today we’re taking a look at the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo. a 15” laptop with two screens aimed at creatives.
The thing with gimmicks is that if your one of those people who wants to do a slideshow from across the room, that’s not a gimmick, that’s a killer feature. If you really want to turn on your lights with your watch that’s not a gimmick that’s a killer feature. If you want your fridge to cut your potatoes, fry them up to perfection and sprinkle them with just a touch of salt and rosemary than the Prince Harry/Megan Markle commemorative wedding smart fridge isn’t a gimmick, it’s a killer feature Joking aside, it’s a great fridge, link to my review in the description (drawing on the Prince Harry/Meghan Markle wedding fridge )
And as I used the Pro Duo I quickly realized that for me, that second screen wasn’t a gimmick, it was a killer feature.
This would have been the perfect laptop for me 5 years ago. Hi I’m Brad from 5 years ago.
Back then I was working on site with clients, It just wasn’t practical to drag my cintiq to work every day to draw on it a little here and a little there. I was a UX designer, I would have loved to sketch digitally, or taken notes digitally or add small illustrated elements to my designs.
And it’s not just a incredibly useful laptop, it’s a surprisingly powerful one.
This laptop comes in 2 different configurations. This is the lower end config but it’s no slouch: I7 processor 16gb of ram A full terabyte ssd hard drive And a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
Is it a gaming laptop, it could be. The styling is inspired by gaming laptops but isn’t over the top. I tend to prefer a minimalist design in my hardware like what Microsoft is doing with their Surface line. This laptop is not that, there are a lot of angles and things going on here but they feel tasteful. I could have taken this into a client meeting and still looked professional. Something I don’t feel like I could do with a lot of gaming laptops.
It’s is a really well performing laptop. You’re not going to run into the same performance issue you might see on the more ultra portable competitors. You have a pretty heavy machine at 5.4 pounds. And the battery life is just OK. I would say I got about 3 hours on average out of it. It’s a tradeoff you make to have more power and if your in an office access to power outlets most of the day it’s not a big deal.
One thing it pulls from the gaming world is an understanding of how air works. Something Apple seems to have forgotten. First there are huge vents along the side to help pull hot air out of the laptop.
Also along the side are a good number of ports. 2 USB ports, a USB-C thunderbolt port. An HDMI port and a headphone jack Of course it has a headphone jack, everything has a headphone jack. Oh, bless your heart. I did miss an SD card slot for camera cards but that’s not the end of the world.
They keyboard is pulled forward to accommodate the second screen. That decision has a couple repercussions. First; it doesn’t give you much room for a trackpad. So they have moved it off to the right of the keyboard. It’s a lot narrower than most trackpads. And it’s functional but if you want to get the most out of your computer you’re probably going to want to attach a mouse it. As an added bonus you can toggle the trackpad into a number key pad by long pressing on the upper right corner. Another change is that a keyboard without a palm rest isn’t the most comfortable so in the box they included an ergonomic ramp to make it more comfortable when used on a desk.
A spend a good chunk of my week drawing or designing and when I do I listen to a lot of audio books. I was pretty excited when audible reached out to sponsor this video because I’ve been a customer for years.
I have accumulated a pretty large collection of audiobooks on Audible. And I can access my library on my phone, my computer, tablet pretty much anywhere.
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If you’re looking for something to get you started I would recommend To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy. It’s the story of how Pixar went from one of Steve Job’s passion projects into one of the most biggest animation studios in the world.
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Both screens are touch screens, both screens work with the pen
The top screen is full 4k 3840 X 2160 and looks amazing. It’s an OLED display and leaves a great first impression. It’s crazy bright, That’s crazy bright I had to turn that brightness down. It’s also glossy screen, if you get in close you can see a pixel pattern, probably not something you’re going to notice at a normal laptop distance It’s also pantone certified. So they pre calibrate it for color accuracy. I was curious about that so I recalibrated it myself and didn’t see a huge difference. The bottom screen is what they call 4k wide, so it’s also 3840px by 1100px and it is a matte screen. That’s something that doesn’t come across in all the promotional photos. Because of that matte finish it’s not as bright and crisp as the top display but there are some very good reasons for it having that coating. The first is that it lays almost flat, so ceiling lights would render a glossy display almost unusable with glair. The second reason is that it’s just a better feeling surface to draw on, not as slick and gives you more drawing control.
There wasn’t one thing about using this that made me say, wow I love this, Can’t put my finger on it instead it was a bunch of little things that added up over time. Apple has their touch bar, this is like the touch bar on steroids. Instead of putting controls up there you can put whole apps up there. Music, twitter, or just a files folder.
I’ve used touch screen Windows computers and once I get them into laptop mode I almost never use the touch screen. By getting in range of your hands right above the keyboard it’s just so much more convenient, not just for touch but using the pen too.
Asus has added some software to make the second screen more useful. You can just drag anything you want down there like any time you have a second monitor attached to your computer. But they have added some bells and whistles with their Screen Plus Pro software.
You can snap apps to the full screen, half the screen or a 3rd of the screen. You can also save configurations. I had one configuration with twitter, my email and Music. And another with Sketchable open so I could flip between then and sketch out an idea or jot down notes.
It does a bunch of other stuff to but another feature I found really useful was being able to swap screens with the push of a button, If I’m working in photoshop and want to draw for a minute, just press a button and it flips down to the bottom screen where it’s more comfortable to use the stylus.
If you’re looking for a pure art laptop this is probably not it. For sketching, note taking, photo retouching it’s great. But full time art there are some better options out there.
The biggest drawback is the pen itself. It uses n-trig tech like the microsoft surface line. There are pros and cons to n-trig. The biggest pro is the palm recognition is great. The downside is line quality. It’s a pretty shaky stylus and there is a lot of jitter on the pen especially when your drawing slower more precise lines. You have to draw pretty fast before you can really get rid of that imperfection.
I think I’ve outlined most of the pros here. That second screen is way more useful than I thought it would be.
The counter to that is that it has to make sacrifices other laptops don’t, the smaller trackpad and less comfortable typing experience. The battery life is a trade off.
Some other things to note that are really nit picks: The build quality is hit or miss. There are a lot of seams and the main thing that worries me is the plastic parts don’t seem sturdy enough to hold everything in and are bulging in spots. Jumping between screens isn’t fluid, there are some tools to help that, but they are only ok. When I move a window a little UI pops up, one of the icons lets me toss my app to the smaller screen. But it defaults to full screen. I like to keep small stuff down there, so it’s just easier to manually move it. There is a freezing glitch thing that happens when you drag between screens, it’s not a fluid good feeling motion These things aren’t game breakers by any stretch. But in a world of cell phones and tablets theses types of visual hiccups seem more and more pronounced every year.
Overall I love this laptop. Not just for art. I spend a good amount of my time making videos too and that second screen is great for hat. Overall I’m impressed and I hope to see more laptops adopt this layout in the future.
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