The Zenbook Pro Duo has the recent Intel 12 gen processor which are more powerful and efficient, better graphics card, faster SSD speed and higher resolution OLED vs 1080P LCD. Price difference is SGD 1000 between the two laptops.
I've also reviewed the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15 OLED (UX582) last year and that was SGD 4999. I felt that was quite pricey but ultimately dual display productivity may be something worth paying for. That was one of the best, if not the best workstation laptops around because you just can't beat dual display productivity with a single display.
The Zenbook Pro Duo 14 (UX8402) is a good looking and powerful laptop with decent gaming performance. Having two displays which is a huge boost for productivity. In terms of value for money, this definitely provides way more value than the Zenbook Pro Duo 15 OLED (UX582) because it's SGD 1300 lower at SGD 3699. This laptop is not without downsides of course and for that just scroll down to the pros and cons list.
Items included in the box are:
- 2x attachable prop-up feet for the laptop
- Quick start guide
- ASUS Pen 2 (SA203H)
- 180W power adapter and cable
- Laptop sleeve with pen holder
The main selling point of this laptop is the dual display setup.
The main display is a 14.5-inch touchscreen OLED with a resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels (16:10 aspect ratio). Refresh rate is 120Hz so this can be used for high FPS gaming as well. Colour support is 100% DCI-P3 and maximum brightness is 550 nits.
The colours look fantastic out of the box and match the colours of the touchscreen IPS LCD beneath. Pixel density is 234 PPI and all the visuals look sharp. One downside is there's this subtle grain pattern over the OLED display which is noticeable when the display is showing white, bright or light-value content. It's not distracting but it's there and is something discerning designers or photographers should know.
The secondary display is called the ScreenPad Plus. That has a resolution of 2880 x 864 pixels. Frame rate is 120Hz. Surface is matte instead of glossy like the OLED. Colour support is 100% sRGB. image quality looks great and visual are sharp with no noticeable pixelation. Downside is the anti-glare of the matte surface introduces slight colour noise to the image quality.
Another downside of ScreenPad Plus is UI scaling is maxed out at 125%, and UI elements can still look small even at 125%.
The redesigned hinge now only lifts the main display and ScreenPad Plus but not the whole laptop. Maybe that's why ASUS has included some foldable feet you can attached to the laptop.
The only port on the left is a 3.5mm audio jack. The three big rectangular holes beside are for air exhaust.
The feet is made with matte textured hard rubber and the grip isn't as good compared to standard rubber feet. As it is, air has to enter from the small gap (thinner part of the feet) at the top. There's no overheating issues though, thankfully. Using thicker rubber feet would have been a better choice.
On the right side, there are two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a USB 3.2 type A port.
The Zenbook Pro Duo 15 had fan exhaust holes here but this laptop has removed those on this side. So now you can use your mouse on the side without hot air blasting at your hand. But if you're left handed and use a mouse, your hand will still get the hot air.
Ports on the back are full-sized HDMI 2.1, a Micro SD Express 7.1 card reader and the DC input. There are more holes for fan exhaust here.
Due to the addition of ScreenPad Plus, the keyboard has to be pushed down so there's no palm rest, and touchpad is push to the right side.
When typing on the keyboard, you'll need space on the table for your palm to rest, so it's no different from typing on an external keyboard. I don't recommend typing with the laptop on your lap because the laptop is warm even with normal light workflow.
Typing experience is great. The keys have good travel and feedback. Keyboard layout is good with no surprises. Function shortcuts are useful. Keyboard is backlit with just white light.
The touchpad is on the right side which obviously isn't ideal for left handers.
The three buttons at the top are for switching windows between main and secondary display, switching off ScreenPad Plus (to conserve energy) and the power button. There's no fingerprint sensor on the power button but face unlock is fast and effective enough.
The touchpad has two physical buttons for left and right clicks. The touchpad cannot be pressed down physically and does not use haptics. Having not used touchpad with buttons for a long time, it feels really awkward to go back to using one. The haptic touchpad from the Zenbook Pro Duo 15 is so much better, and can be used as a numpad too.
Dual display productivity
If you have used dual display setups for work, you'll know how much more productive you can be. There are external or detachable display products such as those from Mobile Pixels but having two displays built into a laptop is incredibly convenient.
ASUS has created a dual display app with features and workflow shortcuts to maximise productivity. The shortcut bar with shortcuts takes up too much space so I've minimised that into a small button, and placed it on the right.
For window management and placement, you can move the title bar slightly and a pop-up box will appear to give you options on where you want to place that window. This is kinda similar to the Windows+Arrow keys shortcut but with more layout options. With this shortcut, you can place windows precisely and at your preferred size. I usually have either two or three windows on ScreenPad Plus.
Here are some common scenarios that you can use the ScreenPad Plus for.
- Playing games on the main display while showing the walkthrough or guide below
- Writing while ScreenPad Plus is showing multiple windows of materials, info and research
- Place palettes from your graphic design or drawing app on the ScreenPad Plus
- Have multiple web browser windows open instead of as tabs
- Check emails or play videos/music with ScreenPad Plus while you're working
ASUS ProArt Creator Hub
The ASUS ProArt Creator Hub is an app with PC management features and workflow features for selected Adobe apps, namely Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro and Lightroom.
Whenever one of those Adobe apps is active, a dedicated control panel with shortcut buttons, sliders and dials will appear. The shortcuts will update depending on which app is active. Shown below are the control panels with the default set of shortcuts for...
All the shortcuts are customisable to a certain extent. You can add or remove buttons, dials and sliders.
Downside #1 is you cannot create your own keyboard shortcuts. You can only choose from the list of pre-defined functions for the shortcuts.
Downside #2 is you can't create a control panel for other apps, e.g. DaVinci Resolve, Affinity Photo, etc.
The control panels work well overall, just that sometimes it's difficult to get to the precise values with the rotating dial. The control panels are useful. If you don't use them, you can always use the ScreenPad Plus for other things.
Performance of this laptop is fantastic as expected just by looking at the specs: 12th gen Intel i7 processor, 16GB RAM, gen 4 PCIe SSD and GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics.
SSD read and write speeds are 6900MB/s and 5100MB/s respectively.
Lightroom Classic was able to generate imported thumbnails for the 16MP RAWs quickly.
The laptop is also powerful enough to edit simple cut-and-join 4K 50FPS videos with DaVinci Resolve 18 without the use of proxies. Video export time is less half the length of the video project. Video export times with H265 for a 5 min video project in DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro is 2min 4s and 1min 52s respectively.
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4GB) graphics card is quite capable for gaming.
At 1080P resolution, I was able to get at least 45 FPS with Red Dead Redemption 2, and 120Hz with Hades.
Gaming is quite enjoyable. Moving the fan exhaust from the right side to the back is a huge improvement for right handers who game with mouse. Heat is concentrated at the back and away from the keyboard so the keyboard can remain cool while gaming.
Overall audio quality is good for downward facing speakers. Audio is loud and clear though isn't as good compared to front facing speakers. Audio is probably 4/5 for me.
Writing and drawing
Drawing performance is affected by diagonal line wobble.
Writing works fine as only short strokes are created.
Downsides and glitches
Over the past few days I have tested the laptop, there would be a ScreenPad Plus crash once a day. When ScreenPad Plus crashes, the display turns black and restarts. Thankfully ScreenPad Plus restarts quite quickly, and all window positions are retained. Hopefully this can be fixed with some software updates.
While the ASUS Adobe control panels work fine, those control panels are always below other windows that are currently open on ScreenPad Plus. To push the control panels forward, you have to hide or minimise the windows above it.
And I just don't like the touchpad with two separate physical buttons.
This is a beautiful workstation grade laptop with fantastic performance that should be able to satisfy deadline chasing creators with demanding workflows. Dual display productivity is so good it will make you feel reluctant to ever use a single display again. The laptop is powerful enough for some gaming as well.
Most of the downsides relate to ScreenPad Plus and the software. Restarts, Adobe control panels behind inactive windows, inability to create keyboard shortcuts, can't create more control panels for other apps. Other downsides are the feet beneath the laptop don't have enough grip, no full-size SD card slot, battery life of just 5 to 6 hours.
The Zenbook Pro Duo 14 (UX8402) provides way more value compared to the larger Zenbook Pro Duo 15X OLED (UX582) released last year because the performance is kinda similar but the price is SGD 1300 lower. Display size difference of 14.5 vs 15.6-inches isn't too big but the weight difference of 1.75kg vs 2.34kg is very noticeable. This 14.5-inch display has 16:10 aspect ratio which is something I prefer. I hope ASUS would make a display with 3:2 aspect ratio next.
Just for comparison purposes the Apple Macbook Pro 14 (2021) is SGD 3299 with 16GB RAM and 1TB storage. Yeah, the Apple MBP 14 is cheaper but you can't beat dual display productivity with just one display.
This is a laptop I can recommend easily to creators and professionals. The downsides thankfully are all not dealbreakers.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design
+ Excellent build quality
+ Dual display setup for productivity
+ Dual display window management features are useful
+ Dedicated software controls & shortcuts for Adobe apps
+ Good keyboard typing experience
+ Keyboard not hot when laptop is hot
+ Power processor
+ Capable of AAA games (45 FPS++) at 1080P
+ Very fast H265 video export time
- OLED display has slight grain
- ScreenPad Plus matte surface introduces slight colour noise
- Laptop feet don't have good grip
- Touchpad does not use haptics
- UI elements on ScreenPad Plus can be small due to limited UI scaling options
- Occasional ScreenPad Plus restarts
- ASUS Adobe control panels appear behind other windows when app is active
- 5 - 6 hours battery life
- Windows taskbar can't be moved to the top