Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED review: First generation issues

The Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED is undoubtedly a gorgeous product, but it’s not without its flaws

Unless you’re a hardcore tech geek who craves the latest cutting-edge innovations and has cash to spare, don’t go buying first-generation products. This is not to say that the first generation products are bad. Away from. It’s just that the refinement in the next iteration almost always makes the purchase better.

Take Google’s Pixel 6 Pro vs Pixel 7 Pro and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The first was when Google introduced its in-house Tensor chip. The performance jump in the latter (thanks to the updated chip) and the subtle design changes are why it’s the better product.

But why are we talking about it today? Because I’m here to talk about Asus’s foldable laptop, a new category for the company. It’s a first-generation product in a relatively new category that could end up being truly revolutionary, although Asus isn’t the only company with a product in it: competitor Lenovo has also added the word “Fold” to their foldable laptop. The category doesn’t have a name yet, but some have called it a “large folding Windows tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard.” You could also call it a “flexible display laptop”. It’s early days for this product category, so it’s safe to say we’re a long way from agreeing on any naming convention.

Are foldable screens the future of laptops?

Asus’s game-changing and industry-leading foldable laptop may not be the first on the market, but it’s a great attempt to showcase the future, and I’m here for it. Over the past two weeks, I’ve fallen in love with this not-so-perfect and very expensive laptop.

Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED sells for 329,990 (comes bundled with a Bluetooth keyboard and carrying case) and is priced out of most people’s budgets. I’ll walk you through the many reasons I love this laptop (and one big reason I was frustrated).

The ZenBook 17 Fold comes with the latest 12th Gen Intel Core i8-1250U processor along with the integrated Iris Xe GPU (which means you shouldn’t try to play high-end games on this laptop). The laptop comes with 16GB of DDR5 RAM and a 1TB SSD. There is Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.0 for connectivity. Asus offers the ZenBook 17 Fold in one configuration.

Unfold and then fold

I was a little shocked when I first unboxed the ZenBook 17 Fold. Unfolding the stunning 17.3” 4:3 screen was an absolute delight. At just 8.7mm thin and 1.5kg in weight, I marveled at how Asus nailed one of the key aspects – the display – for a foldable on its first try. I’ve been in love with OLED screens for a while now, and the one Asus fitted to the ZenBook 17 Fold was nothing short of brilliant. OLEDs triumph over traditional LCDs because they are more efficient, offer much wider viewing angles, can get much brighter, and produce near-perfect blacks.

The giant screen of the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED is unique

The giant screen of the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED is unique

The giant screen is a unique experience and none of the YouTube videos of this foldable will do it justice. Asus is leading the OLED display brigade (their entire 2022 lineup comes with OLEDs) on laptops, and the ZenBook 17 Fold doesn’t disappoint. Having an OLED is much more desirable, as we preached above, and the ZenBook 17 Fold’s OLED display is a feast for the eyes.

The hinge has been tested for 30,000 cycles. I went on a folding spree (must have been at least a hundred times) the first day I got the laptop and have almost no problems to report. It’s a smooth experience all the way. The laptop has high color accuracy (for professional viewing), 500 nits of brightness, a contrast ratio of 1000000:1, a fast response time of 0.2ms and good viewing angles.

The laptop can be used in four different ways

Laptop mode: There’s the traditional laptop mode where you get a 12.5-inch screen (3:2 aspect ratio) and a Bluetooth keyboard that has a magnetic lock and fills the bottom half of the screen.

Extended mode: Simply remove the keyboard while leaving the screen partially folded. That gives you what Asus calls extended mode. You get two 12.5-inch screens.

Tablet/reader mode: Put the keyboard away and the giant 17.3” (4:3 aspect ratio) display is usable! You can use this as a folded e-book or as a tablet.

Desktop mode: Thanks to the robust support on the back of the screen, one can completely unfold the display and use it as an all-in-one, together with the Bluetooth keyboard.

All of this is possible thanks to Asus’ proprietary folding hinge design. With the FIFA World Cup currently underway, the main television in the home was predominantly occupied with the action in Qatar. Therefore, other sports are relegated to the other devices in the house. Thanks to the foldable laptop I have with me, these other sports get a big screen and can have a comfortable viewing experience.

What’s even more impressive is that the crease is barely visible. Unless you’re actively trying to find it, you don’t even realize it’s there. In addition, the device is robust with a premium finish and is well built.

An outstanding laptop, but not perfect

Everything I said above might make you think that the laptop is not without flaws. You’d be surprised at exactly what Asus got wrong at the base level. The Bluetooth keyboard is below par for 2022. I’ve used many Bluetooth keyboards, and the one that comes with the ZenBook17 Fold leaves a lot to be desired. Turn on your laptop, pair your keyboard, and start typing. Is it that easy? On the contrary. Every time I turned on the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED (either from sleep mode or after being completely turned off), I had trouble pairing the Bluetooth keyboard. It’s very slow to pair and not as instant as Asus would have you believe. I either had to press the Bluetooth button on the keyboard or go into settings and tap the name to pair it.

One day, while typing for a long time, I went into the settings and checked the battery life of the bluetooth keyboard. It was reading 0% but somehow it was still working. About thirty minutes later, when I was almost done with another article, the keyboard was still buzzing. Even the battery percentage seems to be off.

While the Bluetooth keyboard seems to work on “low battery”, the laptop seems to stutter when it’s close to running out of juice. It seems to stutter and randomly crash the laptop when it’s below the 15% mark. I noticed this while watching videos or browsing multiple Google Chrome tabs.

Is it worth the exorbitant price?

This review is not intended to justify the price of the laptop. Of course, it’s outrageously expensive, and we all know that’s the case with most first-generation products. This laptop gives us a glimpse into the future and heralds the entry of a new product category. This type of laptop, in the first generation, is for two types of people. Primarily for those who like to own all the latest technology and have the cash to spare. Two, for those who need a larger canvas for when they travel.

There’s a bright future for foldables (as Samsung will tell you with sales of the Galaxy Fold 4 and Galaxy Flip 4 smartphones), as everyone wants to do more within their limited space. Cutting edge innovation always comes at a cost. As technology advances and production increases, costs decrease. Consumers are the first to benefit from these benefits. So, in a few years, if laptops with flexible displays take hold as a category, we can expect prices to drop drastically. Also, the second iteration of a “big” product is almost always better than the first. In all likelihood, the second generation of this product will come with thinner bezels, be thinner and lighter, and will be launched at a cheaper price.

Personally, I can’t wait for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2023 and then IFA Berlin (another trade show) a few months later for companies to unveil their next round of foldable laptops. I’m interested in food, but you have to be patient because the products are getting better and more affordable.

Also read: Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo could be the best laptop for creators

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *