Two Screens for Productive Post-Processing: A Review of the Asus Zenbook Duo for Photography

Two Screens for Productive Post-Processing: A Review of the Asus Zenbook Duo for Photography

Ever wished your laptop had a bit more workspace? The Asus Zenbook Duo has a secondary display right on the main panel that allows for increased productivity and multitasking.

The Asus Zenbook Duo was announced in the latter half of 2019 as part of a series of computers by Asus that are said to be designed specifically for content creators. That includes photographers, filmmakers, graphic artists, writers, and many more. The premise is that if they added on another screen and allowed touch functions on that screen, coupled with a good processor and graphics, this would cater to the needs of an on-the-go digital artist. The Asus Zenbook Pro Duo and the Proart Studiobook are bulked up versions for much heavier processing, but spec-wise, the Zenbook Duo consumer laptop seems to be a good match for photographers. 

The Asus Zenbook Duo with an external SSD plugged in

Build and Design

Brushed metal finish in Celestial Blue with the Asus Pen

The Zenbook Duo is housed in a 12.72 x 8.78-inch body with a folded height of 0.78 inches and weighs 3.3 pounds. On the outside, it takes Asus’ usual minimalist laptop design with a celestial blue brushed metal finish around the off-center Asus Logo. The Ergo-lift hinge on the bottom of the screen literally lifts the base of the laptop by about 1.3 inches to raise the keyboard and the angle of view of the panel. Carrying a laptop with these dimensions comes in handy especially when traveling with camera gear. 3.3 pounds is actually much less than what most telephoto lenses weigh, so it is a minimal addition, especially considering the added productivity it offers. This solid build is claimed to be able to withstand significant drops even while running processes and is tolerant of relatively extreme temperatures.

Side view showing the Ergo-lift hinge

On the inside, it features two separate screens, a full-sized keyboard and a track pad on the right. The main display is a 14-inch LED-back-lit full HD (1,920x1,080) display with an aspect ratio of 16:9 with a very slim 3.5mm bezel that gives a 90% screen to body ratio. These dimensions give you a 178° wide angle of view.

Inside layout of the Zenbook Duo with two separate Photoshop windows open

The second display is what Asus calls the Screenpad Plus, which is a 12.6-inch full HD display right below the main display for added functionality. The Screenpad Plus is also a touchscreen that works with Asus’ proximity stylus for precision editing. Below the second screen is a full-sized back-lit keyboard with 1.4mm of key travel right beside a full-sized track pad on the right. At this point, there hasn’t been any announcement yet of a version of this laptop that would better fit left-handed content creators. That is something they should seriously consider.

Processor and Graphics

The Zenbook Duo runs on Windows 10 Pro with either an Intel Core i7 or i5 processor, depending on your chosen variant. The i5 variant has 8 GB of 2,133 MHz LPDDR3 memory with 256 to 512 GB of storage. The i7 variant has 16 GB of 2,133 MHz LPDDR3 memory with 1 TB SSD storage. Both variants come with a NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics processor with 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

In application, this processor partnered with a dedicated graphics processor is quite sufficient for any photographer. Storage of up to 1 TB is quite a plus, especially considering its price point. These specifications are on par with the devices in this generation of external storage reliance and can safely store the files that the user deems worthy of being on board. The GPU accelerates the workflow of editing and post-processing, even with complicated tasks such as complex photo-merge workflows.

Connectivity

The Asus Zenbook Duo provides a near-complete port lineup with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C port and two USB 3.1 ports with one Gen 2 and one Gen 1 port with speeds of up to 10 and 5 Gbps, respectively. It has one full-sized HDMI port, a standard audio jack, a micro SD card reader, and a power port. Sadly, Asus skipped the more commonly used full-sized SD port and still has not gone the USB-C charging route. Wirelessly, the Zenbook duo packs a Wi-Fi 6 modem and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. 

Battery

This productivity-centric laptop has an impressive 70 Wh 4-cell lithium-polymer battery that has been rated to last up to 22 hours with the ScreenPad Plus off and about 14-16 hours with the ScreenPad in operation, depending on the processes. Working on this device actually never gave me much urgency to find a power outlet at the risk of being interrupted by the battery running out. 

Functionality

Obviously, much of the difference that this laptop offers lies in the secondary display. This 12.6-inch full HD touch display enables multitasking on a whole new level. In one mode, the main display can be extended for better visibility and in another, the screen pad can act as a separate display, with up to three columns for three different windows or apps in addition to whatever is on the main screen.

Adobe Lightroom with the ScreenPad Plus as a Library Loupe

This secondary display is compatible to Adobe Lightroom Classic’s secondary display option that efficiently turns into either a full 1:1 zoomed in preview while editing, or an extended grid for scrolling through the Lightroom library. This comes in handy when editing in batches or simply browsing through other photos in the catalog. Full integration of the touch feature has not yet been optimized with the Zenbook Duo in terms of Adobe Lightroom. The good news is that most app developers are probably already working on that for a more fluid and optimized post-processing workflow.

Lightroom with the Screenpad as a zoomed-in monitor for finer details

The secondary display is actually better maximized with Adobe Photoshop with the help of the included proximity stylus. Having Photoshop extended on both displays allow for better navigation through the frame with simple two-finger gestures. More importantly, the Asus Pen basically gives the Screenpad Plus the functionality of a graphic tablet for more precise brushing and retouching on Adobe Photoshop. This can also be beneficial to graphic artists who use tablets for full illustrations in Photoshop or Illustrator, but may be more efficient if the ScreenPad Plus can have a dedicated graphic tablet mode, where the touchscreen will have a mirror representation of the active workspace on the main screen. 

Extended screen on the secondary display doing brush strokes on photoshop with the stylus

As for lighter tasks, the ScreenPad Plus can also very simply serve as additional space for multi-window workflows, such as playing certain media on the while working on the main screen or even just having easy access to folders for dragging and dropping in media for various documents or presentations.

Four active windows on two screens

What I Liked

  • Increased Productivity with dedicated photo-editing apps
  • Solid and durable build in a lightweight package
  • Long-lasting Battery
  • Secondary touchscreen with compatible stylus
  • Pantone-validated display

What I Didn’t Like

  • No wrist rest below the keyboard (should come as attachment)
  • No trackpad option for left-handed users
  • No full-sized SD card port
  • No USB-C charging option
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9 Comments

Johnny Rico's picture

Seems like a gimmick, on the fact it's absurdly anti ergonomic on the neck

George Popescu's picture

Looks good but the i7 version is over $2400 which is kind of expensive, once it drops under $2000 it should sell a lot better. There's also an i9 version apparently which is $3000, so people who have cash will just buy that version and those who don't will wait for the lower version to go down in price.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

you're mistaking this for the Zenbook PRO duo

George Popescu's picture

This is the zenbook pro duo, the zenbook duo doesn't have the extra screen.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

both of them do. hence the name "duo"

George Popescu's picture

I can't find the non-Pro model anywhere, I've searched google and amazon, google only has articles about it but no links to stores and on Amazon only the PRO model is for sale, it's like the other one doesn't exist.

Jacques Cornell's picture

OMG, no. Just put an iPad next to your MacBook Pro.

Just me's picture

"No wrist rest below the keyboard "
Yep, and same for the mouse pad on the side.
A big no Go.
also, I guess the screen angle is different, so you may have some trouble with seeing same picture the same way, and breaking your neck as suggested by others.

I like it.