I have been reviwing gadgets for a long time, and the number of new smartphones in the market has always far exceeded the number of new releases in any other gadget category – till now. Of late, the number of laptop launches in India has been almost at par with smartphones. There could be several reasons for this: it may be due to supply chain issues being marginally better than last year and the fact that people are still upgrading/setting up their home offices, two years after the work-from-home trend started. Also, many more students are going back to school and university this year as compared to the pandemic's first two years, making laptop makers sit up in excitement.
Laptops, in 2022, have been launched across all price ranges. Xiaomi is launching the NoteBook Pro 120G on August 30, which will be significantly cheaper than the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED under discussion here, so there's something for everyone.
About the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED, to begin with, this is not your average, you-so-basic laptop. It is a dual-screen laptop – not the first iteration of this design by Asus, but significantly more refined than the first lot.
Dual-screen laptops are useful for many reasons. One benefit that immediately comes to mind is you can attend a class/follow a live event on the big screen up top and take notes/tweet on the smaller screen that lies just above the keyboard. It’s also useful if you’re writing a document: Throw your notes on the screen below and type away on the gorgeous OLED up top.
Thanks to ScreenXpert 3, the Duo’s two screens work together seamlessly. This laptop cements Asus’ position as the most innovative laptop manufacturer at the moment.
A loaded laptop that doesn’t come cheap
The new Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED from Asus is absolutely loaded. The primary display up top is a 14.5-inch 2.8K OLED display (with a 120Hz refresh rate) and is rated at 550 nits. Accompanying the main display is a full-width secondary display! That’s where the magic happens. The secondary display, that pops up out of the chassis, is a 12.7-inch IPS panel (with a 2880x864 resolution).
Asus has installed the Active Aerodynamic System Ultra (AAS Ultra) hinge for the 2022 model. This means the secondary display now lifts by 12 degrees (5 more than its predecessor), making it easier to use (and to read text off of) and also helps boost thermal performance.
The port selection is good for creative professionals as compared to some of the thin-and-light laptops it competes with. You get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SD card reader, HDMI 2.1 and a USB-A port, and an audio jack. There are also Harmon Kardon tuned speakers, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti, and so much more. GPUS are designed to accelerate graphics rendering and hence it helps with video editing, gaming applications and machine learning.
Both panels are compatible with the stylus (included with the laptop) and are also inking compatible They’re both touchscreens, as was the case with the previous generations. Asus made sure that both panels cover 100% DCI-P3 colour space coverage. DCI-P3 stands for Digital Cinema Initiatives - Protocol 3 and is created by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineer (SMPTE) to standardise colours used in the film industry. The percentage (in this case 100%) tells you how much of the DCI-P3 space the display can reproduce.
Packed with features, the laptop doesn’t at all come cheap. The starting price of the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED is ₹1,44,990. The unit sent to me by Asus that I have reviewed here costs a whopping ₹2,24,990. With the top-of-the-line model, you get more RAM, a higher-end CPU and a better GPU. On the other hand, there’s the single-screen 14-inch OLED Zenbook that can be had for much less.
Where the laptop shines
Where the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED truly shines is when one is editing on the go/outside of the home or office setup. That secondary screen comes in real handy and is best for toolbars, timelines (for those photo/video editing sessions) and more. It can also be handy if you are constantly switching songs on Spotify or want to watch a YouTube help video while performing the task on the main screen. There’s so much you can do with the secondary screen. Just take a look at the video below.
The Zenbook Pro 14 Duo was first sighted back in 2019 and with the 2022 model, it's been refined to a tee. That’s not to say it’s a perfect laptop. There is some way to go to make it the best-in-class in the notebook category (including single-screen laptops), which currently is a toss-up between the MacBook Pro, Dell XPS 13, Lenovo Yoga 9i or HP Spectre x360, depending on who you’re talking to.
The Zenbook Pro 14 Duo sure does have its advantages and many improvements vis-a-vis its predecessor, such as the fact that the secondary display now lifts by 12 degrees (as mentioned above). This means that it is much easier to read the text on the secondary display without craning your neck. Battery life has also improved and so has thermal performance (meaning more heat is dissipated and there is less throttling of performance as the laptop overheats less).
The laptop has what Asus is touting as the “world’s first 14.5-inch 2.8K 120Hz OLED touchscreen display”. Let me just tell you straight up that it is stunning to look at, and to use, on a daily basis. The laptop is basically all-screen. With a 16:10 aspect ratio and a maximum brightness of 500 nits, it’s a pleasure to use all day long.
The laptop measures just 17.9mm thin and weighs 1.7kgs. The top-of-the-line Zenbook Pro 14 Duo comes with an Intel Core i9-12900H, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU and 32GB of LPDDR5-4800 RAM.
While the laptop may run hot and has the occasional thermal throttling issues, anything you throw at it will run without any hiccups. It’s a powerhouse in productivity, but in the middle-range of performance, if you decide to game on it. If you do want a dual-screen and want to game on it a lot, then you can consider this laptop’s bigger brother; ROG Zephyrus Duo 16.
If you’ve never seen any iterations of this laptop before, then you’re truly in for a magical experience.
Trouble in paradise
No laptop is perfect and as I said before, the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED has its fair share of downsides. While the design is one-of-a-kind, it comes with some compromises. The fact that there is an entire secondary display means that there is less space for the keyboard and touchpad. It’s awkward.
The keyboard and touchpad are in unnatural and uncomfortable positions. The main issue is that even if you get used to it (which takes a long time!), there just isn’t any place for your wrists to rest.
The keys themselves feel good, with enough feedback and decent travel. The touchpad is shunted in the right-hand corner, where the Numpad usually is and is relatively small. Though it is responsive and has good buttons, it still feels more like a thumbpad than a touchpad.
It’s sad to see a 720p webcam (as opposed to a 1080p webcam) in a laptop that is this expensive.
There may be a 76 Wh battery that is larger for this class of laptops but there are also two 120Hz displays and a power-hungry Intel chip. With both the displays on, I managed to get just under 4 hours of battery in day-to-day usage. Turn off the secondary display and you can squeeze out an extra hour. This is, as expected, not at all great. Most premium laptops give twice as that, at the very least. With all the specs Asus has thrown in, you really didn’t expect better battery life, did you? Still, this is an improvement over last year’s model and one hopes with some software updates, it gets better and better.
Is it worth your hard-earned money?
Are you a content creator and one who seeks a laptop with two screens? If so then there is nothing better in the market than the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED. It’s simply the best-in-class laptop. This laptop from Asus is stacked with a beautifully crafted design, a gorgeous OLED panel, better thermals, and Intel’s latest 12th-gen processors.
Then again, the laptop isn’t without its drawbacks. The keyboard is pushed to the bottom, with the trackpad squeezed into the bottom right-hand-side corner. Then there is the less-than-stellar battery life and some throttling issues. Far less than its predecessor, but the laptop at times gets a little hot and the performance slows down a tad bit.
Overall, though, if you need those dual screens, then don’t look elsewhere, because nothing else even comes close. It’s more than worth the compromises and absolutely isn’t the gimmick the first time we saw the whacky design back in 2019.
It’s one of the best laptops for creative professionals out there. Just make sure that your use case fits the laptop's quirky design before you fork over your hard-earned cash. Also, there isn’t any need to go for the top-of-the-line Core i9 variant. The Core i7 will do just fine for your usage pattern and won’t cost you as much.