back to article Dual-screen laptops debut at Asus' Computex chat

Asus has staged its annual Computex keynote and shown off laptops with dual screens. One is real product: the ZenBook Pro 15 is a 15-incher packing CPUs up to a hex-core Core i9, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and a 1TB solid state disk. There’s also a main 15.6" screen capable of 4K UHD. And then there’s the second screen, a …

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Facepalm

riiiight...

"When you run the ScreenPad, the touchpad won’t work"

I've got a great idea. Put up a virtual screenpad as an overlay in the main screen. This will allow the touchpad to work as accustomed. The virtual screenpad could even be made moveable so you can position it where you like.

All it needs is a snappy name - a "window" perhaps?

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Re: riiiight...

I'm not sure that's the case - if you watch the video, they use the ScreenPad as a mouse at one point. Still frustrating if you keep launching stuff by accident from the ScreenPad.

All the device manufacturers are looking desperate for new features at the moment. I think this one will soon be gone.

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Re: riiiight...

"If you watch the video, they use the ScreenPad as a mouse at one point"

As I read the article, the pad is dual-mode, it can be switched between a conventional touchpad and an independent display. So one would expect the video to demo both. It's the new mode I am facepalming over, not the legacy one. Riiiiight?

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Re: riiiight...

>I've got a great idea.

Or even better: Get the ScreenPad app to work with a (bluetooth) paired mobile phone to your laptop and achieve exactly the same results without having to resort to the F6 key. But then this would work on laptops other than Asus...

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Why? Why a touchpad/screen thing? What good will it be? Watching pr0nz surreptitiously?

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Other way of doing the same:

For years Adobe has had companion iOS apps that present OSX Photoshop et al tool pallettes on an iPhone or iPad, freeing up work area on the Mac's desktop.

I don't know one how well this Asus idea will work (the act of switching between touchpad mode and touchscreen mode might be clunky) and it's not making want to rush out and buy an Asus laptop, but there are some workflows where using a combination of touchscreen and mouse (or stylus and keyboard, or whatever) can work well.

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I'm puzzled by that second device. I can't think of a situation where someone would want a slither of a second screen above a non-tactile on-screen keyboard. And the use-cases for needing both halves of a laptop to be actual screens also seem small.

Still, I may be proved wrong.

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@Phil Kingston

Came here to say that basically.

The touchpad thing may or may not work, and or may not vanish with the next generation of device.

The second one though? Who was it wanting or asking for a tiny, barely legible screen above the keyboard?

Solution - go find your problem.

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Dual screen laptops in an office make sense, most people where I work dock their laptops most of the time - so that keyboard is a waste of space most of the time.

Occasionally useful when travelling (but I still tend to take an external keyboard to put the screen far enough away).

If the clamshell can sit up in dual portrait mode....

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Anonymous Coward

More importantly: can it fold back on itself, and be used to play Battleships in two-player mode?

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There would be applications for a dual screen laptop in music production (UI consists of virtual sliders and the like) but that market is fairly well served by iPads already (wireless MIDI built in, good 3rd party developer support). Windows isn't great for music, never know when Windows is going to scratch it's arse, insist on an update, or decide it wants to use its audio subsystem instead of ASIO. It might be better these days, but I'd still research forums extensively before buying into a Windows-based DAW.

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I thought that too. But the second screen would be a pain in the neck (literally) to see. That whole thing would need to held up at such a stupid angle.

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Anonymous Coward

"Windows isn't great for music..."

What do you mean Windows isn't great for music? I mean look at the boot loops it generates. Not only do they synthesize well with your intensive emotion, but they also always start with great timing.

And you're saying wireless MIDI input for iPad? Oh Please. With Windows, you can generate loops with emotion without lifting a finger! Without a single finger! It does it all on it's own!

/s

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"More importantly: can it fold back on itself, and be used to play Battleships in two-player mode?"

According to Linus Tech Tips - yes it can... it got called 'tent' mode rather than battleships mode though...

And the 'book' dual screen option was shown as well...

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Anonymous Coward

'Yet buyers are clearly more interested in the comparatively conservative wares'

Maybe or they got badly burnt by Asus with a bad batch of laptops that crash and overheat. Anyone for a throwaway-brick that cost 2 grand?!

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting but clunky

Looks interesting, but hardcoded apps and inconsistent UI design are meh. Useless without universal APIs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting but clunky

> Looks interesting, but hardcoded apps and inconsistent UI design are meh. Useless without universal APIs.

The way I read it, there is nothing special API-wise with the second display being just a regular second display from the application's point of view. Or did I miss something?

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Re: Interesting but clunky

The UI didn't appear to have anything in common with the UI in WIndows. As it only appeared to work with Windows Calendar and Windows Mail (not Outlook), it appears to have a very limited use case in an office envrionment.

Even worse - the web interface of Office 365 is now so good that I can imagine people only using their browser for intermittent use of Office. Then we start looking at the potential of a different OS...

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Re: Interesting but clunky

Looks interesting, but hardcoded apps and inconsistent UI design are meh. Useless without universal APIs.

Yup, 'app' type thingies with a probably limited repo will kill this.

Needs a standard screen designation and ability in the O.S. window management to allow specification to a particular screen, then you wouldn't have to rely on 'apps', just a window rule to send the calender/calculator/whatever to the extra screen or not, let the user decide what fits and what doesn't.

(don't know about Windows, not used it in a long time, but) KDE Plasma could do it, but it's multi-monitor has still got faults and flaws too - I don't think a lot of KDE devs use multi-monitor.

It's 2018, and we're headed toward phones combined with large screens and keyboards, treating multi screens as one desktop seems anachronistic and limiting. It's why I keep being drawn back to the deceptively complex window managers.

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Facepalm

FFS...

Because that's what people with laptops want...Crappy on screen keyboards with no tactile feedback, next to an actual functioning keyboard with tactile feedback and a familiar layout...

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Childcatcher

Re: FFS...

I haven't used a decent keyboard on laptop for over 10yr. Ever since they all went widescreen and chiclet.

Bring back the good ol' 4:3

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Re: FFS...

I beg to differ. Changed jobs, and now a laptop is my only work machine. The widescreen allows me to have a full number pad next to the letters rather than use the external keyboard.

But they couldn't be bothered to make a proper arrow / page-up, page-down, insert, delete area. Or make the Esc and Fn keys full-size (I need F2 for Excel!).

I would NOT go to a touchscreen keyboard full time EVER if I had the choice.

Anyone turned the thing sideways to display two pages of an ebook?

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Re: FFS...

I doubt you'd see 4:3 again, but 16:10 or 3:2 would be a nice upgrade.

I'd love to see *anyone* try and make a laptop by thinking, hey why don't we put a good, generous screen (ie, not a cramped 16:9 screen), decent keyboard and top-notch trackpad into a laptop and see how it sells.

Instead, it's gimmicks and thinness meaning that crap screens, lousy keyboards and nasty trackpads continue to be the order of the day...

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Re: FFS...

Microsoft's Surface Book 2 finally breaks the bore of 16:9 - it comes with 3:2 in a 15" laptop. Just a shame about the hinge style really, have't seen one in person so don't know about the keyboard but otherwise it seems pretty good, if a little pricey.

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Re: FFS...

keyboards with no tactile feedback

No good for long term keyboard entry use, no. But how many casual computer users just browsing do much of that...If they do, plug in an external.

I can see some interesting uses for a screen keyboard in the realms of adaptive illustrated keyboard layouts for applications - like having the key layout illustrated for those users who don't use enough to memorise shortcuts. Have the desktop panel appear there, saving main screen real estate, and of course touch centred there where it makes sense rather than the main screen, where it's often awkward.

Then there's games key layouts, and the opportunity to try more modern keylayouts than one designed to prevent the keys from jamming on long defunct mechanical typewriters....The only reason we're still stuck with qwerty is staid conservatism combined with the the tyranny of the uninformed populous.

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Coat

Re: Teiwaz

They already make laptops without physical keyboards...They're called tablets...

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WTF, why?

I mean I can mildly understand putting a touchpad into a laptop, but seriously putting an additional screen there will just waste valuable battery power as that screen will always be obscured by your hands.

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Re: WTF, why?

I see it as more of a luggable than portable solution.

Most of the time when I use my laptop I have the option to use an external keyboard. In that case dual portrait screens are useful - more useful than a keyboard in the machine itself.

When I occasionally use it on the sofa, or in-between destinations, having the ability to type on the second screen could be useful.

As a proof of concept I like it. Would it be useful in the real world? I don't know - but I like that someone is trying things to see how it actually works.

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Re: WTF, why?

Yeah, using this twin-screened laptop in a docked setup with external keyboard actually makes sense. Keyboard at home, keyboard in workplace - and sub optimal typing on the train in-between. And heck, how much are external monitors these days anyways?

It could work well for some people, but not everybody.

Heck, I'm now thinking of a laptop that hinges on the other edge so it opens into an ultrawide twin display. Sticks some glowing lights on it and sell it to gamers!

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Presentation mode?

The only use case for the "screenpad" that I can think of is, maybe, when one makes presentations: the main screen will be projected onto the big screen/TV/whatever and show the presentation, while the small screen will contain notes and other stuff the audience should not see. The presenter will face both screens simultaneously and will not do much on the keyboard during the talk.

But that's a stretch as far as selling power goes.

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Re: Presentation mode?

Except PowerPoint already gives you the option of having a different display on laptop vs projector.

Keep trying, we may find a use for it eventually!

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Anonymous Coward

I used to like Asus stuff. The original transformer pad is a brilliant piece of kit.

But then I bought one of their AC68U VSDL routers. The WiFi failed after two weeks (hardware problem). So I took it back to the shop and exchanged it. That happened four times. Then I realised they are all faulty from the factory so I bought a separate WiFi hotspot and I just use the Asus as a simple router. I'm no longer impressed by ASUS kit.

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Anonymous Coward

> I'm no longer impressed by ASUS kit.

It is true that they're not very consistent quality-wise. I have had generally good experiences with their laptops and motherboards but I have also seen their tablet-like stuff fall apart like it was a badly made counterfeit. I still buy Asus, but I research *very* carefully beforehand.

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Anonymous Coward

It's sooo shiny and super lit!

Is it aimed at teenagers? Just missing a "yo" on the end.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's sooo shiny and super lit!

Yo!

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Re: It's sooo shiny and super lit!

Weren't the last round of "super lit" laptops diagnosed as faulty batteries from Sony?

And then there were the "super lit" Galaxy Note 7s.

I once opened a server to find a DLink NIC in the process of becoming "super lit" inside, too, but that was nothing compared to when the electricity meter in the office became "super lit". Good times...

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Thumb Up

Why only now ?

I've been thinking about this ScreenPad thingy for ages. I don't like touchpads, a mouse feels much more natural, therefore when beeing at my desk the touchpad is unused. The only thing is how to efficiently switch modes (TouchPad -vs- ScreenPad)

I don't think it's supposed to be working as a screen, rather as an adaptive secondary keyboard. ExcelExcelSomething like the MagicBar in new MacBooks, but better. When necessary, it can display a NumPad (in a spreadsheet for example), sliders or toolboxes (in Photoshop). If it where combined with a pen input it could be even more interesting.

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Re: Why only now ?

Power consumption plus size, possibly cost.

Waiting for these things to get to manageable levels before Apple can claim to be the first... ahem, before everyone else manages to adopt this "new tech".

Most things are possible with today's tech, but doing so well, cheaply or with longevity is difficult.

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Re: Why only now ?

I think you're right. But if it doesn't become common then no one will program their applications to use the area as a second control pad and you'd be left with the basics like programmable keys or volume controls etc.

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I would avoid this if it's anything like Asus last attempt to make a dual screen laptop - I had the ASUS Taichi 13 laptop with 2 full hd screens and it was a fantastic laptop but ASUS dropped support for it after a year so it had no driver updates from Windows 8.1 and was a bitch to get running properly on Windows 10 without any official drivers. Great laptop but ASUS killed it themselves and I won't be getting another ASUS laptop after that.

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Great, if you want to run a Nintendo DS emulator, or have two tablets sellotaped together at the hinge and call it a "laptop".

Otherwise? I honestly can't see the point at all.

Is it really that hard in this day and age to make a thin tablet, that slots into the top of a laptop screen (behind the laptop screen itself). When docked, single screen and it charges up the second. When undocked, it's a wireless screen / tablet that connects to the laptop and acts as a second-screen. Or functions entirely independently. At least for a few hours.

Kids bothering you? Pull out the screen and let them use it while you use the laptop. At a presentation? Pull out the screen and use it as speaker's notes/input to the main laptop. Working on a train? Tuck the screen behind the laptop screen and let it charge from it. I could literally glue a tablet charging piece of plastic envelope to the back of a laptop screen, run a few wires for USB charging, and find some software to use a second computer as an extended monitor (Chromecast-esque), and hey-presto, same idea.

I honestly can't fathom "notches", the little application strip thingy on the new Macs, or any other similar nonsense. I never figured out that gaming keyboard that was OLED on every key either. But it seems to me that nobody ever does the obvious.

Hell, sell the second screen as a tablet in its own right and save all the "unique" manufacturing costs.

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The only reasonable use I can think of for it is as a toolbox window for graphical applications. Your Photoshops, Gimps, AutoCADs etc. That'll give you a separate display where you can select tools and effects without having them obscure the main display.

It's not something that I really want, but I daresay others could be swayed if there were software support for it. The question, of course, is are there enough people (more imaginative than me) who can see the potential, coupled with enough people with deep pockets to buy into it?

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Lots of engineering apps too. Matlab, LabVIEW, CANoe / CANalyzer come to mind. But usually engineers have decent desktop (or docked-laptop) setups -- with multiple large monitors -- to handle this kind of thing. On travel, a "classic" laptop is best for handling email, expense reports, and the like. In my opinion, this "solution" is a bit too gimmicky for normal work use.

I could honestly see a two-screen laptop work well for a FPS, with an overhead map on the lower screen.

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I could honestly see a two-screen laptop work well for a FPS, with an overhead map on the lower screen.

Ah - like the VMU on the Dreamcast? I don't think they ever did a map on that, but rather stuff like ammo counts instead. Higher resolution would fix that though.

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Ah - like the VMU on the Dreamcast?

Well, that's an ancient reference. Nintendo have been doing that more recently with the 3DS / Wii-U (although both weren't massive sucesses).

I never found the VMU screen worth anything except using it as a tamogutchi on the bus back from work.

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Trollface

You may laugh now

But wait until Apple invent this in 3 years time.

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Pointless

Manufacturers are getting real desperate aren't they as the scrabble to create something consumers want but never asked for.

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Re: Pointless

But not so desperate as to provide something actually useful!

Apricot back in the mid 1980's with the Xen had "dynamic function keys", naturally it didn't take off as it as a vendor specific enhancement. So vendors continued to supply function key overlay and keyboard shortcut crib cards for many years (although I think MS stopped this practice with Win95 and Office 95).

Apple with the MacBook Pro TouchBar (launched 2016), effectively have invented/re-interpreted this concept - although it is not available for the Mac. [Aside: naturally they have patented this as an "adaptive input row".]

Yet with the PC (Win/Linux) we are still restricted to the standard static keyboard...

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Ah. Almost there! Except please make it a dual-screen PHONE and let one of the screens be the keyboard whenever I need to type anything, instead of the current "you can see two lines of text over the keyboard" landscape mode. Other times just use the two screens as one large one, the missing "hinge" section won't be too much of a distraction between one row and the next reading a webpage in landscape. Although if you decide to just make one of them a permanent hardware keyboard you won't see me complain either...

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Microsoft tried something similar except the phone became the keyboard and projected to a screen.

Downside was that by the time you had all the cables and had confirmed the screen was compatible, it was easier to just carry a laptop.

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