The Asus Zenbook Fold is a transformer PC. It is both a tablet, laptop and desktop computer. And unlike many other hybrid products, it is quite good on all three counts. The key is its large 17-inch foldable screen, although this technology is still in its infancy.
Smartphones with foldable screens, such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4, are already in their third or fourth generation and have steadily improved since their introduction. But laptops with foldable screens, like the Zenbook Fold, are still mostly first generation.
In this case, we can talk about generation 1.5, because this model comes about two years after the release of the first laptop with a foldable screen, the Lenovo X1 Fold. And while Asus’ version brings some improvements and offers upgrades over this first iteration from Lenovo, it unfortunately retains many of the same flaws.
The biggest change here is in the display. The Zenbook Fold uses a massive 17.3-inch 2,560×1,920 pixel OLED display, which is excellent for both image quality and battery life. Being a foldable screen, it’s covered by a plastic film, which isn’t always ideal from a visual point of view, but it makes for an absolutely brilliant 17-inch OLED tablet. And it is better, because at 3,999 euros with a 12th generation Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD, we are at the very high end.
Despite the novelty of the giant OLED screen and the latest generation CPU, the ZenBook Fold reminds us in many ways of the Lenovo X1 Fold. Both have frames that don’t close completely, leaving a gap when folded. The included physical keyboard slides into this space, but it makes the system very thick and bulky when fully folded. Likewise, the bezel around the screen is huge, giving it an outdated look. New foldable screen laptops are on the way, and some will have more modern designs, while the Asus Fold feels like it’s built from the same proof-of-concept as the Lenovo X1.
Three devices in one (or more)
Our favorite feature is Fold’s ability to transform into multiple different terminals. It can be a 17-inch tablet in portrait format or an all-in-one PC in landscape format when using the integrated kickstand and placing the detachable keyboard at the foot of the screen. It can also be converted into a 12.5-inch clamshell laptop with the physical keyboard resting on the lower half of the panel, or even a 12.5-inch laptop with an on-screen keyboard and great flexibility to position the windows on the upper and lower part. halves.
Most impressive is the all-in-one PC mode. 17 inches is an ideal size for viewing larger or enlarging documents and web pages. The stand is slightly adjustable and the screen tilts slightly backwards.
We’ve also found the ZenBook Fold to be a great portable screen for watching TV and movies in bed. Admittedly, it’s a bit heavy and frankly oversized for a bedroom media player, but this Oled XL display is amazing.
The biggest problem with folding screens is the central crease, which you can almost always feel with your finger and even usually see. Fold is no exception to this phenomenon, but it did not bother us at all for the consumption of multimedia content.
The experience is less compelling in 12.5-inch laptop mode because it makes for a bulky, heavy and overpriced machine. If this format is what you intend to prefer in your use of the ZenBook 17 Fold, it is better to orient yourself towards a classic laptop.
The fact is that this Asus folding PC is a big step towards the idea that one day we can take a single screen with us that changes size and function at will.
Windows 11 and folding screens
Windows 11 wasn’t designed for folding screens, and Asus and Lenovo had to incorporate custom features to make the concept work. When you switch from landscape to portrait orientation, a message asks us to choose the layout of the windows, but these options are limited or do not always behave as expected.
The keyboard that comes with the ZenBook attaches magnetically to the bottom half of the screen, or can also be used independently as a Bluetooth keyboard. It’s just fine for typing, and the touchpad isn’t as responsive or precise as the best laptop touchpads. In addition, it has often happened that the connection does not happen automatically, forcing us to turn the keyboard off and on again to force the connection.
When not using the physical keyboard, a custom virtual keyboard should appear in clamshell mode. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We had to go to System Preferences to add an icon to the taskbar to enable it when needed.
Asus offers a customization app that lets you choose the color and style of the keyboard, including a smaller version for swipe typing that’s easy to use. However, the standard on-screen keyboard does not include a touchpad, making it more difficult to use than the physical keyboard. Windows has a built-in virtual touchpad which is accessed via the settings menu. The two can be used together, but it is not ideal.
Both keyboard and system are charged via USB-C. You need to go through the Windows Bluetooth menu to monitor the keyboard’s charge level. The ideal would be an induction charging system for the keyboard. Maybe for the next generation Zenbook Fold?
For those who use video conferencing, it is necessary to take into account the location of the webcam lens, which is at the top of the screen when using the screen folded like a classic laptop, but tilts on the left edge in landscape mode. The picture quality is just fine. On the other hand, our interlocutors confirmed that the sound was excellent. There is also an infrared sensor for login with facial recognition.
Performance and autonomy
Despite the presence of a 12th generation Intel Core i7 processor and an Intel Iris Xe graphics card, this system is not a lightning bolt. Considering its high price, it will feel slower than other laptops with similar configuration.
Better to forget about the video game, except for a few occasional games on basic titles. On the other hand, with this large OLED screen and a wireless gamepad, it proved to be an excellent cloud gaming platform.
Autonomy is more satisfying. In our endurance test, the Zenbook Fold Oled lasted 9 hours and 41 minutes, which impressed us. While it is true that many laptops last longer, this lifespan is no less excellent for a large-screen terminal that is essentially a concept.
In pictures from IFA
Does the Asus ZenBook Fold deliver on most of its design promises? Yes. Are you going to crack? Probably not given its elitist price. It remains a flashy machine best left to CEOs and other influencers who like to parade around the latest flashy but impractical innovations.
However, this foldable laptop is clearly a glimpse into the future of personal computing. We wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years we were all using foldable display terminals like this one.
CNET.com article adapted by CNETFrance – Photos: Dan Ackerman, Bobby Oliver/CNET and Karyl Ait Kaci Ali for CNET France