What Are Dual-Screen Laptops (And Are They Worth It?)

Key Takeaways

  • Dual-screen laptops offer secondary screens intended to boost productivity, making them ideal for creative professionals.
  • While dual-screen laptops were initially expensive, they have become more affordable, with options like the ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 available for around the same price as an entry-level M1 MacBook Air.
  • The benefits of a built-in second screen include multitasking capabilities and additional control options for creative software. However, ergonomic compromises, such as keyboard and trackpad placement, should be considered.

Just about everyone agrees that a dual-screen (or ultrawide) desktop monitor setup can improve productivity, but what about laptops that promise to pack the power of dual screens into the body of a normal unassuming laptop body?

What Is a Dual-Screen Laptop?

As the name suggests, a dual-screen laptop is simply a laptop that has two separate screens built into its design. There have been different approaches to this over the years, but the most successful is almost certainly ASUS’ approach with it’s line of DUO laptops such as the ROG Zephyrus DUO 16 or the ZenBook Pro Duo laptops.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 (2022)

Not only is the Zephyrus Duo 16 a cracking high-end gaming laptop, it’s innovative integrated second screen makes it a productivity monster, especially for creative folk who work with video, music, or graphic design.

These laptops have a normal full laptop screen lid, but the lower half of the laptop is anything but traditional. Instead, the upper half of the laptop deck is taken up by a half-sized touch screen. This second monitor is usually hinged so that it angles up towards you as you open the laptop.This screen is simply seen as an ultrawide monitor by Windows or whatever operating system you’re using, so you can use any application on it.

Dual Screen Laptops Are Getting Cheaper

When these laptops first launched, the asking prices were truly eye-watering and definitely only for early adopters. While these systems haven’t exactly become cheap, you can now have a dual-screen laptop for around the same money you’d spend on an entry-level M1 MacBook Air. The ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 can usually be found for less than a grand, and offers respectable specifications over and above the extra screen.

ASUS ZenBook Duo 14
ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 UX482

One of the most affordable dual-screen laptops on the market, the Duo 14 offers a great balance of specs along with that slick second display, making it perfect for creative types on the go.

The Benefits of a Built-in Second Screen

The productivity benefits of these dual-screen systems should be obvious, even though the second screen is only half-height. For example, you can have your emails open on the bottom screen while you work on the top, or if you’re using a creative app such as Adobe Premiere or Photoshop, you can use the bottom screen to house windows with tools, or your video timeline.

In cases where the secondary screen is also a touch screen, it opens up numerous control options. For example, you might have a virtual MIDI keyboard for your music production software on the screen, or the knobs and dials for a virtual sound processor. The same goes for people who do things like color grading in software such as Da Vinci Resolve. Think of it like the MacBook Touch Bar, except useful.

Dual-Screen Designs Have Ergonomic Compromises

While these laptops are undoubtedly cool, and have clear practical benefits, there are some serious downsides too. Apart from the extra power drain of having an entire extra screen in the system, other things have to be shuffled around to make room.

In most of these laptops, the keyboard is moved down to the edge of the deck, and offset to the left to make room for a portrait-shaped touchpad on the right. This presents some immediate issues such as having no palm rests for the keyboard and leaving lefties in the lurch. While trackpads such as these are certainly workable, if you’re going to do any serious or extended work you’ll want to whip out an external mouse.

Alternatives to Integrated Dual Screens

If you like the idea of a dual-screen laptop on the go, but not the price tag or the compromises, there are other ways to take your dual-screen setup on the go. You can turn any laptop into a dual-screen laptop. For example, you can use an Android or Apple tablet computer you already have and use it as a second monitor. There are also many fantastic portable USB monitors on the market that are thin enough to slide in right next to your laptop in its existing bag.

A dual-screen laptop is certainly worth it for the right type of user, but unless you have a very specific set of needs, it makes more sense to roll your own dual-screen solution or simply make do with the perfectly good single display your laptop already has.


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