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Asus ZenBook 15 (2019) hands-on review: ScreenPad comes to the standard ZenBook range

Asus updates its standard ZenBook range with tiny touchpad screens

It seems like only yesterday that Asus unveiled a new lineup of ZenBook and ZenBook Pro laptops at IFA 2018; now, here I am at Computex 2019 in Taipei, checking out the all-new 2019 ZenBook range.

The big news this year is ScreenPad – a miniature touchscreen display built into the touchpad. The original implementation was first seen in last year’s ZenBook Pro range, and an updated version has now been incorporated into the 2019 ZenBook 13, 14 and 15, plus the 13in and 14in variants of the ZenBook Flip. A super-sized version of the ScreenPad can also be found on the newly announced Asus ZenBook Pro Duo.

I’ve been getting hands-on with the ZenBook 15 (2019) at Asus’ Computex 2019 event, so here’s everything you need to know about the 2019 Asus ZenBook 15 and ScreenPad 2.0.

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Asus ZenBook 15 (2019) review: Key specifications, price and release date

  • 15in “frameless” NanoEdge 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD) display
  • Up to Intel Core i7 CPU
  • Up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q CPU
  • Up to 1TB PCI-E SSD
  • ScreenPad 2.0
  • IR camera
  • UK price: TBC
  • UK release: TBC

Asus ZenBook 15 (2019) review: Design, key features and first impressions

At a glance, the new ZenBook 15 looks no different to the last one – but that’s no bad thing because the 2018 version was a stunning laptop. It retains the title of “the world’s smallest 15in” laptop, since no other manufacturer has managed to best its impressive 92% screen-to-bezel ratio, and it has the same aluminum chassis with metal spun finish, the same ultra-slim profile and the same elevated keyboard design.

Upon closer inspection, however, you’ll notice something different about the touchpad: it’s sort of glassy, like a screen. And that’s because it is indeed a tiny, tiny screen, which offers an additional space in which you can display an application or web page.

By swiping left and right in smartphone fashion you can scroll through applications on the ScreenPad, while using a multi-finger gesture blanks it out, so you can use it like a standard touchpad.

I have to say, I didn’t like the ScreenPad when I first saw it at IFA 2018. I found it too small and fiddly – and, sadly, that remains the case with this next-generation version. The commands don’t always work, and it’s all too easy to unintentionally open up applications, which quickly gets annoying. ScreenPad 2.0 is activated and deactivated with the F6 button, and after a little initial experimentation I suspect most people will leave it switched off.

Indeed, I’m confused as to whom the ScreenPad is aimed. Who wants to watch a video or browse the web on a touchpad-sized screen that’s greasy with fingerprints (because it’s a touchpad) when they have a perfectly good 15in display right above? Not me. Still, the ScreenPad 2.0 is more power-efficient than the original design: Asus has achieved this by making it dGPU-free, reducing its impact on the laptop’s battery life.

Speaking of GPUs, the Asus ZenBook 15 (2019) can be equipped with up to a Nvidia GeForce 1650 Max-Q, alongside the latest Intel Core i7 CPU and a 1TB PCI-E SSD. That’s good, but it’s not a significant boost over what was offered on the ZenBook 15 (2018). We can also assume that, like previous ZenBook models, the new ZenBooks will offer Full HD displays at a minimum.

Asus ZenBook 15 (2019) review: Early verdict

The big news about the ZenBook 15 (2019) is the addition of ScreenPad 2.0 – but, frankly, I feel that this actually makes it less appealing. It undeniably offers something new over last year’s model, but as far as new Asus laptops go, the ZenBook Pro Duo is by far the more interesting.

I’ll be updating this hands-on review as more information becomes available so watch out for that, as well as our full review, which will land once the new ZenBooks hit UK shores.