What do foldable laptops mean for the future of mobile computing

At IFA 2022 in Berlin, Germany, we got a hands-on look at both the new Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED laptop and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold 2nd Gen. Both are compact laptops that feature large foldable screens.

In our short time with both units, we were able to get a feel of how each computer acts as a daily driver, and the results are surprisingly impressive. The implications for the future of mobile design are likely to be huge.


Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED: Netbook Size with Powerbook Stats

Initially announced at CES 2022, the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED manages to combine the convenience of a 13-inch laptop form factor with a 17.3-inch 2K OLED touchscreen due to its foldable display and wireless keyboard.

Using it is an incredible experience, and its price tag will match, starting at $3,500 when it comes out in late 2022. That’s just for the base model too. At the time of writing, there was no price for the Core i7-1250U CPU, 16GB RAM, and 1TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD storage version we used.


The Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is a bit stocky (we’ll refer to it as the Zenbook Fold from now on), but it feels surprisingly light in the hand. In fact, the first thing that struck us was how much it reminded me of the leather-covered notebooks that were often carried before notebooks became the standard way to take notes.

Open it up, and you’ll have a standard 13-inch laptop. Remove the magnetically connected Bluetooth keyboard, and it will automatically switch to portrait mode. Pick it up, straighten it, pull up the sturdy kickstand, and you’ve got a 17.3″ 4:3 landscape display. It’s intuitive. More than just my hunch, it just happens.

My time with the Zenbook Fold convinced me that it would do just about everything I want a travel laptop to do. The 17.3-inch foldable OLED display rated with Pantone sounds like it would be the perfect thing for creators looking for a portable all-in-one device.

If you are a digital artist, there is a disappointment in store. The touch screen on Zenbook Fold does not support stylus devices. For some, this won’t be seen as a problem, but when the Zenbook Fold’s starting price of $3,500 is more than the cost of a decent laptop and a drawing tablet combined, it’s sure to be a disadvantage for some.

There’s another option, though, one that’s already undergone a very general design iteration and learned from its mistakes — and it comes with an optional stylus: Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold 2nd Gen.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2: Comprehensive Improvements

At first glance, the second generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (hereafter referred to as the X1 Fold) falls short of the Zenbook Fold. The foldable screen is a 16.3-inch 2024 x 2560 touchscreen display, so you’re missing out on some screen size. Arguably, that’s the whole point of having a foldable screen in the first place.


However, the foldable 12-inch form factor harks back to the days when laptops were really viable, and anyone who’s used a ThinkPad keyboard before will be happy to hear that it’s up for scratch. In fact, it is the best flat bluetooth keyboard I have used so far.

Lenovo is not new to this either. The name of the second generation of the X1 Fold refers to the first iteration of the X1 Fold in 2020. This device ran into some serious issues, mainly due to its minimal size (a nearly unusable 9-inch laptop with a 13.3-inch foldable screen) and the Lakefield line that died Now a disappointing Intel processor.

The second generation addresses every one of these problems. It’s bigger and faster (with 12th-generation Intel U9 CPUs from the i5 to i7 range), and it starts at $2,499 like the original X1 Fold. It’s a ThinkPad too, so you’ll likely get a huge degree of customization when choosing the specs you want.

The X1 Fold can also do some things that the Zenbook Fold can’t. First, it will happily sit upright in portrait mode, giving you a large flat screen display as well as a landscape option. There is also an optional $250 stylus that attaches magnetically to the tablet chassis.

While the overall experience of using it was similar to the Zenbook Fold, those last two points actually propelled the second-generation X1 Fold into a place where it’s become a hybrid machine: at once, a laptop with multiple screen configurations and a foldable panel for art. Or just relax while watching the show. It, too, will be released in the latter half of 2022, with a hint in November.

Foldable Screen Laptops: The Future?

Hands-on, both feel like a lot more than laptops or tablets. They feel like something new. A type of consumer device that has yet to arrive, but when it does, a device that will change everything.

This is a phrase I don’t like to use, but using a laptop rarely feels like a new experience. Both devices bridge the gap between 2-in-1 laptops, larger tablets, and foldable phones. The next generation of these devices, depending on whether they’re bigger or smaller, could replace any of those things.

Foldable screens are no longer the bleeding edge of technology, but they rarely live up to expectations. There is still an argument to be made now Foldable smartphones may not be worth your money.

However, riding the 2-in-1 laptops was much easier. The MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo It is a great laptop in its own right.

However, if you’re not a fan of folding the keyboard behind the screen and keeping it in tablet mode, then this 2-in-1, no matter the quality, won’t do it for you.

Tablets are absurdly powerful now, but they still can’t replace the laptop for a large percentage of daily users. Also, depending on your use case, once you get certain tablet sizes, you’re better off using a small laptop again.

Add folding to the equation, and everything changes. Small laptops that hide larger screens are the first step towards mid-size laptops with much larger screens. Large foldable tablets instantly become more portable. These are the steps that will take foldable screen technology away from it foldable phone tricks And in practical use on a large scale, but there are some big problems that must be overcome first.

Foldable laptops aren’t for everyone

Despite my enthusiasm and the sense of touching something that seems out of the future, none of these laptops are quite ready to break into the world. Part of the problem is the niche value of this technology when compared to the price. There are no specs for a $3,500 starting price for the Asus, and while the ThinkPad Fold starts at $2,499, it’s still a good chunk of money.


These machines aren’t perfect either. There’s weird stutters here and glitches there while using it, and while there’s no concrete stats for either device, you’ll be lucky to get six hours of battery life. This is not to mention the fact that a file bluetooth keyboards It will need to charge separately as well.

It hardly seems fair to pick up on such early iterations of an entirely new design (although, while we are, it would be nice to have a magnetic charging base for the keyboard), but these are undeniable hurdles that foldable laptops will have to overcome before they become current.

The next generation of mobile devices

The high entry price is a clear sign that these machines were built to prove that it can. They are not the first laptops with foldable screens, but they are arguably the first viable. It’s a sign that hybrids are really getting closer, and that the days of carrying multiple devices may be numbered.

My time with both devices convinced me that this technology is not a gimmick. It’s rare that I touch any new device and I want one for myself right away. Both are very impressive, but the second-generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold really struck me as something to buy and use as a remote writer doing creative work on the go.

While it may take the price of laptops with foldable screens to reach, the implications for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold 2nd Gen and Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED are huge. Your next foldable device may be more practical than a foldable phone.

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