Razer became one of the stars of CES when it showed off Project Linda, a laptop that simultaneously integrated the Razer Phone ($500 at Amazon) as a touchscreen and trackpad. But that was just a concept.
Well, Asus is stealing Razer's thunder here -- because its new ZenBook Pro line is basically that.
The new ZenBook Pro range, unveiled Tuesday at Taipei's Computex convention, features what the company calls a ScreenPad. Press F6 and the laptop's touchscreen will transform into a 5.5-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution touchscreen.
It's kind of like the new MacBook Pro's ($1,957 at Amazon) touchbar. Except it's below the keyboard instead of above, it's square-shaped and you can watch YouTube on it. So, I guess, nothing like the MacBook Pro's touchpad.
The ScreenPad can run a suite of Asus-created tools, like Music Player, Calculator and NumKey pad. It'll also launch with Microsoft Office compatibility, with apps like Word and PowerPoint able to work alongside the ScreenPad. Asus said that browser extensions will be available too, like one for Chrome that turns the ScreenPad into a YouTube screen.
I was able to get some time with the laptop, and my initial concern that touchscreen technology would make the trackpad less responsive turned out to be unfounded. However, using the ScreenPad isn't quite intuitive. It acts as a complete second display, like a touchscreen-monitor below your keyboard, but with left- and right-click buttons. That can make using it tricky, since you're not quite sure whether to touch, click or drag and drop.
But I got the hang of it after a couple of minutes, and am optimistic about the finished product. I found it particularly useful in Word, where you can change font colour or italicize a sentence with a click of your ScreenPad.
While a trackpad that doubles as a touchscreen is a promising idea, it's not the first time we've seen it. Not only did Razer demo it in its Project Linda prototype, the original, launched back in 2012, featured the "Switchblade UI," a trackpad with an underlying screen designed to integrate with different games. It was interesting, but not developed enough to offer a meaningful benefit.
But the ZenBook Pro is by no means a gimmick, as it packs all the specs and features you'd expect in a premium laptop anyway.
Most notably, it can be configured with Intel's Core i9 processor -- though more traditional i5 and i7 options are available. That i9 CPU is traditionally reserved for desktop computers and gaming laptops, and will help with tasks like video editing and rendering. On the graphics side, the ZenBook Pro can be configured up to Nvidia's GeForce 1050Ti GPU.
All that power goes into an impressively slick device. The ZenBook Pro features a minimal-bezel design, maximising screen size while minimising laptop size. It'll weigh 1.88 kilograms, just a touch more than the 15-inch MacBook Pro's 1.83kgs (that's 4.1 pounds vs. 4.02 pounds).
- Intel Core eighth-generation i5, i7 and i9 options
- 15.6-inch touchscreen display, FHD (1,920x1,080 pixel) and UHD (3,840x2,160) options
- Deep Dive Blue and Rose Gold Trim colour options
- 5.5-inch FHD ScreenPad
- Nvidia GeForce 1050Ti, 1050 GTX
- Up to 16GB DDR4 RAM
- Up to 1TB SSD storage
- 1.88kg, 4.1 pounds
Pricing and availability aren't yet known, though Asus also showed off a slightly smaller, 14-inch version. It doesn't have the high-end options of its sibling, as it maxes out with an i7-powered, FHD display laptop with a Max Q GeForce 1050 GPU -- though that'll be far more than most people need.