CES is all-digital this year due to the pandemic, so we’ll have to get excited about the new products from the comfort of our own homes. But devices like these rarely fail to catch our attention.
During the company’s 13 January event in Las Vegas, Asus revealed the second-generation of its ZenBook Duo. If you’re not familiar with the original device, these laptop includes a second 14in display directly above the keyboard. It’s much larger than the Touch Bar on Apple’s MacBooks, so should enable a greater range of experiences, although we questioned whether it’s really the future of laptops in our review of the original Pro model.
So, what’s changed for 2021? In short, not a huge amount, although the existing design is the unique selling point of these devices. The most noticeable difference is a new hinge design, which lifts the secondary ScreenPad Plus to an angle of 7 degrees and means almost the whole device is off the desk. Asus says this increases airflow by up to 49%, as well as tilting the keyboard into a more natural angle for typing. The compact arrangement does take some getting used to, with a very narrow trackpad and no space to rest your palms.
That means you’ll probably need a separate mouse to get the most out of the ZenBook Duo, which can be connected via Bluetooth 5.0 or via the USB-A or USB-C ports. Both of the latter are Thunderbolt 4-enabled, and can be used for charging and data transfer. There’s also a full size HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card reader on board.
As you might expect from an early 2021 laptop, the new ZenBook Duo comes rocking Intel’s 11th-gen ‘Tiger Lake’ processors. More specifically, there’s a choice between a Core i5-1135G7 and Core i7-1165G7, which combines with up to 32GB of RAM and a maximum of 1TB SSD storage. There’s Iris Xe integrated graphics available on most models, but more expensive configurations also have the option for Nvidia’s GeForce MX450 GPU.
The ZenBook Duo comes with a 14in or 15in Full HD main display, with the 12.6in ScreenPad Plus coming in at a resolution of 1920×580. Neither are OLED or 4K, as is the case on the original Duo Pro, but it’s no surprise Asus reserved these features for its most expensive dual-screen device. What you do get are tiny bezels, giving the device an impressive 93% screen-to-body ratio.
Asus has only quoted battery figures for the 14in model, with the 70Wh cell expected to get up to 17 hours on a single charge. Despite the dual-screen design, it remains impressively light at just 1.6kg.
As was the case with the original model, you’ll need deep pockets. The second-gen ZenBook Duo will start at £1,499 when it’s available in the UK from February, with the i7 set to be significantly more expensive. That might mean the Duo lacks mainstream appeal, but for pure wow factor this device is hard to beat.
However, the Duo was far from the only laptop Asus launched at CES 2021. Alongside three new additions to the ROG range, the company also revealed a more affordable gaming laptop in the TUF Gaming Dash F15. This has also been upgraded to 11th-gen Intel processors, while the aluminium chassis has been redesigned, with an all-new TUF logo at the forefront. It’s clearly had an effect – the F15 is significantly thinner and lighter than previous 15in gaming laptops, while maintaining military-grade toughness standards.
The Full HD 144Hz display from previous generations remains, but it’s also joined by a new 240Hz option in the same resolution. Its 3ms response time and full sRGB colour gamut coverage make it a great option for gamers. Elsewhere, you also get a next-gen Nvidia GPU, up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. There’s also a 76Whr battery and self-cleaning cooling system.
Asus already tops our best gaming laptop chart, but will any of the new additions be good enough for inclusion? And can the ZenBook Duo compete with more traditional options in our best laptop chart? Only time will tell.