ZenBook Pro Duo

What you need to know

  • ASUS has a new laptop with two 4K screens.
  • The second screen sits above the keyboard like the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar.
  • The ScreenPad Plus is definitely more functional than the Touch Bar.

ASUS recently announced the official launch of its dual-screen notebook, the ZenBook Pro Duo, which will be available Sept. 6. There are two upgradable models. The entry level model starts at $2,500 and comes with a 2.6GHz 6-core processor with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. The advanced model has a 2.3GHz 8-core processor with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, which starts at $3,000.

The ZenBook Pro Duo sports an advanced OLED Ultra HD screen with a 3840 x 2160 resolution.

Oh, and it also has a second 4K display, called the ScreenPad Plus, that sits above the keyboard ... like the Touch Bar of a MacBook Pro.

Like the Touch Bar, but so very much not like the Touch bar. For one, it's a 4K UHD display. It's also fairly large at 14-inches with a 32:9 aspect ratio. It takes up a lot of space and makes the ZenBook Pro Duo somewhat unwieldy, but it's pretty dang cool looking.

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Since the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar launched, there's been a lot of sides-taken as to whether it's a useful addition to the laptop or a gimmick. I'm of the opinion that it's incredibly useful for those that use it. For people that don't, I can see why you'd think it's a gimmick. You can really only do one thing with it, which is use it as a mappable shortcut for tools in apps.

The ZenBook Pro Duo functions as a toolbar, a second screen, a screen extender, and it even supports styluses for on-keyboard writing and drawing. It's certainly a hulked out version of a Touch Bar. Difficult to call this thing a gimmick when it can extend your entire screen, or just give you a second screen right there on your lap without you needing to plug anything in. the ScreenPad Plus can even be split in two so you could have two smaller 16:9 ratio screens side-by-side below the larger 15.4-inch main screen.

The problem with the ZenBook Pro Duo (other than the fact that it isn't an Mac) is that it's thick and I don't mean thicc with two Cs. It's almost a full inch thick and it weighs 5.5 pounds. It's not exactly portable. It's more like a desktop replacement, which makes me think, wouldn't it just be better to have a monitor on your desk to use as a second screen? At least with the ZenBook Pro Duo, you get a lot of cool features on that ScreenPad Plus (like app switching, a toolbar, and touch and stylus support). I also like the idea that that second screen is always with you, whether you're sitting on the couch or in your office.

Am I hoping Apple will do something like this to the Touch Bar for the MacBook Pro? Absolutely not. If my laptop has to be that thick to be functional, I'd rather just plug it into a monitor when I need it. I do like what the ZenBook Pro Duo does and if I could justify spending $2,500 on something I just want to play around with, I'd get one. But I've got to save up for that 16-inch MacBook Pro!

Better than Touch Bar

ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo

Functional touch screen at a heavy cost.

ASUS's ZenBook Pro Duo is definitely pushing the innovative boundaries with laptops. If you've got an extra $3K lying around, I'll bet it's really fun to play with!

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