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Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Almost too much

Filled to the brim

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When I first got my hands on the Mate 20 Pro, I wondered to myself: Where do I even start?

Even after spending over a month with the phone and checking out its less feature-packed sibling, I still can’t help but be amazed by how much tech Huawei jammed into this thing.

It’s not even debatable; comparing the Mate 20 Pro to any other phone released this year would make the opposite side look stale. Inside and out, this is the most complete smartphone ever assembled.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. While Huawei focused so hard on one-upping its fiercest rivals, some old weaknesses showed up and new issues arose in the process.

Going through every single feature would be too much for a single article, however. I could easily surpass the monstrous word count of our iPhone XS review if I were to get overly thorough and technical.

Instead, it’s best to evaluate the Mate 20 Pro by its most impressive, as well as its most jarring, traits. Let’s begin with the usual: design.

I honestly wasn’t a fan of the stove-top arrangement of the rear cameras and excessively thick notch in front, but they eventually settled into my taste and I realized the purposes they served.

In short, I don’t have to deal with an awkward camera bulge on the rear, and the faster, more secure face login became a great alternative to the intuitive yet comparatively slow under-display fingerprint reader.

I also wasn’t interested in the curved edges at first, but I eventually missed them when switching to flatter phones. The way the curves mold into my hand and give that overflowing feel are actually more comfy than what I experienced on the Galaxy Note 9, which has a thicker and more unwieldy feel to it.

And despite the larger size, the proportions feel more ergonomic than the P20 Pro’s. In addition, the Mate 20 Pro’s Twilight gradient is a lot more appealing to me. It may be personal taste, but I’ve had a handful of people express the same opinion.

On the downside, the audio port is missing — something the regular Mate 20 has — and I find it strange that one of the stereo speakers has to come out of the USB-C port. This easily gets blocked when using the phone horizontally, especially when I forget that Huawei decided to place it there of all spots. It’s a sore point coming from the front-facing implementations of the Razer Phone 2 and Pixel 3.

Oh, and there’s an IR blaster in case you want to control your TV. Strange to see it on such a premium device, but I guess there’s a market for this, and maybe for those who like messing with televisions on display at the mall.

The 6.39-inch AMOLED screen itself is gorgeous. Colors pop and I love the super-dense 1440p resolution. Combined with the loud speakers and fast processing of the Kirin 980 chip, both video watching and gaming are a pleasure on this phone.

On that note, Huawei’s latest chipset is a marvel on its own. The 7nm architecture is no joke; it’s speedy AF and doesn’t overheat under pressure. Seriously, I threw the most demanding games at it and multitasked in between — nothing fazes it. It helps that I got 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage to play with. On the downside, the latter can only be expanded by Huawei’s (for now) proprietary NM Card slot. More on that here.

It’s a shame then that the EMUI skin is so behind compared to other interfaces. The Mate 20 Pro is one of the first phones to come with Android 9 Pie out of the box, but aside from a few additions like Digital Balance (the equivalent of Google’s Digital Wellbeing) and better volume controls, it’s a lot like Huawei’s clunky older software.

For one, you still need to tap an icon from the home screen to open the app drawer. This is one of the few skins that still makes you do that; others have a more intuitive swipe-up gesture to free up space on the app dock.

Want to activate your camera by double-pressing the volume down button while listening to music? Good luck with that, because doing so will simply lower the volume of your tunes. Again, other phones require a smarter double-press on the power button.

Another thing: I don’t adore the Mate 20 Pro’s always-on display. It’s nowhere near as informative as the ones found on the Galaxy or Pixel series. Sure, you’re provided with the date, time, and battery percentage, but getting a glimpse of notifications is frustrating at times, making me just go to the lockscreen to see what I’m receiving.

In addition, this has to be one of the weakest implementations of gesture navigation. Apple pioneered this style with the iPhone X, wherein you could swipe from the bottom to go to the home screen and hold it to enter multitasking; several Android manufacturers have copied this well, but Huawei didn’t get this right. Choosing the traditional back-home-app navigation bar alleviates this issue, but then you lose some of that precious real estate at the bottom.

Finally, there are certain apps — Google Photos and Maps, in particular — which have this awkward lag on EMUI. I’ve experienced this with the P20 Pro, and the problem still hasn’t gone away. I looked it up and it’s not an isolated issue.

The disconnect between the quality of hardware and software should’ve been resolved long ago. It’s reasons like this why people flock to iPhones and Pixels so easily, because they know that everything melds together so well, despite the lack of certain features. Huawei still has time to fix most if not all of these issues, but having seen no improvement on the P20 Pro after all this time, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Cons aside, the added features are excellent, albeit excessive at times. One is the wireless reverse charging, which allows you to charge other Qi-enabled devices on the Mate 20 Pro’s back. It’s slow and part of a rare usage case, but it’s so cool to have when absolutely needed. Since the phone’s generous 4200mAh battery lasts two days anyway, it’s perfectly fine to share some juice with accessories like a smartwatch.

And because the capacity is so hefty, it’s only right for Huawei to enable 40W charging on this beast. This is by far the most convenient way to fill up a battery on any Huawei phone. It’s no exaggeration that it takes only half an hour to hit 70 percent from zero. Give it another 40 minutes, and you have a full charge. Going back to anything slower has been a pain for me.

Reaching this point without talking about camera quality is a clear sign that the Mate 20 Pro is more than the sum of its pixels. At the same time, they’re a highlight of the phone and must be reviewed extensively.

You can learn more about the complex camera setup in our earlier hands-on, but in essence, the trio found on the back are what you should care most about. These are the 40-megapixel f/1.8 main shooter, 20-megapixel f/2.2 extra-wide camera, and 8-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto unit capable of optical zoom.

This translates into the most versatile cameras ever equipped on a smartphone. LG and ASUS popularized ultra-wide lenses while Apple and Samsung made telephoto shooters a thing, but it’s Huawei spearheading the complete package.

The monochrome sensor will be missed; it was Huawei’s signature feature up until the P20 Pro, but one can argue that it’s no longer necessary in this age of IG filters and colored sensors becoming advanced enough to create their own high dynamic range.

Traveling with this phone as my all-in-one camera is such a joy. When out in an open space, the ultra-wide-angle camera flourishes; while at an event in need of close-ups, the telephoto looks great up to 3x zoom — even 5x if lighting is enough.

Like the overall interface, the camera software is hit or miss. Although I appreciate the ease of switching between the primary modes, the dump of less-important ones under “More” bothers my organized self. You could leave Master AI on to let it choose the right mode for each situation, but it’s not that accurate, like any AI-powered camera you find these days.

For example, as I’m about to take a portrait in Auto mode, the app would switch to — you guessed it — Portrait mode and saturate the hell out of my subject after a short amount of lag. More often than not, the AI wouldn’t correctly identify the subject, sometimes even saying that black-and-white graffiti on a wall is a panda. Go figure.

The worst part is you can’t make adjustments after the AI-altered shot is made, which is something even lower-end Honor phones can do. Again, it’s hit or miss, and I bet a lot of users would rather keep Master AI off. Using it, however, is the fastest way to access special features like Super Macro, which emulates a macro lens’ extreme close-up of an item.

Huawei’s awesome Night mode is also back, and it’s as good as it ever was. Every time I’m out in the evening, I make sure to take a few shots with it on. Like before, it gives me a four-second or so exposure while handheld; advanced processing then creates a work of art nine out of ten times.

I had a chance to compare it with the Pixel 3’s Night Sight, and I must say that the results are mixed. While the Huawei side is better at making nighttime illumination look pretty, the Pixel 3 can see better in total darkness. Both are great, and I take low-light photos with both phones whenever I can. Don’t worry, a separate article for this comparison is in the works.

The front has the same, unimpressive 24-megapixel f/2 camera found on the P20 Pro. Why Huawei chose not to improve on this weak point is beyond me. With most Chinese rivals taking selfies seriously, it’s a surprise why the Mate 20 Pro feels so far behind.

Like the P20 Pro, selfies with this setup are less than stellar. Without proper autofocus or accurate blurring around the subject’s head, your face can turn into a mushy mess under poor lighting conditions and there isn’t even a way to turn off the integrated beauty mode — something which has bothered several reviewers including myself.

Still, I found the Mate 20 Pro’s selfies better than what the iPhone XR and Galaxy Note 9 produce, but not on the level of the Pixel 3 and its dual-cam design. I can only wish that the next Huawei flagship will up its self-portrait game in the same way the rear cameras have.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

In spite of all my complaints, nothing’s a real deal-breaker. The absolute completeness of the Mate 20 Pro automatically places it at the very top of the heap, awarding it our GadgetMatch Seal of Approval.

If you can ignore the lack of software optimization and polarizing design choices, you’re guaranteed to experience the best there is — this side of the Android space at least.

For those choosing between this and the regular Mate 20 or P20 Pro — which retail for the same amount in most regions now — I’d say go for the Mate 20 Pro if you value the front camera features and in-display fingerprint sensor. Its screen is also more impressive than the Mate 20’s, and the Kirin 980 chip blows away the P20 Pro’s older Kirin 970.

At the same time, the US$ 1,000 or so price point pits it against the likes of the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone XS. To Huawei’s credit, the Mate 20 Pro is no incremental upgrade compared to the two aforementioned flagships. You’re getting a true successor with all the bells and whistles — practically no compromises this time.

If you’re willing to wait, the follow-up to the super-popular P20 Pro will reveal itself in a few months. It’ll likely have the same Kirin 980 processor, but the camera updates may be more significant and the overall software more optimized.

Her GadgetMatch

Peloton: A cult I want to join

Can a Peloton bike replace going to a spin studio?

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I’ve heard and read about Peloton mostly from the hype in tech news and commercials on TV. When people talk about it, I hear them refer to it as the cult of Peloton. As someone who recently fell in love with spin class, my curiosity is peaked. If you’re a Peloton customer, you don’t just like it — you love it! It’s not a piece of exercise equipment; it’s a lifestyle.

On a recent trip to New York, I noticed my hotel was close to a Peloton studio. My hotel also had a Peloton bike in the gym. As I roll towards 40, I’ve accepted that my body needs me to pay attention to it. So I fed my Peloton curiosity and went to the studio to take a class. I also took a virtual one in my hotel — more on that later.

Peloton studio experience

If you’ve ever been to a high end spin studio you’ll be familiar with the set up at Peloton. For those who haven’t done a modern spin class, you basically get shoes, locker rooms that have many products, and someone to help you set up your bike. The experience screams premium and makes dropping US$ 35 seem justified.

Like most workout studios, the room is very cold when you walk in. Today’s spin classes are done in the dark with very loud music — almost like going to parties. At the Peloton studio, the bikes are set up around a stage on three sides. As we waited to get started, Jenn, the instructor, was already interacting with everyone online. I’ve heard and read of Peloton before, but I didn’t realize that the class I was attending was being live streamed to hundreds, maybe thousands of people.

“RoadCruiser, it’s your 400th ride! Congratulations and thanks for being part of the Peloton nation,” screamed Jenn. “RidnMama happy 100th ride, Pelotooooon!”

Hearing the word Peloton happened consistently throughout the ride. Like being in actual cults, being in a Peloton class felt a bit like being indoctrinated. The same way cults repeat ideologies and phrases, Jenn would randomly scream Peloton for all of 30 minutes. When I started counting midway, I heard her say it 11 more times.

What caught me off guard was the fact that Jenn essentially ignored the class and was in constant eye contact with the cameras around the room. One camera would slowly go from the left side of the room to the right, and her gaze would follow it. It was distracting and felt like I was watching something I wasn’t supposed to.

Having done no actual research on Peloton before going, I left the class confused. Being the journalist that I am, I asked the sales girl at the front desk a ton of questions. I found out that there are only two Peloton studios in the whole world: one in New York, and the other in London.

Suddenly I felt very lucky to have taken a class in one of the two studios. Then almost immediately I realized that I was doing things completely wrong. Most Peloton customers will never step foot into a physical Peloton studio, and they probably will never want to. Peloton’s main focus is giving virtual classes, and that’s what they’re good at.

Peloton only set up studios to livestream the instructor for the virtual classes. The London studio starts putting classes online in the morning and the New York studio has classes until late at night, covering all of Europe and US timezones. Unlike other spin studios, real world classes at Peloton are only a byproduct of content creation for their virtual community.

Virtual Peloton class experience

The next day I went to my hotel’s gym to take my first virtual class. When I logged on, there were no live classes about to start, so I took one of the many pre-recorded ones. The bike lets you choose by class type, instructor, genre of music, and style of ride — I chose a 90s hiphop class.

When the class started, I found Jess, the instructor, looking at me straight in the eye from the 21.5” HD display of the bike. Suddenly the thing I found the creepiest from the live class was the thing I loved most of the virtual class. The connection I felt with Jess was far stronger than the one in the studio — even stronger than I’ve ever felt at a traditional spin class at SoulCycle or ride.bln.

Being more engaged resulted in a much better work out compared to the one I did in the studio. Admittedly, I’ve only taken a single virtual class, but I’m already convinced Peloton can bring the same high end spin class I take in studios into my own home.

The traditional spin class experience

In Berlin, I take spin classes at ride.bln. They have beautiful locker rooms and attentive staff. The environment is pretty much identical to Peloton’s NYC studio, except smaller. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.

My favorite instructor at ride.bln is Malin. Her style of dancing around the studio, correcting people’s postures, and reading the room so that we’re getting the best workout we can are the little things that make going to a real world spin class great — things you won’t ever get from a virtual class. Seeing my instructor pushing through with her eyes closed honors my struggle. Her energy makes me want to give her spin class everything I’ve got.

Photo from ride.bln

I am genuinely curious what her take would be if she tried to adapt her style to Peloton. Closing her eyes through a tough segment is not something she would be able to do as a Peloton instructor. Her style would have to completely change and having gone to her classes, I fear they would become soulless. Can she bring the same engagement to a class while staring into a camera? I’m afraid not.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you were to get a Peloton bike and join the cult, you can probably replicate the dark room with the same loud music at home, but I’m not sure it would really be the same as going to a good spin studio. What Peloton is is not exactly a replacement, but an alternative for people like me who don’t have a 9-to-5 routine.

What the cult of Peloton has done is remove several barriers of having to go to spin class. Spin classes may only last 30-60 minutes, but you also have to factor in the time to go to the studio, get ready, and everything that comes after. Peloton also made it easy for its customers to start and do spin classes more consistently. You can be a newbie and not get intimidated by the people around you and just spin at your own pace. You can even do the same classes when you’re traveling, no matter which timezone you’re in.

The best part of being part of the Peloton cult is not the high end equipment nor the classes; it’s the strong virtual connections it’s been able to create to motivate you to achieve your own fitness goals — whether you’re on your bike at home or some other place in the world.

Cult or not, both Peloton and traditional spin classes are great workouts if you’re already into fitness. If not, hearing people talk about it all the time can be annoying and does you no good. All of these classes are just tools to achieve our goals, and no amount of tech is good enough a motivation as the one that comes from within.

SEE ALSO: Confessions of a non-runner


Editor’s note: This is a slightly modified excerpt of an article written by the same author published on MobileGeeks.com.

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ASUS VivoBook S15 Review: Mixing style and function

Also a lesson about love and relationships

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Finding the right laptop is tricky if you want it to tailor to your preference and personality. If you want a laptop you can show-off that can also perform, the ASUS VivoBook S15 S531FL might be the one you’re looking for.

A bit of history: the new VivoBook S15 was launched earlier at Computex 2019. ASUS paraded a colorful lineup that would certainly grab anyone’s attention: Moss Green, Punk Pink, Cobalt Blue, Transparent Silver, and Gun Metal. Luckily, I was able to try this new laptop in Cobalt Blue. Not a lot of people would be enthralled with such bold and striking colors, but I beg to differ.

Made for the bold type

Growing up, I love being at the center of attention. Whether it was because of a new toy or the latest gadget, I love it when people gather around with amazement in their eyes, just because I brought something to the table. Their awe was enough of a reward for me; as if I did something extraordinary. The high from being validated was enough to keep the people around me excited and mesmerized.

That same feeling was what I felt when I used the VivoBook S15. While I was fixated on my screen, I felt everyone’s gaze as my laptop grabbed their attention. It’s a definite head-turner.

I mean, who wouldn’t be captivated by its looks? It stands out with its sleek, metal frame in vivid Cobalt Blue. It’s also adorned by Neon Red accents giving it a sophisticated vibe even at a glance. Moreover, a blue and red combination — in its most striking hue — is alluring to people fascinated with futuristic style.

Touch that lingers

The VivoBook S15 doesn’t just look good, but it feels upscale, too. Both the lid and body are made of fine aluminum, with the former having a textured finish. The embossed name also gives a subtle touch of class.

The body, on the other hand, was painted with a transparent silver color which glosses when there’s a substantial light shining over.

Back then, I kept on caressing the laptop as if my fingertips were running through a Burberry trench coat (or even Marc Jacobs underwear). I felt awestruck, especially with its trackpad which is fairly on point on its touch sensitivity. It’s decent compared to the previous laptop I used.

The keyboard was comfortable to type on. Most of its keys are large and evenly spaced, except for the arrow keys which are a lot smaller. Additionally, it’s light, soft and has a backlit design to let you work even in the dark.

Unfortunately, its bottom was made of plastic. To compensate, the laptop exhibits similar cuts on the base and perforations to look and feel better, especially when you hold it in your hands. The mix of aluminum and plastic offer the right amount of weight, making this combination common in most laptops nowadays. Honestly, it’s the perfect choice for frail people looking for a portable yet sturdy laptop.

Not just for show

In case you’re wondering, this laptop isn’t just for show. Even though it’s flamboyant and stylish, function is still at the core of its design language. Evident is ASUS’ ErgoLift hinge, which tilts the laptop to have an inclined position. This makes working on this laptop more comfortable on the wrists.

Productivity is one of its focus, considering all the ports available on each side. On the right, you can find the power input, a standard HDMI port, two USB 3.1 ports; one Type-A and one Type-C, an audio jack, and a microSD card reader.

On the left side, you can find two USB 2.0 ports which most people might find to be outdated since it’s already 2019. Most laptops nowadays come with USB-C ports instead. Nonetheless, I hate the dongle life and laptops carrying multiple ports are still better until every other device supports USB-C. This would pass, but I do hope that the next version would come with USB 4 ports, or at least USB 3.1.

The problem with just “looking good”

With its enormous size, it’s hard not to be drawn to the VivoBook S15. Its screen boasts a 15.6″ FHD panel bordered by thin bezels on every side, thanks to its NanoEdge design giving an almost-frameless look. Found on top is an IR HD camera, which isn’t as visible unless you put it under proper light.

I hate to rain on ASUS’ parade, but I honestly believe the display could’ve been better. The company is a braggart when it comes to their display, but let’s be real here: we don’t need something beautiful if it doesn’t provide what we need.

Consumers are looking for the very essence of a product’s feature, hence, the display should not be lackluster. It’s not bright and vibrant enough, and it has poor color reproduction. Moreover, it has a limited viewing angle and I experienced a lot of glare contrary to its claims.

It’s just like when you buy a fleece coat and a cashmere scarf, only to be duped when you find out it was mostly acrylic or polyester and it failed to provide the primary reason for buying it: to protect you from the cold during winter. The VivoBook S15 failed to give us the bright side of its display, but it’s one thing you can compromise if you already fell in love with its look.

Don’t have high hopes

While this laptop failed me in the display department, I wouldn’t let a single moment pass by to watch my favorite sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Despite all the disappointments I encountered, I still had high hopes for its audio performance since it was tuned by Harman Kardon.

However, don’t be fooled by its branding. Even though it has the Harman Kardon signature, the VivoBook S15 provides below average audio quality befitting a non-flagship laptop like this. The speakers are also stuck in the bottom, along with the fan perforations which can result in subdued sound quality especially when it’s placed on a flat surface.

I know, both the display and audio department have failed miserably yet I still found the whole experience with the laptop enjoyable. After all, comedies have taken a bulk on my watch list which guarantees I’ll be happy whatever I watch, wherever it may be. Yet as a person who sees a glass half-full, I honestly believe the VivoBook S15 is more than enough to most users.

My nitpicking is based on my impeccable — and irrationally — high standards, born out of using premium and flagship laptops first-hand. If I didn’t have any point of comparison, I would have opted for this one already.

But since I know we all deserve better, I still encourage you to look for the best you can find; unless this is the one that fits your preference, personality, and of course, budget. If that’s the case, then by all means, go ahead and continue reading.

Sometimes, it’s more than enough

The whole affair with the VivoBook S15 is like a dating adventure. I was hooked at first glance, and I admired its look and style, and I dived right in to feel it. One by one, I see red flags, and I still hold on to the tiny things that I might discover, hoping to make the affair with this “perfect” match going on.

In an attempt to hold on longer, I clung to one of the reasons why I chose this laptop. I looked back and remembered why I enjoyed every moment I was using it. The truth is this laptop provides more than what I need.

The VivoBook S15 is powered by an 8th-Gen Intel i7-8565U processor, running an NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics card. It also has an 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and 1TB HDD storage.

Yes, I’m a designer and I occasionally delve into multimedia work. If we’re going to talk about how I’m going to use this laptop in my everyday life, I’d say it’s more than enough. A confidante once affirmed that with the right person, you are enough.

Truly, the VivoBook S15 packs power more than what we need. It can let us browse the internet, open multiple tabs and multitask, and run Spotify, Netflix, Google Chrome, and Adobe Photoshop all at once in the background. Do note that these apps are some of the most power-consuming apps but the VivoBook S15 can handle everything without hiccups.

I also didn’t have qualms working on my post-processing sessions on Adobe Photoshop. On some occasions, I was able to handle illustrations through Adobe Illustrator and edit photos batch-by-batch in Adobe Lightroom. For those who do video editing, this laptop can handle a bit of editing, but I would look elsewhere.

Then again, I wouldn’t push a laptop beyond its limits, especially with a task it’s not meant to handle. Such examples are heavy multimedia works, or worse, playing graphics-intensive games. Sure it can do it albeit only to a certain extent.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I may have said a mix of praise and brutally honest complaints about this laptop, and it might have confused some of you. Frankly, the ASUS VivoBook S15 has a lot of shortcomings, especially for a laptop in 2019. Yet despite its imperfection, it still proved to be more than capable, especially for everyday users.

This laptop will surely do you wonders, increase your productivity, and let your creativity thrive. For PhP 60,995 (US$ 1206), the ASUS VivoBook S15 S531FL can be rivaled by other laptops out there, but they probably look tacky. None of them can compete with how ASUS packaged this beaut into something stylish yet functional to complement one’s lifestyle. This laptop is something worth bringing and showing-off while you do your work.

Even though I noticed a lot of flaws, I still chose to see the good in it. I have learned that if you want to make a thing last, you have to choose it. Just like in love, you have to choose it every single day. Sure, there’ll be drawbacks and a lot of disappointments along the way, but some can be glossed over, understood and accepted. We’ll always have unreasonable demands, but we only need to take a step back and see the reason why we choose this thing (or someone) in the first place. Sometimes, they are enough.

With this affirmation, I’m going to reward myself and buy this laptop as a gift for myself this holiday season. I believe this is my GadgetMatch.

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ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo: A multitasker’s dream

Is the expensive price tag worth it?

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I used to play MMORPGs while doing my schoolwork. Back then, I dreamed about working on a dual-monitor set up so I can multitask. Of course, my younger self won’t be able to afford a customized set up let alone convince his parents to buy one for him.

It was always a dream, given that my attention span is as short as a goldfish; moving from one task to another, wanting to do a lot of things all at once. Unexpectedly, my childhood dream reemerged when I got my hands on the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo.

Perfect Dual Display

The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo was first unveiled in Taipei during Computex 2019, enthralling everyone with a stunning, dual touchscreen display. Everyone dubbed it “The Laptop of Tomorrow” since its futuristic design could be a glimpse of how laptops might look like in the near future.

The ZenBook Pro Duo prides itself with a 4K OLED touchscreen 15.6″ main display. Yes, ASUS combined a 4K clarity and OLED display to show-off how premium this laptop is. Watching any form of entertainment is a visual treat in its humongous, stunning screen. You’ll surely build a mini theater at the comforts of your own home.

Additionally, this laptop boasts its crown jewel — the ScreenPad Plus. It’s a 4K secondary touchscreen display using an IPS LCD panel. Most people were amazed when they saw me working on a dual-display laptop. Everyone was curious and mesmerized but little did they know, it’s not that glamorous. Due to its flat placement, you have to look down to see what’s going on. Honestly, it’s impossible to look and read properly without straining your nape.

On top of the problem with its viewing angle, its aspect ratio isn’t perfect. You need to open a minimum of two apps and a maximum of three to fit the screen properly. The software used in ScreenPad Plus needs a lot of improvement.

Looking at the bright side, the ScreenPad Plus is a great way to multitask. I used to open Slack to keep in touch with my colleagues while I work remotely and play either Spotify or Netflix as background noise. In some occasions, creative individuals can use the ScreenPad Plus as an extension of their workspace while working on an artwork.

One of my favorite artists, Lei Melendres, used the secondary screen to watch YouTube videos while viewing his reference photos as a drawing guide. There’s an add-on stylus, too, in case you really love drawing on your screen.

Power that’s more than what you need

The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo has so much raw power, packed with impressive specs dedicated for professionals. It runs on Intel’s best Core i9-9980HK coupled with a 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD. Additionally, it’s powered by an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. Just looking at its specs can overwhelm an everyday user.

However, if you use powerful apps like Adobe, Corel, Lumion, and SketchUp, this laptop can support you in your creative pursuits. It can handle editing photos and videos, working on heavy illustrations, animations, and architectural renders.

Play games, but moderately

When it comes to performance, you can’t really say anything bad about ASUS. They really outdid themselves with this chunky, premium laptop. Designed with every power user in mind, the ZenBook Pro Duo can be enjoyed not just by content creators and professionals, but also by gamers.

I have to tell you right from the start: The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo isn’t a gaming machine for all your gaming dreams. It has a problem with cooling, despite its ErgoLift design and Cool-Air express system with five heat pipes for proper venting.

While I have no qualms playing and running multiple apps since, I’m afraid the heat could damage the sensitive components of the laptop. A lot of times, I accidentally break my laptops because of overheating.

Nonetheless, it’s still powerful enough to run Dota 2 and other graphics-intensive games but only do so for a short time. I highly suggest you play on gaming machines if that’s your jam. If you plan on streaming while playing, it has a webcam properly placed on its top bezel but as with any built-in webcams I’ve tried, it’s best to use an external camera to use for better results.

It’s not a laptop

The ZenBook Pro Duo already looks great at first glance, even more so when you test its power and performance. However, only after using it for some time you’ll see how it’s not really a laptop. It’s thick and chunky, too heavy to carry around — definitely not fit for portability.

It has poor battery life, which runs for two-to-three hours of browsing, social media, and watching videos. If you’re a power user, you need to have this laptop stationed in a spot near a power outlet. It felt like I was using a mobile PC than a laptop.

Comfort isn’t one of its strong points

ZenBooks are known for their ErgoLift design. It tilts the laptop to a comfortable typing position, which also improves its cooling and audio performance. This design is truly enjoyable, except for the ZenBook Pro Duo.

Due to the ScreenPad Plus taking a lot of space, the keyboard was pushed down to the edge leaving no room for your palms to rest. To compensate, the laptop comes with an add-on wrist rest, which is another thing to bring unless you decide to put the laptop in a dedicated work station. But even if you have the added palm rest, its keyboard is too spongey to type on.

Additionally, the trackpad was pushed to the lower right side. It’s practically useless, as it’s too small for you to use on a dual-screen laptop. It also doubles as a calculator and a number pad, which you’ll barely need.

There are a lot of improvements needed for the ZenBook Pro Duo’s functions and ergonomics. Seeing this as a first-gen product, it’s forgivable for ASUS since the laptop will only get better in the coming years.

Design and Details

The ZenBook Pro Duo is beautifully designed. It comes in a futuristic and elegant color called Celestial Blue, decorated with its iconic Zen-inspired aluminum finish, and diamond-cut edges that add subtle sophistication. Who wouldn’t be captivated by this laptop?

It feels premium in every touch. Whenever you glide your fingers, there’s this awestruck feeling of touching a glimpse of the future. To add more to its elegance, ASUS engineered Harman Kardon speakers providing decent sound quality.

But the classiness has its shortcomings, too. For a chunky and premium laptop made for creative professionals, it doesn’t have an SD card slot and contains a few ports.

It has two USB 3.1 Type-A, one Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C, one standard HDMI slot, one 3.5mm audio port, and a DC input. Instead of adding more ports, ASUS used the sides to put vents for cooling purposes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo has a lot of shortcomings, but it’s easily one of the best laptops today. It’s highly innovative and powerful to help you be more productive and creative. It’s an excellent laptop for creators and professionals willing to gloss over the inconveniences such as its ergonomics, poor battery life, and portability issues. After all, it can do everything you want to do, including bringing your ideas to life.

If money is no object, I would say this laptop is my GadgetMatch. However, there’s a lot more that I can buy than this laptop with a PhP 199,995 (US$ 3931) price tag. It’s expensive, but it’s a price we’ll really pay to use a futuristic laptop packed with innovations we never thought we needed.

Like I said earlier, this laptop is a first-generation product. Just like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, this is a welcome innovation. Seeing how smartphones and laptops are getting absurd and weird upgrades, it’s astonishing to see a possibility of what our future gadgets could be.

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