Note: This article was first published on 14th January 2021 and is now updated with price and availability details.
Clever people have been working hard to create a notebook with an expansive display but a small footprint. Some brands think they have cracked it with ultra-thin bezels but they have got nothing on ASUS’ series of Duo notebooks which have, you guessed it, dual displays. After all, what better way to increase your screen real estate than by simply adding an extra screen?
The first ZenBook Duo notebooks were launched in 2019 and ASUS has learnt many things since. The concept was most recently updated with the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 and ASUS has now taken those learnings back to the ZenBooks.
The ZenBook Duo 14 UX482 is the most compact of ASUS’ dual-display notebooks and I got an early engineering sample to play around with for a couple of days. Because it has dual displays, I had expected it to be much larger than the recently launched ZenBook 14 Ultralight, but as you can see from the photo above, it really isn’t. It’s deeper and just a little thicker. It’s not excessively heavy either. It’s by no means a featherweight, but at 1.6kg, it’s not too much of a trouble to carry around considering what it boasts.
The dual display system has received considerably upgrades. The main display is still 14 inches large and it’s only Full-HD. But it now supports touch inputs so the whole user experience is more consistent than the previous generation ZenBook Duo UX481. The secondary display, the ScreenPad Plus as ASUS calls it, is the same 12.6 inches wide and has a resolution of 1,920 x 515 pixels. It doesn't look like it, but it's about half the size of the main display.
A common complaint of the old ZenBook Duo UX481 was that was a little hard to see because it doesn’t come up to a high enough angle. ASUS tried to fix this by adding a hinge to the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 and that same mechanism has made its way here. I have only spent about a week with the unit but I can tell you the additional seven degrees of tilt that this new hinge offers make a world of difference. The main display now almost flows smoothly into the secondary display. It would have been close to perfect if not for the difference in brightness – the ScreenPad Plus is still too dim.
There’s improved app support for the ScreenPad Plus too with tools now available for Adobe applications including Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, and Lightroom Classic. Whether they’ll be of any use to you will depend a lot on your usage habits but it’s still nice to see ASUS improving the utility of the ScreenPad Plus and its app ecosystem. There's also a new ScreenXpert Control Center that manages settings pertaining to the ScreenPad Plus. The dock is now snappier and can be repositioned or hidden.
Improvements have also been made to the keyboard. The position of the keyboard and trackpad are unchanged but the size of the arrow keys have been reduced so that the right Shift key can be enlarged. The arrow keys are now half-height and are arranged in an inverted T formation so that they can be easily located by touch.
Inside the ZenBook Duo UX482 beats Intel’s latest Tiger Lake processors. There will be a choice of either the Core i5-1135G7 or Core i7-1165G7, both with Intel’s new Iris Xe graphics. The maximum amount of configurable memory and storage is 32GB and 1TB SSD. There will also be the option for discrete graphics in the form of NVIDIA’s GeForce MX450.
Coupled with all these is ASUS Intelligent Performance Technology (AIPT) which dynamically adjusts power consumption to boost performance based on a number of parameters. ASUS claims performance increments of up to 40%. This all sounds very promising.
Connectivity options look almost faultless. There are two USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 4, a single USB-A ports supporting USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps), a full-size HDMI port, and a microSD card reader. And on the wireless front, there’s support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
The Intel Evo sticker in the corner of the ScreenPad Plus means the ZenBook Duo UX482 meets requirements like more than 10 hours of battery life in real-world usage scenarios, fast-charging, and responsiveness tests. That’s all very well and good and we will certainly be putting its 70Wh battery to the test once we get our hands on a retail-ready unit.
What's impressive about the ZenBook Duo UX482 is how it manages to cram two displays and high-end specifications (for an ultraportable notebook, at least) into a body that's still really quite portable. ASUS hasn't shared availability or pricing details yet. But seeing that the last ZenBook Duo had a launch price of S$2,198, we fully expect this new model to cost more than that.
Updated on 5th February 2021: We guessed that the new ZenBook Duo 14 would be pricier than its first-gen brother, but with all the upgrades it packs, its asking price of S$2,598 seems reasonable. For those keen to jump into 2021 with new-aged productivity and creativity tool, the latest ZenBook duo 14 is now available exclusively on the ASUS online store.