The notebook market is teeming with the most varied offers possible in terms of processor generation, type and size of display, RAM memory, storage, serial inputs / outputs … but occasionally there is no shortage of some manufacturers who venture particular proposals such as Asus and the notebook that we got to try, the model UX481F of the ZenBook Duo series, a 14 ″ "alien" category compared to what you can normally find on the market, a product that has the distinction of offering two displays.
The ZenBook Duo series, as the name suggests, boasts two screens. On the area where the keyboard normally resides on other notebooks, here we find the “ScreenPad Plus“, An extension of the screen that works in conjunction with the main display.
On the smallest possible screen, drag the windows of other applications and work with two open windows in two separate areas (the first on the main screen, the second on the smaller screen).
The manufacturer has collaborated with some developers (eg Corel and Spotify) and certain programs are able to take advantage of the presence of the screen by their nature. In general, however, it is always possible to move palettes and other tools of the various software to the lower screen and have more space available at the top. Let's start anyway from the beginning and see in detail what the computer offers. The manufacturer also offers (optionally) a stylus with which it is possible to use the second display to draw, take notes, sketch ideas.
Packaging and technical characteristics
The Asus Zenbook UX481F arrives in a package in which we find: the actual computer, the 65W power supply and the power cable. The dimensions are 1.99cm (height) x 32.3cm (width) x 22.3cm (depth); the weight of 1.5kg. The model in question available in two variants: with Intel Core i5-10210U processor at 1.6GHz quad-core (up to 4.2GHz with Turbo Boost) and 6MB cache or with quad-core Intel Core i7-10510U processor at 1.8GHz ( up to 4.9GHz with Turbo Boost) and 8MB cache. The RAM memory (2133MHz LPDDR3) available in the "cuts" of 8GB and 16GB. On the storage side (PCIe Gen3 x2) you can choose: 256GB, 512GB or 1TB.
The video card one NVIDIA GeForce MX250 with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. The display is a 14 ″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) LED backlit, a 16: 9 with a 3.5mm thin frame with a 90% screen / body ratio and supports 100% of the sRGB space.
The secondary display (12.6 "ScreenPad) is a 12" IPS with 1920 515 pixel resolution; to the eye the brightness seems lower but offers a good viewing angle of 178.
On the interfaces side we have: 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port (up to 10Gbps), 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port (up to 10Gbps), 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 type A port (up to 5Gbps), output HDMI, Combo audio jack, MicroSD card reader and power input.
The audio (created in collaboration with Harman Kardon) offers surround sound, a microphone and an IR webcam with support for Windows Hello technology (face unlock). For wireless connectivity we have: Intel Wi-Fi 6 with Gig + performance (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5. The lithium polymer battery (4 70 Wh cells) and the manufacturer boasts “up to 22 hours of life ".
Aesthetics and robustness
The top panel (dark blue plastic or better "Celestial Blue") completely smooth and regular; in the lower part there are two rubber rubbers, side speakers and – decentralized – a ventilation grille. There is no connector on the back (all connections are on the right and left sides). The machine as a whole aesthetically pleasing (obviously a matter of taste) and having overcome the doubts of the first impact, it works well. We have not been able to get used to the small trackpad, perhaps "spoiled" by the MacBook Pro which has a high-level trackpad that disfigures anything that compares. It took days to "train" the thumb to press the confirmation button on the left on the trackpad, ending forever to press the "Finish" button (to the left of the trackpad).
As for robustness, the manufacturer claims that the machine has been subjected to military tests and that it complies with the MIL-STD-810G standard, guaranteeing operation "in difficult environments", including extreme altitudes, temperatures and humidity. Peculiarity of the hinge that holds the display in place which when the latter opens, raises the portal above the surface: an ingenious system that helps to cool the internal components, allows you to slightly tilt the keyboard (backlit) and improve audio quality.
The keys are membrane-sized 15x15mm; the last upper row of smaller dimensions, includes the various function keys, the key to activate / deactivate ScreenPlus, a key to send a window on the smaller screen on the fly and the shutdown button.
A dedicated button allows you to activate the "Screen Pad" option. It is possible to run particular apps entirely on ScreenPad, having handy tools and controls such as a calculator or a music player at hand. ScreenPad can also work in adaptive mode with desktop apps, with features and tools that automatically change based on the activity in progress.
The version we tested the one with Intel Core i7-10510U processor. a 14nm processor presented in the third quarter of 2019, fast (1.8GHz the base frequency) and with four cores (independent central processing units) and 8 threads (the basic ordered sequence of instructions that can be transmitted from a single core CPU). The graphics chip of the NVIDIA GeForce MX250 video card helps with more demanding applications but obviously an entry level GPU and cannot allow miracles. Heat production seems to be contained and we have not noticed problems even with demanding tasks. The machine starts up in a few moments thanks to the fast disk: the tests with AjA System Test show: 430 MB / Sec in writing and 1287 MB / Sec in reading.
The audio coming out of the medium quality speakers, with some loss on the bass, but who knows what on a machine of this size was not waiting for us. The 70 Wh 4-cell lithium polymer battery, despite a not exceptional capacity, does its job, despite having to manage two screens and we were able to safely use the machine for eight hours continuously using office software (Word , Excel), mail and internet surfing with WiFI always on.
Difficult to indicate a specific target for this machine. interesting for the professional looking for a fairly powerful, light, handy portable machine; the double screen will be useful to those who use applications with tool palettes with floating windows (think of the various drawing, CAD, photo management software), or beyond windows that generally convenient to keep in a small separate window, without crowding the main window.
We saw it at work with interior design professionals who showed the project on the main screen and on the secondary screen the palette of furnishings to be selected, or with Adobe software to take advantage of the additional space with the management windows of the layers, of the brushes and colors.
Even for programmers it may be interesting to view a portion of code in the secondary display and make changes to other parts of code in the main screen. A more banal use coupled with social media: keeping messaging apps and social media windows in the smallest window, avoiding excessive distractions when, for example, we are watching a movie. All comfortable as long as you get used to the dual screen which still makes it necessary to move your gaze, tilting your head down.
The somewhat small keyboard (at least for the hands of the writer) and the trackpad did not seem the best of comfort. Overall, it is a robust and reliable machine, powerful and with excellent autonomy. The high cost but in line with the specifications and characteristics of the product.
- Facial release even in the dark with IR camera
- Comfortable dual screen with various professional applications
- Robust construction
- Expansion ports
- Small trackpad that is not easy to get used to
- Improvable keyboard
The list price of the configuration we tested of 1498.00 euros + VAT (1827.00 euros including VAT) but various vendors offer it at lower prices (such as Yeppon's 1549 VAT included for the version i7-10510U 16Gb Hd 512Gb Ssd 14 ″ Windows 10 Pro).