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Asus replaced the touchpad on its new ZenBook Pro with a 5.5-inch touchscreen (theverge.com)
307 points by lando2319 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments



Dave 2D had a great video review on this product.

What makes this totally different from the touch bar is with the touch bar, you have to wait for developers to add support in their products (or as a dev, write your own tooling). Apple has the muscle to simply make everyone support their crappy bar.

The ZenBook screen is usable right away by anybody. You can just drag any window there. It can be your Steam chat while playing a game, it can be a browser with a Twitch stream or soccer game running in the background while your program, it can be your color pallet for Resolve while editing video ...

It can be used for a lot of things the end user can take advantage of immediately without waiting for a developer to make explicit use of it.

I wonder if it will work on Linux.


> I wonder if it will work on Linux.

If it's on one of the built-in Intel graphics outputs, then it will likely work out of the box (though of course none of the desktops will understand where it's supposed to be and probably put it in the wrong place, etc...).

If it's some crazy piece of hardware Asus found, then maybe never.


> (though of course none of the desktops will understand where it's supposed to be and probably put it in the wrong place, etc...).

Changing display layout on modern Linux desktops is really really simple IMO.

You just open display settings and drag them into the layout you want.


or

xrandr --output $touchpadscreen --below $builtinscreen


Exactly that, proprietary hardware will limit usefulness for anything beyond specially developed Windows functionality.

And, even if the hardware can be hacked for Linux the question becomes, how can it be made functional in a desktop environment independent way?

Been doing R&D for a similar concept for several years, a detached video enabled trackpad. The key functionality which all concepts to date lack, is being OS agnostic and allowing end-user customization of functionality.

It's a good effort, but is likely only the beginning...


> The ZenBook screen is usable right away by anybody. You can just drag any window there. It can be your Steam chat while playing a game, it can be a browser with a Twitch stream or soccer game running in the background while your program, it can be your color pallet for Resolve while editing video ...

Do you mean that I can have a laptop with an integrated secondary display to have a Zabbix monitoring panel on it?

This might be the sysadmins' favorite laptop!

What a time to be alive!


I was here at computex and I could try a preview unit before the announcement. It’s pretty cool bu ASUS has a bit of work to do on the response times. The interface is a bit laggy, but I think it’s totally fixable in software before they’ll come out. Trying it in person, it struck me as a pretty cool concept. I could totally see apple taking a similar approach.


I think Apple may replace the entire bottom half with touch screen. The touchpad is getting bigger and the keyboard flatter.


If they do this, it will be the nail in the coffin for me making any future Mac purchases.


That would make for a pretty terrible laptop. iPad pro with keyboard cover would be better at that point.


This is exactly what I'm expecting too. It's more practical than replacing the entire keyboard, and it would allow them to maintain their current strategy of avoiding touchscreens on the screen itself.


I’m expecting that shift to coincide with the adoption of ARM-based A-series CPUs to offset for the double energetic consumption of the screens and to provide an ”obvious to the typical consumer that doesn’t understand techy stuff” advantage from these new laptops. Late 2019 with the next iteration of macOS after Mojave seems about right, so users will be able to load iPad apps from the iTunes App Store on it from the get-go.


As someone who hates touchpads, a touchscreen in its place is a wonderful idea.

I have a retired smartphone on my desk showing a live feed to my doorbell cam, and I could see myself using that Zenbook's touchpad screen as a Zoneminder window.


I think this is a wonderful idea, given that touchscreen responsiveness and power optimization have been a focus of research over the last decade. At worst it's a touch pad, at best it's so much more. Of course a lot depends on how software developers will embrace it - and I hope Linux users get some love. (I wish Asus and reviewers will stay away from gimmicks like watching movies on it.)

In any case, far better than removing a set of useful keys from the top of a physical keyboard.

Add: this also enables new types of casual games, similar to Wordament, Angry Birds etc. Oh, and better smudge tools on Photoshop.


At first sight the thing is terrifying, but it seems a rather quite reasonable alternative play on the touchbar that does not mess with the ability to sell the device. Two massive benefits: the tactile response of the keyboard is totally preserved, and the feature can be entirely disabled for conservative users who cannot think of an immediate use for the display.

Clearly it will appeal to gadgeteers (as much as I expect the touchbar does) who can use it for instrumentation or other generally distracting applications. Then there is the blindingly obvious: video editing on a laptop always sucks, there is never enough screen space. But moving the monitor window (rendered video preview) to the touchpad area might change that considerably -- it amounts to a 25% increase in display area, and in a 'natural application' of video editing, the monitor would be separate anyway.

I think this design, simply by virtue of being optional, and large and rectangular, is hugely more applicable than the touchbar.

The modality (pumping F6 to enable/disable) could definitely be improved upon. I can imagine it quite natural to use a hot corner of the pad itself as a toggle, or perhaps some gesture or similar.

Very excited to see how these work out in the real world


     moving the monitor window (rendered video preview) to
     the touchpad area might change that considerably
It'll boost sales of neck-strain relief products, at a minimum.


I like my touchbar and I think I'd probably like a touchscreen trackpad too. The key in my opinion is the programability of the 'buttons'. They don't need to be just buttons, you can have sliders, video scrubbers, button hierarchies (button menus) and so on.

I'm also up for dual display laptops where the clamshell of a laptop is two touchscreens. It would help water proof the device, simplify the mechanics (lower cost?), give options for keyboard layout (improved ergonomics?) increase full screen size when fully unfolded and might be more comfortable than the stiff keys on the latest gen of MBP. I use an external keyboard when I'm at my desk and want a tactile full size keyboard, so I wouldn't be stuck with only glass.


A TouchPad has too many negatives.

It costs additional power (with no clear benefit).

Its another point of failure.

It has a big learning curve.

It requires one to look away from the screen (pro users needn't to look at their keyboard).

It replaced something which worked very well: esc key and function keys (who also had F-keys with "fn" combo).

IMO it is an interesting usability concept from an R&D PoV, but not something to be shoved in the throat of users. Unfortunately, Apple decided it is the way forward for MBP users with no option to turn back except for legacy products or switching ship.


Is there a way to "attach" a tablet to a W10 laptop as an extra monitor? It makes sense but don't think I've been able to find a viable solution.


A Windows 10 tablet (I can't name one, but some probably exist) has this out of the box with the wireless screen projection (win+K). I had to do this laptop to laptop to projector for a lightning talk once after the first laptop had a broken display port adapter - surprisingly fast to setup and 0 latency.

I'd be surprised if something didn't exist for Android tablets. But if you have an old laptop laying around, maybe throw w10 on it and see if it works?


Not all Win 10 tablets support the wireless projection. I think you can do it with a higher end one like a Surface Pro, but you can't with less powerful ones like the Asus Vivotab 8. You'll get an error message having to do with not meeting the minimum requirements.

On the other hand, you can use something like Synergy, but that's not quite the same thing.



I use Spacedesk for this. It supports Windows as the server and Android, iOS, Windows and web browsers as clients (extra displays). It's still in beta, but it works almost flawlessly. If your wifi chips are good quality, the latency is almost unnoticeable.


Thx. I was looking for a Win / Android solution. I'll have to check this out.


yeah if you have an iOS tablet, check out duet. works well on my ipad pro


You're forgetting that a screen costs power.

Besides, at best, your touchpad has little fingerprints, at worst it has a lot. With a normal touchpad this doesn't matter, but with a touchscreen (or touchpad-touchscreen) it suddenly does. Furthermore, it is a spot where your hands are, so in order to see it, you gotta move your hands. Both are not very useful features. If I want a tablet, I'll get one instead. Furthermore, the touchpad is pretty small (compared to Apple's latest) and doesn't have the haptic feedback the latest have. Though mine doesn't have that either on the MBP 2015, but that's because I don't want butterfly keyboard or TouchBar.

I'll put this one in the category of the TouchBar (which has already been discussed to death): with all honesty a very interesting research product indeed but don't put in your flagship product please. TYVM /bow.


The impact on battery life is marginal. The ZenBook Pro 15 has a 71Wh battery and "up to" nine hours of battery life. An iPhone 8 has a 10.5Wh battery.

Real-world power consumption for a good smartphone display is ~500mW. That represents just under 5% of the iPhone 8's battery capacity per hour, but 0.7% of the ZenBook's battery.

In the worst-case scenario, the touchpad display will reduce battery life from 9 hours to 8.5 hours. In a more realistic scenario, the power consumption of the touchpad display is a rounding error compared to the consumption of the i9-8950HK processor, the GTX 1050 GPU and the 4K main display.

Somehow, people cope with their smartphone being covered in fingerprints.


The article reports several hours battery life difference.


The point is that its on top of the thing it replaced (keyboard). It doesn't matter much if its 10 minutes or 30 minutes, its an unnecessary waste in both situations.

> Somehow, people cope with their smartphone being covered in fingerprints.

I don't, but if I mostly type and scroll on the bottom, the fingerprints are mostly on the keyboard part. So I tend to read the top and maybe mid of my screen and then scroll further.

I actually preferred the time with hardware keyboards for example because screen stayed pristine back then, and phones were much more durable. Alas, those phones are exceptions, and if you also have other special interests such as long-term support, high uptime on one juice load, or the liberty to e.g. run SailfishOS your options quickly diminish. So my smartphone does not have a hardware keyboard, but that does not mean I don't prefer that. Choosing a smartphone is a matter of concessions. Choosing a MBP, idem.

Finally, given how often people are replacing their smartphones, I'm not exactly sure if "people cope with their smartphone" in general.


This is what happens when things are built to sell, not built to use.


I would certainly use this. I will also buy it if it supports linux out of the box.


When I first saw the Dave2D video on Youtube a couple of days ago, I thought it would be a useless feature, but on further consideration, I'd totally use it.

I have an Zenbook ux501 that runs on wired power most of the time anyways so battery life isn't a concern for me personally, but I'd use that touchscreen as a security cam monitor, system resource monitor or some type of dashboard. I use a mouse most of the time anyways, so most laptop touchpads are useless to me.


I'd love a second Mon for everything from man pages to a screen for a soccer game. I use mostly key bindings so it wouldn't be too much for me.


Office appears to have non-trivial ribbon integration:

> The [Excel and Word] ribbon where they live occupies 20% of the screen on the ZenBook Pro, so shifting those functions to the top edge of the trackpad gives you more space to do your work.

https://edgeup.asus.com/2018/take-control-with-the-zenbook-p...


I'm actually surprised it hasn't been tried before. It sounds super cool but I wonder if it's still a bit of a gimmick (and you end up just using it in touch pad mode all the time).

It still has the problem where you have to take your eyes off your screen in order to interact with it, so I imagine there'd be some effort involved in getting used to actually looking at the touch pad while you poke at it. That said, if there are good app integrations that are intuitive and turn the thing into more than a pointing device (and not just a Spotify controller or some such), then I'm interested to see what those could be.

It'd be quite nice, for example, if it allowed notifications to pop up on a part of the touchpad instead of obscuring what you're working on, allowing you to tap that part of the touchpad to open it up instead of moving the pointer to the corner of the screen.


Razer something similar about 5 years ago.[1] I personally really like the idea. Feels more functional than a bar and should be easily dropped into "dumb touchpad" functionality if the user wants to save battery life or just doesn't need it. Would be nice to see this migrate across the entire laptop pc segment.

[1]https://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/laptops-portable-pc...


I would be shocked if Apple didn't prototype this while working on design for the Touch Bar.


I wonder if it's viable to add a mirror above the monitor so it's visibility could be at eye level.


I can see this being useful for things like chat windows, especially if you're using an external mouse.


I'd like to run a terminal output on the touchscreen. Launcher sounds okay, but the one I have with Enlightenment 22 is just so much faster with the keyboard than any pointer device ever could be.


Isn't it too small?


It's Full-HD on 5.5 inches, so you can likely fit fairly dense text on there.


It's going to eat quite a bit of battery life and cost more for a minor benifit. This is simply a gimmick to differentiate from the hurd.


Pretty good point, Mac OS is already using the touch pad to input signatures (you use the touch pad as paper and your finger as a pencil) which works extremely well but currently has no visual feedback, there is probably space for much more useful applications when that becomes available. I just really has to be an OLED display though.


> which works extremely well but currently has no visual feedback

Why isn't that plus haptic feedback good enough for the examples you mentioned?


No it's perfectly fine, I just meant I can imagine there are lots of other applications of the touch pad that are currently limited by this


Re linux support, my bet is that the small screen is just another eDP and easy peasy to use.


Ahh, expecting hardware vendors to behave in a sane and rational manner. Good luck with that ;)


> I think this is a wonderful idea, given that touchscreen responsiveness and power optimization have been a focus of research over the last decade.

Are you familiar with the state of the art? Is this thing going to be as responsive as a regular touchpad?


IIRC touchpads and capacitive touchscreens use the exact same technology, so there shouldn't be any difference.


Yes, but touchpads aren't constrained by the necessity of having an integrated high tech light source and a transparent layer on top of it.


Do phone screen noticeably lag these days? I don’t see why there would be a difference.


It also looks to me like the design language is easily borrowed from mobile devices!


I think Asus's Project Precog[0] deserves more interests than this. We programmers always complain about display size , ratio and amount. Using this dual screen laptop vertically with your beloved external keyboard could be sublime. It's like having two Surface Pro tablets right in front of you, or a dual screens desktop setup that fits in a backpack. As long as my way to interpret this product works, I don't care whatever Asus comes up with to make it feels like a normal laptop.

[0]: https://www.asus.com/Project-Precog/


There's a picture with the exact setup you describe[0] and it's all I want now. I hope it makes it actually makes it to a launch.

[0]:https://cdn.pocket-lint.com/r/s/660x/assets/images/144750-la...


Looks awesome... but what does that have to do with AI? I guess “optimized for blockchain” was already taken?


It seems that by AI they mean "non keyboard input", and not... any of the other wildly more practical uses of that term.

> Project Precog is designed to provide a smooth and intuitive experience for industry-leading AI technologies. With support for the Windows Cortana and Amazon Alexa voice services, the dual-screen design lets you keep your main tasks in full view while Cortana and Alexa process other tasks on the second screen

Definitely feels like a weird marketing gimmick atop an already strong looking product offering.


Maybe I'm a bit conservative and/or sour, but I think this is a bad idea for two reasons.

1. It will require a lot of developer effort and testing on this specific device. I regard this as a move in the bad direction: Computer interfaces should be more unified, not less.

2. You're giving the touchpad two functions which are not compatible (and the second function is not necessary: we already have a screen!). If you're happily clicking your way through stuff and some menu suddenly shows up, you will click a bunch of random stuff.


Just use it in touchpad mode :) I think it's great idea. I usually have my iPhone exactly under the keyboard when I play games - this way I can read something between matches. Even reply in Skype to simple questions :)


You can just display what's on main screen and have nice touch support without having your fingerprints visible on screen and wiggling laptop.


That could work well! Although it's not really what the article suggests.

If you have Spotify on your touchpad like in the picture in the article, that means that you can't use your touchpad - I imagine it would be bloody annoying.


There has to be some kind of quick switch to toggle between direct input to the small screen, and using it as a touchpad. E.g drag in from outside the edge of the small screen to begin using it as a touchpad. Drag from the inside and out off the screen to switch to direct touch.

For obvious reasons it can’t be both a touchpad and a touch screen at the same time.


At worst you have to hit a button to switch input type. An extra keypress before using touch controls isn't too bad.


When I was looking for an inexpensive touch pad for a product idea, it appeared that small touch screens were only marginally more expensive -- and worked better -- than available off-the-shelf touch pads. That was without even lighting the display up. But of course the temptation to use the display for something would have been irresistible.


My theory is that economies of scale for 5.5 inch 1080p touchscreens in mainland Chinese manufacturing make it a lot cheaper now. That is just about the most common screen size and not the higher than 1080 resolution found on high end phones.


The LCDs are probably not made in mainland China though, and ASUS is still Taiwanese.


ASUS is Taiwanese but as with most Taiwanese oem and odm these days, does the bulk of its manufacturing in the mainland. Same for others like msi, tyan, supermicro, quanta, hon hai precision industry (foxconn), etc.


It does the bulk of its assembly in mainland China, assembly != production obviously, which is why, for example, most of an iPhone isn’t made in China even if it is assembled there.

Components not made in China are actually more expensive to source there outside of SEZs.


Nearly all LCDs in China are made in China. The largest OLED and LCD manufacturers are now in China and I'm not talking about LG Display or JDI those are now dwarfed by the likes of TCL (biggest LCD manufacturer AFAIK), Visionox (biggest OLED manufacturer AFAIK), Tianma, EverDisplay, BOE and many many others.

http://www.boe.com/en/index/pei.html

http://www.tcldisplay.com/en/home/index.html

https://www.tianma.eu/

http://www.visionox.com/en/index.aspx

http://www.everdisplay.com/en/

The LCD and OLED panel in your phone is more likely made in China by a Chinese company, the irony is now that even Samsung had use Visionox AMOLED in their phones especially recently because they were constrained with supplying their OLEDs to Apple.

ASUS does not make displays the only Taiwanese display manufacturer is AU Optronics IIRC and they don't make small and medium size displays.

The only thing that China still doesn't do well are large screen OLEDs (LG is now building a factory in China for that) and that's about it. China is oddly pushing AMOLED to the limit and are leading the development as far as flexible displays go much further than Samsung or LG do at least publicly.


I'm never ever going to buy another ZenBook again.

I got one for my girlfriend and another one for my dad, around the same time one of my dev friends also decided to move to ZenBook from rMBP.

Compared to Macbooks it looks, feels and works cheap (the trackpad, d'oh), but that's not the major issue as almost everything is that way excepting Surafaces/XPSes.

But the real issue here is this: hinges. They're horrible. They break every 2 to 9 months. Their quality is also very easy to test - just open any ZenBook in shop and wobble it. Macbook's screen is as solid as rock, won't move an ich, while ZenBooks one - well, it wobbles. Almost unusable on the bus for example, your screen will shake as hell on even smallest bump or corner. And then the hinges will break and Asus will replace them for you. And the new ones will last a year, if you're lucky. Then it happens again and again and all of sudden you're out of warranty and at this point, after replacing hinges for a few times, you're told that they'd gladly replace them for you - and it costs only around $400, while you paid for your ZenBoook $1000, two years ago. %#$# them.

And I wasn't unlucky, this is considered normal for Asus:

http://www.breadcrumbsguide.com/asus-zenbook-review/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAP-NwyE4H4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ju1aCd4iOo

etc.

Terrible, terrible build quality and no respect for consumers, don't even go near them.


Yeah, Asus has a knack for making apparently-great devices for a fantastic price but then giving them one critical problem that makes the device worthless. Remember the first Nexus 7 with its dying nand memory?


I moved to macbook when my ASUS laptop's hinges broke about 4 years ago because it's ~50% of the cost to fix it. The macbook's capacitor died earlier this year (funny enough it doesn't complete kill it, just makes it run extremely slow, without EE background it gave me a hard time to figure this out), I went to back to PC because it cost ~80% of the cost to fix it, and, touchbar.

But you're right, it's been so many years and ASUS still haven't figured out hinges that don't break? Don't think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.


What do you mean by really slow? My old MacBook is also running slowly, and I hadn't thought of the capacitor as being a possible culprit.


Exactly, there're many reasons for it to run slow. If yours is still usable it's unlikely, mine takes minutes to boot up, and it shuts itself down.

It's been a while and I got rid of it but IIRC it still provided power but was under watt, you can confirm by comparing the normal level for you model.

BTW once you've confirmed you can pretty much dump it, won't be easy to find fix other than getting a replacement motherboard, which is pretty much everything.


Hmm the hinges on my zenbook ux305 have seemed solid. Can't speak to other models. Have had it for almost two years.


Same for my zenbook ux501. I find the build quality to be not far away from a 2011 15" MBP.


I was walking through a computer store recently and I couldn't help but notice how tacky all the computers looked. The Touch Bar may be frivolous, pretty useless and a waste of money, but it blends into the design of the laptop and most importantly, is subtle. Now, Asus could certainly prove me wrong and implement some beautiful, understated software for the touchpad, but judging by the demo photos, that isn't the case. Not to mention, how does it perform as a touchpad? Will I have to avoid hitting some corner for fear that it will open a new app? At least the Touch Bar took away features that most consumers (i.e. non professional computer users) won't miss.


>At least the Touch Bar took away features that most consumers (i.e. non professional computer users) won't miss.

Too bad it's on a computer that is called the MacBook Pro. For those not in the know, Pro stands for "Professional".


That's fair, but Macbook People Who Like to Think They're Pros But Aren't doesn't roll off the tongue as well ;)


But where is the MacBook Pro for people who actually are?


I’ve been trying to find a cheaper MBP replacement after 10 years with 3 MBP. Everything else is ugly. Some decent choices end up at the or worse price point as Apple.


After nearly a decade with MBP, I finally decided to replace it with a brand new, top-spec 13" dell XPS. Initially I was super happy with the choice, but after more than a year with it I would not recommend going that route to anyone, it's just full of little problems that don't exist with Apple hardware. The coil whine is insane and a known problem with those, from time to time the computer goes to sleep but isn't actually off - the fan is off but something is still running, and when you pull it out of your bag it's literally hot to touch(it's also a known problem with loads of threads on Dell forums about this). It happened to me once at an airport and when I pulled it out of the bag I was certain someone was going to stop me, the computer was literally boiling. I've had the motherboard replaced with dell 3 times now, both coil whine and spontaneous staying on when in sleep still happen. Plus the touchpad is actually crap, when you press down the cursor sometimes jumps a little bit resulting in you clicking on something else, and the screen while gorgeous has a stupid amount of backlight bleed near the edges. At first glance, the computer is as nice as any MacBook - but after living with it for a while I'm seriously considering going back to MBP again.


Except that macbooks have gotten worse (and pricier) :/ My 2016 base pro model overheats and some keys literally fell out while I was typing. Sometime when I open the lid, I see the apple logo, which means it's rebooted.


I got myself a Thinkpad T480s. I ended up spending around 2.5k for a machine that has 24GB of RAM, 1TB of PCIe SSD and weights a pound less than a MBP. The keyboard is stellar, the screen is matte, and it has HDMI, both old and new USB ports, ethernet, and an SD card slot.


I would love one, but the screen gamut is bad and it's dim.


I think that the panel is on par with the one my 2013 MBP had, so yes, a little worse than the newer models. However I feel that the difference is more than made up by the matte finish especially in bright light situations. But then again I'm a software developer, I really don't have much use for wider gamut, I just need crisp text and not to see my reflection in the screen.


Which panel do you have? The reviews I've seen all claim 60-70% of sRGB. Maybe the QHD screen has wider color range.


2560x1440 matte


Oh, that one has good color range then.


Which model are you currently on because my top of the line 2013 15 inch MBP is still running like a champ.

If you are willing to try out windows, the surface pros are actually pretty sweat. I got one for my gf for grad school and will probably get one for myself if my MBP ever dies.


I still have a 2013 Macbook Air going strong and I will be extremely sad the day it finally kicks the bucket. It's not a powerhouse by any means, but it's lightweight and it runs any text editor I need with no gimmicks and better battery life than anything else its size despite its age.


Retina 2012 MBP but the battery is practically dead and the monitor seems to be not bright as it used to be. I wouldn’t mind a CPU/RAM upgrade.


Don't know if you'll get much of a cpu upgrade these days but ram definitely helps. I got mine with 16GB of ram to be future proof since I saw that ram tends to be a major cause for slowdowns as developers constantly eat up more as computers get better. This seems especially brilliant in hindsight considering top of the lines are still at 16GB.


I use a Trackball mouse so this sounds awesome but I already decided to get a Microsoft Surface Book 2 for my next laptop so I wont bother.


>Unlike Apple’s limited and unhelpful MacBook Pro Touch Bar…

I’m not big fan of the touch bar either, but to state an opinion as fact is just bad journalism.


It's... a product review. Giving the author's opinion is the whole point. I mean, the subtitle of the thing is "Technically delightful, practically dubious", so it's not like you weren't clued in. Why did you wait until he bashed an Apple product to complain?


The most stressful thing about starting my next job is that I've got to choose a new laptop only for work. I've only used a Mac for years and this is the first time I've ever considered switching because there are no computers they make that I actually want.

Apple has really dropped the ball on their entire line and the touchbar eliminating a lot of useful keys is a pretty bad idea compared to replacing the touchpad.


I managed to land a dev job where the entire enterprise is Mac-based and they issued us laptops with the touch bar. Everyone runs them lid-closed with external keyboards and monitors. Touchbar issue solved.


My company gave us all brand new MacBook Pros with the touchpad and new terrible keyboard.

It is amazingly fast and the speakers sound great, but overall I cannot approach the productivity of my 2015 model given the increased typos and accidental Touch Bar inputs that cause weird things to happen.


I've gotten used to using the touch bar for function keys and [esc] after only a week or so. It's fairly customizable, which surprised me. I don't think it's that bad, but then again I am not paying for it (company hardware).


Put a new Mac side by side with a touchbar Mac and try doing anything using the function keys on both. The lack of physical buttons makes it atrocious on the touchbar model.


Just buy the one without the touchpad. Keyboard still sucks, but better than everything else..


It has a 15W CPU instead of 27W, and fewer ports. Not really a useful machine IMO. Marginally better than the MB though.


This[0] almost made me finally accept the idea of possibly having the TouchBar on my next laptop.

[0]: http://vas3k.com/blog/touchbar/


I thoroughly enjoyed that article. It was a weird decision to not make the default state of the Touch Bar be a widget bin. They could even have launched yet another App Store for it.


Plenty of publications have always straddled the line between reporting and reviewing. The Verge in particular gives its writers a lot of freedom to editorialize, for better or for worse.


It's. A. Product. Review.

Do people not read these anymore or know what they are?


Yes, it is opinion journalism - it does not claim to be objective. I am as confused as you are


There isn’t any real description of how the thing operates either. I mean, a big part of the reason I’m using a MacBook Pro is because it’s touchpad is damn near magic.

I don’t care about office integration, all I care about is how well it operates compared to the trackpad on a MacBook, and I donut I’m the only one.


Starting anything else would be a lie.


Well I would say its a fact, replacing the physical Esc key is unhelpful to a lot of people.


Especially since it doesn't seem like the author has a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar anyways; the picture provided shows one with a row of standard function keys.


The Zenbook is a decent looking computer, and this completely cheapens the look of it. The trackpad display is trash - it's a low-contrast LCD with bad backlight bleed and aggressive matte finish... something out of the parts bin of cheap phones and old car infotainment systems. When compared to the higher quality main display it looks totally out of place.

If they fixed that, there'd still be the issue of usability & utility. This doesn't seem like a complementary feature, it seems like two separate devices bolted together that require heavy context shifting (e.g. if the music card is up, you can't just use the trackpad to access something else on your computer). As implemented it seems like yet another electronics company gimmick like 3d TVs - made because its easy to build, not because the feature offers enough utility to justify its complexity.

That said, I hold out hope for a lay-flat dual-display clamshell with proper haptics and that re-thinks the entire input UI around that paradigm.



If my experience with Asus Android devices and routers is anything to go by, the feature will be a minimum viable gimmick with lots of bugs that will be abandoned down the line.


Speaking as someone who is slowly having more and more issue with glare, that last thing I want to a second light source on my laptop, but I can see where some people might like this.


We'll see if the touchscreen gets any traction. I'd like to point out that this is perhaps the only non Mac laptop that has a 15" screen and doesn't have a number pad. The keyboard is aligned with the center of the screen and the space bar is almost there too. Joy!

I could buy this laptop only for that, even if with Linux I'll probably have to wait the next laptop before the touchscreen is of any use. But no, the RAM is capped at 16 GB and I'm using 32 GB on my HP laptop (several projects for several customers, each one with a different language and environment.)

However my 15" laptop has a useless (for me) number pad with the result that I have to shift it half to the right to be able to keep my hands in front of me and not skewed to the left, which would probably do nasty things to all my upper body. This is the norm for all 15" laptops and I wonder if their designers stopped at the cover page of Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things", with the famous teapot for masochists, and deluded themselves into believing that this is the right way to build stuff.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Design-Everyday-Things-Donald-Norman/...


> The keyboard is aligned with the center of the screen and the space bar is almost there too. Joy!

Oh the keypad hell, it's been such a RSI inducer on my back for years. What nonsense is this to put a keypad on the right side of keyboards which results, being right handed, in either the mouse being too far right or the keyboard being off center.


A good design centers the touchpad on the alphanumeric part of the keyboard, example: http://xahlee.info/kbd/i/Dell_Inspiron_laptop_keyboard_2014-...


This is all laptops do, included mine, so we can shift the laptop to the right. IMHO a better design would ditch the number pad and sell a USB/Bluetooth one to who wants it.


I keep the mouse below the external keyboard (instead of to the right), and it has worked out really well for me. It may not work well with laptops though, since the trackpad adds to the distance the hand must travel.

But I still wanna put it out there for all the external keyboard users.

Illustration: https://twitter.com/jeswin/status/680343382783213568


XPS 15 has the keyboard without numpad.


surface book 15" doesn't have a number pad too!


I'm glad someone is experimenting with new interfaces, but for me this is kind of a gimmick, like the MacBook touchbar or the big touch-sensitive screens in cars. Any interface that requires looking at it will slow me down/distract me. There's huge value in the keyboard keys all being in the same place and in not shifting your gaze in order to move the mouse pointer.


I don't see the value in this myself either but nice with experiments I guess. I've never used my laptop and wished for a small screen in the touchpad. But for some tech, you have to try it to understand.


They beat Apple to the punch! :) Seriously, I think it's a positive evolution. I wish they had the same laptop at 13" though.


This is really good for users of international keyboards like me! When I need to type Chinese or Korean then it's much easier on my phone than my laptop, because my laptop lacks the engravings.


This is really going to distract touch typists due to peripheral vision. If they really want to do something revolutionary, they should try replacing the entire keyboard with a touch screen with haptic feedback (like the MacBook touchpad). Force touch when the keyboard is displayed will act as a keypress. Soft touch will control the mouse pointer.


Something like this maybe: https://tanvas.co/

CES 2017 coverage by Engadget: https://youtu.be/LrbJWiAc6JI


Sounds absolutely awful. Your hands would be in pain using that after 8 hours.


I happen to have just watched this video that reviews the device: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5wGGp88nBs

Around the 5:50 mark: "Obviously you could watch movies and stuff on this [the touchpad screen]."

Who writes this stuff.


that is very confusing

i am sure the next step, someone will replace the physical keyboard, with full size touch screen and software keyboard

and future laptops will come with two screens and no keyboard ... and they will be like tablets with double screen,

and then someone will sell a physical keyboard accessory to the two screen laptop

and .. it will be very confusing


someone will replace the physical keyboard, with full size touch screen and software keyboard

Already done many years ago:

https://www.theverge.com/2011/10/29/2509236/acer-iconia-6120...


Lenovo already did it I'm pretty sure.


yes, and without haptic feedback, it's terrible to type on.


It not that easy to use when you can't physically feel the keys. And having to wipe the screen so often sucks.


Haptic feedback?


Haptic feedback is better than nothing, but it closes a small fraction of the gap rather than making touchscreen equivalent to a physical keyboard.


Here’s [1] a review for a Lenovo model.

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/no-keyboard-no-problem-welcome-to-...


Also looking on Amazon, there's at least some Asus Zen books already out which have a touchscreen, so what?, then you'd have a touch screen and a small touch screen over your touch pad...


Please not. Input delay is absolutely annoying.


The biggest question I have is if the input resolution and latency are better than a traditional touch pad. The additional display will never be useful enough to overcome a mediocre touch pad experience.

It seems to support acting as a second display so I'm feeling optimistic about Linux.


A screen in a touchpad can be useful because it can help users to understand how to use different features like side scrolling or drag-and-drop. Also it can be used to display some useless information, like time, current keyboard layout or CPU load.

Putting buttons on a touchpad is not the best idea because they would interfere with its normal usage.

And by the way, why nobody makes separate keys for layout switching? It is very inconvenient to have a single key to switch layouts (like Win + Space that is the default for Gnome). It would be much better to have separate physical keys for each language so I can start typing with one of them and never type in the wrong layout.

Seriously, why didn't anyone invented it yet?


> Seriously, why didn't anyone invented it yet?

Perhaps the user demand is not so big or even noticeable? It starts to make sense when you type in more than two languages regularly. I would argue that there are only couple of percents of bilingual users and people using three and more languages are even less common.


But laptops often have useless keys like Caps Lock or even Scroll Lock (who uses that?) or Pause that doesn't pause anything. Replacing them with language switch keys makes more sense.

You have to switch to Latin to type things like emails, URLs, foreign band names etc. And if you are writing a code then you have to switch constantly to type comments and messages in your naive language. So inconvenient.

Bilingual users are not that rare, at least at school most people in my country study some foreign language. Of course it doesn't mean they are going to use it after graduation, but anyway.


I'll be happy when Lenovo releases another ThinkPad which has NO trackpad, and only the TrackPoint.


It probably wouldn't sell enough numbers and would be a financial disaster.

As an option, that'd be nice. But that'd probably require re-engineering the inside shell...


Until much more recently than I care to admit I'd never experienced an TrackPoint, and was (consequently) of the opinion that laptops were nearly unusable without a table and external mouse. TrackPoints make laptops actually usable (for me, at least).


yeah I had an old thinkpad that had one (pre-lenovo). Once I got used to it, it was the best pointing device by far. But anyone trying to use it on my laptop would instantly go 'nah-ah'.


I have an older X200 which does lack a trackpad. I'm currently using a X230 which does have a trackpad, but I ended up physically disabling it (and the finger-print reader) simply by unplugging them, so when the Microsoft-powered 'teaching interface' in my own class failed (well, actually lots of times, but memorably – in two different semesters – when the students were giving presentations) I had to put my own machine in service as the 'projector driver', almost of the students were flummoxed by the TrackPoint (since the TrackPad obviously won't work, being unplugged), despite being business students who (I thought) should be familiar with ThinkPad and their TrackPoints.


I loved the trackpoint too. But I'd happily take both, this and a trackpoint.


This could be useful for app development. A 1080 landscape device on the keyboard, mirrored at 4X on screen.

(Although the digits used are different. When in landscape, my fingers cradle a phone at a 45-60 degree angle with both thumbs used for input. On a horizontal touchpad the index finger(s) are doing much of the input)


Off-topic: I had to whitelist javascript on the AMP page to get it to load properly, where it promptly pulled down nine JS scripts:

https://imgur.com/SkQgMOU

Wasn't the whole point of AMP to stop this crap?


Loading multiple scripts from one site isn't actually a performance issue. With HTTP2 there's almost no overhead since they all get multiplexed as streams over the same connection. With server push you also don't even have to have to wait for multiple round trips.

https://medium.com/@asyncmax/the-right-way-to-bundle-your-as...

AMP is more focused on UI responsiveness with things like having a fixed content layout so the page doesn't jump around when things load, as well as loading things asynchronously in the background so first paint is faster. Splitting up the JS so only the first paint JS loads immediately and then progressively upgrade the page is actually a good thing. It makes it immediately usable for slow connections.

https://www.ampproject.org/docs/fundamentals/spec#performanc...


I thought I would hate the TouchBar. But after two days of using it, I like it. I have been using Pro version for about 3 months and I still love the TouchBar.

I don’t know how to explain this, but I just no longer feels the need to press an esc key, and no more tapping for adjusting volume/brightness. I can also adjust font size or color in Words using the touchbar. My I can choose an emjoi in hipchat client using touchbar application. It feels great.

This, I don’t know, really weird. I might have to try it, but I doubt I will like it at all. The whole purpose seems like a secondry screen to me. Constantly having to look down instead of looking at the bigger screen so you can control is so backward to me.


> Constantly having to look down instead of looking at the bigger screen so you can control is so backward to me

...unlike doing the same thing with TouchBar (?)


The touchbar isn’t underneath your hands/wrists while using your laptop though.


Looking forward to your review after two days of using it.


I said 3 months. Please read.


Ambiguous.

Better: "But after only two days of using it, I liked it; I have been using Pro version for another ~3 months now and I still love the TouchBar."


You have a grammatical tense error that significantly changes the meaning of what you're trying to say.


Didn't razer do this some time ago?

I think this kind of thing is pretty cool, but ultimately, a touchpad below my keyboard is akin to the ones on the dashboard of many modern cars (though a lot less dangerous) in that I don't want to look there.


They had a prototype of one where the Razer phone acctually got put in the laptop and was used as a touch pad.

Also I think there was a gaming computer with a screen for a numpad.


This would be cool /if/ it added more functionality. For example—a digitizer, Force Touch, or both. I love my MbP Trackpad, but a digitizer would absolutely slay, especially combined with some sort of display.


Do others here use the "hard push" functionality of their trackpad?

I honestly forget that's a thing most of the time.


I use it constantly to preview links and look things up.


How long until there’s a system dashboard running on that thing. That’d be really cool spot for it on a laptop. Especially if the touchpad works as usual and you can just glance at it for system updates.


Toshiba produced a model ca. 2002 with a display in the trackpad. That the idea of an additional display in that form factor hasn't caught on says a lot about the usefulness of the feature in general.

It's tough to imagine the end-user utility will outweigh the engineering challenges to make this viable longterm.

https://support.toshiba.com/support/viewContentDetail?conten...


> That the idea of an additional display in that form factor hasn't caught on says a lot about the usefulness of the feature in general.

Or maybe it says more about the economics. Screens have gotten cheaper since then.


Razer has a prototype where the touchpad is an empty slot where you can insert your smartphone into, and use the smartphone screen as touchpad.


It's another Window tethered to your trackpad. Probably my cynical side talking but I don't see how this will save me much time from using Spotlight, Alfred or Launchy. And yes, I have a touchbar and feel much the same towards it.

On the flip side, having all keys as little oleds that can be remapped to anything I want is something I would likely use constantly.


Not sure about this design, since it introduces modality where there previously was none. Obviously I haven't used this, so I can't comment on it that way, but I fear people accidentally tapping on things in the trackpad when it's in "touchscreen" mode when they really meant to move their cursor around.


That's exactly my concern as well. With current laptops, the touchpad is always the touchpad. When you touch it, the cursor moves, end of story.

I don't want to look down to make sure I'm not opening menus or whatever.

On the other hand, I can see a use for modal controls. Sliders, knobs and so on.

But then I would also like a dedicated pointing device as well, like a trackpoint.


This reminds me, out of curiosity, does anyone know of any "Turn your phone into a bluetooth touchpad" apps that actually work and don't need you to be running special software on your laptop? I want to be able to use my phone or tablet as a touchpad.


How realistic is it that the screenpad will actually be a "drop in" real phone one day?


I think it's more realistic to think there would be an app to let your phone act like Apple's Magic Trackpad without needing to house it in the laptop chassis.


The big difference between the ASUS usage (which I wouldn’t consider buying) and the Apple TouchBar (one I don’t love, but can understand for non-pro users) is that the TouchBar is intended to not be an extension to the display[0]. The trackpad as a complimentary display seems pretty gimmicky - at least while the market share for the maker is so limited. Of course some level of that is up to the implementation of the various apps (but since it’s not 1st party to the OS, I expect usage issues).

I’d expect a standard user (and even myself) to be highly confused about if they can use the area as a trackpad or if they need to toggle some mode.

> Use the Touch Bar as an extension of the keyboard and trackpad, not as a display.

[0]: https://developer.apple.com/design/human-interface-guideline...


The examples they've currently demonstrated are useless, and that's probably because ASUS alone cannot bring software partners on board. Real use cases will arrive when Windows adds support for touchscreen pads, which I think they should do. Once software support is available, ASUS's implementation can be used by "pro-users" in novel ways; especially in content creation apps.

Apple's bar is one dimensional, which limits what it can be used for. I wouldn't trade that for physical keys I press every day.


I think I'd rather keep a standard touchpad and instead be able to add a small tablet-sized second (or third) monitor. A screen for small things I need to see - especially when I'm working somewhere without my usual at-my-desk setup.


A lot of naysayers on this thread but I just wanted to say I think it’s a cool, innovative feature. It’s like having a second monitor without having a second monitor.

Apple is probably bummed they didn’t release it first.


For this to provide a great user experience Asus will need a really high level of software + hardware integration.. (Think Apple or Nintendo) Without that this is just a gimmick.


Well, it beats replacing the keyboard with a touchscreen (something which I believed Asus did once, years ago).

EDIT: I'm thinking of the Acer Iconia 6120, not an Asus product.


This looks like an interesting feature. I wonder though if you would get some neck strain since you are looking downwards at the track pad for a long amount of time.


Why? As far as visuals go, the Touch Bar (which dislike) is at least in line of sight and you hands are not over it all the time.

Regardless, why not just improve on using one's phone the way you can already with some 3rd party apps... since almost the first day touch screen phones were available? It can at least be positioned anywhere that works for you.

You'd also save the world a cycle of e-waste for the sake of “we too” 2nd hand innovation.

Imagine Microsoft would have actually worked with them to salvage and re-purpose the millions of Windows phones (now in dumpsters and land fills), as detachable touch pads.


Probably slightly more useful than a Touch Bar, but still it's another over engineered solution looking for a non-existent problem.


I generally touch type, so not sure why I'd want to look down to do things. I like the matte finish on the screen though.


This is exactly what Apple should have done.


Just as a second monitor its a killer app. The ability to drag windows into it seems like a big deal.


This is neat. But it needs some purpose. Maybe some indy developer will invent a good use for it!


It is just a gimmick. There is a display for that, no need to mess with touch screen (or touch bar).


Amazon should sell a laptop like this and play ads on the touchpad.

The Amazon Fire Laptop with Special Offers.


Seems quite functional and elegant. Everything that touchbar is not. In retrospect, I think Apple's gonna regret the touchbar design. (But I do have doubts on this touchscreen design like how frictionless it is for a user to switch back and forth between its touchpad and touchscreen functionalities.)


> Seems quite functional and elegant. Everything that touchbar is not.

How so?


Enough space to actually have some good UX, tool tips etc. This is adding features to the touch pad instead of replacing function keys and losing physical key response.


Killer app for this is full screen Nintendo ds emulator (any desmume dev here?)


This is the logical next step and I’m all for it except it would be great if PC manufacturers first made their trackpads at least as good as Apple’s before they move on to whole new technologies.


I am genuinely puzzled - what problem does this solve?


It solves marketing dept's "laptops aren't selling, we need a new gimmick" problem.


They are making laptop more difficult to use.


Why has it taken so long for this to happen?


So you PC/windows guys, wasn't having a touchscreen on your laptop the be-all and end-all? Didn't work out? Wasn't gimmicky enough?


I've been using touch screen laptops for so long now that when I use a mac I instinctively touch the screen to do certain things (usually scrolling) and am surprised / disappointed when nothing happens.

I'm really surprised that Apple haven't combined the mac and the ipad yet.


It's good for certain things in tablet mode. It's not easy to reach in proper laptop mode when you have to lift your arm and push the screen which is not firmly held.


So many fingerprints


The killer app for this is a touchscreen keypad, for the new generation of technology users that type better on one of those than on an actual keyboard.


This makes far more sense than apples touch bar, especially if it was modal with a few different keys that brought up different screens.


Only advantage for apple is the location. Less visual context switching.


It depends...for some tasks, it's less context switching. For example, Apple's Preview app has a feature where you can add a signature to a document. You can scan your signature, but you can also enter it on the touchpad. But the latter is very difficult because you can either look at your finger or the screen, but not both. Having this kind of screen would solve that problem.


when apple puts a touchpad along the top it's genius, when asus puts it at the bottom it's "dubious"


That's because the bottom isn't generally a great place to put a screen if you want it to be visible and usable. It's where your palms are, not your fingers, and generally it'll be at least partially covered by your hands.


At first I thought this was an Onion article...


Gimmick. Horrible.


This is the MacBook Pro's touchbar done right :)


OK, I skimmed but didn't see: what if I rest my palms on my trackpad? I don't want random actions taking place because of this.


It's a trackpad. What do you think it will do if you touch it accidentally? It's gonna fuck your shit up so bad that you can't undo it, just like a real trackpad would.


Not true at all. macOS has some rather intelligent tracking if it’s a palm touching, or a finger for example. Alternatively, there’s also completely turning off tap to click.

But that’s for taps, not for a full scale UI on my trackpad with dragging sliders etc.


Mac touchpads are better, but they still suck.

The entire notion of the trackpad is flawed. They are awful, and no one cares. People just use them so much that they get used to them and they don't notice how anymore.




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