ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED UX582 review: Is this a content creator's dream notebook?
Note: This review was first published on 31 May 2021.
Is two better than one?
In 2019, ASUS made headlines with the ZenBook Pro Duo UX581, which was a notebook with dual displays. It wasn’t the first notebook to have dual displays but it was the first time a big-time notebook brand committed to the idea of making such notebooks. It was a commendable first attempt but it had its issues. Naturally, ASUS made improvements to address these issues earlier this year with the smaller ZenBook Duo UX482. Now, these improvements have been brought over to the larger ZenBook Pro Duo. Meet the new ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED UX582.
Design & improvements
Yes, that’s a long name so let’s just call this notebook the ZenBook Pro Duo UX582, shall we? The basic idea of the notebook has changed, and that is to cram two displays into a clamshell that’s as compact as it is physically and technologically possible. Largely, ASUS succeeded. Thanks to the use of magnesium alloy, the ZenBook Pro Duo UX582 is around 24mm thick and weighs just 2.34kg. Though that doesn’t sound very portable, it’s comparable to other 15-inch notebooks with similar specifications (which I’ll get into later) and is tad better than the first iteration.
Aesthetically, the notebook has all the classic ZenBook design cues. The lid has a circular brushed finish and the sides have distinctive bevels. It comes in a colour that ASUS calls Celestial Blue. Blue might not be everyone's cup of tea but it is incontrovertibly more interesting than plain old black.
The specifications of the two displays are unchanged. The main display is 15.6-inches large, 4K, and it uses an OLED panel that is Pantone validated, supports 100% of the P3 colour space, and has a maximum brightness of 440 nits. The secondary ScreenPad Plus display uses an IPS panel and is 14 inches large with a resolution of 3,840 x 1,100 pixels (which is exactly half of a 4K display). It has a matte finish to reduce glare and reflections from the main display. Both displays support touch and stylus inputs.
Visually, the main display looks fantastic. It’s sharp and thanks to the glossy finish, colours look super vivid and yet natural. No question, this is easily one of the best displays I’ve seen on any notebook. The secondary display, because of its matte finish and the fact that it doesn’t get as bright, looks noticeably less punchy and sharp. This discrepancy in display quality can be jarring.
The big change to the displays, however, is the new hinge mechanism which lifts the ScreenPad Plus to a greater angle. According to ASUS, the ScreenPad Plus now tilts up by 9.5°. Interestingly, that's 2.5° more than the recently released ZenBook Duo UX482. The result of this additional lift is that the two displays of the ZenBook Pro Duo UX582 looks more like they are one big display. There’s still a visible strip of bezel between the two but it is more inconspicuous. Importantly, the effect of creating a single big screen is more believable on the ZenBook Pro Duo UX582 than it is one the smaller ZenBook Duo UX482. The lift also helps with cooling, which I’ll talk about more later.
Other ScreenPad Plus enhancements
The ZenBook Pro Duo UX582 gets all of the software enhancements that were introduced earlier on the ZenBook Duo UX482. There’s now added support for Adobe applications including Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, and Lightroom Classic. When you open any of these apps, you’ll see customisable shortcuts on the ScreenPad Plus. Whether these will prove useful will depend on your workflow, usage habit, and adaptability. But it’s nice to see that ASUS is committed to improving the utility of the ScreenPad Plus by working with major industry software players. Other improvements include a new ScreenXpert Control Center that manages settings pertaining to the ScreenPad Plus, such as the dock can now be repositioned or hidden entirely for a cleaner workspace.
Specs, features, and ports
The ZenBook Pro Duo UX582 will only be offered in a single configuration here and these are its highlights:
- Intel Core i9-10980HK processor
- 32GB memory
- 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6
These components won’t look out of place on a gaming notebook. Yup, so this is a very powerful notebook that should suit the needs of both content creators and gamers. Also, as you might have probably guessed, the ZenBook Pro Duo UX582 is an expensive notebook. With these specifications, it will burn a S$4,998-sized hole in your pocket. That’s roughly the amount you’d expect to pay for a top-of-the-line gaming notebook.
To maximise performance, the notebook has Active Aerodynamic System Plus (AAS+). It refers to its enhanced cooling system that's made up of two 97-blade fans and six heatpipes. Together with the tilting ScreenPad Plus which acts as a large air intake, ASUS claims overall airflow has been improved by 36%. To take advantage of all this, there's a fan button that lets you activate the performance fan profile which causes the fans to spin up to provide maximum cooling.
As for connectivity, on the left, there’s a full-size HDMI 2.1 port and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. On the opposite side, there are two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and a single USB-A USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. Sadly, there’s no memory card reader of any sort, which is curious because the smaller ZenBook Duo UX482 had a microSD card reader. As for wireless connectivity, there’s support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
For a 15-inch notebook, I expected the speakers to get louder and sound more authoritative. But at least they hold their own and don’t exhibit distortion even at close to maximum volume. They'll suffice but discerning listeners will definitely want standalone speakers or plug their own cans.
Keyboard and trackpad
This is easily the most controversial aspect of the notebook. Sacrifices need to be made to accommodate the secondary display and this mainly involves repositioning the keyboard and trackpad. Like other Duo ZenBooks, the ZenBook Pro Duo UX582’s keyboard has been shifted to the bottom edge of the notebook while the trackpad is off to the right.
Let’s not consider the awkward positioning for a second because the quality of the hardware is great. ASUS’ keyboard game has been strong and the keys feel quite wonderful with just the right amount of tactility and rather generous travel. The trackpad, though tiny at just 6.2cm by 8.5cm, feels smooth and responsive. The trackpad also doubles up as a virtual numberpad.
Is it possible to get over the odd positioning? That depends on how adaptable you are. After a week or so I think I still feel a little frustrated but otherwise I’m managing quite well. My hand instinctively now reaches for the bottom right corner of the trackpad or the touchscreen. If you're not using a mouse, the position of the trackpad can sufficiently double-up as a mouse of sorts. Left-handers though will likely find the location of the trackpad a pain, and a wrist-rest is highly recommended if you are going to compose a wordy email or type a document that's as long as this review. If it’s any consolation, at least the size of the keys are sensible.