Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 design
The ZenBook Duo UX481 is not especially slim, like many of today's premium models try to be, but it's going to turn heads no matter what. As soon as people get over the initial wonder of what they're looking at, they are going to do a double-take. After a very long time, we have something that makes people stop and rethink what they assume a laptop should look like and how it should work.
Its overall size is small for a 14-inch laptop because the borders around the two screens are relatively thin, and the hinge is designed so that its barrel pivots below the base. This props the lower deck up at an angle when the lid is opened. Asus calls this its ErgoLift design, and it makes a lot of sense here, giving you a better view of the lower screen.
Curiously, Asus has decided to include an adhesive folding stand. This lies flat against the bottom of the laptop when not needed, but can be folded into a triangle shape much like many tablet covers we've seen, to allow the base of the laptop to be propped up at an even greater angle. The company says it helps with cooling and makes typing more comfortable, but it seems like an afterthought – or perhaps a last-ditch solution to an unforeseen design issue. It also made the laptop slide around on our table when closed, since the rubber legs were lifted.
Asus offers this laptop in only one colour, a deep greenish-blue that it calls Celestial Blue. It definitely stands out, but not in a bad way. It's actually quite understated without being boring, and we like it. Thankfully there are no garish gold accents like we've seen on previous ZenBook models.
A signature ZenBook touch is the subtle concentric ring pattern on the lid radiating outwards from the Asus logo, which in this case is off-centre. Most of the body is made out of metal, and everything feels very solid. The lid doesn't bend or flex much at all, and you can push the screen quite far back. You'll need both hands to open and close this laptop, since the ErgoHinge design causes the entire base to move as the lid pivots.
The keyboard and trackpad have both been squeezed into the space below the ScreenPad Plus, and this is the biggest downside of the ZenBook Duo UX481. The vertical trackpad is far too narrow for comfortable use, and we constantly found our finger hitting the keys to the left or border to the right. As for quality, we found that it wasn't particularly accurate, and the cursor would wobble a bit when we were trying to select something or just hover. Needless to say, left-handed users will find this arrangement extremely uncomfortable.
The keyboard is compressed into roughly as much space as on a 10- or 11-inch netbook, and those were never very good. Similarly, Asus has committed several sins here. There's no palm rest area at all, and the keyboard deck is pretty high above whatever surface you have this laptop sitting on, which doesn't make for comfortable typing posture at all.
You'll have to keep your palms hovering rather than resting on something because there's a raised lip that interferes with the bottom row. The keys are not too small, but are slightly squished together. The right Shift key is placed beyond the Up arrow, which means touch typing is out of the question. As for keyboard quality, the keys themselves are a bit mushy and unsatisfying. On the positive side, there's white backlighting with three brightness settings.
Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 specifications and software:
There's more big news than just the second screen – this is the first laptop in our lab with a 10thGen Intel Core CPU. Sadly, it's a 14nm ‘Comet Lake' chip, which means it's just a mildly refreshed 9th Gen ‘Coffee Lake' chip, not one of the all-new 10nm ‘Ice Lake' varieties. Still, we should see some improvements in terms of battery life, performance, and heat dissipation. The chip in question is a 15W Core i7-10510U which has four cores with Hyper-Threading and runs between 1.8GHz and 4.9GHz.
The primary 14-inch screen has a full-HD 1920x1080 resolution. Asus says it is validated by Pantone and comes colour calibrated from the factory, but we detected a warm pink tinge that might just be because we've received an early review unit. 100 percent sRGB coverage is also promised.
Asus calls the secondary screen ScreenPad Plus, to set it apart from the ScreenPad enhanced trackpad of last year's flagship ZenBook models. This screen has a resolution of 1920x515 and is touch-enabled. Both panels are said to have 178-degree viewing angles.
To supplement this CPU's aged Intel UHD Graphics capabilities, there's a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU. You get support for the fast new Wi-Fi 6 standard as well as Bluetooth 5. The battery has a 70Wh capacity and a 65W charger is bundled in the box.
Our review unit was kitted out with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD, and this configuration is priced at Rs. 1,09,990 in India. If that seems like overkill, Asus also offers this laptop with a Core i5-10210U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, starting at Rs. 89,990.