ASUS has unveiled their newest generation of notebook PCs at Computex 2018 in Taiwan. The flagship model of the new lineup is the ZenBook Pro, which swaps the standard touchpad input with a 1080p 5.5" touch display. This is an obvious counter to the MacBook Pro's touch bar, which supplanted the function keys with a touch display that stretches across the length of the keyboard.
The ZenBook Pro 15 is available with either an Intel Core i9-8950HK, i7-8750H, or i5-8300H hexa-core processor, maxing out at 3.9 GHz for the i9-powered model. The 15.6" screen is available in 4K or 1080p formats, which is driven by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB GDDR5 RAM. Storage options are 1TB or 512GB PCIe x4-linked SSD, or 512GB or 256GB SATA3 SSD, paired with either 8GB or 16GB RAM.
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The ScreenPad, as ASUS calls it, is a 1080p Super IPS+ display tucked behind glass to prevent damage, and supports "up to four-finger smart gestures." As with the MacBook Pro's touch bar, the utility of having a display where the touchpad is software compatibility. ASUS is including a variety of tools out of the box, including a calculator, calendar, music player, and app launcher—much as one would find on a smartphone—as well as specialized integrations with Microsoft Office and YouTube. ASUS is planning to release an SDK for third-party developers to utilize the feature.
The ZenBook Pro is being marketed for productivity, specifically content creation—ASUS touts the screen as having 100% Adobe RGB and 132% sRGB coverage, with Pantone validation and factory-calibrated color accuracy. The Office integration with ScreenPad allows users touch control of Office functions, but without needing to put your hands in front of the content you are trying to work with. Effectively, the idea is having the convenience of a touchscreen, but in the usage profile of a traditional notebook.
The 15" model is equipped with a 71Wh 8-cell Li-Po battery, which ASUS estimates at 9.5 hours of use—with both screens on, according to a presenter on the Computex show floor. The entry-level price is $2,299, with US availability in mid-July. Pricing details for the high-end SKU were unavailable.
ASUS also tipped the existence of "Project Precog," which is a laptop which completely replaces the keyboard with a secondary screen. Unlike other devices, like Lenovo Yoga laptops with a touch panel in place of a keyboard, the Precog hardware demo is two full LCD screens. The demo allows for 360 degree rotation, making it possible to use laid flat, or in "tent mode." In many ways, Project Precog looks like a second attempt at the ASUS Taichi, which was unveiled in 2012, though failed to make a significant impact.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- The new ZenBook Pro swaps the standard touchpad with a 1080p 5.5" touch display.
- ASUS also tipped the existence of "Project Precog," which is a laptop which completely replaces the keyboard with a secondary screen.
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James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.