Review unit provided by ASUS Singapore
2022's biggest Windows tablet
The ASUS Zenbook Fold 17 OLED (UX9702) is yet another laptop from ASUS with an interesting design. The company now has laptops with two displays, dials, touchpad keyboards, self-lifting keyboards and now folding displays.
The ASUS Zenbook Fold 17 was announced at CES 2022 and released in late 2022. Official retail price is US $3499 or SGD 5499. Just for reference, the two best laptops from ASUS in my opinion currently are the SGD 3699 ASUS Zenbook Duo 14 (UX8402) and SGD 4999 ASUS Zenbook Pro 16X (UX7602). But these three laptops are very different from one another.
The ASUS Zenbook Fold 17 is a first generation design and only a limited number of units were made for sale. At the time of this review, this laptop is already out of stock on ASUS Singapore online store with very few units available on Shopee Singapore and Lazada Singapore.
This review is from the perspective of a visual content creator, someone who's into digital art, graphic design, edits photos and videos.
The 17.3-inch folding OLED display is larger than the usual 17.3-inch laptops due to the 4:3 aspect ratio. While the display has many folding options, the most satisfying way to use it is to use it big. Performance is smooth and decent for a non-gaming laptop but can slow down with processor intensive tasks, e.g. exporting photos and videos. Audio quality is alright. Bluetooth keyboard's connection isn't consistent.
The huge display is obviously the main selling feature. As to whether it's worth the money depends on whether you are alright with the compromises mentioned in the previous paragraph.
As a proof of concept, this laptop is very interesting. Sure there are some limitations and downsides, but if ASUS can improve the next model, if there's a next model, things could get even more interesting. The price point also needs to come down to make it more attractive for people to open their wallets.
The laptop only comes with one configuration:
- CPU: 12th gen Intel Core i7-1250U
- Display: 17.3-inch Foldable OLED touchscreen, 2,560 x 1,920, 60Hz, 0.2s response time, 87% screen-to-body ratio,100% DCI-P3 color gamut, 500 nits HDR, 1:1 million contrast ratio
- Display folding options: UNFOLDED: 17.3-inch with 4:3 aspect ratio, FOLDED: 2 x 12.5-inch (1,920 x 1,280) with 3:2 aspect ratio
- Operating system: Windows 11 Pro, Windows 11 Home
- Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
- Main memory: 16GB 5,200MHz LPDDR5 onboard
- Storage: 1TB PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe M.2 SSD up to 6500MB/s read speed
- Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) + Bluetooth 5.2
- Camera: 5MP AI camera with 3D Noise Reduction, HD camera with IR function and Intel Visual Sensing Controller, Color sensor for automatic color temperature and brightness control
- I/O ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C with charging, 1 x 3.5 mm audio combo jack
- Audio: Quad speaker system with SmartAmp certified by Harman Kardon, Dolby Atmos, AI Noise Canceling Audio
- Battery: 75Whrs lithium-polymer battery
- Dimensions: UNFOLDED: 378.5 x 287.6 x 8.7~12.9mm, FOLED: 287.6 x 189.3 x 17.4~34.5mm
- Weight: Zenbook 17 Fold OLED: 1.5 kg, ErgoSense Bluetooth® keyboard: 300g
- Things included: 65W USB-C charger, charging cable, laptop carrying case
Full specs can be found here.
- Bluetooth keyboard
- USB-A to USB-C adapter
- 65W USB-C charger and cable
- Folding cardboard laptop stand
The exterior has a pearlescent look with a glow that will change depending on lighting condition. The spine area is covered with the leather-wrapped kick stand portion. The weight of the laptop is 1.5kg and the Bluetooth keyboard is 300g. Total weight of 1.8kg is still considered light for a laptop with a 17.3-inch display.
The laptop is quite thick when folded.
The ports available are 2x Thunderbolt 4, one 3.5mm audio jack. There are four speakers on the side with serviceable audio quality.
Kudos to ASUS for having the courage to actually innovate and push out different designs for their laptops.
The display is a 17.3-inch touchscreen OLED display. The resolution is 2560 x 1920. Pixel density is 184PPI so there's slight pixelation but overall visuals can still be considered sharp. Colour support is 100% DCI-P3.
This display is very glossy and is challenging to work with when there are reflections on it. Notice the folding crease from this angle.
Viewing angles are good with minimal colour shift and minimal drop in brightness. Notice the folding crease is not visible from this angle.
The crease is not really visible with normal usage and hence I don't find it that distracting. What's more distracting is the very reflective display.
The 4:3 aspect ratio makes this display look larger than most 17.3-inch laptop displays. The big size, extra vertical space and resolution makes it possible to work with two windows side by side, even if the windows are narrower as a result. This display is great for productivity. When editing photos, you can see more thumbnails, when editing videos, the timeline can be made taller.
And due to the size and aspect ratio, this is the largest Windows tablet I've ever seen, bigger even than those thicker 17.3-inch 2-in-1 laptop convertibles.
There are several ways to use the folding display. Shown above is the Reader Mode.
This is the Laptop Mode with full display and virtual keyboard. There are two cameras at the top that support Windows Hello face unlock which works fast and effectively.
This is the normal Laptop Mode with the standalone Bluetooth keyboard on top. The screen size is reduced to 12.5-inch and 1920 x 1280 resolution.
This is the Desktop Mode with the Bluetooth keyboard in front.
When the display is folded, you'll get to choose the layout mode, and this will automatically move the windows into different spaces. This is similar to using the WinKey and Arrow keyboard shortcuts to move windows around.
That's how the fold-out stand looks behind. Bottom of the stand is wrapped with leather so that will definitely wear out with usage. Other parts where the laptop touch the table are fitted with rubber feet.
The fold-out stand cannot hold the display vertically. In the photo above, I've used my own tablet stand to hold the display vertically and the resolution in this case is 1920 x 2560. This vertical format is great if you want more vertical space, and can be very useful for programmers who want to see more lines of code.
The foldable display can be used as an external display to another Windows computer.
To do that, you have to go into Windows Settings - Projecting to this PC. Install the Wireless Display driver that gives you the Miracast wireless screen casting feature. Next, just launch the wireless display app from the same settings page again to use the folding display as an external display.
On your other Windows computer, press WinKey + K and it should detect the folding display wirelessly if they are on the same network.
As far as I know, video output with cable connection is not possible with two computers running Windows.
The wireless video casting has slight lag but overall can still be considered quite responsive.
The main downside to using the ASUS Zenbook Fold 17 as an external is there's only one 4:3 aspect resolution you can choose and that's 1600 by 1200 so there will be noticeable pixelation. Resolution options for 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratios will show black bars.
This is the standalone Bluetooth keyboard included. The top is pasted with a thin layer of leather which I feel is not necessary. You can see this leather sticker from the side of the keyboard.
The keyboard weighs 300g.
Layout for the keys is good. There's a Ctrl button the right side (essential for me), Caps lock has light indicator. The keyboard is thin and flat like laptop keyboards. Typing experience is good enough with decent key travel and feedback.
The touchpad is on the smaller side and features physical clicks with left and right areas.
The keyboard has internal battery that can be charged with the USB-C port on the right side. There's also a power switch there.
There are several downsides to the keyboard. Battery life of the keyboard is around 1 week. Sometimes the touchpad movement is jerky so it may be better to use a Bluetooth mouse instead. The keys have no backlight.
I wished ASUS has included another rubber feet underneath, just behind the F7 and F8 buttons but I remembered if the keyboard is on the OLED display, that rubber feet will press against the display. Right now, the rubber feet of the keyboard rest on the bezels of the display.
The 12th gen Intel i7-1250U processor is a 10-core chip with 2 performance cores at 1.1Ghz and 8 efficiency cores. RAM included is 16GB. Internal storage is 1TB and transfer speeds is up to 6GB/s and 4GB/s read and write.
2 performance cores at 1.1Ghz means this laptop will have limited performance. Sure it can be used for some photo and 1080P video editing, but you'll be more productive (save more time) with more powerful laptops that you can buy at the same price. 4K video editing has lag during the import and editing.
1080P video editing is alright. The 4:3 aspect ratio is good for editing videos because there is space for multiple layers in the timeline palette.
With non-gaming usage, the overall performance is smooth and fast. When it comes to exporting twenty over 24MP RAW photos I've used for this review, the laptop will start to lag when you switch to use other apps during the photo export process. Photo editing process is mostly responsive but I noticed the more powerful processors are faster at generating thumbnails, and switching between thumbnails and editing mode.
Due to the 4:3 aspect ratio, it's likely to have unused space at the top and bottom of the photo within the photo editing app. In Adobe Lightroom Classic, I hid the left column of palettes and could get the photo look much bigger.
This laptop can handle light gaming but when cooling is insufficient, it lags. I could play Hades, a dungeon crawler, at 60FPS. Red Dead Redemption 2 was unplayable at less than 10 FPS. Just for reference, the Huawei Matebook D 16 that I reviewed months ago which also came with Intel Iris Xe graphics was able to run RDR2 at 720P at 25-30FPS. Why the huge difference? The Huawei laptop was equipped with the much more powerful Intel Core i5-12450H processor.
If the game does not support 4:3 aspect ratio, the game will either appear stretched or there will be black bars at the top and bottom. This applies to watching videos as well.
Battery capacity is 75WHrs and I was able to get around 5 hr 30 minutes of battery life which doesn't surprise me. At least the battery life is still better than the tablet portion of the Microsoft Surface Book.
The ASUS Zenbook Fold 17 OLED is an interesting proof of concept. The main selling point is obviously the huge OLED that looks visually stunning. Performance is limited by the processor so this isn't a laptop for processor intensive tasks. If you're paying that much for a laptop, I suppose you'll want a really powerful laptop but this premium you pay here goes to the display.
Another area of concern is repairability. I'm not sure how repairable a folding OLED display is.
Is this worth the money?
That will depend on whether you need or want a portable Windows computer with an extra large display.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ High resolution huge display is good for productivity
+ 17.3-inch display appears larger due to 4:3 aspect ratio
+ Vibrant colour accurate OLED touchscreen display
+ Pixelation not really noticeable
+ Considered lightweight at 1.5kg + 0.3kg keyboard
+ Many ways to use the display
+ Crease not noticeable
+ Adaptive brightness
+ Good for writing code
+ Can be used as external display with Miracast driver
- Glossy and reflective
- Defaults to higher brightness after log in
- Games that don't support 4:3 aspect ratio will have black bars
- Thicker than normal laptops in laptop mode
- Finicky touchpad from the Bluetooth keyboard
- Bluetooth keyboard battery life is just one week
- Slows down and exporting photos
- Questionable repairability
- Limited processing power
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