Asus ZenBook Duo UX482E Review: Are two screens better than one?
Asus has added a second 12.65-inch, 1920x515 resolution touchscreen (with stylus support) below the main 14-inch 1920x1080 display
Why settle for one screen on your laptop when you can have two? That’s the philosophy behind the ZenBook Duo range from Asus over the past couple years, even as the company has refined the design into the laptop I’m looking at today – the ZenBook Duo UX482E. It’s a refreshing take on the laptop form factor, even as it appeals to a niche that sees the value of a second screen. If you’re wondering if that could be you, read on…
On first unboxing the unit, the UX482E looks like any other premium and well-built thin and light ultrabook from Asus, and its thickness and 1.6kg weight belies the presence of a second screen inside. You get a brushed metal finish on the lid and a decent selection of ports, which includes full-size USB-A and HDMI ports and…wait for it, a microSD card slot! Yet, it’s only when you open it up that you see the raison d'être for the UX482E – the second screen dubbed the ‘ScreenPad Plus’.
What Asus has done is add a second 12.65-inch, 1920x515 resolution touchscreen (with stylus support) below the main 14-inch 1920x1080 display. The second panel is bright and vibrant and a good match to the color accurate main panel above it, and Asus has thoughtfully added in what it calls an ‘ErgoLift’ hinge which lifts the ScreenPad Plus at an angle that makes viewing and touch interactions easier (it’s worth mentioning that it helps improve airflow as well).
There is a bit of an ergonomic compromise though. To accommodate the second display, Asus had to shift the keyboard and trackpad down to the lower half of the laptop where you’d ordinarily find the space to rest your wrists. This, coupled with the somewhat cramped arrangement, both on the keyboard and the touchpad, takes some getting used to (and may be a deal breaker for left-handed folks). There are a few buttons to aid and assist the transition to this laptop, such as a button for bringing in a window from the main screen to the ScreenPad Plus, and you can even use the second screen as a giant touchpad or disable it altogether to preserve battery. In all fairness, this feels like a desk-bound laptop, and the design might not be for everyone.
Using the ScreenPad Plus on a daily basis makes a lot of sense if you use creative apps like Adobe’s Creative Cloud or video editing tools where the second screen is great for toolbars and quickly pulling in new clips or scrubbing your video timeline. Asus is working with third party apps to bring increased support for the second screen, but your mileage may vary until such time – best to check if the apps you depend on in your workflow have added support for the ScreenPad Plus. For everything else, Windows 10 treats it like any other secondary display aligned horizontally below the primary display and most folks will enjoy the convenience of being able to keep your mail or a YouTube tutorial open permanently on the lower screen and get their work done on the primary panel. Or keep a chat window on with colleagues while the Zoom call runs on full screen – the potential use cases are as varied as your specific dual-monitor workflows can get. Asus has provided a quick access menu on the left for customizing the use of the second screen, which includes an app drawer for ScreenPad apps like a calculator, Spotify, number keys and handwriting gestures, though the list is limited. There’s an included stylus in the box, and you can, among other things, select a Handwriting app to scribble in text input directly into other apps or webpages on the main display. The experience is refined enough to not feel like a gimmick, but you’re going to have to think long and hard if you need that second screen.
Other than this unique design element, the Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482E is a capable laptop thanks to a series of premium components, which earns it its Intel Evo badge. The badging ensures there are no corners cut to meet a particular price point, even as the laptop packs in the latest chips from Intel. Thin screen bezels? Check. Over 9 hours of battery life? Check. Thunderbolt 4 and WiFi6? Check. Sub 1-second wake time from sleep? Check. The unit I tested had 11th generation 2.80GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 quad-core processors paired with 16 GB of 4266MHz LPDDR4x memory and a 1TB NVME PCIe SSD storage. Though the unit had Intel Iris Xe graphics on board, you can optionally configure the unit to include an Nvidia GeForce MX450 with 2GB GDDR6 video memory to boost video/image editing, or pick a less powerful Core i5 chip to save yourself some cash. Windows 10 booted up fast and ran zippily and held up well to the daily workload of web browsing, document editing, music streaming and casual gaming. Under sustained load, the fans did get plenty loud, but the laptop stayed impressively cool without having to throttle performance. Realistically though, this is productivity-focused laptop first and foremost, as the onboard graphics lack the grunt for serious video editing. Battery life is in the ballpark of 10-11 hours with both displays turned on, which is respectable.
Look, if you need a good laptop to game or get everyday stuff done, buy a regular laptop - there are a ton of great options out there, including some by Asus. Even though the ZenBook Duo UX482E checks all the boxes for a premium laptop, the inclusion of the second screen hasn’t led to a massive increase in heft or footprint and the ScreenPad shows promise, it’s still going to cater to a small niche who absolutely see that second screen fit into their workflows knowing fully well the ergonomic quirks it entails.
Highlights: Asus ZenBook Duo UX482E
Pros: sleek design for a laptop with dual displays, ScreenPad Plus has genuine improvements, good speakers, impressive connectivity options, good everyday performance and battery life
Cons: Cramped keyboard/trackpad ergonomics best suited for desk use
Price: Rs. 1,34,990
Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets at @2shar