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Asus Zenbook Duo UX481 review: Innovation that comes at a cost.

Asus Zenbook Duo UX481 review: Innovation that comes at a cost.

The dual-screen design has its uses, but it introduces big compromises too.

Potentially useful dual-screen design.

Cramped keyboard and trackpad.

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There aren’t many laptops that look like the Asus ZenBook Duo UX481. This stylish machine seems conventional, but lift the lid and you’ll find a huge secondary screen above a repositioned keyboard and trackpad.

Asus reckons that this dual-screen arrangement will be particularly helpful for creatives, and an Intel 10th Gen CPU and discrete Nvidia GPU power this innovative machine.

Asus Zenbook Duo UX481 review: Design.

The UX481 looks superb: navy aluminum coats the system, with a sleek Asus logo on the lid. Build quality is impressive, too. We’ve got no qualms about slotting this machine into a backpack – it’s robust enough to cope.

Asus has used its smart ErgoLift hinge on this machine. This mechanism pushes the rear of the base section upwards, which angles the keyboard, trackpad and second screen towards the user.

There’s a lot to like about the UX481’s design, but this machine isn’t always impressive. It weighs 1.55kg and it’s 19.9mm thick, and there are plenty of visible seams alongside relatively thick screen bezels.

Indeed, the UX481 does suffer against conventional rivals. The Apple MacBook Pro 13 weighs 1.4kg and is 15.6mm thick, and its prices start at £1,083 – just like the Asus. The latest Dell XPS 13 is a 1.2kg machine with a 14.8mm body, and its prices begin at £1,124 exc VAT.

Both of those machines look arguably smarter than the Asus, too, although obviously neither has that second display – only Apple comes closest with its TouchBar.

The Asus isn’t without some minor design irritations, either. The hinge mechanism is stiff, which makes it impossible to ease the lid open with one finger. And, while this laptop has rubber feet, they don’t provide much grip. The keyboard and trackpad positioning also mean that this machine is awkward when used on a lap – mainly because there’s nowhere to place your wrists.

Asus Zenbook Duo UX481 review: Keyboard

The positioning can be awkward, and the UX481’s design impacts on the keyboard in other departments. The keys are shorter than they are on rivals, which makes them feel cramped. The cursor keys are not separated, the Shift buttons are small, and the Return key is single-height. Unsurprisingly, you don’t get a numberpad either. It’s a shame, because the keys themselves are great: they’ve got decent travel, a consistent and comfortable action and a pleasing snap.

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