Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED Review – A field report: Will Windows foldables make a breakthrough with this ASUS?
The ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is finally preparing to make the combination of foldable and Windows socially acceptable. More power, efficiency and a larger form factor for the foldable OLED panel should make the Zenbook 17 a jack of all trades among convertibles. In the everyday test, we looked at who or what the devices are really suitable for.
Almost two years ago we tested Lenovo’s first Windows foldable . Since then, however, things have remained surprisingly quiet around foldable laptops, which many have already touted as the future of mobile working. Meanwhile, more and more smartphones with the technology pushed onto the market.
But it hasn’t really caught on there either. The principle is as simple as it is ingenious: Thanks to OLED technology, flexible screens can be built that – in very simplified terms – can be folded or rolled like a sheet of paper. So you can get much larger displays in smaller form factors.
ASUS is now venturing onto the market with the second 3-in-1 foldable (tablet, desktop, laptop) including a Windows base, the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED.
Visually, this means for you: When unfolded, you get a 17.3” tablet in 4:3 format that can be folded in the middle and converted into a compact laptop using the Bluetooth keyboard provided. You can also place the tablet and keyboard individually on a table and use them in a kind of desktop mode.
|Display||17.3″ (43.9 cm), (2560 × 1920), OLED, 4:3, 0.2ms, touch, 350 cd/m² (maximum brightness 500 nits),
100% DCI-P3 color coverage
|Processor||Intel® Core™ i7-1250U processor, 10 cores / 12 threads Alder Lake (“Intel 7” manufacture)|
|Chart||Intel® Iris® Xᵉ Graphics|
|RAM||16GB LPDDR5 5200MHz soldered|
|Hard disk||1TB M.2 NVMe™ PCIe® 4.0|
WiFi 6E (802.11ax)
|Connections||2x USB-C with Thunderbolt™ 4 & DisplayPort / PowerDelivery
1x 3.5-mm Combo Audiojack
USB-C to USB-A Adapter
|Battery pack||Li-Ion battery with 75 Wh|
|Input devices||Soft keyboard, 1.4mm key travel, touchpad|
|Sound||Harman Kardon stereo speakers with Smart Amp technology, array microphone|
|Camera||5.0 megapixel infrared webcam|
|Operating system||Windows 11 Home (64-Bit)|
|Dimensions||37.85cm x 28.76 x 0.87 ~ 1.29cm (folded); 299mm x 235.6mm x 11.3mm (opened) (WxDxH)|
Is it worth it in everyday life?
It all depends on how you define “worth it”. With a price of just under 3,700 euros, at first glance it should only be considered for business travelers or the popular upper 10% of society. On the other hand, with the Fold OLED you also get a real 3-in-1 device. In addition to tablet operation, you can use it like a laptop AND like a desktop. If you were to buy each of these devices individually – and each requires a certain feel and performance, then you will quickly find yourself in similar price regions.
The price and sophistication of the Zenbook 17 Fold are already noticeable in the packaging. In addition to a real leather sleeve, it also comes in a very funky box, which contains the Zenbook with charger and a USB-C to USB-A adapter. It only has two USB-C ports.
Many peripheral devices, such as mice, headsets, etc., still require a USB-A port. But the two existing connections are ultra-modern. USB 4.0 aka Thunderbolt 4 ensures extremely fast data transfer – provided you have the right cable and storage medium. You can also connect several high-resolution monitors or docking stations.
If your monitor has USB-C PowerDelivery with 65 watts, you can even transmit image and power via one cable – nice. Otherwise, external graphics cards can also be connected via Thunderbolt. If you value a setup that is as clean as possible, you can, for example, place the E-GPU together with the case next to the monitor and then only connect the Zenbook 17 when needed. It’s not really intended for gamers – more on that under Performance.
17.3 inches or 12.5? – Yes.
I therefore see the main use cases as more likely to be in first class on a train or business class on an airplane. It’s perfect for working in the tightest of spaces. Due to the foldable form factor, it corresponds to a 12.5” laptop with a 3:2 format. Together with the magnetic overlay keyboard, you have a very compact notebook for on the go, which can be operated in the classic way via touchpad and keyboard.
Arriving at a more open desk, the screen then unfolds to the maximum possible 17.3 inches. Due to the extremely solid-looking hinge, it’s always a little aha experience, which I hadn’t gotten used to even the umpteenth time.
The 17 Fold is now “unfolded” using the variable kickstand and large tables can be displayed and edited without any problems. The keyboard can be easily removed and used outside of the ZenBook 17 Fold. In principle, this was also possible with the first Windows foldable from the competition, but due to the large screen, only the Asus Zenbook 17 has a real desktop feeling.
This is also due to the good keyboard, which lacks lighting, but offers pleasantly large keys that are easy to type on. The integrated touchpad doesn’t have to hide behind most laptops either. It reacts to your inputs quickly and without dead areas.
Gestures are just as possible as right-clicking on the entire area.
However, the detachable Bluetooth keyboard is not without criticism. For example, it cannot be charged inductively – so you have to “recharge” each time via the USB-C connection. However, inductive charging is possible in other convertibles.
Logging into the Zenbook 17 is very pleasant: The Windows Hello camera scans your face via infrared as soon as you open the device or switch it on. And unlike many other Windows laptops, the camera can even keep up with smartphones in terms of quality. 5 megapixels are available for photos and a 1440p resolution for video recordings. So you are easily recognizable in Zoom or other business apps.
However, when using the Zenbook foldable on a desktop, you have to consider that the camera is then on your left. Depending on the face and angle, this can look better or worse. In laptop mode, however, it films you centered.
Display: Suitable for more.
Speaking of desktop operation: editing images or videos is really fun thanks to the excellent 4:3 screen.
Even professional color spaces are almost completely covered – OLED technology and Pantone certification make it possible.
With a resolution of 2.5K, content is pin-sharp and colors are pleasantly bright without being overdone.
After all, the technology allows each pixel to be dimmed or switched off individually. Black is really black – it doesn’t get any better these days.
A small drawback is only the display surface. Firstly, it reflects and secondly, due to its plastic nature, it does not appear as high-quality as glass.
In terms of feel, it is most comparable to a smartphone or tablet display to which a protective film has been stuck. Not dramatic, but worth mentioning.
No stylus support?!
A missed opportunity. There is no other way to describe this sacrifice in the Zenbook. It doesn’t matter whether in desktop or laptop mode: A pen operation would have qualified the foldable (with the very good screen) for higher creative tasks. You could have edited projects in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or Fresco directly on the Zenbook 17 – a graphics tablet would no longer have been necessary for many creative professionals.
This can be a real increase in working and travel comfort, especially when you’re on the go. Maybe ASUS will upgrade here again via drivers. After all, ten-finger touch inputs are supported and even the last Windows foldable could use a pen. So the hope is there.
With such a special design – and at the same time a high price – the software base must of course be right. However, the initial setup of the Zenbook 17 Fold is not optimal.
After switching it on for the first time, you will be prompted loudly by voice output (in several languages) to connect the Bluetooth keyboard. Too bad it doesn’t want to recognize your input. Accordingly, the Windows initialization had to be done via touch input. That also worked well and the subsequent connection of the keyboard in Windows was no longer a problem.
Also afflicted with slight pitfalls: The automatic changeover of the screen orientation when you switch from laptop to desktop mode. For me it happened about three times that the screen got stuck in portrait mode. Only a manual switch then brought a remedy. Asus should adjust the software again here.
Somewhat incomprehensible: A free demo of the antivirus software McAfee. This is annoying with pop-ups and wants to convince you to buy the full version. We know that from 500 euro notebooks – but it has no place on such a high-priced device. So quickly uninstall and rather use the very good Windows “Defender”.
Otherwise, the software can do something: MyASUS is not completely free of advertising either, but it lets you keep the system up to date and also adjust the settings for the color spaces of the display and the power modes of the fan.
You can only activate the maximum performance mode here. It becomes important in the next point.
Performance: finally more power in a foldable form factor?
The first generation of Windows foldable was able to convince with the form factor, but in terms of performance it lagged behind on the level of a billo laptop. At a price point of over 3,000 euros at the time, it was not particularly desirable.
ASUS has accordingly padded and not spilled on the data sheet. An Intel Core i7-1250U has the slightly odd number of ten cores and twelve threads, which is due to the special architecture with efficiency and performance cores.
With it you can easily move through applications on the go, be tab messis and render shorter videos. The equipment is also good in other respects: a terabyte of fast SSD storage should be enough for quite a while, 16GB of modern LPDDR5 RAM is also good.
Gambling is possible with restrictions. You can play older titles like CS:GO smoothly in Full HD resolution and maximum details. However, the integrated Intel Iris Xe can only display newer “graphic monsters” as a slide show.
However, the slim form factor of the Zenbook 17 Fold comes with a few limitations. Intel experts and those who want to become one have probably already noticed that it is a U-CPU.
So it has significantly less power consumption than the more powerful P or H sister models – which benefits power consumption and sacrifices performance.
Emissions: Mostly quiet and reasonably cool
Up to 17 watts are constantly on the CPU in the stress test. However, over 30 watts can also be reached for a short time.
You will only hear the fan when the fold is attached to the power supply. Otherwise it was always very quiet with us. However, you can clearly hear it in performance mode (which ASUS also provides with a volume warning). However, it never gets annoying because the noise is of a rather low-frequency nature.
The meaning of the intoxication, or the high fan speed, is then reflected in the pleasantly cool case and the internal temperatures. A maximum of 94 degrees was possible in the stress test. That sounds like a lot but is still absolutely within the limits of the Intel processor (maximum 105 degrees possible). In everyday use, the Zenbook 17 Fold settles more in the range of 40 to 50 degrees.
Good battery life with Asterisk(*)
The Intel Evo certification promises up to nine hours of battery life for laptops with Full HD resolution. The latter is of course clearly outperformed by the Zenbook, but the 17 Fold OLED lasted eight hours in our test. The main focus was surfing and working in Microsoft Office. From time to time an image was retouched in Photoshop or a YouTube video was watched. Eight hours are decent for that – especially considering the large screen.
Since it is an OLED panel, however, the energy consumption depends on a few other factors. First there is the screen content and – in the case of the Zenbook 17 Fold – also the way it is set up. If you use the model in laptop mode, the eight hours are usually easily reached. Things are a bit different in desktop mode. The entire screen is used here and if you then edit a bright photo or watch a video, the percentages drop much faster. After five to six hours, a visit to the socket may become necessary.
Especially in comparison with Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, this is a gigantic step forward for Windows foldables. The pioneer device rarely lasted more than six hours, even in energy-saving mode.
So eight hours can definitely be in here and that’s how it gets you through the working day. However, you should not embark on longer business trips without access to a socket (or power bank).
Upgrade – Nope.
The headline already says it: an upgrade of the device is not possible. Everything is glued together here and should simply not be opened afterwards.
So if you’re not exactly ASUS engineers, then better leave it alone 😉
Speakers: Amazingly good.
The last part of the test is usually the hardest. Laptop speakers are often real ear tortures, without bass and with a frequent tendency to excessive high tones.
But every year there is a surprise. Fortunately, this also includes the ASUS Zenbook 17 OLED Fold. Of course, there aren’t really any lows here either, but the rest of the soundscape only has a few holes. In addition, the ASUS foldable is also very loud. Everything below 80% is still bearable for me, above that it starts to oversteer minimally.
Depending on the type of installation, the foldable sounds different. The best sound is achieved in desktop mode. A small stereo stage is even set up in front of you. In laptop mode, on the other hand, the sound is much thinner and – due to the speakers now being stacked – has more of a mono representation. But overall okay.
Conclusion: It can be worth it, but requires special requirements (and wallet)
So, is a foldable Windows 3-in-1 worth it in late 2022? It can at least be worth it if you fit into some special use cases.
You live in a big city in a limited space and are often on the road for business trips or otherwise. Your computer should ideally combine a desktop, a notebook and a large tablet in one device? The acquisition costs are of secondary importance or is a minimalistic setup simply the most important thing for you?
Then the Zenbook 17 Fold could be just your thing. Working in everyday life is really fun due to the versatility. The display is excellent, the performance is suitable for creative applications and the limited gaming performance could even be improved with an external graphics card.
But you will not be able to live with a Windows foldable in 2022 without any compromises. Compared to the ThinkPad X1 Fold from Lenovo, which was released in 2020, a lot has happened. The performance is far better, the larger form factor makes more sense and the connections are nicely versatile thanks to Thunderbolt. The battery has also gained in endurance and now lasts for almost a working day – quite good for a device in this class.
The lack of support for pen inputs and the Bluetooth tablet that can only be charged via cable are the biggest shortcomings. The latter is a convenience feature that was also included in the two-year-old Lenovo foldable. Too bad it’s missing here, but not too dramatic either. The pen support, on the other hand, would have been expected given the high price of the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED.
Did I forget an application scenario – and if so, what else would you use the ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED for? Let us know in the comments section.