ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 UX432 Review

Two times the charm

ASUS has officially unveiled the 14-inch ZenBook Duo in the country. It’s one of the most innovative laptops from the Taiwanese brand to date with two touch-enabled displays, an 11th-gen Intel Core series chip, and great audio to boot. Here’s our full review.

ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 (UX482 EG/EA) specs:

14-inch LED-backlit FHD display, 1920 x 1080px, 400 nits
4 mm-thin 2 bezels with 93% screen-to-body ratio
Tilting 12.6-inch ScreenPad Plus
Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor (UX482EG)
Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor (UX482EA)
NVIDIA GeForce MX450 w/ 2GB GDDR6 (UX482EG)
Intel Iris Xe Graphics (UX482EA)
16GB 4266MHz LPDDR4X
1TB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD (UX482EG)
512GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD (UX482EA)
HD infrared (IR) webcam w/ Windows Hello
WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
2 x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C with full range (5~20V) of charging
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x full size HDMI 1.4
1 x MicroSD Reader
1 x 3.5 mm audio jack
Certified by Harman Kardon
Array microphone with Cortana voice-recognition support
AI Noise-Canceling feature
Windows 10 Home
70Wh lithium-polymer battery with up to 17-hour battery life
65W Type-C power adapter

One of a kind

We’ve shared with you our first impressions of this device a few weeks back, and I reiterate what I said before — it’s thin enough, light enough, and portable enough which is surprising for a laptop with quite the hardware it has. At the front, we have two touch-enabled displays, the keyboard, and the trackpad.

The Ergolift design allows the device to be more, well, ergonomic as it lifts the display area and tilts the keyboard down, which provides better comfort for your wrists in the long run. We found the use of the unconventional keyboard and trackpad side-by-side confusing at first, but is certainly useful when we got the hang of it. We see this as a compromise for including a second screen, and it could be remedied by using external peripherals.

The keyboard offers a rubbery feel with decent spacing. I can relate the experience to typing on a netbook all over again. The trackpad works really well despite the unnatural, tall shape it has.

As the Ergolift tilts the whole laptop, so does the secondary display that sits right above the keyboard. There’s enough space for the speakers here, which fires up and bounces to the back of the secondary display, producing a resonating sound that’s louder and clearer than other laptops we’ve used in the past.

Right side: SD card slot, 3.5mm audio jack, USB-A port, plus lights for power and hard disk
Left Side: HDMI port, plus two USB-C ports for storage, additional connectivity, and/or charging.

Cooling vents are well hidden from the naked eye. There’ right on the display area gap, and flows upward to the primary display. Simple things like this actually help you concentrate on what you do, rather than feel the heat when you’re deep in focus. Speaking of heat, that isn’t much felt whenever we do strenuous tasks here, but warmth is easily felt on the keyboard area.

Like the other ZenBooks we’ve seen in the past (i.e the ZenBook 13), this also sports a classy cover with the shiny silver ASUS logo and a concentric ring design that starts from it. It’s quite the smudge magnet, though, and cleaning may take more than just a microfiber cloth.

Two is better than one

The displays of this year’s ZenBook Duo are said to be better than its predecessor — it now features a 14-inch Full HD display and now has a 93% screen-to-body ratio. The colors are quite accurate, with brightness settings apt even for the outdoors. We’ve noticed too much glare, though, so we can’t say that it’s a good one to use under the high noon.

The secondary one, or the ScreenPad Plus as ASUS calls it, is a 12.6-inch OLED with quite the resolution at 1920 x 515 pixels due to the unusual form factor. It can be an addition to the main screen or have a life of its own as it separates from its own opened apps and windows. It also has its own settings and brightness controls, in case you want to focus more on it or the bigger display.

As touch-enabled screens, certain features are exclusive to the ZenBook Duo, including flicking windows to transfer them to another display, snapping them at one screen, or maximizing the use of two displays for just one window. The ScreenPad Plus also has its own set of apps including handwriting, a calculator akin to the one in NumberPad, and even controls for your Spotify music. It also supports the ASUS Pen, so writing or sketching on the screen is easier.

Multimedia-wise, the laptop can also be your buddy for chill movie nights or deep focus sessions. This features Harmann Kardon audio onboard, ensuring you’ll get good audio even when on loudspeaker. While the stereo speakers present good audio with audible details and more pronounced vocals, it lacks the bass to groove to EDM tunes. Audio is really good when using headphones on this laptop.

Flick and Dock away

The ZenBook Duo unit that we have has Intel’s 11th-gen Core i7, 16GB RAM, and 1TB of speedy NVME PCIe intenal storage. It also runs Windows 10 Home right out of the box, with the usual ASUS pre-installed apps (MyAsus and a trial for McAfee Antivirus software). The ScreenXpert app launches on startup and has the functions intended for the ScreenPad Plus, including the following:

  • locking the keyboard
  • launching a series of apps on the ScreenPad Plus
  • connecting MyAsus with your phone
  • launch a pre-set app combination
  • reveal the App navigator, where you can check your currently opened windows and transfer them in between the two displays

We’ve had a great time using the ZenBook Duo and we found a lot of use for the whole setup it provides, some of which include gaming (full-screen game on one display, walkthrough on another), art painting (Photoshop on both displays, using the second screen to add more details with the ASUS Pen), photo editing (Photoshop on the main display, ASUS-built control panel with rotating knobs and sliders at the ScreenPad) working at home (productivity apps on one screen, calculator and Spotify windows on the ScreenPad), web browsing (stretch the Microsoft Edge window to two displays and you’ll see the quick links move to the ScreenPad Plus). Here are our benchmarks with the laptop:

  • Cinebench R23 – 4,586 (Multicore), 1,104 (Single Core)
  • CrystalDiskMark – 1,366.83 (Sequential 1M), 1,313.51 (Sequential 1M)
  • 3DMark Time Spy – 4,377 (CPU), 1,710 (Graphics)
  • PCMark – 4,930

The i7 variant offers an NVIDIA GeForce MX450 with 2GB GDDR6 memory, which can be useful for those who are into digital media. We’re able to use both instances of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CC 2018 without any hiccups on smaller files. Despite the huge RAM available, expect hiccups on rendering larger files (file canvas bigger than two posters or with file sizes more than 1GB), as well as blazingly fast post-production editing especially when using heavy graphics on After Effects. In these instances, heat is generally felt at the secondary display and top-center of the keyboard.

A decent battery life to top it all

We had no problems with the laptop’s connectivity — it was able to look and connect to our WiFi router well, and its Bluetooth is great even for audio wearables.

This laptop may be compact, but it does not compromise with its battery life. It has a 70Wh battery capacity that can last for up to 11 hours, on average, with moderate use. Turn the ScreenPad Plus off, and expect the laptop to last longer with an additional 2-3 hours. Using its 65W brick charger via USB Type-C can recharge up the laptop in just an hour.

Carl writes for WalasTech when he's not working full-time. Give him tips and/or leads at [email protected].