The ZenBook Fold 17 OLED is a fully realised product instead of the concept piece it looks like, but the price is daunting
- Innovative design with undeniable show-off power
- Display offers wide colour space coverage
- Thunderbolt 4 ports let you expand connectivity
- Keyboard rests awkwardly on the deck
- Occasional display glitching
- Pretty bulky when folded up
When is a 12.5in laptop not a 12.5in laptop? When it’s also a 17.3in tablet. That’s one of the many punchlines Asus could have rolled out when marketing the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED.
Asus is instead calling the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED the “world’s first 17-inch foldable OLED laptop”. While that’s certainly true, it’s not the first foldable OLED laptop in the world – that title belongs to Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold from 2020 – but it’s a momentous release nonetheless. It’s not every day you see a tablet-laptop-desktop hybrid that can be folded up into dimensions not dissimilar to those of a (large) hardback book.
As well as being a triumph of engineering and design, the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED comes with some choice components, which promise to power through basic PC applications, and handle a spot of light gaming on the side.
All of this means that Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED promises to be super versatile – a device that should lend itself well to a variety of work situations.
Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED review: What you need to know
The Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED is an interesting proposition. It is, essentially, a 17.3in 4:3 aspect ratio OLED touchscreen with a hinge in the middle, a kickstand on the back, and laptop components contained within.
This arrangement means that you can fold it out, and use it as a tablet, albeit one that doesn’t support styluses. Or, you can fold it in half and use it as a laptop with a 12.5in 3:2 display which is probably how people will end up using it most of the time.
In laptop mode, you can either type on a virtual keyboard, or place the included Bluetooth keyboard onto the lower half of the display and hammer away. You can even rest the keyboard on your desk, and work on two screens simultaneously, like a miniature Asus ZenBook Duo Pro.
Or, perhaps most impressively, you can unfold the device, pop the kickstand out, and type with the Bluetooth keyboard sitting on your desk, treating the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED like a kind of compact desktop PC. The display itself employs OLED technology, is Pantone-rated for colour accuracy, and provides full coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut.
And, while there are just two USB-C ports on the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED, the presence of an Intel Alder Lake processor means support for Thunderbolt 4 comes as standard. That means you’re well set to attach a dongle or dock, and expand physical connectivity that way, hook up another monitor, or connect to the Internet via an Ethernet adapter.
For times where that’s not convenient, the Wi-Fi 6E antenna means that you’ll be able to access some of the fastest wireless speeds available, over 1Gbits/sec if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi 6E router.
On paper, the 75WHr battery promises you around 9.5 hours or power when the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED is in Laptop mode (i.e. only half of the display is active) and up to 8.5 hours when it’s fully expanded. The supplied 65W charger means that you should get charged back up fairly quickly.
Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: UX9702 – Intel Core i7-1250U with Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of 6400MHz LPDDR5 RAM, 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD 17.3in QHD (2,560 x 1,920) foldable OLED display Windows 11 Home; Price: £3,299.
Currently, this is the only configuration of the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED going. As for competition, that’s tough, as there really isn’t much else like it at the moment.
While there’s no UK price or release date for the new ThinkPad X1 Fold right now, it’s one to watch as a lot of the key specs – 12th gen Intel CPU, up to 32GB RAM, up to 1TB SSD – are similar.
Similarly, the new Microsoft Surface Pro 9 has just been released but we’ve yet to test one. We think it’ll be a good (if smaller) alternative to the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED, if last year’s excellent Surface Pro 8 (£879) is anything to go by.
If you were looking at the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED because you mainly wanted a lightweight device with a 17in display, then the Razer Blade 17 (£3,300) may be worth considering – it doesn’t have an OLED-type panel, and its screen is definitely not foldable but it delivers full coverage of the DCI-P3 colour space, like the ZenBook does and it’s more capable when it comes to gaming.
If on the other hand, you were in the market for a 17in laptop more geared towards work, then consider the Dell XPS 17 (£1,889). Again, the screen isn’t foldable but its 3,840 x 2,400 IPS touchscreen maxes out the DCI-P3 colour gamut as well, and it’s a bit cheaper than both the Blade 17 and the ZenBook 17 Fold.
Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED review: Design, Bluetooth keyboard and touchpad
Fully unfolded, the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED measures 379 x 8.7 x 288mm (WDH) and that thinness is maintained when the device is in laptop mode as well, at least until you attach the keyboard. This adds an extra 4mm to the “deck”.
Considering the ZenBook 17 Fold isn’t an ultrabook, strictly speaking, it’s incredible that Asus has been able to get it down to 12.7mm with the keyboard attached. That’s almost as thin as ultrabooks like the M2 Apple MacBook Air (£1,109), or Asus ZenBook Flip S (£1,427).
When the device is fully folded up into what I’m calling “hardback mode”, the thickness naturally increases to over 2cm, or just under an inch. The ZenBook 17 Fold does feel quite heavy when folded up – hardly surprising when its 1.5kg of total weight is packed into such a small space – so you’ll probably be more inclined to slip into a bag between meetings rather than carry it under your arm.
The central hinge mechanism might be a source of concern as any moving part is naturally subject to wear and tear over the years. But Asus says that the design has been stress-tested to be able to give you up to 30,000 flexes, which ought to last you a good while. And it does feel reassuringly sturdy when you operate the mechanism yourself. What’s really impressive is that, out of the box, there’s only a slight crease noticeable in the centre of the display.
Folding the display inwards typically maintains whatever orientation you were using before and, if you attach the supplied Bluetooth keyboard, that engages “laptop mode” with half of the display shutting itself off, effectively giving you a 12.5in 1,920 x 1,280 display.
Connectivity-wise, there isn’t an awful lot to talk about. You get two Type-C USB ports on the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED, both supporting Thunderbolt 4 and each capable of connecting to the mains adapter.
When you have the ZenBook 17 Fold set up in laptop mode, one of the ports sits on what becomes the top left-hand corner of the display, while the other sits over on the right hand side. As ports are typically built into a laptop’s deck, this arrangement feels a bit odd and takes some getting used to.
As for the keyboard, travel feels surprisingly deep, considering how thin the accessory is, but what’s not surprising is that the layout is a tad busy. At first, this caused me to make more typos than usual due to my clumsy digits pressing two keys instead of one but I’ve no doubt you’d get used to it over time. The trackpad is very responsive and precise out of the box, even before you adjust things to your tastes in the settings. At 4.8in, it’s perhaps a little small but it isn’t unusable.
The Bluetooth keyboard does have a tendency to lift off the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED when you rest your palms on the areas either side of the trackpad, which is a bit jarring. This can also cause the ZenBook 17 Fold to think you’re detaching the keyboard and are about to switch into desktop mode and so, sometimes, the display will adjust accordingly, which then forces you to attach the keyboard again to bounce it back into laptop mode. Future foldables might hit on a solution to this teething problem but here it’s just a design quirk you’ll have to learn to live with.
Video quality of the 5MP (720p) webcam is a bit fuzzy, but passable and. It comes with IR sensors so it supports Windows Hello facial recognition, and the camera array was good enough to recognise my face and unlock the laptop with the blinds drawn and just a bit of sunlight filtering through the window. There is no mechanical cover, so privacy-conscious users might have to invest in something to clip over the sensor, or deploy a blob of Blu-Tack.
Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED review: Display
Foldability aside, what’s that 17.3 display like as a display in general? Pretty good, as it happens.
As it’s an OLED-type panel, you benefit from wonderfully rich contrast that other panel types can’t easily match. I recorded peak brightness in Normal mode at a respectable 383cd/m² and 398.4 cd/m² in Vivid mode – a way off from the maximum 500 cd/m² we’re promised but this is bright enough to allow you to work in virtually all lighting conditions, despite the glossy coating having a tendency to pick up glare from the sun and overhead lights.
Asus also promises full coverage of the DCI-P3 colour space and high colour accuracy and that’s broadly what you get. Without calibrating the display, using DisplayCAL 3 and a Calibrite ColorChecker, I found that the display was capable of producing 164% of the standard RGB colour gamut, and 113% and 116% of the wider Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 spaces, respectively.
Colour accuracy is also high, with a Delta E colour difference score of 1.68 versus DCI-P3 (where zero is a perfect score) recorded in Normal mode. Change things to Vivid mode with the on-board MyAsus software and it’s a different story – colours look more vibrant but they’re far less realistic, with the Delta E score falling to 3.72 (compared with DCI-P3 again).
Either mode is absolutely fine for watching content, playing games, or generally browsing the web but for photo editing, stick to Normal mode. For professional photo editing work, you’d likely want to consider calibrating the display – or connecting to an external monitor instead.
Uniformity was also not perfect, with the top left corner of the display (when set in desktop mode) being slightly less bright overall than other areas but it’s not something that’s noticeable at a glance.
Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED review: Performance and battery life
While the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED’s design might be attention-grabbing, its overall performance is less than spectacular.
That’s not to say it’s bad – it’s more than capable of handling basic PC tasks – it’s just that performance is only marginally better than devices that are quite a bit cheaper and it’s going to struggle if you try to edit 4K video or play demanding games.
Running our in-house media conversion and multi-tasking benchmarks, you can see that it scored only slightly above the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (£879) with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7. It’s slightly behind that of the LG Gram 16, too.
The graph also shows clearly the difference having a more powerful H-series laptop processor gives you, as well as a dedicated graphics card. The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 (£2,199), Razer Blade 17 and Dell XPS 17 all have large displays like the Fold and are priced similarly but they perform at a far higher level across the board.
These results are reflected across both the Geekbench and GFXBench tests as well. The in-house media benchmark is more representative of how everyday PC tasks are handled, whereas these are a CPU stress test and a measure of a system’s graphical processing capabilities. Again, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 comes out looking very good in comparison here:
The ZenBook 17 Fold OLED’s SSD performed much better on the storage read and write tests, however, and, in practice, it was always pretty quick to launch programs.
Running the Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark saw it return 67.33fps at 1080p resolution, with the quality set to ‘High’. Not bad going for a laptop without dedicated graphics.
It even ran the Hitman 2 benchmark, which some systems without a dGPU really struggle with, although the score I recorded was shy of 30fps (25.98fps at 1080p), with Supersampling locked to 1.00 and the Shadows slider couldn’t be moved beyond Low quality. I had a lot more joy with older, more basic games. DiRT Showdown, for instance, gave me an average 78.17fps at 1080p.
Interestingly, running the same set of gaming benchmarks again with the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED in laptop mode, I noted that frame rates overall dropped a bit.
So, as you might expect, you can run less-demanding titles on the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED no problem but for anything harder going, you’ll want to invest in a gaming laptop instead.
Battery life has to be the most disappointing aspect of the Fold 17. Running a looped movie with the brightness capped at 170cd/m² with flight mode enabled saw the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED last 7hrs 46mins in desktop mode, and 8hrs 20mins in laptop mode.
That’s about on par with that of the Surface Pro 8 and slightly better than that of the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 and Razer Blade 17 gaming laptops but it comes nowhere near the LG Gram 16 for longevity.
Less than stellar battery performance is to be expected, given the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED’s dimensions and the size of the display, however, and it’s telling that using it in laptop mode extends the battery’s life by about half an hour.
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Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED review: Verdict
It’s tempting to write off the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold OLED as a proof-of-concept that’s accidentally wandered onto the shelves but, judged on its performance alone, it’s a respectable – if expensive – laptop.
The biggest drawback is the price. You can get a powerful gaming laptop for the same money or, if you need a machine for work, you can get something just as powerful for far less. What you are really paying for is the design. There is an undeniable wow factor here and showing this off in a meeting with colleagues and clients will undoubtedly turn heads and earn you some cool points.
If you’re tempted by this curious flexible offering from Asus, however, I’d encourage you to hold fire for the time being. The 2nd gen Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is on the horizon and it could be even more impressive.