Asus Zenbook Pro 15 : An early look at Asus dual-screen flagship laptop

The Zenbook Pro has a track record for being a solid, albeit slight dull, top-end Ultrabook that for the last few years has fallen behind Dell’s XPS line.

Which is probably why Asus decided to come out all guns blazing at Computex 2018 this year, launching its most interesting Zenbook Pro to date: a flagship Ultrabook with two screens. The laptop features cutting edge specs, plus a secondary FHD “Screenpad” built directly into its touchpad.

Though this may sound like a gimmick, having had an opening play with both the 14-inch and 15-inch variants you can colour me impressed. From what I’ve seen the Dell XPS 13 and XPS 15 2-in-1 may have some serious competition for best laptop at this year’s hallowed Trusted Reviews Awards.

Zenbook Pro 15 price

There’s no official word on either version of the Zenbook Pro’s price. Though an Asus representative said “I am expecting the 15-inch with an i7, 16GB RAM and 512GB PCIe to come in under £1.9k/$2.5 and the 15-inch with the i9 to be about £2.2k/$2.9.

Zenbook Pro 15 release date

There’s also no word on either version’s release date, though the representative indicated the 15-inch will arrive around August or September. The 14-inch will arrive at an unspecified later date.

Zenbook Pro 15 Screenpad design

The most interesting part of both laptops’ design is the new touch screen Asus has embedded into the touchpad. The FHD, colour screen is an identical size on both laptops and works kind of like the Nintendo DS’ secondary display. Of the bat it features a drag down, customisable shortcut menue for things like your calendar, photo gallery and music player.

You can also set it to have application specific functions. In Powerpoint, for example, you can get it to show the next slide in your presentation or notes for your speech. It also has a drag down funtion that’ll let you manually move content, like Youtube videos from the main screen to the secondary touchpad display.

This may sound a little gimmicky but I can definitely see it being of useful to people like creatives. How cool would it be to have seperate brush, layer or filter controls on a second screen when using Photoshop or Illustrator?

My only conern about the Screenpad setup is that the secondary display didn’t always feel that reactive. During my demo it worked fine as a touchpad, which is no surprise as Asus has miraculousy managed to make it Microsoft Precision Certified despite the wealth of custom tech in it. But when I tried to use the on screen controls for things like the music player, it could occasionally feel a little sluggish and there was definitely some lag when I scrolled between photos on it. An Asus told me this is becuase the touchpad screen’s software wasn’t final. Hopefully these bugs will be ironed out ahead of release.

Outside of this the laptop has the same premium feel of past Zenbooks. Both the 14 and 15 have the same metalic finish, which feels every bit as premium as past models. The only big difference visually is that the 14 has a slighly different hinge mechnism, which is highlighted with gold trimming.

The Nanoedge display as has the same 83% screen-to-body ration as last year’s model, which in laymen terms means though smaller than an average latop’s, the bezel’sway bigger than the Infinity Edge seen on Dell’s XPS line.

My only concern about the two laptops stems from their slightly old-school feeling keyboards. Both have basic backlit chiclet keyboards with membrane switches. A year or two this wouldn’t have bothered me, but having just finished testing the XPS 15 2-in-1’s Maglev keyboard, the Zenbook’s key switches felt slightly less reactive than I’d have liked.

Zenbook Pro 15 specs

The laptop’s internals have had a more significant update. The Zenbook Pro is by far the more intersting of the two, and looks set to be the best choice for creatives.

The main highlight is it’s upgraded 15.6-inch screen, which has some pretty amazing specs. For starters, it’ll have a super sharp 4K display, just like the XPS 15 2-in-1. What’s more impressive is that Asus is quoting it as having an insane 2.0 Delta E and covering 132% of the sRGB colour gamut and 100% of the Adobe RGB favoured by artists.

I didn’t have a colourometer to hand to check these stats, but if they come even close to matching them this could be a great selling point for creatives working in physical media, where colour accuracy is key. To date, the only laptops I’ve tested to come close to matching these stats are the Macbook Pro and XPS 15 2-in-1.

Other highlights include the use of Intel’s shiny new 8th Gen Core i9 CPU. Past laptops we’ve tested with the chip have offered fantastic CPU performance and been excellent for intensive tasks, like video editing. The use of an Nvidia GeFore 1050 Ti is another welcome additon that means it should be able to easily play games like Overwatch at 60fps. My only slight quibble is that Asus is offering it with a maximum of 16GB DDR4 RAM. Most competng 15-inch Ultrabooks, like the XPS 15 2-in-1 offer up to 32GB of RAM.

As a final cherry on top differentiating the two is that the 15 is the only Zenbook Pro to feature a built in fingerprint scanner.

The Zenbook 14 has slightly lower specs, capping at a Core i7 CPU, slimmed down GTX 1050 Max-Q GPU and the same 16GB RAM. These specs aren’t as impressive as the 15’s, but should be more than good enough for most people. Unless something goes seriously wrong, the 14 should be more than powerful enough for photo editing and casual gaming.

You can seen the Zenbook Pro 15 and Zenbook Pro 14’s full specs list in the table below.

Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Zenbook Pro 14 (UX480
Colour Deep dive blue and rose gold Deep dive blue with rose gold
Display 15.6-inch 4K, touchscreen, 100% Adobe RGB, Delta E 2.0  14-inch FHD touch screen
CPU 8th Gen Core i9, hexa-core 8th Gen Core i7, quad-core
Graphics Nvidia GeForce 1050 Ti Nvidia GeForce 1050 Max-Q
Memory Up to 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 Up to 16GB 2400MHz DDR4
Storage Up to 1TB PCIe x4 SSD Up to 1TB PCIe x4 SSD
Connectivity USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C with Thunderbolt 3 support USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C with Thunderbolt 3 support
Windows Hello Fingerprint sensor IR camera
Dimensions 365 x 251 x 18.9mm 322 x 255 x 17.9
Weight 1.8kg 1.6kg

Zenbook Pro 15 opening impressions

The Zenbook Pro’s dual screen design may sound a little gimmicky, but from what I’ve seen it has a lot of potential, especially for power users and creatives. The customisable second display looks great and is wonderfully customisable. If Asus can iron out the few performance niggles I experienced I can see the second screen being key selling point for the Zenbook Pro.

Add to this its top specced screen and powerful Core i9 CPU option and I can see it becoming a key rival to the XPS 15 2-in-1 and Macbook Pro when it launches later this year.