As the CES 2021 “All Digital” edition is in full swing, Asus has sent us ahead of its new ultraportable dedicated to creatives, the Zenbook Duo UX482EA. A real UFO in this market, this laptop stands out for its compactness and its secondary screen, the ScreenPad Plus, which here benefits from clear improvements. However, is this iteration tailored to meet the needs of creatives? This is what we wanted to know through this test.
Officially announced at CES 2021, the Zenbook Duo takes up the concept of its predecessor launched in 2019. It comes in three configurations with similar technical sheets with a choice of an Intel Core i5-1135G7, i7-1165G7 processor, but also a dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX450 graphics card for the UX482EG model.
The Zenbook Duo was supplied to us with a beautiful imitation leather storage pouch and the Asus Pen SA201H stylus.
Asus Zenbook Duo 14 (UX482EA) Datasheet
The PC was loaned by Asus for this test.
Our test model embeds the i7-1165G7, associated with 32 GB of RAM (LPDDR4X – 4266 MHz) and a 1 TB NVMe SSD. The two screens offer tactile operation; these are two IPS panels (NanoEdge), the main one has a diagonal of 14 inches (FHD), the second 12.6 inches with a definition of 1920 x 515 pixels.
A design guided (and constrained) by an original concept
The Zenbook Duo is a special machine, which you can see at first glance. Its design is based on that of its predecessor, but incorporates relevant improvements.
Among the novelties, we find the ErgoLift AAS Plus (Active Aerodynamic System) hinge. Introduced in 2020 with the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 , it erases the main flaws of this dual screen concept with great ingenuity for a convincing result. Concretely, this hinge module makes it possible to raise the secondary screen at an angle proportional to the opening of the cover. The ergonomics are naturally much better, because this system makes it possible to reduce the gap between the two displays, but above all ensures that the second is no longer subject to glare and is more oriented towards the user. Finally, heat dissipation is also improved with an airflow 49% higher according to Asus; we will come back to that a little later.
The qualities of this hinge do not end there. This innovative module has also enabled Asus to reduce the thickness of the chassis, in particular by playing on the internal space occupied by the motherboard. The Taiwanese manufacturer has effectively divided this card into two parts, by positioning a daughter card under the hinge. Asus reports a space saving of 18%, which allowed it to reduce the thickness of the chassis by 3mm, now falling to 16.9mm.
Finally, and as is the case with other Asus laptops, like the ZenBook 14 2020 , opening the cover also allows the keyboard to be raised. The interest here is more ergonomic since the inclination of the keyboard facilitates its use, although the latter is particularly cramped on this Zenbook Duo. Of course, since it does not lie flat on our desk, this system helps limit heating, despite the lack of air intake under the machine.
For the rest, the Zenbook Duo sets an example with a design that is as sober and elegant as ever, and finishes worthy of a high-end product. We think of the thin borders of the screen, the integration of the second display, or its excellent maintenance despite the fact that the machine does not rest at the back not on the base of the screen, but only two tiny non-slip bulges.
So far so good and the Zenbook Duo is making good impressions, but now is the time to talk about the keyboard and touchpad!
Keyboard and touchpad
This is where we observe the main constraints of this concept of Dual Screen. If the keyboard occupies the entire width, it should be noted that it occupies it with the touchpad. The result is mixed, the keyboard keys take some adaptation time due to their thinner sizes than we are used to.
The touchpad is also narrow, to the right of the keyboard (too bad for left-handed people) in a vertical position, with a surface that is frankly too small to provide a minimum of comfort. You gain a lot in productivity by using a mouse! Add to this a key stroke of 1.4 mm (the longest for an ultraportable keyboard) and the total absence of a wrist rest for a typing that ultimately loses precision and responsiveness and a keyboard that will be needed learn to “tame” as you go.
Finally, the two clicks of the touchpad lack precision, due to the length of the press and the lack of tactile feedback. This is a shame, because Asus has accustomed us to high quality touchpads on its other laptop lines.
The Zenbook Duo benefits from relatively well-supplied connectivity. There are two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, both positioned on the left. We are also entitled to an HDMI 1.4 output, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, a 3.5 mm mini-jack connector and a microSD card reader. In terms of connectivity, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 are on the menu.
The entrails of the beast are not the most accessible, the fault of a hardware hidden under the non-slip pads. The SSD and the battery can be replaced without much hassle, but the RAM which is soldered in is not.
A still convincing audio section
As on the rest of its range, Asus offers here an audio section signed Harman Kardon. The sound is very pleasant, even at high volume, and offers quite astonishing results for an ultraportable. The sound also benefits from the DTS Audio Processing solution which allows us to make several adjustments according to our preferences.
Screens: fidelity and practicality
The major advantage of the Zenbook Duo lies in its dual screen concept; keeping this fact in mind, the quality of these two screens therefore seems essential to us.
The main display of the Zenbook Duo is undoubtedly the highlight of this laptop. For an IPS panel, it does pretty well, with limited contrast (around 1500: 1), but open viewing angles and the most accurate factory calibration.
Equipped with our X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus probe and Calman Ultimate software, we subjected these two displays to our usual series of measurements. The first point to raise is the difference in the coverage of the color spaces between the two screens. The main panel thus displays a coverage of 99.7% of the sRGB space, against only 67.2% for the secondary panel. We may regret this, but the fact is that the two screens do not come from the same production lines: AU Optronics for the first, BOE for the second. Let’s continue with the color coverage; the main screen covers a limited field of WCG (Wide Color Gamut) spaces, namely 55.6% for Rec. 2020, 76.2% for Adobe RGB and finally 77.6% of DCI-P3; values that are not particularly bad though!
Where the main display is impressive is undoubtedly its loyalty out of the box . It thus displays an average Delta E of only 1.04, for a max Delta E of 2.75. In summary, its factory calibration is very precise, no chromatic drift is noticeable. The grayscale, gamma curve and color temperature are also excellent, very close to the reference values. We thus measure a temperature of 6478 K and a gamma curve which shows only slight stalls with an average value of 2.196.
Beside that, the secondary screen is pick up with an average Delta E of 4.11 and large drifts on some shades like red and blue and a Delta E max of 10.27. These measurements are not surprising: Asus finds a practical side to this secondary screen, carried by the tactile use and its functionalities, it is therefore not surprising that its colorimetric qualities are not there.
Regarding brightness, the secondary screen asserts Asus, which promises a peak at 400 nits. In fact, this screen goes up to 408 cd / m², where the main screen only reaches 370 cd / m². We are nevertheless quite close to the advertised value and both screens are pleasant to use in bright or dark environments, with a minimum peak of 7 cd / m².
An essential software overlay
Let’s quickly go over the presence of the unwanted McAfee and its ads that pop up all the time. The Zenbook Duo is coming with a version of Windows 10 Home, some users may regret that it is not a Pro version.
However, the real evolution of this laptop lies mainly in its software overlay, which Asus has greatly improved for the occasion. There is of course the MyAsus control center that we have already mentioned several times in our tests. This is very practical and allows you to have a hand and a quick access to many settings: battery, screen, updating drivers, activating noise reduction for the microphone and so on. There is also “Link to MyAsus, a simple and effective solution to synchronize smartphone and PC.
But it’s the Screen Xpert overlay that interests us here. It can be found on the secondary screen in the form of a flexible toolbar. By default, it offers shortcuts to adjust screen brightness, manage Windows and Link to MyAsus desktops, disable the keyboard, or even display the secondary display desktop. There are functions already accessible with the simple ScreenPad of other Asus laptops (Quick Key, Handwriting, Number Key) and also another software preinstalled in trial version: Corel MultiCam.
The real evolution however concerns the control panel intended for creators. Fully configurable, it is currently only compatible with the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and its many software: Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, or Premiere Pro to name a few. It embeds many touch-sensitive functions allowing you to act on your creations within these different software, it has never been so simple and intuitive to create content or edit images. If this screen can have other relevant uses than through this control panel, we hope that the manufacturer will allow in the coming months to use this functionality with software suites from other publishers.
For now, however, we have noticed a few small bugs with a control panel that sometimes refuses to launch and commands that do not respond, especially in Photoshop; Let’s bet that the experience should improve over time.
To finish, note that the stylus supplied with this PC is very practical and will undoubtedly delight graphic designers, photographers and other creators. Effective with Photoshop, it is also effective with many other applications, for drawing or note taking, with Microsoft Whiteboard or SketchBook to name a few.
Webcam and biometrics
Not to change, the webcam of this Zenbook is very ordinary and barely correct to ensure a good video experience. Facial recognition with Windows Hello is flawlessly effective, authentication is fast under all circumstances, even in dim light.
Reconciling performance and battery life for an ultraportable designed to appeal to creatives is not easy. To do this, Asus uses an i7-1165G7 which takes advantage of a TDP of 28W and relies on 4 Cores / 8 Threads with a clock frequency between 1.2 and 4.7 GHz. The Zenbook Duo benefits from the developments brought by Tiger Lake, in particular with the Evo platform and the Iris Xe graphic architecture and its 96 calculation units.
The whole thing comes with a generous batch of RAM with 32 GB of LPPDR4X RAM clocked at 4266 MHz and a Samsung NVMe PCI-E 3.0 SSD.
First observation with Cinebench R23, our test machine and its i7-1165G7 obtained a score of 1,471 points in single core and 4,854 points in multi-core. Compared to the last copies equipped with the same processor that we had in our hands, the Zenbook Duo is doing quite well with average performance, a notch below the Razer Book 13 and the Asus Zenbook 14 2020 however. Regardless, the synthetic performance remains above the competition, we think of course of AMD which however retains the advantage on the number of threads and the multi-core performance of its chips for ultraportables.
Before moving on, we checked the speeds of the Samsung SSD. This keeps its promises by reaching 3.5 Gb / s in sequential read, 3 Gb / s in sequential write, and 469 Mb / s in random write, as we can see in the capture below. In short, we are dealing with a swift SSD with generous storage space.
For Iris Xe, it is clear that Intel’s new graphics architecture bodes well for a fairly interesting rise for multimedia use or to support the i7-1165G7 in creative tasks. Under the 3DMark Night Raid benchmark, our machine obtained an overall score of 16,456 points, again significantly above average.
In order to push things a little further and enrich our comparative database, we have launched a rather harsh test for this machine with Time Spy Extreme. It collects an overall score of 816 points – 743 for its graphics, 1,872 for the CPU. We can see in particular a throttling which occurs rapidly when the temperature is around 90 ° C and a frequency which drops to around 2.3 GHz. This is also the case during the Night Raid benchmark, but our machine is already reaching a lower temperature (83 ° C).
Finally, the PCMark 10 benchmark allows us to further verify the performance of this laptop for the tasks in which it aims to compete. Divided into three categories (Essentials, Productivity and Digital Content Creation), our copy collects an overall score of 5,045 points, sufficient to make it a laptop perfectly at ease in office automation and capable of performing well with certain creative tasks. It is, however, much better suited for editing photographs and (to a lesser extent) video, than for tasks that involve 3D rendering.
Also, it’s hard to hit 60 fps in any 3D game. Our test with Fortnite shows an experience without too many framerate drops, between 30 and 40 fps. By lowering the resolution scale to 50%, we can play decently at 60 fps, without compromising too much on the level of graphics detail.
The cooling of the machine is efficient to a certain extent, it is indeed not uncommon for the temperature to exceed 80 ° C with the result of a significant drop in performance. Unsurprisingly, this is the case when performing heavy-duty creative tasks, especially heavy editing. The Zenbook Duo, however, is comfortable for photo editing or video editing on lighter projects, but clearly shows its limits for expert or professional use.
Finally, the ventilation emits some noise pollution during cooling, nothing very bad, but the breath is heard. Despite everything, efficiency is there and the ventilation very rarely turns on during normal daily tasks, office automation and multimedia. However, we reiterate our criticism of its orientation, formulated during the Zenbook 14 test: hot air spills out at the bottom of the screen, which rises in temperature. Hopefully this does not cause him harm over time.
A light autonomy
The secondary screen weighs down the autonomy of this Zenbook Duo. If it is equipped with a substantial battery with a capacity of 70 Wh, it does not allow us to go much further than 8 hours of battery life in mixed use. During this test, we were able to use Photoshop and Premiere Pro, browse the web, make video calls, or watch videos and listen to music for 8 hours until we reached 10% battery and had to connect the power to the sector.
Battery life can be extended, however, by as much as 3 or 4 hours by selecting the power saving mode and disabling the secondary screen. A simple touch can also dim or deactivate the screen. However, our final rating judges battery life without taking these energy savings into account, for the simple reason that a dual screen pc is made to be used as such!
Charging itself is no faster, but still satisfactory with the 65 W charger. Allow 90 minutes to gain 80% of the battery.
Asus Zenbook Duo 14 Pricing and Availability
The ZenBook Duo 14 will be marketed in France from March 2021 for a price starting at 1799 euros.