“Apart from keeping an eye on work emails on the second screen, I can use it to keep on working on something else or watch a video, while running an automation script on the main screen that I do not want to disturb," says Kumar. Similarly, if a user is working on a PowerPoint presentation and has to see some data from an Excel sheet, he can keep the latter open on the second screen while working on PowerPoint on the main screen.
Kumar’s excitement is easy to understand for personal computer (PC) makers who want to make laptops desirable once again. And what better way to achieve that than to experiment with new designs and concepts? While thin-bezel design have enabled them to keep the size of laptops in check and offer bigger screen in smaller form factors, the concept of a second screen on notebooks promises to improve the multi-tasking experience for users like Kumar.
A case in point is the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo that offers a 15.6-inch primary display and a 14-inch secondary screen called ScreenPad. The second screen has 4K resolution too but a wider-than-usual aspect ratio of 32:9, as this screen has been crammed on top of the keyboard. But it offers ample space to run three apps side by side on it, while the user is working on something else on the laptop’s main screen. The company plans to start shipping the ZenBook Pro Duo in the US in July and in India sometime after Diwali.
The HP Omen X 2S is expected by end of June in global markets at a starting price of $2099. However, in the case of this gaming notebook, the dual screen works on the same principle but at six inches its secondary screen is much smaller, unlike the ZenBook Pro Duo, allowing users to run one app instead of three. “I think there is a lot to innovate in PCs as the machine is still very dumb. Personal computing has to help with productivity," says Jonney Shih, chairman, AsusTek Computer Inc.
Dual screens can make life easier for multi-taskers who like to work on several things simultaneously. “Dual display helps a lot in terms of opening multiple apps. From a productivity system, this will really take a new leap for users because there is no system like this, except turning to a screen," adds Dinesh Sharma, head of mobile business, Asus India.
In some cases, the second screen can serve as an extension of the first, allowing users to use it for additional commands, information or reference, just like the Touchbar in Apple’s MacBook Pro, which is also a kind of a touchscreen designed like a strip. So, while gaming, the user can use the second screen to check maps, quests or weapon inventory. Similarly, they can open the map portion in a racing game on the second screen to get a cantered vision of the race track.
“Dual screen laptops posit a pivotal moment in hardware innovation and experimentation. They do provide a more immersive experience for users. While some may term these innovations as one aimed at piquing consumer interest, I believe they are purposeful and meant at diverse audiences, from gamers to creative artists," says Prabhu Ram, head, industry intelligence group, Cyber Media Research.
However, Ram cautions that while dual screens are a great innovation, the key to market success would be the software adaptability and experience on such new form factors. It is also key to note that dual screen laptops represent an early phase in innovation, and will see further iterations.
Ram has a point as this is a very new concept. At the Computex 2019 (28 May-1 June) show, Intel also showcased a dual-screen concept, called Twin River, with two 12-inch screens held together by a fabric-like case. The second screen replaces the physical keyboard, offering a virtual touch screen keyboard in its place. Intel is yet to name the original equipment manufacturer partners who have showed interest in it.
Dual screen laptops
■ Asus ZenBook Pro Duo- 4K display, Intel Core i9, Nvidia RTX 2060, 2.5kg
■ HP Omen X 2S- 240Hz display, Intel Core i9 , Nvidia RTX 2080, 2.35kg
■ Intel Twin River- 12.3-inch, 1,920x1,280p, Intel U series quad core processor