Are you looking for innovative, experimental technology that moves the industry forward? Then look no further than laptops with foldable screens.
We now have two in the wild: the Asus Zenbook Fold 17 and the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2. The two devices have a lot in common, even beyond the fact that they both have a screen that can be folded in half. But what’s the best representation of what this form factor can be?
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2||Asus Zenbook Fold 17|
|Dimensions||6.9 x 10.87 x 0.68 inches||14.90 x 11.32 x 0.51 inches|
|Weight||4.19 pounds (including keyboard)||3.31 pounds (including keyboard)|
|Processor||Up to Intel vPro with 12th Gen Intel Core U9 i5 and i7 processors||Intel Core i7-1250U|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe||Intel Iris Xe|
|RAM||Up to 32GB LPDDR5||16GB LPDDR5|
|Display||16.3-inch (2024 x 2560) OLED, 600nit HDR/400nit SDR||17.3-inch, 2560 x 1920 OLED, 500 nit HDR|
|Storage||Up to 1TB PCIe 4 SSD||1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD|
|Touch||On-cell Touch with Pen support||Yes|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt 4, 1 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, Nano SIM card tray, 3.5mm combo audio jack||2x Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm combo audio jack
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6E 802.11 AX (2×2), Bluetooth 5.2, 5G Sub 6 (optional)||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5|
|webcam||5MP RGB+IR, with Intel VSC option||5MP with IR|
|Operating system||Up to Windows 11 Pro||Up to Windows 11 Pro|
|Battery||48 watt-hours (optional additional 16 watt-hours configurable)||75 watt-hours|
Two forks in the road
The Zenbook Fold 17 and ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 both build on the design of the original ThinkPad X1 Fold. They both have larger folding screens, a wireless keyboard, a kickstand and multiple modes to use it.
But the two devices take different paths in terms of the form factor and design. The Zenbook Fold 17 actually has more in common with the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, with a similar faux leather “binding” to cover the hinge. The X1 Fold Gen 2 has a brand new look, with woven fabric on the outside and a more streamlined look. We prefer the X1 Fold Gen 2, which doesn’t try to look like a folded notebook so much.
Also, this time the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 has a fully removable kickstand instead of building it directly into the device itself. This also allows it to lie completely flat on the table, which is impressive. The Zenbook Fold 17 still can’t quite do this.
Both the Zenbook Fold 17 and the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 can be used as tablets, albeit very large ones. They can also both be used in desktop mode, where the screen is held by the stand and the keyboard is removed. You may prefer to use the devices this way as it allows you to take full advantage of the larger, expanded screen.
Both devices also support laptop mode, where the keyboard attaches magnetically to the lower half of the folded screen. However, the Zenbook Fold 17 has a slightly larger screen, which comes in handy in both modes. One of the issues with the original ThinkPad X1 Fold was the small screen, which made this laptop mode feel pretty unusable. But now both the Zenbook Fold 17 and ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 feel like capable laptop replacements no matter what mode you’re in.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 benefits from an additional portrait mode, thanks in large part to the device’s odd aspect ratio. Portrait mode may look odd with the keyboard plugged in, but it gives you a vertical view of your content, which can be useful for those who want to stack multiple screens, or just get a bigger view of your spreadsheets, websites or Word documents. It’s not the most practical in the world, but it’s a nice addition to what this device can already do.
Of course, the detachable keyboard comes with the device in both cases. And luckily, they’re both pretty good. We’ll have to spend more time on the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 to get a definitive verdict on usability, but both keyboards have full-sized layouts that most people are comfortable with.
The Zenbook Fold 17 did have some issues with the touchpad, though, something we’ll be testing more on the X1 Fold Gen 2 when we make it available for review.
The size is the most obvious difference in displays between these two devices. The Zenbook Fold 17 is a full inch larger diagonally, and Asus has managed to do that without adding too much extra weight to the overall package. That makes the benefits of a foldable device even more apparent, giving you an excellent screen to work on when you’re on the go. That extra screen real estate really feels great to use.
We haven’t tested the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2’s display in detail yet, but I expect the two displays to perform quite similarly. They both use some version of LG’s FOLED (foldable OLED) panels, which give these devices excellent contrast and color.
The screens themselves both have a protective layer that makes the display look cheap. They’re highly reflective and have a different texture than you’re used to, something we particularly noticed on the Zenbook Fold 17, especially when compared to foldable smartphones. Impressively, though, the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 does a better job of hiding the crease in the center of the screen, while it can still be seen on the Zenbook Fold 17.
You will see very similar performance from both devices. They both use a low-wattage 12th-generation Intel processor, up to a Core i7. In either case, they should represent a significant improvement over the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, which suffered from using a low-powered Intel Lakefield chip.
These two new foldable laptops are capable laptop replacements, even if they’re on the slower end of the spectrum. Interestingly, the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 is fanless, which means it is completely silent. The Zenbook Fold 17, on the other hand, has an active cooling system with spinning fans. How does this affect performance comparisons? We’ll have to wait and see until we can test the X1 Fold Gen 2 further.
The other major difference is that the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 comes in a vPro model, which comes with specific business-oriented features and security enhancements.
The X1 Fold Gen 2 also has more configuration options, so you can choose from up to 32GB of RAM to lower storage options. The Zenbook Fold 17, on the other hand, only offers a 16GB model with 1TB of storage.
We haven’t fully tested the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 yet, but the Zenbook Fold 17 has a larger 75-watt-hour battery. The result was good battery life, but certainly nothing to write home about. The ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 has a smaller 64-watt-hour battery, with an even smaller 48-watt-hour battery in the base configuration.
Foldables warm up
The Zenbook Fold 17 is a great step up from the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, mainly because of the extra size, improved keyboard and significantly better performance.
However, the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 feels more like a true second generation of this product design. We’ll wait until we spend a little more time on it to make a final judgment, but it appears to use improved display technology that smoothes out some of the wrinkles that still made it to Zenbook Fold 17.
It also comes in many more configurations, allowing for a cheaper starting price of $2,500. That makes it a more accessible product for those who want to give these foldable laptops a try.
Neither laptop is currently available for purchase, but both should be available in the coming months.