Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED review: A dual-screen laptop that works

Asus did. This is a dual-screen laptop that – and there was a time when I never thought I’d say those words – is actually pretty good.

Asus has been using this dual-screen form factor for a while, and parts of the $1,999.99-plus OLED ZenBook Pro Duo 14 are nothing we’ve seen before. Like previous models in the Duo range, there’s a large 14.5-inch screen on top and a smaller 12.7-inch screen on the back of the keyboard (the ScreenPad Plus). Below that screen is the keyboard (reaching all the way forward of said bridge), with a tiny touchpad crammed to its right.

But the company made a small change that made the experience much more comfortable: it raised the secondary screen by 12 degrees.

This, reader, changed everything. You see, last year’s 14-inch Zenbook Duo model only tilted the secondary display seven degrees. The 2020 model was even flatter. Either way, I constantly craned my neck to bend over whenever I needed to see something on the second screen.

The 12-degree rise doesn’t look huge on paper, but it finally — finally — made the screen just high enough that I didn’t need a crane anymore. Right now, as I type this, I’m leaning back in my office chair. I’m actually slightly inclined. I can see the Pro Duo’s main screen and I can also see the contents of its secondary screen just fine. I can read the words on the secondary screen in this tilted state.

The Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED touchpad seen from above.

In case you’re skeptical that the touchpad is tiny.

The logo on the lid of the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 OLED seen from above.

New logo, same concentric design.

There are other miscellaneous tweaks that make the secondary display much easier to see from a distance than it has been in the past. For one, it’s brighter than last year, now hitting 500 nits. It is also a higher resolution (2880 x 864). And there’s a new “anti-glare etching” that prevents it from reflecting light from the ceiling, which was a nuisance in the past.

Guys, the second screen is…really useful now. On previous models, it was just a place to throw in distractions like Slack and Twitter while my real work happened on the top half. Now I can keep reference materials there to peek and read while I work.

Now, does that mean its benefits finally outweigh the trade-offs needed to fit an entire second screen to this laptop? Not for me. But we’re at the point where it’s really just a preference for keyboard placement. Asus has fixed almost everything else.

The Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo tilted to the left on a brown sofa.  Both screens display a multicolored background with the Asus Zenbook Pro OLED logo.

If you had trouble imagining the layout of the bridge, look here.

For example, ScreenXpert. This software allows the Duo’s two screens to work together and has come a long way from the glitchy, unresponsive mess it once was. The new version that sits on this device (ScreenXpert 3) looks noticeably more professional than previous iterations. Everything is quick to use and the windows have been resized as they were supposed to. And while I sometimes had to press a button multiple times to open something, that was the extent of the issues I had. It’s intuitive with a remarkably easy learning curve, which hasn’t always been the case with ScreenXpert software.

There’s a taskbar (like a floating miniature Windows taskbar) with quick buttons for various features like toggling brightness, mirroring phone, opening a browser screen application, locking the keyboard, and dismissing all ScreenPad windows to show the desktop background. I was willing to complain about the questionable usefulness of some of them, but it turns out there’s a certain amount of customization you can do in the Control Center Settings panel, which I’ve found after a bit of exploring. You can also adjust the location of the taskbar by dragging it down or sideways.

I remain a fan of the task groups feature (also accessible from this taskbar) which allows you to “save” a configuration of tabs and applications in an arrangement of your choice to reopen them later. This is something I use a lot on Duo devices.

The other solution I’m very happy with is the touchpad. The Duo 14’s touchpad is so small it’s practically useless. On previous models, I just used a stylus for all possible situations. That’s what I was doing here – until I discovered TouchPad mode.

Touchpad mode lets you turn the ScreenPad into a giant touchpad. All you have to do is tap on it with three fingers. To turn it into a ScreenPad, you tap an X in the top right corner. The touchpad works well and is as responsive to all the different gestures as a simple one would be. There are downsides, of course. For one thing, there’s no click mechanism (but touch to click works well). You also reach for the keyboard to use it, which is a little weird (but something I got used to). And the touchpad interface is opaque, so when you’ve pulled it up, you can’t see other content you’ve been sitting on the ScreenPad. I hope Asus can make it even more translucent in the future, but I’m still very happy to see this feature here.

The ports on the right side of the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 OLED.

Two USB-C and one USB-A on the right. (There are also ports on the back.)

The Intel Core i7-12700H inside is a mainstream processor that we’ve mostly seen in high-performance gaming laptops and workstations to date, including Alienware’s X14. My unit also has 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage in addition to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. Asus says it will cost $1,999.99, which I don’t hate for those specs.

Performance in my general work use cases was as good as expected. I would have Chrome tabs stacked on top of Zoom calls or YouTube streams without any issues on both screens. The RTX 3050 Ti isn’t necessarily designed for AAA gaming and is weaker than other laptop GPUs you can get at this price, but it can certainly make older, lighter titles a possibility.

The lid of the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo seen from above.

New logo, by the way.

While the keyboard felt warm at times, I never felt any uncomfortable heat there or at the bottom of the device. This appears to be due to Asus’ new cooling system (called “IceCool Plus”) which includes two 12-volt fans with 97 and 93 blades, respectively. Asus claims the device stays under 28 decibels when on the Whisper mode cooling profile and that seems accurate as far as I can tell. Even when I wasn’t in Whisper mode, I could barely hear the fans.

Battery life was more of a mixed bag. I averaged about five hours continuously with both screens at medium brightness. It’s obviously not nearly a full day, but neither is it a terrible result given that this device is running two high-resolution displays. The original Pro Duo lasted just over two and a half hours, and the gaming-oriented and far more expensive Zephyrus Duo 15 lasted an hour and 48 minutes with that same workload. If you need a lot of juice, you can easily disable the ScreenPad with a hotkey on the keyboard.

The Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 keyboard seen from above.  The ScreenPad displays a multicolored background with a taskbar on the left side.

Look how good it is!

The main screen is 4:10 (hooray!) and is one of the first (if not the very first) 120Hz OLED display on a laptop. Port selection is pretty good, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, full-size HDMI 2.1, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, SD Express 7.0 card reader, and combo audio jack. I’m glad to see this device fit on the HDMI and SD card slot, as all sorts of other high-end 14-inches are ditching them for the USB-C world. (And this thing really shouldn’t skimp on ports since I’ve never wanted to plug an external keyboard and mouse into anything more.) There are also a few Asus-specific connectivity features, including Wi-Fi SmartConnect , which helps the device automatically connect to the best signal in its current environment.

The ports on the left side of the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED review.

These are vents, not ports – Asus nifty!

It’s all great, which makes it even more of a shame that I still don’t like using it. Basically, the Pro Duo 14 convinced me that even the best possible iteration of the dual-screen form factor isn’t enough to overcome the fact that I can’t stand having a keyboard in that position. I know some like front-mounted keyboards, and for the life of me, I’ll never understand you. It’s even an excellent keyboard. The keys are clicky with a decent 1.4mm of travel, a spec I would usually swoon over. But I constantly clap with my hands pressed to my chest like a T. rex and i hate it.

I don’t know if Asus can solve this problem. I think we hit a wall of personal preference with this design. I will never enjoy using a keyboard that gives me nowhere to rest my wrists. But there are absolutely people who don’t have this problem, and for you, I think it’s legitimately a good buy.

The Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14 seen from above.  Both screens display a multicolored background.

As a frequent tower user, this is not for me.

In the Pro Duo 14, Asus has gone all out to create a good dual-screen system that’s practical and usable. I legitimately believe that most of the issues that could have been fixed have been. In our fairly critical first-gen Zenbook Duo review, Chaim Gartenberg wrote, “There’s a great laptop buried in the raw clay.” Three years later, Asus released this laptop. It’s good.

The story with Duo laptops from now on can simply come down to whether you like having a keyboard at the front of your deck. Which, given the number of other issues these devices have had in the past, is a very good sign for their future.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge


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