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Asus ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV) review: Dual screens make your workspace seem bigger on the inside

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We wouldn't say that there are a plethora of cutting-edge dual screen and OLED laptops, but their numbers are growing slowly. The 15-inch Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is the first to put them together in the same laptop, making it a potential photo-editing powerhouse and a workhorse in cramped spaces-- if you don't mind the weight and don't need good battery life.

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8.3

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV)

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The second screen adds some breathing room to your workspace, and its OLED display offers a wide color gamut. Equipped with the eight-core Core i9 processor, it delivers great performance, too.

The Bad

No Ethernet, the keyboard is uncomfortable without the wrist rest, mediocre battery life, and it's heavy.

The Bottom Line

With an OLED main display and a supplemental monitor as well as powerful components, the Asus ZenBook Pro is a strong contender as a photo-editing champ.

You can get the ZenBook in a few configurations, which seem to differ regionally. The entry-level model in the US runs $2,500 for  a six-core Core i7-9750H, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD; in the UK, you can go as low as a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM (which I wouldn't suggest), but the middle configuration with a 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM costs £2,500. We don't have pricing for Australia -- it's not available yet but is on Asus' site -- and the options seem to match those of the UK. We had the top configuration upped to the maximum, with a Core i9-9980HK,  32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD, at a nice, round $3,000. It likely costs £3,000 in the UK as well.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV)

Price as reviewed $2,999.99
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 3,840 x 2,160 OLED touchscreen 60Hz
PC CPU Intel Core i9-9800HK
PC Memory 32GB 2,666Hz DDR4
Graphics Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
Storage 1TB SSD
Ports 1 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB-A 3.1, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x audio
Networking WiFi 6 Gig Plus, Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows Pro (64-bit)
Weight 5.5 lbs./2.5 kg

Having multiple monitors makes working and playing so much more pleasant. It's like moving from a tiny apartment to a house. You're not constantly juggling windows, and you can put boring meetings to the side while you keep working on more interesting stuff. These small screens like the half-height one on the ZenBook and the tiny one on the HP Omen X 2S aren't quite as nice as having a big second screen -- except when you don't have room for a full-size monitor. 

Like the HP's, Asus' Screen Pad Plus works much like a standalone second display, and both of the displays have touchscreens, which is nice. The secondary display supports basic pressure-sensitivity, 1,024 levels, and comes bundled with a battery-driven stylus. It's not so much for artistry as for annotation and notetaking, but I still found it a little awkwardly placed for that. On the other hand, it's nice for the occasional digital signature.

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While the ZenBooks have a second touchscreen that's the size and in the location of a typical large touchpad, the Pro Duo's is expanded to the width of the laptop. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's got a horizontal resolution of 3,840 pixels, just like the primary screen, making dragging windows around less janky, though if they're at different magnifications it gets a little glitchy. And it's annoying that, when the system takes a nap, Windows thinks the second screen has been "disconnected," so when it wakes up all the open applications have moved back to the main screen. I also noticed on both dual-screen laptops that it's a little hard to grab things at the bottom of the top screen and the top of the bottom screen: The cursor jumps. Then again, I work with everything at a pretty small size.

Unfortunately, a lot of mainstream applications aren't designed to take advantage of the way I want to use the second screen: for palettes and tools. Lightroom got too confused for me to even try.

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The touchpad on the right side of the keyboard doubles as a number pad.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Asus includes some home-grown utilities for organizing windows on the second screen, but I really don't find these very useful. There's also a popup that lets you pin the app to a particular place, expand it to fill both screens or to swap screens;  there are also dedicated keys for swapping screens and locking the keyboard (so you don't accidentally type while you're using the stylus). The switcher moves everything on one screen to the other, but there's no way to move just the current window between screens like the HP can do, which I think is critical.

There's also a touchpad to the right of the keyboard that doubles as a virtual number pad. You can even use it as a touchpad while it's in that mode, but you may get random numbers in odd places.

Hefty, hefty

The OLED screen is Pantone Validated  -- it comes with two undocumented software profiles -- and uses the same Samsung panel as all the current models. It's slightly dimmer than the others at a peak full-screen brightness of about 356 nits, but offers the same full P3 gamut coverage -- only 93% of Adobe RGB, though. (It's listed as DisplayHDR 500 True Black compliant, so I'm not entirely confident of my peak brightness result of 416 nits for a 10% window. Consider my results a work in progress.) I think it uses the same touch overlay as the HP Spectre x360, because it has the same grainy look up close, and like that system it supports Windows HDR for everything. Asus' recommended brightness when working on battery is 40%, which is definitely too dim. 

The design does have some drawbacks. While a lot of Asus's ZenBooks are light and thin, this one has more in common with the company's Republic of Gamers gaming laptops. It's 15 inches and weighs 5.5 pounds. Not an anchor, but not the thin-and-light devices a lot of people want. Given how thick it is, it's also disappointing that it lacks a wired Ethernet jack. It also has a downward-shining light for conveying Alexa status that gives it an extra edge of cool.

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The ErgoLift hinge makes it less than comfortable for working on your lap.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The other issue is the keyboard. It's just not comfortable for working on your lap. The striking Ergolift hinge, designed to allow airflow around the bottom, tilts the second screen up to a nice degree so you don't have to loom over it like you do with the Omen. But since the laptop is kind of heavy, the hinge digs into your legs. And like the HP, because the keyboard is moved all the way forward you really, really need to use the bundled wrist rest to type comfortably. This one's particularly bad because there's a rim on the edge that makes using the keys on the bottom row annoying. Asus bundles a separate wrist rest -- and the aforementioned light shines through a window in it -- which really, really helps. But you can't use that on your lap.

I think one of the reasons we've only seen high-powered models with two screens is because that way you don't expect great battery life. The ZenBook basically only lasts for about four hours with both screen operational -- better than gaming laptops, but far worse than some more general-purpose models like the MacBook Pro (even the Core i9 verson).

It performs like a gaming laptop, but I found it best for photo editing with Lightroom Classic CC. Since the application is far more CPU-intensive than GPU, the eight-core processor helps a lot, and the lower-end RTX 2060 doesn't hold it back much. If you want something for ray-tracing, though, you'll get significantly better speed if you get something with an RTX 2080 instead.

Video playback battery drain test (streaming)

Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-51) 127Asus ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV) 249Alienware m15 R2 265Origin PC Evo 16-S 284Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018) 689
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018) 966Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-51) 1,119Asus ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV) 1,445
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Shadow of the Tomb Raider gaming test

Origin PC Evo 16-S 63Asus ZenBook Pro Duo UX581G 69Alienware m15 R2 82
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

3DMark Port Royal (RTX)

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo UX581G 2,912Origin PC Evo 16-S 4,112Alienware m15 R2 4,870
Notes: NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Acer Predator Triton 500 (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; (2) 512GB SSD RAID 0
Alienware m15 R2 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 1TB SSD RAID 0
Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Sierra 10.13.6; 2.9GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Radeon Pro 560X / 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 630; 2TB SSD
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.7Hz Intel Core i7-8559U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060; 1TB SSD
Origin PC Evo 16-S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
31-asus-zenbook-pro-duo
8.3

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV)

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Battery 7