ASUS ZenBook The 17Fold OLED is a first-generation product, but it’s interesting. Wired exclusively reports how Asus launched the first 17-inch laptop with a foldable screen.
When it comes to foldable phones, Samsung got off to a rocky start after four generations, with Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Honor producing similarly mixed and expensive products. But what about laptops and tablets? Rumor has it that Samsung could launch a foldable version of its Galaxy Tab line in 2023, and so far, laptop-like foldable PCs have been limited to Lenovo’s X1 Fold product, which is expected to launch in mid-2020. Follow-up products will be launched soon.
If you’ve seen a Lenovo machine, you’ll immediately recognize the Asus design. The latter’s foldable screen has a larger screen, though – Lenovo’s is 13.3 inches, while this device has a 17-inch panel. That’s reflected in Asus’ prices, which start at $3,500 (£3,300).
So, what do you get for such a high price? I’ve been testing the ZenBook 17 OLED for the past few weeks — looking forward to our full review — and in my experience so far, it’s a fully formed device.This is beyond concept and a viable buy for anyone who wants a splash a lot of of cash.
The display is a flexible 17.3-inch OLED that, like previous Lenovos, can be fully unfolded to take advantage of the large display size. A kickstand on the back allows it to hold at a comfortable angle, and it comes with a Bluetooth keyboard for typing on the big screen. The quality of the 2K OLED HDR panel is impressive with a peak brightness of 500 nits, perfect for watching videos and movies by yourself or with others.
After bending the screen into a clamshell shape, you can place the Bluetooth keyboard on top of the bottom half of the screen. This turns the machine into a 12.5-inch laptop. This mode doesn’t feel adequate. When the screen is smaller, the large bezels become more noticeable, which kind of takes away from the futuristic charm. As you might expect, the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED recognizes when you place the keyboard on the bottom half of the device, and the screen responds accordingly.
Inside, you’ll get Intel’s latest 12th-gen i7-1250U — one of the first devices to be released with the chipmaker’s latest low-power U-series processors. With 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD, the 17 Fold offers two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack. For thickness, it measures 0.34″ unfolded, 0.51″ folded (0.87cm unfolded, 1.29cm folded). The entire assembly (computer and keyboard) weighs 3.31 lbs (1.5 kg). Carry it around, it’s definitely heavier than you’d expect for a device of its folded size, but that’s not bad when you consider that you’re actually carrying a 17-inch machine.
These are the foundations of Asus’ first foray into the foldable market. But how did it come about? The company started work in this direction more than a decade ago, with prototyping work starting more than three years ago. The research and development team for the foldable product took about 20 iterations to arrive at the final product. Asus tried a 13-inch model and even a reverse wraparound fold (similar to Huawei’s Mate X2), but those designs were shelved. To understand the prototyping process, I interviewed Sascha Krohn, director of gaming and PC technical marketing, and Bastian Albinus, senior design manager at ASUS.
“Trial and error.” That’s how Albinus describes the prototyping process. “You always imagine things are going to be nice and smooth, but in reality it rarely always works out or you hit an unexpected bump in the road.”