ASUS Zenbook Duo UX481FL Review

So I should let you know from the start that I’ve been absolutely spoilt and probably should have done the review of the Duo prior to using Pro Duo, alas it didn’t work out that way so here is my attempt at not being a kid who is looking at the grass being greener on the other side of the much more expensive fence..

These new laptops from ASUS feel like so much more than a “laptop” it’s a description that hardly contains the power and uniqueness of what this brand is trying to achieve.

Even though the Asus Zenbook Duo is basically the lite version of the Pro and is noticeably missing a few of the key technical advancements it is still a capable machine and well above the standard laptop based on the handy second screen alone. This is called the ScreenPad + and is a touch bar on steroids, in fact it could be described as a touch bar you would actually use, and you do, all the time, especially if you are using programs like the Adobe suite where you can set all your additional effects panels and leave your large workspace free of clutter. It’s amazing for creators.

asus duo zen 03
Two screens make all the difference to workflow

The two screens on the Pro version are both “touch” and on this Duo version it’s only the ScreenPad+ that is touch. I didn’t find this to hinder any of the work that I do, but if I was an artist using a Stylus then I’d probably want access to draw on both. In that case go the pro. Both the screens on this model are of good quality and are colour accurate100% sRGB Pantone validated.

The positioning of the touch bar on this machine does come with its downfalls though, the keyboard is shifted all the way to the bottom of the laptop and on this model the keys are moved around to fit in a way that seems cumbersome compared to the pro version of the laptop. The arrow keys are in-line and the same size as all the other keys as is the right shift key, so when you are typing at full speed in a document you find yourself pressing arrow up instead of shift. Something that will take some getting used to but also cause a few angry huffs while you are getting there. This is improved on the Pro version which manages to fit the keys in a much more ergonomic way.

The keyboard being so low also makes no room for your wrists so the add on “soft stand” that comes in the box is a good fix for this as it raises the whole machine from the back, if you can work out how to fold it just the right way, but I do have concerns about machines that need a stack of peripherals just to do simple tasks. You can get away with not using it if you want as the ErgoLift Hinge already raises the machine into a tilt that is comfortable enough.

The trackpad is good quality and in a fine position to the right of the keyboard (good thing I’m right handed). This didn’t bother me at all as I tend to use a mouse when working anyway but I did feel it was lacking as in the pro version you get a trackpad that with a press of a button becomes a numeric keypad. This feature is missing but I guess that’s why you pay the extra on the Pro.

There’s a certain weight to the machine as you lift it from it’s box, that’s not saying that it’s heavy, its just got that feel of something of worth. Like when you pick up a cheap imitation pair of headphones and then lift the real thing. This is made with good quality parts and the chassis is designed to protect those parts as well as add a really stylish finish. The spun metal look is a really nice touch and the company logo that is off centre is both attention grabbing and subtle all at once.

It’s not the slimmest machine in the range but it’s also not thick. Considering there are two screens packed into this little box it is still considerable thinner than a lot of machines on the market only boasting one screen. ZenBook are famous for the slim design and unique bezel and this is a great example of packing in as much as possible while still maintaining the core of the brand.

Playing games on the Duo was ok as the machine is more than powerful enough to run a lot of what is around at the moment, especially with it’s i7 processor and 16gb of RAM with an MX250 graphics card, I just didn’t feel comfortable playing games on it as everything about this laptop tells me it’s for portable creativity and work. I tested a stack of software on it, including Adobe Premiere, photoshop and Character Animator and it was all flawless, I never felt like I was pushing the machine to it’s limits.

by Doccydarko
at the ASUS Creators Conference in Sydney 2019

As I reviewed the Pro prior to the Duo it is extremely hard not to compare the two and the big thing to remember is the massive price gap. Joyce Mayne has the “Duo” model at around an affordable $2,299 where as the “Pro Duo is up around the $4999 on most sites. You do get so much more for that price, but as far as a quality machine with enough power to do your day to day plus more style and additional workflow benefits than anything else available at the moment, I’d still be looking at the “ASUS Zenbook Duo” as my first choice laptop, well… until I win the lottery.

To learn more about this ASUS product see the offical page here:

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