All eyes are definitely on the Zenbook Duo and Pro Duo at present time but the current generation Zenbook lineup with its ScreenPad 2.0 is not to be counted out.
If you’ve yet to experience the additional screen that is offered by all the Zenbooks of this year then strap in for a crash course on what that is and how it is going to make several forms of multitasking even better than before. I’ve had the privilege of having the Zenbook UX434 with me for a couple of weeks and it was all about the ScreenPad with it. The SKU that was sent to me for review came with an Intel Core i5-8265U, 8GBs of RAM, and an Nvidia MX250 and it retails for only Php 59,995. There is an i7/16GB variant that costs Php 69,995.
What is the ScreenPad?
In a nutshell it is basically a second screen that exists within the Zenbook (or in another similarly equipped laptop offering from Asus) situated where the trackpad normally is. You can make it so that it functions just like a traditional trackpad with nothing on it – basically turned off, but that’s underplaying the usefulness of an actual second screen along with you. If you can’t imagine how this is like, you can picture your smartphone in the trackpad area and that’s basically what the ScreenPad is.
How do you interact with it?
The ScreenPad 2.0 has several settings that is baked into an overlay software called “ScreenXpert” that is actually always on and is just waiting to be called up on. There is a ScreenPad “taskbar” which you could pin so that it is always available for you with very identifiable buttons to trigger some important… nay…. indispensable functions:
Trackpad mode – this puts up a translucent black overlay that allows you to use the screen as a trackpad while it is functioning as a screen
Switch to Main Screen – transfers the current application in the ScreenPad into the full sized “main” screen when you want to shift focus into what you were doing on the ScreenPad
ScreenPad Home – brings up the ScreenXpert page where pinned apps are listed. You can delete non-system shortcuts here by long pressing on one of them and X marks appear on removable ones to clean it up.
Multitask – shows you apps that are running on the ScreenPad monitor side and you can switch between each one or send it up to the main screen.
Settings – brings up a menu of ScreenPad related functions.
Lock – makes it so that the ScreenPad taskbar is always visible regardless of what is on the ScreenPad at any time.
The settings page controls everything about the ScreenPad to wit:
Brightness – you get an overlay which lets you set how dim/bright you’d want the screen to be
Background – it’s your typical desktop wallpaper control here for the ScreenPad specifically
Battery Saver toggle – still unsure what this does really but I can imagine it puts the ScreenPad into a low power consumption mode that would help to extend the battery life of the computer
Resolution – there are two of them on the ready – 2160×1080 or 1000×500
Refresh Rate – lets you choose between 50 and 60Hz
In true smartphone style, “apps” can be pinned to the ScreenXpert home page which are basically oversized program shortcuts that can be triggered by a single tap. These automatically run full-screen on the ScreenPad and is a very convenient tool to fire up your most used multitasking program.
How would you use it?
So this is where the idea behind a second screen gets dissected. On full resolution, it is actually just like a 2:1 aspect smartphone… difference being – you’re running Windows on it. You can’t read anything without straining your eyes on this level of detail at 1080p because Windows was not made to run on a 5-6″ screen. On the other hand, using programs at 1000×500, while not unheard of, is not ideal for most implementations… for the young ones, you should know that prior to the 1080p screens that have become almost standard nowadays, earlier notebooks had 1366×768 resolutions and that’s not very far off.
The placement of the screen also becomes sort of an issue when you’re using the Zenbook without a mouse. If you keep up the “trackpad mode” you can’t really see what is underneath it hence you might be served better by keeping the screen off saving you precious battery life especially outside and far away from any sort of outlet.
Running media on it is the most obvious utility, attested to by the Spotify app that is on there by default. Controls on media players are sparse and often big on the interface making it a non-issue even when working on the higher resolution. Youtube works on it fine, even on 500p… still I prefer the 1080p environment for the second screen as content is that much more crisp. I’ve tried various scaling values on it and it’s just too bad that you can’t scale one monitor independent of the other, regardless, hitting 200% is basically what 500p is and it is a very usable interface at that level. What is amazing is whenever I send the app to the main screen there is practically no lag, it just pops up, zero delays on the audio or display jankiness due to different sizes or what, it just works.
Now because of the existence of the keyboard in between the screens you kind of feel that this area is independent of the other one and you don’t necessarily relate the main screen to this secondary one. At least it feels that way for me. I do have a production habit of putting up some manner of audio or video to keep my mind awake and it works generally but usually on the same plane as what I am working on. Audio, for sure there wouldn’t be any problems putting it on the ScreenPad but putting a video on this second screen – it takes away from the focus.
The better use for it actually came from looking over available “native” apps for the ScreenPad of which “Message” was available.
Unlike the experience with media on the ScreenPad side of the laptop, putting up a messaging application/site on it was incredibly natural and frees up the required moving in and out of the “work” program on the main screen. Add to that you can use your fingers to swipe around on the messages just like how you would on a smartphone. In this use case though I put the resolution back to 500p. Another cool thing to note is that whenever you use your fingers on the ScreenPad (while functioning as a screen) it doesn’t bring the cursor along with it so your work, or wherever you suddenly stop on that to use the secondary screen, can just pick up from where you were as if you didn’t move the mouse at all, pretty neat implementation.
One thing I found out though is whenever the computer would sleep, all of the open windows go to the main screen and the ScreenPad reverts to the ScreenXpert home so be on the lookout for this especially if you’re keeping something obscured/private on there and you had some unexpected idle time and your computer had to “sleep”.
That aside, the experience with the Zenbook UX434 is an improvement to an already excellent performance that everyone would expect to find within a notebook that bears the Zenbook moniker. It’s incredibly compact still, although not as thin anymore but that’s alright. The package is fantastic, especially when you learn to use it the right way. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a secondary screen that is always available to you right?
The Zenbook UX434 comes packed with ports which is something I kinda miss with my present all USB-C setup. On the left we have power port, full sized HDMI, USB, USB-C.
And on the right we have an audio jack, another USB port and a microSD card slot
Tha package comes with a laptop sleeve that can be found tucked into the top portion of the box, it isn’t leather but it serves its purpose well.
Here are the workstation benchmarks for the UX434 i5/8GB/MX250:
The UX434 is an excellent all day carry along with its enhanced productivity feature on the ScreenPad 2.0 as well as the price to performance ratio. It is a very easy recommendation from me ^^
PS The ideal usage scenario that I found with the UX434 with the Screenpad on is the unit propped up at an angle, with an external keyboard and a mouse.