scorecardresearch

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED (UX8402) review: This laptop changes everything

Have dual screens, will travel.

RatingRatingRatingRatingRating
Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
The Pro 14 Duo OLED starts at Rs 1,44,990. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

To say that Asus is obsessed with jamming secondary displays inside its laptops, with the logic that two screens would somehow become second nature and enhance creative workflows, would be an understatement.

What started as a cute trackpad gimmick in 2018 –with the Zenbook Pro 15— quickly evolved into a whole new series of “Duo” laptops. Each generation has brought about subtle yet meaningful upgrades to make the concept seem less of a lab project and something that you could see yourself using someday just like any other conventional laptop.

With the 2022 edition, aka Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED, Asus’s dual-screen implementation has finally come of age, to the extent we can go out on a limb and say that dual-screen laptops have arrived. More importantly, they are here to stay.

DESIGN & DISPLAY(S)

The Duo has gone through numerous iterations over the years. Asus has been hard at work, trying to figure out the best combination. What’s impressive –and commendable— is that it hasn’t shied away from going back to the drawing board, wiping the slate clean, and then starting over just so it can get things right. The Zephyrus-inspired base design has stayed the same though.

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
The Pro 14 Duo is being positioned as a slick multitasker for light content creation and gaming. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Pro 14 Duo follows the same rulebook. The idea, like before, is to station a second display where your keyboard would usually be while moving the keyboard itself to a more forward positioning. This secondary display can lift a bit –thanks to a movable hinge—as you open the laptop, to give you a more direct view while also leaving enough space underneath for heat to dissipate.

Also Read | Asus ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition review: Designed to boldly go where no laptop has gone before

This year Asus has made a small tweak to this display, or Screenpad Plus. The angle of the lift has been increased from 7- to 12-degrees and while it may seem insignificant on paper, the difference is quite significant in the real world. You see, the point of having these displays is for you to have an experience akin to using an actual one at the top. The goal is to make that experience as effortless as possible. We can’t say if this is the best that Asus can do, but it’s surely a step in the right direction.

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
The secondary display, in the Pro 14 Duo, feels more seamless than before. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The secondary display, in the Pro 14 Duo, feels more seamless than before. The bezels, too, are slim all around. So, it feels like the top display and the one at the bottom are one single, connected entity even though the panels are completely different. The one at the top is OLED and the bottom one, an LCD.

Another reason why the transition is so nice, and fluid is that, in this generation, Asus has bumped up the sharpness of the bottom screen. It is ever so slightly bigger –12.7-versus 12.65-inch— and has a resolution of 2880x864p (versus 1920x515p). It is brighter (up to 500nits) and faster (120Hz). It is touchscreen and supports 100 percent DCI-P3 colour gamut, too. Asus has also applied an antiglare coating on it to minimise reflections from overhead lights. Most primary screens are not this good.

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
Asus has bumped up the sharpness of the bottom screen. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Speaking of which, that’s also getting a sizeable refresh this year. It’s bigger at 14.5-inch-inch, higher-resolution at 2.8K, has a tall 16:10 aspect ratio, and can refresh at up to 120 times per second. It gets plenty bright, too, at up to 550nits. It’s also Pantone validated, and TÜV Rheinland Eye Care-certified in addition to supporting 100 percent DCI-P3 colour gamut.

The Active Aerodynamic System Ultra that facilitates all this is nothing short of an engineering marvel. We’ve spent countless hours opening and closing this laptop, trying to get a peek at the innards. And every time we’d do it, we were left revelling at the thought of how far laptops have come and where they could go from here.

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
Asus has been able to crack the dual-display code with the Pro 14 Duo. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Obviously, there is a flip side to all this. The keyboard, still, needs a great deal of time to get used to. Otherwise, it’s fantastic with nice key travel. For the life of us, we couldn’t get used to its cramped trackpad at the corner, though.    

But credit where it’s due. Asus was not only able to crack the dual-display code with the Pro 14 Duo, but it was also able to put all this inside a relatively compact chassis. The laptop is quite dense –1.79kg—but we were expecting it to be heavier, somehow. It is very manageable, but your mileage may vary. The magnesium-aluminium alloy body feels nice and premium to the touch while its black colourway with brushed metal finish is eye-catching.

PERFORMANCE & BATTERY LIFE

The reworked design has allowed Asus to put some wild hardware inside this nimble machine. The maxed-out version we have for review has the 12th Generation Intel Core i9-12900H processor paired with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti graphics, 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 1T PCIe Gen 4 x4 SSD. This model is priced at a hefty Rs 2,24,990. Options with integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics and Evo certificate are also available starting at Rs 1,44,990.

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
The laptop has a slim profile. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Pro 14 Duo is being positioned as a slick multitasker for light content creation and gaming. There’s intricate cooling inside this laptop involving dual fans and heat pipes. Plus, the lift-up hinge mechanism ensures there’s enough room for increased airflow over more conventional laptops in its class. The system runs silent mostly unless you’re stress-testing it with multiple streams of data (photos/videos) or running benchmarks. Even then, surface temperatures never really hit the ceiling in our testing.

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
You get two Thunderbolt 4 ports. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Battery life, understandably, is not great especially when using both screens together. We were averaging 5-6 hours of use though we’re expecting the Evo-certified models to fair slightly better.

Port selection is generous. You get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, a full-sized HDMI 2.1, a micro-SD Express 7.0 card reader, and a combo audio jack.

BenchmarkScore
Geekbench 5.4 CPU Multi12092
Geekbench 5.4 CPU Single1752
Geekbench 5.4 OpenCL / Compute61135
Cinebench R23 Multi13326
Cinebench R23 Single1625
Cinebench R23 Multi (30 minutes)12978

Asus’s secondary display software— ScreenXpert— needs a special mention because it complements the hardware well and makes for some fun interactions between the Pro 14 Duo’s two screens. There are more ways to do stuff, now, than say last year. You can open any app on the bottom screen or open multiple apps together in task groups. At no point, did any of this feel like a gimmick or slow, or anything that might spoil user experience. Instead, it adds to the whole experience, in ways content creators would greatly appreciate.    

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
There are lots of vents. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Our favourite feature, though, has to be the “touchpad mode” that basically lets you turn the whole secondary display into a large full-width touchpad.

ASUS ZENBOOK PRO 14 DUO OLED | SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED
The Duo has gone through numerous iterations over the years. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The TG of this laptop is clear-cut. The Pro 14 Duo is targeted squarely at creators. But even within that group, it might appeal to only a select few: those who desire multiple screens and effortless multitasking but— and here’s the most important use case— don’t have the space to put up multiple machines or don’t want to invest in them for whatever reason. The Pro 14 Duo is kind of like a mobile studio/workstation they can carry anywhere.

An option as good as this did not exist in the past. Even Asus has been learning along the way. The first-gen Duo came with a completely flat secondary display. Look how far we’ve come from there. The Pro 14 Duo is one of the quirkiest laptops to launch this year. But it’s probably the only one with the heart –and guts—to change the way we see and use laptops now and forever.

Also Read | Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED review: A creator’s paradise

ProsCons
One-of-its-kind designBattery life could be better
Dual screens done rightNot the most ideal keyboard placement
Fast performance
Lots of ports

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.