. ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo – The laptop of tomorrow | ASUS
3. ASUS ScreenPad Plus Quick Introduction | ASUS
The writer travelled to Computex 2019 as a guest of ASUS Australia.