Named by ASUS as “the laptop of tomorrow”, the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo Ux581 is a notable mobile workstation. Not necessarily because of its specs alone, but also thanks to its iconic design. You can either love it, or hate it. There’s no middle ground. Personally, I think this layout (keyboard on bottom, two screens on top) works well, but only in the context of a workstation, where you’re more than likely to work with either a mouse or a stylus.
ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 – a powerful laptop with a unique layout
When you first lay your eyes on an ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581, the first thing that’s going to pop out will be its layout, followed closely by how sharp the screen is. More specifically, I’m talking about fully lowering the keyboard where the palm rest can be found in traditional laptops.
Furthermore, they’ve moved the trackpad to the right of the keyboard, and have combined it with a digital touch enabled number pad. It works OK if you’re right handed. Operating this keyboard-touchpad combo is similar to using a wireless keyboard with a trackpad. It reminds me of my Microsoft All-in-One I use at home.
ASUS are also including a foldable palm rest for users who find the keys positioned too high up. I didn’t find the typing experience uncomfortable at all, so I’m not sure how many people will actually need it. Speaking of typing experience, I’ve found it to be more pleasurable than most laptops models. Travel distance is satisfactory, keys offer decent feedback and smooth rebound.
How functional is this layout?
When it comes to ergonomics and functionality, I’m happy to say that ASUS have nailed it with the ZenBook Pro Duo UX581GV-XB74T. It is a workstation, through and through. But it isn’t for everybody. It’s mainly targeted at working professionals in mainly creative fields. Think designers, architects, automotive engineers, musicians, and so on.
It will work wonders for users who can and will take full advantage of its dual touchscreen setup. I may even argue that thanks to its general layout, code writers will find it useful as well. For other types of work, I found the two screens somewhat distracting. You can’t really multitask and still do serious work, you know?
However, take an architect for example. You can sketch up or modify a plan or a drawing in real time on the lower screen, while your clients see live results of their requests on the main screen. All done over a coffee during lunch break. It’s a fantastically useful tool for a certain portion of users.
Two touch displays, fantastic image quality
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 features two matte 4K displays. One is a 15.6-inch UHD OLED touchscreen, and the other is a full-width UHD OLED secondary touchscreen that integrates seamlessly with the main display. It sits between the hinges and the F keys on the keyboard. Is this secondary display useful?
Short answer, yes, very much so. It’s not just a Screen Pad we’ve seen on models like the ASUS ZenBook 15 or the ASUS Vivobook S15. No, this is a full sized secondary touchscreen. It offers the same image quality and functionality as the main screen. You can make use of it in a number of ways. Here are the most useful of them:
- App Switcher – move entire app windows on it like you would in a dual monitor setup.
- View Max – extend the display area to match both screens in a seamless transition.
- Task Group – group different sets of apps to create personalized workspaces.
- Task Swap – switch between screens with one touch.
As you can see, this dual layout is useful in a number of ways, regardless of your work field. Picture quality is almost flawless. The ZenBook Pro Duo UX581GV-XB74T features PANTONE validated color accuracy, 100% DCI-P3 (133% sRGB) color gamut. The amount of detail and color richness is simply stunning.
When it comes to raw computing power, the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 (UX581GV-XB74T) is stacked. It features a 9th generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor. The same you’ll find in the much more expensive MSI WS65 mobile workstation I’ve recently reviewed. It has 6 cores, 12 threads, 12 megabytes of cache size, clock speeds between 2.6 GHz and 4.5 GHz and draws 45 Watts of power.
It’s thirsty, but it’s also incredibly powerful. Benchmark tests rate it at around 13.000 points. Compared to a mid-range Core i7-8565U most ultrabooks are equipped with nowadays, the CPU inside the ASUS is about 50% more powerful.
So, you’ll be able to achieve just about everything you plan to using this processor. Tasks like 3D rendering or illustrating will take noticeably less time and feel more fluent using the ZenBook Pro Duo than they would with a laptop like the Samsung Notebook 7 Force, or the Dell Inspiron 5580, to name just a few.
System memory and storage space
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581GV-XB74T is fitted with 16 gigabytes of DDR4-2666 MHz RAM. This should prove adequate for the vast majority of working pros who would consider this laptop. Oddly enough, system memory can’t be further expanded.
If you’re primarily into 3D rendering, movie making, or would like more RAM, then the only option is to go for the more expensive model, the UX581GV-XB94. This one has 32 GB of RAM and a Core i9 processor, but it cost about $500 more (price available at the time of this review).
As for storage capacity, the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is equipped with a state-of-the art 1-terabyte PCIe M.2 Solid State Drive from Samsung. The PM981 SSD boasts sequential read/write values of up to 3200 MB/s and 2400 MB/s respectively.
Unlike system memory, you can replace this SSD with any M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 model you’d like, but I’d pass considering you’re getting a high capacity, high speed unit as standard.
The ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 is equipped with gaming-grade graphics. It has a NVDIA GeForce RTX 2060 dedicated graphics card. This GPU runs on NVIDIA’s revolutionary Turing architecture and features advanced technologies such as ray tracing and DLSS (deep learning super sampling). All these extras come together in helping you achieve the best visuals, whether you’re a graphics artist or a designer.
As such, if you’re also into gaming, rejoice! You’ll be able to play all modern games using this workstation, including the more demanding titles. With performance ratings similar to high-end gaming laptops, your experience will be as fluid and stunning.
Interface and connectivity
Interface options are plentiful. One option that stands out is the Thunderbolt 3 port, allowing you to take advantage of its insane high speed transfer rates. Here are all available I/O options:
- Thunderbolt 3 USB-C (with DisplayPort)
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
- HDMI 2.0
- Audio Combo Jack
Connectivity is another strong area of the ZenBook UX581GV-XB74T. It offers the latest in wireless connectivity. More specifically, it features a 802.11ax Intel Wi-Fi card and Bluetooth 5.0 technology. Compared to 802.11ac, the ax protocol, also known as Wi-Fi 6, offers reduced latency (down 75%) and improved transfer speeds. The numbers vary wildly, but you’ll most likely get at least around 30-40% better transfer speeds by using an ax wireless card.
Having not just one, but two fully functioning touchscreens has made the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 heavier than most 15.6″ laptops. Heavier than most workstations, even. For instance, the 17.3″ MSI P75 Creator weighs 4.8 pounds. The MSI WS65 just 4.2 pounds. However, the ASUS weighs a whopping 5.5 pounds, or 2.5 kg.
It’s exceptionally heavy, even for workstation standards, so I wouldn’t consider it as an effective travel companion. You’ll be able to get away with carrying it occasionally to and from work, but not on a daily basis. It’s just too heavy for that kind of commuting, especially so if you don’t have a car in which to travel with it.
Battery life is also modest by today’s laptop standards, but understandable given the circumstances. It has a 71Whr, 8-cell battery pack and it will hold a charge for about 6 hours of real time average use. That means internet browsing, editing documents, streaming some media content and so on. If you plan to do some heavy work on it while unplugged, battery life will drop significantly.
After taking into account everything I said about the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581GV-XB74T, I think it is worth every penny. Even if this isn’t the most portable workstation out there, its performance ratings, features and design choices outnumber its limited number of flaws.
It is a well suited work laptop for photographers, architects, designers and engineers and for users who need an exceptionally powerful notebook, but don’t necessarily require ultra portability from it. I especially love where they’ve positioned the keyboard and how well the two screens actually work in real life scenarios.