Throughout the last decade, Asus came up with new designs and prototypes like the Taichi, the PhonePad or the water-cooled ROG, among others. None of them stuck, though, in this game of throwing mud at the wall, and yet Asus didn’t give up.
The ZenBook Duos are their latest innovation, modern laptops with two displays. They’re available as either a full-power 15-inch model (ZenBook Duo Pro UX581), or a more compact and more affordable 14-inch variant (ZenBook Duo UX481), and we’re going to take a closer look at this latter option in this article.
We’ve used the ZenBook Duo UX481FL as one of our daily drivers for the past 3 weeks, and gathered our thoughts down below.
It’s an interesting and unique notebook unlike any other in its class these days, but I feel that the benefits of that secondary screen struggle to justify the loss in ergonomics on what should be an all-round ultrabook.
Asus calls this “the laptop of tomorrow”, but I’m not convinced it is. It s does cater to creatives more than to the regular buyer, but I would have much preferred it to follow on the footsteps of the ZenBook Pro UX480, as a compact performance ultrabook with perhaps a faster processor and GTX 1650 graphics.
Specs as reviewed – Asus ZenBook Duo UX481FL
|Asus ZenBook Duo UX481FL|
|Screen||14.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, matte, non-touch, Chi Mei N140HCE-EN2 panel|
12.6 inch, 1920 x 515 px, IPS, matte, touch, BOE NV126B5M-N41 panel
|Processor||Intel Whiskey Lake Core i7-10510U CPU|
|Video||Intel UHD 620 + Nvidia MX250 2GB GDDR5 10W (10DE 1D52) (Nvidia 441.08)|
|Memory||16 GB LPDDR3 2133 MHz (soldered)|
|Storage||512 TB M.2 PCIe x2 SSD (SK Hynix BK501 HFM512GDJTNG-8310R)|
|Connectivity||Wireless 6 (Intel AX201), Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-C 3.1 gen2, HDMI, microSD card reader, mic/headphone|
|Battery||70 Wh, 65W charger|
|Size||323 mm or 12.72” (w) x 223 mm or 8.78” (d) x 19.9 mm or 0.78” (h)|
|Weight||3.42 lbs (1.55 kg)+ .66 lbs (.3 kg) charger and cables, EU version|
|Extras||white backlit keyboard, 12″ ScreenPad Plus, HD webcam, IR Hello camera and near-field mics|
Design and construction
The ZenBook Duo is robust and sturdy. It doesn’t bend or flex or squeak in any way, so you can confidently throw it in your backpack and lug it around every day. Much like the other current Asus notebooks, this is designed to meet the MIL-STD-810G military standards for reliability and durability.
It also looks nice, as you’d expect from a premium ZenBook, with a brushed metal exterior (that shows smudges fairly easily), a matte metallic underbelly and an all-screen interior.
With the addition of the secondary screen, the keyboard has been pushed down, with a narrow clickpad on its right side. However, due to the overall compact footprint of this ZenBook Duo, Asus couldn’t accommodate a full-size keyboard, thus the layout feels rather cramped and short, with an impact on the typing experience.
In fact, this ZenBook Duo reminds me of the original ROG Zephyrus from 2017 in daily use. That means it’s pretty good on a desk or other flat surfaces, but cumbersome on the lap and pretty much awful on the tighs, while leaned in bed or on the couch, due to the lack of any arm-rest. Personally, I find this hard to accept in an ultraportable. I’d rather get a full-size 15/17-inch laptop for desktop use, but if I were to go with something more compact, I’d want to be able to comfortably use it in all sorts of conditions.
In theory, the secondary screen should compensate for the loses in keyboard ergonomics. I’ll get into more details in the Screen section down below.
Ergonomics aside, the Duo uses the same Ergolift hinge design we’ve seen on other 2019 ZenBooks. It lifts the main-chassis on rubber feet placed at the bottom of the screen, allowing for a slightly inclined typing position and improved airflow underneath. That’s smart, but there are also two issues with this design: the screen can only lean back to about 140 degrees, and the exhaust blows hot air directly into the bottom of the screen, which could lead to problems down the road.
In fact, as you’ll see down below, that panel portion is the hottest part of this laptop while running demanding loads, and that’s even more problematic given that Asus went with a matte panel on this computer, ditching the layer of protective glass available on the other ZenBooks. In all fairness, there’s also a larger gap between the exhaust and the screen on this ZenBook Duo, but that doesn’t seem to help much.
You should also know that you’ll need both hands to lift up this notebook’s screen, because the hinges are a little stiff and there’s no knob or recess on the front lip to grab the screen from. On top of that, the rubber feet on the bottom fail to provide proper grip, so you’ll actually push the laptop away if you’ll try to catch on the screen with a single hand.
These aside, the Duo UX481 is a fairly compact and portable computer, but at 3.4 lbs and nearly .8″ thick, it’s still heavier and thicker than the more traditional 14-inch options out there.
At least the ports selection is pretty good, though, with 2x USB-As, HDMI and an USB-C port, but not perfect either. There’s still no full-size card-reader, no Thunderbolt 3 support, and no USB-C charging.
Keyboard and trackpad
The design didn’t leave enough room for a properly sized and spaced keyboard on this laptop.
Down below I’ve put the ZenBook Duo UX481 next to a standard 14-inch laptop, my 13-inch Dell XPS 13, and the larger ZenBook Duo Pro, for comparison, which shows you that the keyboard area is both narrower and shorter on the Duo.
Even so, this layout is not completely bad. The main-set of keys are 15 x 13 mm , compared to the 15 x 15 mm on most other implementations, so they’re shorter. They’re also more cramped, with less space between each keycap, and that makes the implementation a big no for those of your with larger hands. Then there are also the miniaturized Function keys like BackSpace, Enter and especially the right Shift, which is placed behind the Up arrow key, like on some Razer Blades.
Surprisingly, though, I was able to type in quickly on this notebook, and averagely accurately. The keys’ overall feedback is right down my alley, and only the cramped layout takes a toll on accuracy.
However, I would only be able to type on this thing on a large desk, with proper arm support, in which case it feels like typing on a compact desktop keyboard. Asus also includes some sort of arm-rest folio, but we didn’t get it with this review unit so I can’t tell if it makes any difference. On the other hand, the lack of any arm-support makes typing on the lap or in other cramped conditions a total pain, and that’s the main reason why I don’t like this sort of design on a portable computer.
Before we move on, I’ll also add that the keys are backlit, with white LEDs and three levels of intensity. This is also a very quiet typer, so it won’t draw attention at the library or in quiet offices.
As for the mouse part, Asus implemented it to the right of the keyboard, and it’s tall, very narrow and also a little tacky. By default, a complete left to right swipe only moves the cursor halfway around the screen, so you’ll have to adjust the sensitivity to make it quicker. No matter what, though, there’s no way around the fact that the surface is minuscule. I also noticed that it failed to register light taps, which makes the experience even more frustrating.
The physical click buttons are pretty nice, smooth and quiet, but due to their small size you’ll have to perform finger gymnastics to hit them with your thumb, that’s why I would have much preferred if taps would have worked the way they should.
The ZenBook Duo doesn’t get a finger sensor, but it does get an IR camera at the top of the screen, with support for Windows Hello.
Overall, the inputs on this laptop are a compromise I find very hard to accept. That secondary screen is a nice addition, but I don’t think it’s enough to justify for the cumbersome keyboard layout and touchpad design.
What makes the ZenBook Duo unique is the fact that it gets two screens: a standard 14-inch 1920 x 1080 px main display, as well as a secondary 12.6-inch 1920 x 515 px screen on top of the keyboard. They’re both IPS and fairly good in quality.
However, the main screen is matte and non-touch, while the secondary screen supports touch and gets a non-glare coating on top.
Here’s what we measured with our Sypder 4 sensor for the two. First, the main 14-inch panel:
- Panel HardwareID: Chi Mei CMN14D5 (N140HCE-EN2);
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 70% NTSC, 72% AdobeRGB, 76% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.21;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 291 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 800:1;
- White point: 7000 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.36 cd/m2;
- PWM: N/A.
And here’s the secondary 12.6-inch screen:
- Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE087F ( NV126B5M-N41);
- Coverage: 64% sRGB, 41% NTSC, 44% AdobeRGB, 45% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.15;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 242 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1042:1;
- White point: 8100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.23 cd/m2;
- PWM: N/A.
Both panels are pretty good, and both can be further calibrated. Here are our profiles for the main screen and for the ScreenPad.
The main ChiMei panel gets uniform and accurate with calibration, and the 72% AdobeRGB gamut coverage makes it OK for color-accurate work, but not ideal. The ScreenPad, on the other hand, has a significant default Blue tint that you’ll want to address, and while it impresses with the blacks and contrast, color reproduction is mediocre.
Windows sees these as two separate screens stacked on top of each other and allows you to select different scaling options for each. I’ve pushed them both to 125%, as I find everything just too small for my eyes at 100%.
In actual use, the ScreenPad works pretty much like a regular secondary screen. You can push various types of content into smaller windows down here, but Windows is not well optimized for such narrow displays. For instance, I would have preferred the option to set Youtube or Word full-screen in a window, and not on the entire Screenpad, to get rid of the unwanted address bar and menus that eat into the vertical space. Asus also offers some extra ScreenPad apps, like a NumPad or a drawing board, as well as companion apps for Office programs and Spotify, much like with their regular ScreenPads 2.0 we’ve seen on other ZenBooks. Their use is limited, though, and I’d like to see further app-support from other third party manufacturers.
One other thing that bothered me was the fact that you’re always looking at the ScreenPad from a narrow bottom angle which affects the perceived brightness, contrast, and colors, even with the brightness pumped all the way up. The panel is IPS, but still exhibits serious shiting when watched from a 40-60 degrees bottom angle, as shown in the pictures below. That angle is even sharper than on a regular laptop, given the fact that you need to place this ZenBook further away from you in order to ergonomically position your hands over the shifted keyboard.
These aside, the ScreenPad is also a touchscreen, and it’s confusing that the main screen isn’t. I found myself poking at the matte panel quite often after using the touch on the ScreenPad, only to remember that’s not going to work.
Asus also bundles the ZenBook Duo with their battery-powered active Asus Pen. It’s ergonomic and feels nice in the hand, but actually using it on the ScreenPad for drawing and taking notes proved a little problematic. First of all, palm-rejection needs to be improved, as the screen often registered my hand while resting it on the touch surface, in order to take notes. And then, you should make sure to disable the keyboard when trying to take notes or drawing on this Screenpad, as otherwise your hand will hit the keys and cause all sorts of unwanted effects.
Bottom point, I don’t think this narrow screen is that well suited for taking notes and actual work in my case, but perhaps if you’re a creator or graphic artist you might feel differently. In that case, though, the higher-tier Zebook Duo Pro 15 might be an even better option. If you can afford it, that one gets two larger screens, nicer panels, and significantly more powerful hardware.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Our ZenBook Duo UX481FL is pretty much the configuration you’ll find in store, with the quad-core Intel 10th-gen Comet Lake Core i7-10510U processor, 16 GB of LPDDR3 RAM, a 512 GB SK Hynix SSD and the Nvidia MX250 graphics chip with 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM.
Our sample ran on BIOS 206 and Nvidia 441.12 drivers, the latest available as of mid-November 2019. It’s a pre-production unit offered by Asus for the purpose of this review, but based on our findings, we’re confident it performs just like the units you can find in stores (with possible improvements due to updated software).
The CPU, GPU, and RAM are soldered on the motherboard, but the storage is upgradeable. Our unit came with a mid-range SK Hynix PCIe x2 SSD, but the M.2 slot supports faster PCIe x4 drives as well. Getting inside is a fairly easy task and requires you to remove the back panel, hold in place by a handful of screws visible around the sides.
The Comet Lake i7 is a fairly newer processor, but underneath just a potentially higher-clocked update of the widespread Core i7-8565U, with similar performance, some side improvements and baked in support for faster wireless.
As for the graphics, the ZenBook Duo UX481 only gets the 10W Geforce MX250, similar to the chips in the ultraportable ZenBook UX392 and ZenBook UX343. Given the increased size of this laptop and the specs of its ZenBook Pro UX480 predecessor, I would have expected a more capable GPU, perhaps the GTX 1650 Max-Q or at least a higher-power MX250. I reckon Asus went with this approach in order to keep thermals at bay, as the components are placed underneath that secondary display and you wouldn’t want them to get too hot and affect the panel over time.
With this kind of hardware, the ZenBook Duo UX481FL handles everyday chores easily, while running cool and completely quiet. Asus offers both a Silent and Auto fan profile in the MyAsus app, but we kept our unit on Auto all the time, as Quiet takes a toll on performance in demanding loads. The logs below offer insights on the CPU/GPU speeds and temperatures with everyday use.
The Core i7-10510U Comet Lake processor is also a fine choice for more demanding loads as well. We test the CPU’s performance by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, with 2-3 sec delay between each run, which simulates a 100% load on all the cores. Normally, portable implementations of this CPU return high scores for the first run, but lower ones once heat builds up and the processor needs to clock down to cope with the thermal and power limitations.
On our test unit, the i7 settled for frequencies of 2.5+ GHz, a TDP of 17+ W, temperatures of 65-67 degrees Celsius and scores of around 580+ points with out of the box settings.
Further tweaking is possible by undervolting the processor, with Throttlestop, as XTU does not support Comet Lake. Our unit only ran stably at -60 mV, which translated in frequencies of 2.7+ GHz, 17+ W TDP, 67-68 degrees Celsius and scores of 625+ points, as shown in the images below. The CPU’s performance on battery was excellent as well, with the CPU stabilizing at 15 W TDP in our loop Cinebench test, which is not the case with many other ultrabooks.
All in all, the i7 inside this ZenBook Duo 14 performed a little bit better and ran cooler than the i7 inside the more compact ZenBook 14 UX434 we’ve reviewed a few months ago. That was expected, given the slightly higher TDP limit and ampler thermal module. On the other hand, the same i7-10510U did much better in the larger 15-inch ZenBook 15, where it was allowed to run at an even higher TDP. This behavior can be further improved with later software updates, though, if Asus chooses to do so.
We also ran a few combined stress tests on this laptop. 3Dmark Stress is a mildly taxing load, and the UX481 passed it with flying colors both with stock and undervolted settings. Undervolting didn’t have a significant impact on either performance or temperatures. Luxmark is a more demanding test, and in this case, the CPU clocks down aggressively to only 1 GHz, while the GPU runs perfectly fine. This result suggests that long-term CPU+GPU loads will take a toll on this setup, something to consider if you’re looking at this ZenBook as a potential compact editing rig.
Next, we’ve included a set of benchmarks, for those of you interested in numbers, which we’ve run on the Best-Performance power profile in Windows, with default voltage settings:
- 3DMark 11: 4034 (Graphics – 3634, Physics – 9203);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2797 (Graphics – 3007, Physics – 11516);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1014 (Graphics – 896, CPU – 4022);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1276, Multi-core: 4439;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 828 cb, CPU Single Core 192 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 1541 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 –192.05 fps, Pass 2 – 45.54 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 92.95 s.
Then we reran some of the benchmarks on the -60 mV undervolted profile, which allowed for a small increase in CPU related tests and, as expected, no changes in GPU scores:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2799 (Graphics – 3005, Physics – 11947);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1021 (Graphics – 900, CPU – 4339);
- PCMark 10: 4522 (Essentials – 9533 , Productivity – 7377 , Digital Content Creation – 3568);
- PassMark: Rating: 4996, CPU mark: 11357, 3D Graphics Mark: 2743;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1272, Multi-core: 4525;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 889 cb, CPU Single Core 200 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 1587 cb, CPU Single Core 470 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 –198.68 fps, Pass 2 – 48.58 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 86.15 s.
Both the CPU and GPU score well, mostly because the CPU runs at high TDP/frequencies for short-to-medium bursts, enough to ensure these solid results in short-term demanding loads. As suggested by the Cinebench and LuxMark tests, though, the performance eventually drops in longer-duration demanding sessions, as the CPU settles for a TDP of around 17 W, which is just a bit above its 15W norm.
Compared to the more compact ZenBook UX434, the ZenBook Duo scores higher in the CPU tests, but other compact laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon allow the CPU to constantly run at higher clocks on their Max Performance profiles, something I would have expected from this ZenBook as well, given its increased thickness and targeting.
As for the GPU scores, the Duo pretty much matches the ZenBook 14 built on the same 10W variant of the MX250 chip. Both the CPU and GPU run cooler though in demanding loads, and at higher clocks, as you’ll see in the next section.
The GeForce MX250 10W is the base level dGPU of this generation, but you’ll still want to know how it tackles games. We ran a couple of DX11 and DX12 titles on our test-unit, on FHD resolution and Low details, and compiled our findings in the following table.
|UX481FL – FHD UV||UX434FL – FHD UV|
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)||76 fps||77 fps|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, TAA)||23 fps||23 fps|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)||53 fps||50 fps|
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Low Preset, FXAA)||32 fps||32 fps|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)||27-37 fps||27-38 fps|
- The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps in campaign mode
- Bioshock, Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities
The ZenBook Duo provides a much smoother gaming experience than the ZenBook 14s we’ve tested, even with out-of-the-box settings. Ther performance remains constant and doesn’t degrade over time. Undervolting only allows the CPU to run at slightly higher clocks, with minimal impact over the performance and temperatures, but I’d still recommend it nonetheless.
Our sample also performed very well on battery, as you can see down below.
As mentioned earlier, we ran all these tests on the Auto fan profile from the MyAsus app. There’s also a Silent option that keeps the fans quiet all the time, but it’s not meant for demanding loads, as in this case the GPU thermally throttles quickly. It’s also not really needed for everyday use either, as the Auto profile does a good job at keeping the fans quiet on its own.
All in all, the ZenBook Duo UX481 performs well for what it is.
However, I would have expected a higher CPU setting, similar to what Asus offers on the ZenBook 15 and other OEMs offer on their premium ultraportables. I would have also expected a beefed-up GPU, given how this laptop targets creators on the go which would need that kind of performance. On the other hand, one aspect this notebook aces is the ability to perform well while unplugged, which binds on that exact need, especially when paired with the larger battery than you’d normally find on such a computer.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The ZenBook Duo UX481 partially inherits the thermal module design from the 2018 Zenbook Pro UX480. It still gets two compact fans, but Asus went with a dedicated heatpipe for the CPU, a much thinner heatpipe for the GPU and an even thinner one for the VRMs. Versions without a dGPU only get the CPU and VRM heapipes.
Given the fact that the UX480 cooled a 35W GTX 1050 Max-Q, I’d reckon this could have also cooled at least a 25W MX250, if not a 35W GTX 1650 Max-Q, if Asus adjusted the thermal design up, instead of downsizing it.
Nionetheless, as it is, this cooling system handles the i7 and 10W MX250 flawlessly. Both components run cooly with daily use and demanding loads, and the fans don’t ramp past 40 dB, making them a little bit quieter than in the ZenBook UX434. However, the main screen’s bottom middle part, which is the closest to the exhaust, reaches temperatures of 48-52 degrees Celsius while running games, and I fear that could negatively affect the panel over time.
With casual use, the fans rest mostly inactive, and only occasionally kick in with multitasking. We also haven’t’ noticed any coil whine or other types fo electronic noises on our sample, which was able to run perfectly quiet. However, that’s not a guarantee you won’t get any such noises on your units, make sure to listen in carefully.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix on EDGE for 30 minutes (fans ~ 0-38 dB)
*Load – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes (fans ~ 39-40 dB)
For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 on this laptop, through an Intel AX201 module. Our test unit performed well both near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between, without any drops or other inconveniences, but other modern notebooks with Wi-Fi 6 proved somewhat faster with our setup.
As far as the speakers go, there’s a set of them firing through cuts on the lateral sides of the underbelly. They’re pretty good for this class, with mid-level volumes of about 76-78 dB and above-average quality. The sound comes out clear, without any distortions even at higher volumes, and bass is noticeable from around 95 Hz. The speakers do push a fair bit of vibrations into the frame when pumped above 80%.
I also noticed a new Audiowizard app on this ZenBook Duo that allows more granular control over the audio. It seems a bit complicated to me, but improved control is always appreciated.
Finally, this ZenBook gets a 720p camera and an optional set of IR cameras, placed at the top of the screen and flanked by microphones with Alexa/Cortana support. The camera quality is mediocre, much what you can expect from laptops these days.
There’s a 70 Wh battery inside the Zenbook Duo UX481, much larger than you’ll find on other 14-inch notebooks of this generation.
Paired with an efficient implementation and Optimus, battery life does not disappoint. Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness) and the ScreenPad switched ON and set at 50% brightness.
- 7 W (~10h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7 W (~10h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.5 W (~10h+ of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12 W (~5.5h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 36 W (~1 h 45 min of use) – Gaming – Witcher 3, Max Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
Also, here’s what to expect with the ScreenPad switched OFF:
- 5.8 W (~12h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.6 W (~12h+ of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
Asus pairs this ZenBook Duo UX481 with a standard barrel-plug 65 Wh charger. The European version is the two-piece design, so although the brick itself is compact and light, you do get a lot of cords that add up to the bulk and weight. There’s no quick charging, so a full-recharge takes more than 2 hours. USB-C charging is still not supported in this series.
Price and availability
The Zenbook Duo UX481FL is listed in stores in some areas of the world as of the middle of November 2019.
In Europe, the base model comes with the Core i5-10210U processor, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB SSD for between 1100 and 1300 EUR, while the higher-tier model with the Core i7-10510U processor, 16 GB of RAM and still 512 GB of storage goes for between 1400 and 1600 EUR. There’s no way to upgrade the RAM on this laptop, so you’ll be forced into getting the top (and expensive) version if you need the extra memory.
I’d expect friendlier pricing in the US, but for now, I couldn’t find the UX481 listed over there.
We’ll update once we know more, and in the meantime, you should follow this link for updated prices/configurations, more details and the option to buy one of these.
The ZenBook Duo UX481FL is pretty much a thicker and heavier ZenBook 14 UX434 with an extra screen and a larger battery, and for that Asus demands a roughly 200-400 EUR/USD premium, based on configuration.
Is it worth it? I don’t have a short answer, but I do have a longer, more nuanced one.
The extra display is what draws attention with this laptop, but that’s also the reason its ergonomics suffer: the keyboard is cramped, the clickpad is minuscule and oddly placed, and there’s no palm-rest with this sort of design, which takes a toll on the user experience everywhere except for on a spacious desk.
But then there are also a few other hidden aspects you need to consider. The UX480 gets a more competent thermal module and as a result, performs more stably, quieter and cooler than the UX434. It also gets improved audio and faster wireless, and even with the shrunk down keyboard layout, I found it to be the nicer typer of the two, at least based on my personal taste.
So, at the end of the day, it’s up to you to choose the screen, the smoother performance and the extra features of the ZenBook Duo UX480 over the ergonomics, portability and more affordable price of the ZenBook UX434. Or the other way around.
I for one would rather go with the UX434 among these two, but I’d definitely consider the other options out there as well, there are plenty that could better check your requirements if you can live with a standard design and just a single display. If, on the other hand, you’re sold on the dual-screen, the ZenBook Duo is pretty much your only choice right now, with the higher-tier ZenBook Duo Pro as the more capable alternative in the 2500+ price range.
All in all, I feel a little bit dissapointed by the UX481. There’s no doubt it’s going to catch a lot of attention as a dual-screen notebook, but I feel it would have been a more capable computer if Asus stuck with a standard form-factor and further upgraded and refined last year’s ZenBook Pro UX480. As it is, this 2019 ZenBook Duo UX481 is just too big of a compromise to get my full recommendation.
Our content is reader-supported. If you buy through some of the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.