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

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 22 Fans using Android Authority during press briefing cropped scaled

Bogdan Petrovan / Android Authority

Laptops with a foldable screen weren’t something I thought I’d get excited about, but after seeing Asus’ new Zenbook 17 Fold OLED at IFA, I’m starting to change my mind. Somewhat improbably, Asus made a functional, practical even 17-inch tablet that can be folded in half and become a portable 12-inch laptop. It’s eye-wateringly expensive, but after four generations of expensive Galaxy Folds, would you expect anything else?

The incredible shape-shifting Zenbook

The Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is quite a bit of kit as a laptop, but its massive folding screen sets it apart from almost anything else out there. The one exception is the Lenovo X1 Fold, first announced in 2019, which has a similar, albeit smaller, form factor.

Asus’ take on the concept is similar to Lenovo’s: a large folding screen that curves in the middle, an adjustable kickstand for when you need to support it, and a slim magnetic keyboard for text input and navigation.

ASUS Zenbook 17-way OLED 6Tablet Mode Front View

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

In tablet mode, when the screen is fully extended, Zenbook 17 Fold offers a huge 17.3-inch touchscreen to play and work on. It’s a nice and bright OLED panel, with great contrast ratios and enough pixels to make everything look sharp. While there are plenty of other 17-inch laptops out there, you just can’t get this size in the spacious, productivity-boosting 4:3 format.

Also read: The Best Foldable Phones You Can Get in 2022

There is a crease in the center that is easily noticeable if you look at it from the side, but it usually disappears if you look at it from the front. Your eyes naturally focus on the image on the screen, rather than the subtle distortion of the fold. It’s a lot like looking at the Fold 4, Flip 4 or any of the other foldable phones out there – the fold just isn’t an issue.

Although you can use the Zenbook 17 Fold as a tablet, it is more pleasant to use it as a portable monitor

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

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 9 Tablet Mode

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

While you can use Zenbook 17 Fold as a tablet, treating it as a portable monitor (or all-in-one PC) is more comfortable. Simply open the stand, place it on a table and use the keyboard and/or touchscreen to interact with the screen as you would with a desktop computer.

Asus said the hinge in the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is rated for 30,000 open-and-close cycles. Based on the manufacturer’s calculations, this should ensure a service life of at least five years of average use. Company representatives warned that users should handle the device with care – this is not a robust machine that you can abuse without consequences. It’s not just the hinge you need to worry about – as we’ve seen with other foldable devices in the past, dirt can get trapped under the flexible display. Due to its sheer size, Asus’ foldable laptop appears to be particularly susceptible to this vulnerability.

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 12 Open in laptop mode

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

Fold down the screen and you have a compact 12.5-inch laptop. You can place the included wireless keyboard on top of the bottom half of the screen. The device detects it and adjusts the user interface to use only the top half of the screen. In this mode, the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED behaves like a normal small laptop. Alternatively, you can also use the device in touchscreen mode. The content simply “flows” from the vertical half of the screen to the horizontal half. You can use a virtual keyboard to type, or you can scroll through documents and web pages across the two halves of the screen. Personally, I found this mode clunky, although I can’t deny the usefulness of being able to fit more content onto the screen.

It’s a shame the Zenbook 17 Fold isn’t stylus compatible, as the plastic screen isn’t strong enough to withstand a sharp stylus tip.

Also read: The best laptops you can buy in 2022

Design and construction: mostly good

For such a flexible device (pun intended), it was important for Asus to get the design and ergonomics right. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, in my experience. Zenbook 17 Book feels stylish and reassuringly firm in the hand, especially when folded and closed. It looks a lot like a nice leather-bound organizer; I saw a director take it out during a board meeting. It’s sturdy and quite hefty, at around 1.5kg, but not overly so, given the 17-inch screen it houses.

ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED 15 Top Front closed with logo

Ryan McLeod / Android Authority

While the build and design are generally good, I have noticed some shortcomings. First, it is not easy to quickly open and unfold the entire device. Or at least it wasn’t obvious and intuitive to me, in the short amount of time I spent with the device. The kickstand in the back doesn’t inspire confidence either. It’s small and looks fragile – it will do its job if you use the screen on a desk or other flat surface, but it won’t be very stable on your lap or couch.

Zenbook 17 Book has a stylish feel and a reassuringly firm grip

The Bluetooth keyboard is generous in size or at least as large 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 does suffer from a slight bending issue when placed on 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 marketing the Zenbook 17 Fold as a ready-to-use consumer product. Remember this is a first generation device and the second of its kind. It’s far from perfect, just as Samsung’s original Galaxy Fold was flawed in its first iteration.

Pricey potential

Looking beyond its shape-shifting capabilities, the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a competent laptop, if not a great one. You get an Intel Core i7-1250U CPU, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. The performance is adequate for a laptop or office computer that uses content, but it’s not a good choice for gaming or video editing. The battery life is surprisingly solid considering the size of the screen and the limited space inside, at around 10 hours. The port selection is meager – you get two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack.

asus zenbook 17 fold oled.jpg specifications and features

Bogdan Petrovan / Android Authority

The Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a pricey device, starting at $3,500 in the US and €4,000 in Europe. That’s the huge price to pay to be on the edge of the computer, but is it worth it? Not really, at least not for most people. I’m pretty sure Asus doesn’t care about that though, as the Zenbook 17 Fold isn’t a mass product. They’re different things, though: a road opener, a vision demonstrator, a statement of interest, and a shot across the bow to the competition.

Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a road opener, a vision demonstrator, a statement of interest and a shot across the board to the competition.

The short time I spent with the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED convinced me that this form factor has enormous potential. While the product itself makes a few too many sacrifices, especially for the huge price it asks, Asus’ foldable laptop is undeniably cool. The ability to extend a small laptop into a beautiful large screen is fascinating. All Asus has to do now is refine the idea in a few generations and bring the price down.