Earlier this year, we got a chance to look at a very early version of the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED. A lot has happened since then and the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is finally available for purchase right now. And I got my use the device for the past 2 weeks – and I feel like in many ways, it is similar to how I use the Galaxy Z Fold4.
It somehow transported me back to the days when I first started using a foldable smartphone. How does the foldable form factor translate to a Windows device? I think they work pretty well. So much so that I think foldable laptops are the future – because ASUS set a very strong precedent of what a foldable laptop looks like and how it works.
Oh – by the way, if you want to know the full technical details about the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, then click here instead. We dive deeper into the strengths and highlight some improvements that we wish to see in the next generation.
Let’s start with the obvious – this device can easily be folded and unfolded to swap between different form factors. It starts off as a standard laptop with the keyboard at the usual place and it works like how a standard laptop should be.
But, when we need more screen to look at stuff, then we can just remove the keyboard and literally spread the screen and make it bigger. We can use it as a giant touchscreen tablet, or pop out the kickstand to put it on the table.
In many ways, this feels like the Galaxy Z Fold4. This phone starts off as a standard phone that I can get stuff done quickly and easily, then if I want to view something or do work on the large screen, I can just unfold it into a mini tablet.
The same idea applies to the Zenbook Fold as well. It starts off as a standard laptop, then I can unfold it into… a large desktop monitor? I mean, it’s a 17.3-inch screen but it feels larger due to the 4:3 aspect ratio, making it taller rather than wider.
Of course, with a larger display means that you can see more and do more. For example, multitasking is an obvious choice since you want to open multiple windows at once and place them side by side. ASUS does have a special version of their ScreenXpert on the Zenbook Fold that lets us easily put windows into specific parts of the screen, or you can just use the snapping windows.
But, depending on what task you’re doing – you might not need to use a keyboard. And I think that’s where the strength of foldable laptops come in. I don’t know about you, but I tend to lean forward when I am reading a document. Now, instead of leaning forward, I can just unfold the laptop and bring the device closer to my face. Then, I can use the touchscreen to perform some simple taps and clicks.
And one thing I think ASUS did very well is to have the keyboard detachable and connected wirelessly to the laptop. For the Windows operating system, it does need a keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) to do work properly. To have the screen adapt to the presence of the keyboard is actually a brilliant idea to have it transition between both modes.
I find it to be quite amazing that this worked so well – but of course, I do wish that Windows will scale differently between the two modes – like 125% scaling on Mode #1 and 150% on Mode #2. Since I can’t change the scaling, it is now forever at 150% – making it just right for Mode #2 but too big for Mode #1.
But that aside, I’m surprised that ASUS made the hinge lock in place like Samsung’s Flex Mode hinge. I’m not sure if ASUS is using a similar style of mechanism – but I absolutely love how it feels and how smooth it actually is.
And I also think that ASUS made a really good choice too. For foldable smartphones, the crease has always been the point of argument. If you want a hinge that is strong and can hold in place like the Galaxy Z Fold4, then the crease is always gonna be deep.
So, how did ASUS tackle this issue? They just make the curve radius bigger – but the keyboard fits perfectly in between the two sides of the screen and it looks like a book. I think that this is just brilliant since it is functional yet aesthetically pleasing.
But of course, I still want some other brands to tackle some glaring issues with foldable laptops – particularly the kickstand. As I mentioned earlier, we can pop out the kickstand and place it on the table. However, the angle of that kickstand is fixed, and I think that given the verticality of the display – it’s rather difficult to use. I’m always getting reflections from the ceiling lights and the monitor is just too tall to use on a standard table when it is unfolded. But I also have no idea what kind of hinge is strong enough to support the weight of this device.
You see, ASUS is currently using a hinge that is reminiscent of the first-generation Nintendo Switch kickstand. Sure, it’s a beefier kickstand but it’s pretty much just open or close and nothing in between. If they want to include an adjustable kickstand like – I don’t know, the Nintendo Switch OLED – then I don’t think that type of hinge can hold the weight of this device. And that is something that I want something to be improved.
Granted, this is the first generation of the Zenbook Fold and I am sure that they will be improved in the next generation. I can say that because ASUS did tell us that they are fully committed to the Zenbook Fold series of devices and this is not a one-off thing. I’m glad, honestly. I like the form factor and it just reminds me of transitioning to the Galaxy Z Fold series.
The tradeoffs are the same too. Yes, it is definitely heavier and thicker than a traditional laptop. It’s pretty much double or triple the thickness of an ultrabook – but you don’t have to duplicate and maintain your files and login accounts on two different devices. You want a larger screen? Then just unfold it. You don’t even need a portable monitor to see more. In some ways, unfolding the Zenbook Fold likes like I’m using the Mobile Pixels Duex Plus – here’s the video about that product.
And of course, you can play some games on it. The unfolded display is in a 4:3 aspect ratio – somewhat similar to the Galaxy Z Fold4 – and I find myself enjoying old games through emulation. I mean, look at games like Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door, and also Banjo Kazooie. These games look great on this aspect ratio. Combined with high-resolution texture packs, it’ll look even better.
You might also wonder if the battery life is affected by having such a big screen – and that was my worry too. Going by what we have experienced with foldable smartphones, using the unfolded big display will definitely drain the battery quicker because of its larger size. But surprisingly, since this laptop is essentially using the hardware of an ultrabook, the battery can last for quite a long time.
Then, my second worry is about the durability of the device. ASUS sure made an emphasis on its durability. First, I did inquire if there is a brush like Samsung’s foldable phones to prevent some of the particles from going into the hinge mechanism – and the answer is no. The second worry that I have is about the number of times we can open and close the laptop. You see, this is pretty similar to how the Galaxy Z Flip series works. Unless you open the device, you are unable to use the device.
My third worry is about the durability of the screen. I’m not sure what’s the difference between BOE and Samsung’s method of creating a foldable OLED screen – but I am certainly worried about the turning point. Will the hinge eventually create some sort of material fatigue on the OLED panel? I don’t know. Our time spent with the laptop is too short.
Though, I am sure that in time, given that the companies involved – BOE and ASUS – will improve and bring better devices that are more durable and perhaps lighter in weight in the future generations. Even the software needs to be improved too as the usage is different.
What I’m looking forward to
Despite all of that, we can already look at Samsung to see how foldables have evolved over the years. They are getting more mature as years go by, and even the company’s warranty policy (particularly for Malaysia) has become more inclusive, thus instilling more confidence to the customers to purchase such a device.
With that said, I am sure ASUS is going through the same uphill battle as Samsung went through a few years ago. Being one of the first to create foldable laptops is not going to be easy. Perhaps ASUS, Microsoft, and many more apps will be made to work seamlessly with these sort of devices that has an adaptive UI.
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