Asus’ ZenScreen Touch makes dual-screen productivity portable

It can be difficult to replicate a big two-monitor office set up while travelling. But the new Asus ZenScreen Touch is a pretty good, if expensive, stand-in.

In my professional life, I use a massive 34-inch ultrawide curved display with my 15-inch Surface Book 2. It allows me to work in three different windows on the external monitor, while leaving my laptop display free for keeping tabs on emails and my calendar.

The Asus ZenScreen Touch allows uses to be more productive wherever they're working.

The Asus ZenScreen Touch allows uses to be more productive wherever they’re working.

As a tech journalist who regularly has to refer to reference material, whether it be a spec sheet, reviewer’s guide, notes or interview transcripts, this setup makes me far more productive than I would be if confined to an innumerable amount of tabs on a single screen. It’s why, as much as I enjoy work trips, I hate going without my second display.

That was until I discovered USB powered portable monitors.

They have existed for the longest time, of course, but most have been bulky and cumbersome; requiring separate power and data cables to operate. The new wave of USB-C powered portable monitors changes all that and best of all, they don’t require you to be near a power outlet either.

Asus' ZenScreen Touch is also good for games on the go.

Asus’ ZenScreen Touch is also good for games on the go.

There are a number of companies that make USB-C portable monitors from big name PC makers like Lenovo and HP to lesser known Chinese brands. Asus’ ZenScreen Touch in particular struck my fancy, since it’s the only portable monitor I know of that sports both touch input and an internal battery, so it won’t drain your laptop. At 15.6-inches, it’s also one of the largest portable monitors you can get while still remaining about as thin and light as an iPad.

I took the ZenScreen Touch with me on a press junket recently and when connected to my laptop, I was about as productive travelling as I am working out of my home office’s larger dual monitor setup.

The included smart cover that doubles as a stand supports multiple positions so you can angle the monitor to your liking. I found this particularly useful while on the road, where the height of a work surface can vary from an airplane tray table to a hotel desk.

I do wish the internal battery lasted longer than four hours, but this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience, since the ZenScreen Touch didn’t appear to overtax my laptop’s battery.

Having a portable monitor of this size has other benefits outside productivity as well. With the aid of a power outlet on my airline seat, I was able to catch up on my gaming backlog on a long-haul flight by hooking up my Nintendo Switch to the ZenScreen’s micro-HDMI port. Playing the Switch using the ZenScreen’s bigger and brighter 15.6-inch display made for a far more comfortable gaming experience than using the Switch’s inbuilt 6.3-inch screen.

The 10-point touch screen supports swipe, scroll, drag and pinch gestures, and they work on either Windows 10 or Android, so you can connect whichever device is most convenient. On days that I knew I wouldn’t be doing anything too taxing, I would leave my heavier laptop back at the hotel and throw my portable monitor in the bag and simply use that with my Samsung Galaxy S10+ in DeX mode.

At $699, Asus’ ZenScreen Touch is a touch (pun intended) on the pricey side, but that’s because there’s no other portable monitor that can match it in terms of features. That said, if you’re willing to forgo an internal battery, touchscreen and a Micro-HDMI port, there are other options at half that price. Either way, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than investing in a dual-screen laptop.