Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED hands-on: There’s real potential here

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 22 fans using Android Authority at a scaled cropped press conference

Bogdan Petrovan / Android Authority

Folding-screen laptops weren’t something I thought I could get excited for, but after seeing Asus’ new Zenbook 17 Fold OLED at IFA, I’m starting to change my mind. Somewhat implausibly, Asus has created a functional, even practical 17-inch tablet that folds in half and becomes a portable 12-inch laptop. It’s extremely expensive, but after four generations of pricey Galaxy Folds, would you expect anything else?

The amazing shape-shifting Zenbook

The Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a decent piece of kit as a laptop, but its huge folding screen sets it apart from almost everything else. The only exception is the Lenovo X1 Fold, first announced in 2019, which features a similar, albeit smaller, form factor.

Asus’ take on the concept is similar to Lenovo’s: a large foldable display that folds down the middle, an adjustable kickstand for when you need support, and a slim magnetic keyboard for text entry and navigation.

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED Mode 6 tablets Front view

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

In tablet mode, when the screen is fully unfolded, the Zenbook 17 Fold offers a large 17.3-inch touchscreen for gaming and working. It’s a nice and bright OLED panel, with excellent contrast ratios and enough pixels to keep everything looking sharp. While there are plenty of other 17-inch laptops out there, you just can’t get this size in the roomy, productivity-enhancing 4:3 aspect ratio.

Read also : The best foldable phones you can get in 2022

There is a crease in the middle which is easily noticeable when viewed from the side, but it usually disappears when viewed from the front. Your eyes naturally focus on the image on the screen, rather than the subtle distortion of the fold. It’s kind of like looking at the Fold 4, Flip 4 or any of the other foldable phones – the crease just isn’t an issue.

Although you can use the Zenbook 17 Fold as a tablet, it’s nicer to treat it as a portable monitor

Unfortunately, Asus hasn’t made the leap to ultra-thin glass, like Samsung did for its foldables. The cover layer of the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is glossy plastic, which feels less premium and durable than glass. It also picks up fingerprints like there’s no tomorrow, which tends to be a problem when you have to fold and unfold the screen repeatedly.

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 9 tablet mode

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

While you can use the Zenbook 17 Fold as a tablet, it’s nicer to treat it as a portable monitor (or all-in-one PC). Simply open the kickstand, set it on a table, and use the keyboard and/or touchscreen to interact with the screen like you would on a desktop computer.

Asus said the hinge inside the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is rated for 30,000 open and close cycles. According to the manufacturer’s calculations, this should guarantee a durability of at least five years of average use. Company representatives have warned that users should treat the device with care – it’s not a rugged machine that you can abuse without repercussions. It’s not just the hinge you need to worry about either – as we’ve seen with other foldables in the past, debris can get lodged under the flexible screen. Due to its size, Asus’ foldable laptop seems particularly susceptible to this vulnerability.

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 12 opened in laptop mode

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

Fold down the screen and you get a compact 12.5-inch laptop. You can place the supplied wireless keyboard above the lower half of the screen. The device detects this and adapts the user interface to use only the upper half of the screen. In this mode, the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED behaves like a normal small laptop. Alternatively, you can use the device in touchscreen mode. Content simply “flows” from the vertical half of the screen to the horizontal half. You can display a virtual keyboard for typing or you can scroll through documents and web pages on both halves of the screen. Personally, I found this mode clunky, although I can’t deny the usefulness of being able to display more content on screen.

Too bad the Zenbook 17 Fold is not compatible with styluses, because the plastic screen is not strong enough to support a sharp tip of the stylus.

Read also : The best laptops you can buy in 2022

Design and construction: generally good

For such a flexible device (pun intended), it was important for Asus to get the design and ergonomics right. It’s a bit mixed, in my experience. The Zenbook 17 Book feels sleek and reassuringly solid in the hand, especially when folded and closed. It looks a lot like a nice leather-bound organizer; I saw an executive get involved in a board meeting. It’s big and quite heavy, at around 1.5kg, but not excessively, considering the 17-inch screen it houses.

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 15 Top Front closed with logo

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

Although the construction and design are generally on point, I spotted a few flaws. On the one hand, it is not easy to quickly open and unfold the whole contraption. Or at least it wasn’t obvious and intuitive to me, in the short time I spent with the device. The crutch at the back does not inspire confidence either. It’s small and flimsy-looking – it’ll get the job done when you’re using the screen on a desk or other flat surface, but it won’t be very stable on your lap or on your couch.

The Zenbook 17 Book is sleek and reassuringly solid in the hand

The Bluetooth keyboard is generously sized or at least as big as you’d expect from a 12-inch form factor. It attaches magnetically to the bottom of the tablet, but you can also use it as a standalone keyboard. It suffers from a slight bend issue when you place it above the bottom half of the screen.

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 19 Ports and Side View

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

Overall, Asus has done a good job of making the Zenbook 17 Fold a market-ready consumer product. Remember that this is a first generation device, the second of its kind. It’s far from perfect, just as Samsung’s original Galaxy Fold was flawed in its first iteration.

Expensive potential

Beyond its shape-shifting capabilities, the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a capable, if not stellar, laptop. You get an Intel Core i7-1250U processor, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 1TB of storage, and 16GB of RAM. Performance is adequate for a content-consuming laptop or desktop, but it’s not a great choice for gaming or video editing. Battery life is surprisingly strong considering the size of the screen and the limited space inside, at around 10 hours. Port selection is meager – you get two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack.

asus zenbook 17 fold oled.jpg specs and features

Bogdan Petrovan / Android Authority

The Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is pricey gear, starting at $3,500 in the US and €4,000 in Europe. It’s a huge price you’ll have to pay to be on the cutting edge of computing, but is it worth it? Not really, at least not for most people. I’m pretty sure Asus doesn’t care because the Zenbook 17 Fold isn’t a consumer product. It’s about other things though: a road opener, a vision demonstrator, an expression of interest and a shot through the arc towards competition.

Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a road opener, a vision demonstrator, a declaration of interest and a shot across the arc towards the competition.

The short time I spent with the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED convinced me that this form factor has immense potential. While the product itself sacrifices a bit too much, especially for the massive price tag it commands, Asus’ foldable laptop is undeniably cool. The ability to expand a small laptop to a gorgeous big screen is compelling. All Asus needs to do now is refine the idea over a few generations and bring the price down to earth.