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[REVIEW] ASUS Zenbook Duo 14 lets you get things done in style: calmly

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ZenBook Duo 14

Asus has invested the most in the two-screen laptops idea, delivering several models of dual-screen laptops under the “Duo” name. Asus has also released another inarguably stunning, head turner Ultrabook in the Nigerian market with little to criticize.

Asus

The latest is an update to 2021 ZenBook Duo 14, the smallest entry in the Duo lineup. It comes in versions UX482EA and UX482EG.

ZenBook Duo 14 (2021) is even trimmer than ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581), and the dual-display build feels elegant in a compact chassis, versus its larger counterparts. The performance is in line with the competition, and most important, the pricing doesn’t see a big second-screen premium.

Truly, there’s little to criticize about this system. The 13-Inch Apple MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 are leading general-use picks in more-traditional laptop styles due to their top performance, value, and build quality, but if the ZenBook Duo 14’s design is calling to you, we think you should go for it.

Asus demonstrated its design innovation prowess and deserving of commendation for delivering fine value productivity-minded twin-screen laptops.

Key facts to note:

Processors and connectivity

  • Equipped with 11th Gen Intel® Core i7 and Core i5 processors
  • Each model supports up to 32 GB of memory, 1 TB PCIe® 3.0 NVMe™ SSD as well as two Thunderbolt™ 4, full size HDMI, Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, 3.5 mm audio jack, and microSD card reader 

AAS Plus (Active Aerodynamic System)

  • New ErgoLift AAS plus (Active Aerodynamic System) hinge design
  • More ergonomic viewing and touchscreen experience
  • Reduced gap between main and secondary display
  • 49% higher airflow

NanoEdge display with TÜV Rheinland Eye Care certification

  • 14-inch FHD NanoEdge display features incredibly slim 4 mm bezels
  • 93% screen-to-body ratio
  • The power consumption at 150 nits is only 1W, which is over 50% lower compared to the panel power consumption of most laptop panels.

AIPT (ASUS Intelligent Performance Technology)

  • Dual 59-blade fans and larger 10 mm heat pipe
  • Sustained 28W CPU TDP
  • Enables up to 40% higher performance

New features in ScreenXpert 2.0

  • New and improved UI and shortcuts
  • Improved action menu to move apps between displays
  • New customizable control panel for Adobe software (Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, and Lightroom Classic)

ASUS WiFi Master

  • ASUS WiFi Master technology and WiFi 6 for ultrafast downloads, smooth streaming, greater range, and incredibly stable network connections 

ZenBook Duo 14 design puts you in a relaxed mood:

ZenBook Duo 14’s design is outstanding in the sense as evidently the internal layout redesign enables an ErgoLift and AAS plus hinge, which lifts the ScreenPad Plus to a more ergonomic angle, while accommodating a set of top-end, high-performance components.

Asus ZenBook Duo 14

The chassis and lid of the ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 are made of magnesium aluminum alloy and aluminum alloy that perfectly complement its prestigious Celestial Blue finish. The asymmetric-circle trademark ZenBook pattern gives it a modern and sophisticated appearance.

The ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 weighs only 1.6 kg and is 16.9 mm slim, which is 50gr lighter and 3 mm slimmer than the previous generation.

So, as other manufacturers dabbled with two-screen designs, Asus takes an all-in approach that, if nothing else, is very visually compelling.

The ZenBook Duo 14 simply takes the concept and shrinks it down. Both of the other Duo laptops use 15.6-inch main screens, but as the name implies, this version bears a smaller 14-inch screen. The second display, dubbed the ScreenPad Plus, is also smaller at 12.6 inches. The main screen is full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels), while the ScreenPad Plus has an unusual 1,920-by-515-pixel resolution, due to its unique shape.

Both displays are touch-enabled and push a maximum of 400 nits of brightness, up from the original to make the displays (particularly the smaller one) easier to see.

The ScreenPad Plus also rises off the keyboard deck at an angle as you open the laptop from clamshell position, tilting toward you for a better viewing angle.

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This also opens up airflow for fans located beneath the screen, which helps the laptop stay cool. These fans have more blades than the fans on the original laptop for improved cooling, if you’re starting to see a trend here.

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The main idea, again, is to improve airflow and gain you a more comfortable typing angle.

In case you are unfamiliar with the dual-screen concept in general, the bottom screen serves as a small second display, like an additional monitor would. You can pull any application or window down to the ScreenPad Plus from the main display to be used as a reference or for a quick tap, depending what you have there.

Music lover?

O yes, the screen isn’t tall, so this isn’t ideal for all usage scenarios, but it’s useful to keep your files and folders accessible; like you can have Spotify open at all times, and other similar situations. In addition to keeping my music open there, it can serve as a place to put my references while working—info, sketches or a spreadsheet; it is easier to see at a glance rather than tabbing in and out of other windows. This makes for a much more desktop-like setup, even if the ScreenPad Plus is much smaller than a second monitor would be.

Asus

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 (2021) ScreenPad Plus also has some smart software options, thanks to its Launcher, that makes it easier to use. With a small screen, tapping with your finger to select files or move windows can be a bit imprecise.

In other words, there are some shortcuts to launch apps and snap windows to size. There are shortcut buttons to make hotkeys, use the ScreenPad Plus as a calculator, adjust brightness, instantly task-swap between screens, and more. You can make a quick bar persistent on the mains screen for these features, and customize it how you like.

A recent major addition was integration with Adobe’s creative suite, in the form of a persistent control panel with customizable commands and shortcuts for Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Lightroom. This should be a boon to creative using this system, though we’ll see in the performance section below if the components are up to the task of media editing.

Double the displays, but still portable

Being a 14-inch laptop, on a larger scale, the smaller size leaves a good first impression. It looks neat and compact, and fitting two screens into a chassis this size is impressive. It’s certainly a portable laptop no matter how you slice it, measuring 0.66 by 12.7 by 8.7 inches (HWD) and 3.5 pounds. That’s noticeably slimmer, and about half a pound lighter, than the original ZenBook Duo 14.

The chassis is made of magnesium alloy, which manages to maintain the relatively light weight, while looking good and feeling high-quality. The lid is embellished with a brushed radial design centered around the Asus logo, bringing some flair to the otherwise plain expanse. Our unit is a nice steel-blue color, making for a handsome system overall.

Asus ZenBook Duo 14

The size, in addition to a few other features, qualifies the ZenBook Duo 14 as an Intel Evo system. Evo is the replacement for Intel’s Project Athena, and qualifying for Evo status means meeting a list of requirements for thin-and-light laptops that ensure portability and peak usability with the new generation of Intel processors. As a result, it bears an Evo sticker on the keyboard deck.

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Some to note: 

The size is not all upside, however. Even on the larger Duo laptops, the keyboard is forced down alongside the touchpad, since its usual spot is taken up by the deck display. This leaves very little room for the touchpad, which Asus solved by making it a skinny, taller pad. This feels a little restricted, and that is only exacerbated on this 14-inch system. The touchpad doesn’t give you much room to pan, and it has you lifting your fingers often or butting up against the edge of the pad. It’s still functional, but as a core component of the laptop, it’s not ideal.

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Keyboard & Thunderbolt support

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 (2021’s) keyboard is somewhat cramped, as well, but not looking too bad. The absence of the usual empty keyboard deck to rest your wrists on is noticeable, and that may tire you out during a long typing session. Neither of these is a deal breaker, but rather they are compromises for fitting in the second screen.

One facet that doesn’t suffer due to the size is the port selection. You get plenty on board for a 14-inch laptop, including a USB 3.1 port, two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, an HDMI connection, a microSD card reader, and an audio jack.

ZenBook Duo 14 keyboard

The previous ZenBook Duo 14 lacked Thunderbolt support, so that’s another plus in this year’s update. The laptop also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth.

Performance 

The star of the show for this Ultrabook is clearly the design, but we should look under the hood, too. This is a 14-inch unit with a lot going on, so it’s limited to a degree by its thermal restrictions, but the performance ceiling is still quite solid.

The UX482EA base model comes with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD. Our and UX482EG review configuration bumps up the power by swapping the processor for a Core i7-1165G7, but the rest of the components remain the same.

Our unit uses Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics, but you can opt in to a model that’s equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce MX450 GPU. Iris Xe offers a boost versus integrated graphics of the past, but it is still short of a discrete GPU. The MX450 is the starting tier of dedicated graphics, short of NVIDIA’s powerful GeForce RTX (and even the lower-grade GeForce GTX) gaming GPUs, but it’s still noticeably better than integrated options.

Asus ZenBook Duo 14

Productivity, storage, and media capabilities

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 (2021) is a fully competent everyday multi-tasking machine that will boot and load quickly, just like the rest of these well-rated compact laptops. There isn’t much to say about how they stack up to one another, as the results are all grouped quite closely, but all you need to know is that you won’t feel a slowdown versus a mainstream ultraportable and can use it for your personal and general work needs.

AIPT – ASUS Intelligent Performance technology

The 2021 ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 features ASUS Intelligent Performance Technology (AIPT) that boosts the CPU power setting from 15W to 28W watts, sustained, to improve performance. AIPT also dynamically adjusts power consumption according to the system loading status and temperatures, to optimize power consumption, efficiency and to achieve quieter operation and cooler temperatures.

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Combined with the exceptional thermal design of ASUS laptops, ASUS Intelligent Performance Technology significantly increases processor efficiency to improve performance by up to 40%*. Thanks to the high quality thermal module and fan design the 2021 Asus Zenbook Duo 14 is able to operate the CPU at 28W nonstop.

ASUS exclusive algorithm with smart sensors

In addition, ASUS Intelligent Performance Technology not only features AAS PLUS for heat dissipation, but also features smart sensors on the motherboard of the new 2021 ZenBook Duo 14. The sensors allow temperature detection for various components in real time. Based on temperature data, an ASUS-exclusive algorithm accurately calculates the current power-consumption output needs of the CPU, allowing the laptop to achieve optimal power efficiency.

ASUS Intelligent Performance Technology features Whisper, Balanced and Performance modes. You can quickly switch to a different mode via MyASUS software or by pressing the Fn+F key.

Asus

When the laptop is switched to Performance mode, the system will automatically set the CPU power limit value from 15 to 28 watts and adjust the fan speed to achieve better performance. According to test results, Performance mode can increase CPU performance by 20% versus Standard mode and by up to 40%* versus the previous-generation 15W CPU.

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ASUS Intelligent Performance Technology also provides a Whisper mode, which limits fan noise levels to only 22 dB(A), providing quieter operation when performing tasks that do not require high performance, such as browsing websites, watching videos, or producing reports.

Battery: Up to 17-hours of battery life + fast-charging technology

The 2021 ZenBook Duo 14 is available with a 70-watt-hour battery that offers up to 17-hours of battery life for all-day use. The ZenBook Duo 14 also offers a fast charge function that charges the battery from 0% to 60% in under 49 minutes.

With USB-C Easy Charge support enable the 2021 ZenBook Duo 14 to be used with a wide range of standard and legacy USB-C chargers (5‒20 V). You are pretty sure of enjoying ultrafast charging with any PD (Power Delivery) certified charger, including the 65-watt fast-charge adapter supplied with the 2021 ZenBook Duo 14, or juice up their device on the go with airline chargers, portable chargers or power banks! It’s incredibly convenient when there are no wall sockets available, such as on flights or in vehicles.

The Ultrabook runs positive overall, offering more battery uptime that will get you through a work day, even if it’s not at the extreme lengths of some others.

ASUS-exclusive WiFi Master

The ZenBook Duo 14 is equipped with ASUS WiFi Master technology, which not only has built-in Intel WiFi 6 wireless network for faster wireless transmission performance, but also adds ASUS exclusive WiFi SmartConnect function, which provides greater distance, stability, and seamless wireless network experiences.

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Asus

Intel Wi-Fi 6

A built-in dual-band Intel AX201 WiFi 6 (802.11ax) wireless network card offers speeds of up to 2.4 Gbps, and provides up to 3X-higher throughput and 4X the network capacity of Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).

The network card also incorporates Bluetooth 5.0 for connection to Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Webcam:

With the boom in Zoom meeting and the fact most of us still work from home, webcam at least serves huge purpose. Unlike other manufacturers, Asus decided to retain the top-bezel position as 80% of users, we prefer it there, and a bottom-mounted camera can produce a very unflattering view of our faces.

Slimming down the screen bezels and retaining the webcam is not an easy task. They redesigned the camera module to make it the thinnest ever, and engineered a new cable placement that allowed us to reduce the width of the top bezel without sacrificing the camera.

Ultrathin webcam

The ultrathin camera module has a four-element lens that produces sharper images and results in lower noise. The embedded advanced infrared (IR) camera features see-in-the-dark capabilities that enable fast, reliable hands-free face login with Windows Hello — even in dim environments.

Asus

New IR camera algorithm

ASUS added a new IR camera algorithm to the new ZenBook series, which not only provides sharper image quality, but also achieves more accurate white balance and color saturation.

The new IR camera algorithm also enhances portrait photography performance, when the user uses the IR camera in a dark or complex light environment, the new IR camera algorithm can still automatically correct the exposure value and color balance of the face area, so that the user’s skin color can maintain a natural bright rendering effect.

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Verdict:

All of Asus’ dual-screen Duo efforts have so far been impressive, and ZenBook Duo 14 with the twin-panel design is especially slick in a 14-inch form factor. Having two screens in such a compact build is a feat that seems like it shouldn’t quite be possible, but here it is, efficiently engineered.

What’s more, it doesn’t come at much of a price premium—the ZenBook Duo 14 is priced in line with the competition. Some are even more expensive, too, but that accounts for features like more RAM or storage as well.

Given that this machine starts at a lower price (about N800,000) is a statement about what is possible in future for Asus lovers.

ZenBook Duo 14 (UX482) Spec:

ZenBook Duo 14 (UX482)

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