With its screen folded like a magazine, it could have escaped from a sci-fi movie. However, it will go on the shelves: the Asus Zenbook Fold will be sold before Christmas, at a price of 4,000 euros. If its price is annoyingly undemocratic, this computer is all the same of a new type and perhaps prefigures the PC of tomorrow, or the next day. That’s why we lived and worked with the Zenbook Fold for two weeks, the time to verify that its folding screen is not a gimmick.
An amazing chameleon
In the Asus box, there is a small mechanical keyboard. When you open the screen, you can place this keyboard on its lower part, giving the appearance of an ordinary computer. A particularly small PC, however: it fits on the smallest train shelf, allowing you to work there for hours, thanks to its 12.5-inch screen and its standard-sized keyboard, both quite comfortable.
It’s when you open the Zenbook Fold’s screen that the magic happens: its double display surface. You can display a full A4 document, then a second next to it, without damaging your eyes. When unfolded, the screen measures just 17 inches, but its unusual 4/3 format gives it an above-average height, comparable to a 21-inch screen (16/9).e).
We are tempted to unfold it at the slightest opportunity, especially since, even in this position, it fits into small spaces. In a TGV, he is content with the table that separates the four-seater islands. In a hotel, the smallest office suits him. At home, it finds a place in a corner of the table. You are surprised to put it in surprising places: next to you on a sofa, on a kitchen bar, in a chest of drawers, to work standing up. The experience is so fun that we don’t need to connect a big 24-inch screen to work faster.
An extra TV
In the hotel, it can be a giant tablet, and wonderfully plays the role of an Oled TV, provided you are not presbyopic or wear glasses, because tied to your knees, he is only 35 centimeters away. The image quality is excellent, the blacks are perfect, the colors are rich, the sound is amazing in its power and clarity, although the bass is calm and quickly saturated.
Thus installed, you can browse a comic strip or a magazine in great visual comfort. But the Zenbook Fold does not allow you to play recent games, because the graphics core, which is too modest, only runs very old or 2D titles well. And it’s difficult, alas, to take advantage of this heavy machine for leisure for more than an hour or two, because its weight quickly becomes uncomfortable (1.5 kg without a keyboard, 1.8 kg with).
At night, however, the Zenbook Fold’s battery drains quickly. Its durability varies from five to twelve hours, depending on use and ambient light (playing with screen use). These figures are at a good average, but not enough for a device that is likely to be used from sunrise to sunset.
How strong is the use?
Its flexible screen is fragile, it is not protected by a thick layer of glass. Its technology is close to the Samsung Fold, a folding smartphone that continues to suffer from major weaknesses, three years after its appearance on the market.
But unlike Samsung, the Asus Zenbook Fold is a computer: therefore less exposed to shocks and wear. There is very little risk of it falling, unlike smartphones that come out of the pocket dozens of times a day. It is more often controlled with fingers than with a mouse and keyboard (the use of a stylus is also not recommended by the manufacturer).
When it is folded, its screen forms, in the middle, a less pronounced fold than a smartphone: its circle is softer, which underlies the sandwich of layers that form this type of screen in less stress. On the other hand, its screen can be subjected to sudden temperature variations that tend to break the adhesion between these layers, like a folding mobile. Asus recommends carrying it in the protective bag (supplied): stored this way, there is a very low chance of something getting stuck between the two parts of its screen, a serious damage scenario for this type of display .
During testing, the Zenbook Fold was not spared. He repeatedly traveled in the basket of a bicycle on paved roads and moved the tables a hundred times. But it is difficult to predict how long he will resist such treatment.
faults of youth
In many ways it was well thought out. Its thick edges make it easy to open, its hinge opens smoothly and stays in place. But its software suffers from many annoying flaws: the connection to the keyboard is unstable, the webcam and the screen sometimes remain tilted at 90oh when the machine has just been restored. Let’s hope for Asus to get rid of these concerns, in December, before going to market.
Other problems also arise during use. His keyboard was disabled: it ran on battery power and, if it wasn’t recharged every two days, it would break. It should then be activated by connecting it to the computer’s USB-C socket using a cable (not provided). As for the computer leg, which is not adjustable, when you start a videoconference you can only see the hair of the participants. With a little trickery, the Zenbook Fold turns out to be a particularly effective tool.
In addition, the screen of this transformist PC is not bright enough to be used comfortably outdoors, like many OLED screens. And when folded, it’s 3.5 centimeters thick – twice as thick as the Macbook Air, so it’s hard to fit in a bag.
In ten seconds, the Zenbook Fold is transmuted, from a compact laptop to a comfortable workstation and, at night, to a television. At least two families of users will clearly benefit from this: large nomads and teleworkers living in cramped quarters.
Before taking this computer seriously, however, it is better to wait for it to “mature” in a year or two, time for Asus to redo some details and for users to make sure that its flexible screen can withstand well with jolts. and, in general, that its design is sustainable.
After this period, the question of price will become central. Can we expect it to drop significantly? Not for years, given the stratospheric prices for foldable smartphones, which have barely budged in three years. “The price of the Zenbook Fold is reasonable, we do not make more money from this product than others”so insisted on world Nicolas Bruckert, PC product manager at Asus France.
You are better suited if:
- you are looking for a computer that allows multiple uses in a reduced space;
- you are impatient by nature and you have a taste for danger.
It’s not for you if:
- you don’t like attracting attention;
- in your eyes, any device should be designed to last;
- you travel little;
- your screen is large enough;
- you are not ultra-rich.
Correction on September 26 at 12:10 pm: correction of an error related to the geographical scope of Nicolas Bruckert’s functions.