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Computing

Zenbook Fold 17 vs. ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2: foldable fun

Are you looking for innovative, experimental tech that’s pushing the industry forward? Well, look no further than laptops with foldable screens.

We now have two out in the wild: the Asus Zenbook Fold 17 and the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2. The two devices share a lot in common, even beyond the fact that they both have a screen that can fold in half. But which is the best representation of what this form factor can be?

Specs

  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-generation 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, 600 nit HDR/400 nit 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-hour (optional additional 16-watt-hour configurable) 75-watt-hour
Price $2,500 $3,500

Two forks in the road

The Zenbook Fold 17 in laptop mode.

The Zenbook Fold 17 and ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 both build upon the design of the original ThinkPad X1 Fold. They both have larger foldable displays, a wireless keyboard, a kickstand, and multiple modes for using it.

But the two devices take different paths in terms of the form factor and design. The Zenbook Fold 17 actually shares more in common with the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, using a similar faux-leather “binding” to cover the hinge. The X1 Fold Gen 2 has an entirely new look, with woven fabric on the outside and a more streamlined look. We prefer the X1 Fold Gen 2, which doesn’t try as much to resemble a folded-up notebook.

Also, the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 has a completely removable kickstand this time around rather than building it right into the device itself. This also allows it to lay completely flat on the table, which is impressive. The Zenbook Fold 17 still can’t quite do this.

The 2022 ThinkPad X1 Fold in landscape mode attached to a keyboard.

Both the Zenbook Fold 17 and 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 up by the kickstand and the keyboard is removed. You may prefer to use the devices like this, as it allows you to take full advantage of the larger, unfolded screen.

Both devices also support a laptop mode, where the keyboard magnetically attaches to the bottom half of the folded screen. The Zenbook Fold 17 has a slightly larger screen, though, 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 the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 feel like capable laptop replacements, regardless of which mode you’re in.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 in portrait mode.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 benefits from an additional portrait mode, largely thanks to the odd aspect ratio of the device. Portrait mode might look strange with the keyboard connected to it, but it gives you a vertical view of your content that could be handy for those wanting to stack multiple screens, or just to get a taller view of your spreadsheets, websites, or word documents. It’s not the most practical thing in the world, but it is a neat addition to what this device can already do.

Of course, the detachable keyboard comes bundled in with the device in both cases. And fortunately, they’re both quite good. We’ll need to spend more time with the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 to get a final verdict on usability, but both keyboards feature full-size layouts that most people will be comfortable with.

The Zenbook Fold 17 did suffer from some issues with the touchpad, though, which is something we’ll be looking to test more on the X1 Fold Gen 2 when we get it out for review.

Display

The ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 unfolded on a table.

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 managed to do that without adding too much extra weight to the overall package. That makes the benefits of having a foldable device even more noticeable, allowing for an excellent screen to work on when out and about. That extra screen real estate really does feel wonderful to use.

We haven’t tested the screen of the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 in detail yet, but I’d expect the two screens to perform quite similarly. They’re both using a version of LG’s FOLED (foldable OLED) panels, which bring excellent contrast and color to these devices.

The screens themselves both have a protective layer that makes the display look cheap. They’re highly reflective and have a different texture to them than what you’re typically used to, which was something we noticed particularly on the Zenbook Fold 17, especially in comparison to foldable smartphones. Impressively, though, the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 does a better job of hiding the crease down the middle of the screen, whereas it can still be seen on the Zenbook Fold 17.

Performance

The Zenbook Fold 17 in desktop mode on a table.

You’re going to see very similar performance from both of these devices. They both use a low-wattage 12th-gen Intel processor, up to a Core i7. In both cases, they should represent a significant step up from the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, which suffered from using a low-powered Intel Lakefield chip.

These two new foldables 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’s completely silent. The Zenbook Fold 17, on the other hand, has an active cooling system with fans that spin up. How will this impact performance comparisons? We’ll have to wait and see until we can test the X1 Fold Gen 2 out more.

The other main difference is that the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 comes in a vPro model, which comes with specific business-centric features and security enhancements.

The X1 Fold Gen 2 also has more configuration options, letting you opt for up to 32GB of RAM down to lower storage options. The Zenbook Fold 17, on the other hand, only offers a 16GB model with 1TB of storage.

We haven’t tested the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 in full yet, but the Zenbook Fold 17 has a larger 75-watt-hour battery. The result was OK 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 are heating up

Open Asus Zenbook Fold 17 seen from the top down.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Zenbook Fold 17 is a great step up from the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, most notably due to the extra size, improved keyboard, and significantly better performance.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2, however, feels more like a true second generation of this product design. We’ll wait until we spend some more time with it to make a final verdict, but it seems to use some improved display technology that irons out some of the wrinkles that still made it into the Zenbook Fold 17.

It also comes in many more configurations, allowing for a cheaper starting price of $2,500. That makes it feel like a more accessible product for those who want to give these foldable laptops a try.

Neither laptop is available for purchase at this exact moment, but both should be available in the coming months.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Asus Zenbook Fold 17 review: a foldable PC, done right

Asus Zenbook Fold 17

MSRP $3,500.00

“The Asus Zenbook Fold 17 isn’t perfect, but takes us one step closer to folding screen glory.”

Pros

  • Fun concept
  • Sharp, OLED screen
  • Larger size is more practical
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Decent performance
  • Sturdy kickstand

Cons

  • Heavy and thick
  • Screen is extremely reflective
  • Keyboard has to be charged separately
  • Weird webcam location

Folding screens have promised us the future of technology for years now, but it’s been a slow roll-out. That’s especially true for PCs and Windows tablets, of which only the original ThinkPad X1 Fold was the only official launch of its kind.

But the Asus Zenbook Fold 17 is the start of a new era for the tech – and it’s a form factor that might finally make more sense.

It does a lot of things right that I’d always hoped foldable PCs could do, even if the use case for owning such a device feels limited in scope.

Specs

  Asus Zenbook Fold 17
Dimensions 14.90 x 11.32 x 0.51 inches
Weight 3.31 pounds (including keyboard)
Processor Intel Core i7-1250U
Graphics Intel Iris Xe
RAM 16GB LPDDR5
Display 17.3-inch, 2560 x 1920 OLED
Storage 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0
Touch Yes
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4 supports display/power delivery
3.5mm Combo Audio Jack
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5
Webcam 5MP with IR
Operating system Windows 11
Battery 75 watt-hours
Price $3,500

The right size

The Zenbook Fold 17 open on a table.

The 17-inch foldable PC always felt like the right size for this type of device. It’s the screen size Intel has been pushing for since CES 2020, and over two years later, we’re finally starting to see the products come out. A 17-inch tablet might sound awfully large for what is supposed to be a portable device. But that’s the beauty of the foldable screen. When it’s folded up and being carried from place to place, it’s around the same footprint as a 13-inch laptop.

Like the ThinkPad X1 Fold, it magnetizes up into a tidy little package with a faux leather “binding” to hide the cover, all ensuring that you always have the wireless keyboard with you on the go. Asus sweetens the deal by offering a matching carrying case when traveling with the device.

The Zenbook Fold 17 folded up with the keyboard inside.

But don’t be fooled – this isn’t necessarily a compact overall package. When you include the wireless keyboard folded in between the two screens, it’s the thickness of two laptops stacked on each other.

It’s heavy too. It weighs 3.3 pounds, even without the keyboard. This is a problem all folding devices have, but the sheer size of the 17-inch screen accentuates the problem. Then again, if you’re coming from a large laptop like the MacBook Pro 16-inch, which weighs 4.3 pounds, it’ll feel like quite light.

The Zenbook Fold 17 is meant to not only act as a tablet but also replace a laptop.

Portability aside, though, the Zenbook Fold 17 does feel like the appropriate size to take advantage of the folding screen. The two halves of the screen measure 12.5 inches diagonally with a 3:2 aspect ratio – not far off from a traditional 13-inch laptop.

That’s important, as the Zenbook Fold 17 is meant to not only act as a tablet but also replace a laptop. I would argue at this size, its primary value is as a unique laptop replacement. Holding this thing in your hands as a tablet isn’t exactly comfortable.

The Zenbook Fold 17 in laptop mode.

Folded like an open laptop, the Zenbook Fold 17 offers a decent-sized top half of the screen, while the wireless keyboard magnetizes to the bottom half to create a fairly convincing clamshell laptop. If you’ve got limited desk space, this is the most convenient way to use the Zenbook Fold 17, and you’d hardly know you weren’t using a standard laptop.

It’s even comfortable to use on your lap, which is something most 2-in-1 laptops struggle with. Most importantly, though, the 3:2 screen feels plenty big, which avoids the overly cramped feeling the original ThinkPad X1 Fold gave.

The only thing I didn’t love about using the Zenbook Fold 17 in laptop mode was how the keyboard sits on the screen. There are magnets in the corners to hold it in place, but the whole thing doesn’t lay flat.

A desktop mode

The Zenbook Fold 17 open in desktop mode.

My favorite way to use the Zenbook Fold 17 is in what Asus calls “Desktop mode.” That’s when you truly benefit from this massive 4:3 17.3-inch screen. Using the sturdy kickstand on the back, you can prop the unfolded display open in front of you, as if it was an external, portable display. The screen has some rubber feet on the bottom that keep it in place. Working on an expansive 4:3 screen feels awesome, especially if you’re taking your work on the go but don’t want to give up a large screen.

The keyboard and touchpad are other beneficiaries of the extra size of the Zenbook Fold 17. The 1.4mm of key travel is luxurious, and the trackpad is plenty spacious. Again, because of the size, you get a complete standard layout, which was another issue with the original ThinkPad X1 Fold.

The keyboard is too thin to hold its shape without accidental clicks of the touchpad.

I will note that this keyboard is really not meant to be used without a table or some kind of flat surface. It’s too thin to hold its shape without accidental clicks of the touchpad. This can even sometimes happen on a table since the keyboard doesn’t sit completely flat due to the way the rubber feet are situated underneath. Even just resting your hands too heavily on the wrist rests can cause accidental clicks, which ended up being quite frustrating.

I found ways to work around it, but it’s certainly something you’ll have to worry about. Of course, you can also connect a separate Bluetooth keyboard if you want, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the Zenbook Fold 17’s all-in-one package.

The keys on the Zenbook Fold's keyboard.

My last complaint about the keyboard is that it has to be charged separately. The ThinkPad X1 Fold had a detachable keyboard that would actually charge when on top of the screen, but the Zenbook keyboard needs to be charged via its USB-C port.

The keyboard will last for 24 hours of use on a single charge, which is enough that you won’t have to think about it often — but it could catch you off guard right when you need it.

Folding problems

The Zenbook Fold 17 uses the same type of screen as the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, and with it, come a number of problems. It’s a sharp OLED panel with a highly reflective plastic layer on top. This layer makes for a surface that isn’t ideal for touch. It’s not that it’s unusable — it’s just a different texture than what you’re probably used to.

This layer also produces some heavy reflections, especially on dark backgrounds. Using Spotify in dark mode, for example, is a disaster. Part of that is just because OLED creates those stunning absolute blacks, by being able to turn off individual pixels. The OLED panel also means fantastic colors (100% sRGB, 98% AdobeRGB), and incomparable contrast.

But the reflections are a hard pill to swallow. Despite shipping in Windows 11’s dark mode, you’ll probably want to turn it off. And these reflections aren’t pretty. When it comes down to it, the plastic covering just looks cheap, and for a device of this price, that’s not what you want. A lot of laptops with OLED screens already have this problem, but it’s heightened here by seeing the crease down the center of the screen create odd reflections. You can feel the crease with your finger too, of course.

Unfortunately, the Zenbook Fold 17 doesn’t have quite enough brightness to overpower these reflections either, topping out at a max of just 261 nits of brightness. I found myself using it at max brightness quite often, especially when sitting near windows or under bright lights. Working outside with the Zenbook Fold 17 could be a challenge.

The fold of the display feels fairly rigid, for what it is. Asus says the hinge and flexible panel undergo 30,000 open and close cycles to pass the durability testing. I can’t validate Asus’ claims about durability, but durability is less of a concern than with folding smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold. You expect to open and close those devices dozens and dozens — maybe even hundreds of time per day. The nature of the Zenbook Fold 17 as a PC means you’ll probably only open and close it a few times and use it for longer sessions.

Enough speed for your needs

Performance was one of the drawbacks of the original ThinkPad X1 Fold. We expect devices like this to operate every bit as snappily as a laptop, which is something Microsoft has learned over the years with its Surface Pro line. The Zenbook Fold 17 attempts to resolve that by using a Core i7-1250U processor, which is just a nine-watt processor. That’s not a lot of power, and even though it has 10 cores, only two of those are performance cores.

Still, while this is among the slowest products we’ve tested that use Intel’s 12th-gen processors, I felt that performance was strong enough for this type of device. This is, obviously, not the type of device you’d expect to do heavy tasks with. The occasional photo edit or some light design work – sure. Just don’t buy this hoping it can replace your workstation at home.

The back of the Zenbook Fold 17.

But in more general usage, as tested through PCMark 10, the Zenbook Fold 17 can handle the daily tasks of the modern worker well enough. If you’re like me, and your typical workload primarily consists of web apps, Microsoft Office, and videoconferencing, the Zenbook Fold 17 has enough performance. My configuration came with 16GB of RAM, which helps ensure you can handle multitasking with lots of Chrome or Edge tabs open at once.

Although the Zenbook Fold 17 uses a low-power processor, it does include a fan inside, which helps keep the surface temperatures fairly cool. Even during heavy benchmarks like Cinebench, fan noise wasn’t overly noticeable, which is important on a device like this.

Battery life wasn’t anything to write home about. It only lasted around five hours on a single charge under a light load. That’s enough to make it worth taking to a coffee shop to get some work done, so long as you have a full battery when you leave home.

Not a great webcam

The Zenbook Fold 17 features a solid 5-megapixel camera that does a decent job of balancing exposure and keeping face tones bright. There’s a problem, though. Due to the placement of the camera, you are faced with two awkward camera positions. In laptop mode, the camera is vertical, making it look like you’re calling it from a phone. In desktop mode, the camera is off to the side, which is the same problem iPads have in videoconferencing.

Neither is an ideal solution, though, and I would have liked to see Asus find at least one solution that is both horizontal and centered. Instead, the otherwise solid videoconferencing experience is spoiled by the awkward location.

The webcam of the Zenbook Fold 17.

The Zenbook Fold 17 does include an IR camera for Windows Hello login, which is good since it doesn’t have a fingerprint reader.

The speakers suffer from a similar problem in terms of positioning. Depending on how you’re using or holding the tablet, you’ll get a pretty different audio experience. The four-speaker setup sounds decent in desktop mode, with some nice stereo separation and a wide sound stage. In laptop mode, though, you’re better off using a pair of headphones. The bass is still pretty lacking in either position.

A first-gen foldable

The Zenbook Fold 17 open on a table.

The Asus Zenbook Fold 17 is a first-generation product, and in many ways, it still feels like one. It doesn’t feel refined, nor does every feature make a lot of sense. As a first-gen experiment, it’s also undoubtedly way too expensive. That’s common for products like this, but for $3,500, you really have to be buying into this thing for the long haul. For that amount of money, after all, you could buy a high-powered laptop, a portable external monitor, an iPad, and still have plenty of money left over.

But it’s the first foldable PC that feels worthy of recommendation, albeit for the right person. The 17-inch screen size makes its use in desktop mode a huge benefit, especially for travelers on the go who need a larger screen to work with. The option to swing it around into a smaller clamshell laptop when you’re in a more restrained environment is extremely handy.

Savvy buyers are right to wait for second or third-generation products to see how companies like Asus work out the kinks. As of now, foldable devices might not be the de facto future of laptops — but they’re certainly an interesting new form factor that does something no devices have been able to do in the past. If that’s not the definition of exciting, innovative tech, I don’t know what is.

Editors’ Choice




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Foldable OLED production for Google Pixel scheduled to start in October

One of the more anticipated Google smartphones is the rumored Pixel Fold. One of the key components enabling that device is a screen produced by Samsung Display. A new report has surfaced that says Samsung Display will begin production of the folding OLED panel for Google starting in October. Google isn’t the only smartphone manufacturer who will receive the folding screens from Samsung.

In October, production will also begin for Vivo and Xiaomi. Rumors suggest that all three of those companies intend to reveal folding phones in Q4 of this year. Rumors suggest Google’s Pixel Fold, or whatever its official name ends up being, will feature a folding 7.6-inch display. The model being produced by Vivo will reportedly feature an eight-inch main screen along with a 6.5-inch outer screen.

Vivo’s eight-inch main screen will feature a 3.4 to 3 ratio screen that Samsung Display will build at its A3 factory line at a plant in South Korea. The 6.5-inch outer screen will be made by a different company called BOE. Samsung Display is also the builder for the main screen on the next folding device offered by Xiaomi, which will also have an accessory screen manufactured by CSOT.

The report also claims that Oppo has delayed the launch of its folding smartphone until 2022. Oppo has been collaborating with Sony Display for the in-folding clamshell display panel. When unfolded, that device has a 7.1-inch screen and is expected to feature an outer screen between 1.5-inches and 2-inches in size.

Huawei had reportedly initially planned to use folding panels from Samsung Display but ended those talks. Sources who claim to be familiar with the deal say Huawei instead will use BOE to produce its folding screens. Samsung has a big year planned for folding devices of its own with the goal of shipping between 6 million and 7 million units.

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Watch Samsung’s 17-inch foldable tablet and rollable phone in action

This week Samsung Display showed off a pair of devices that make folding a touchscreen seem simple. It’s not easy to nail this situation down – not by a long shot – but Samsung showed the pair like they’ve been making these sorts of devices for decades. In reality, they are on the cutting edge, but folding devices like these are still in their “this might work, so let’s try it” phase. Most people in the world haven’t seen a folding display in real life, much less owned a phone with the tech.

Samsung showed off a 17-inch folding screen meant for tablets and/or other industrial technology devices. They also showed a double-folding display meant for a smartphone. First, take a peek at the commercial-like sort of presentation with the video “Better life through Samsung OLED.”

There you’ll see the “foldable laptop” and the smartphone that folds more than once. You’ll also see a rollable display – that’s basically an expanding phone. None of these devices are technically hard-and-fast products yet, but if Samsung Display has their way, they will be very soon.

Next, have a peek at the keynote speech made during SID 2021 by Samsung Display called “The Metaverse and the Great Future of Display.” This keynote showed off some real-deal hardware. It also let it be known that Samsung Display is preparing to deliver displays that are foldable, rollable, slidable, stretchable, and tiled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSM30w02t8M

Samsung Display made it look, this week, like someone busted the lock off the floodgates. The future of the display seems prepared to be unleashed, now that Samsung has what appears to be a handle on allowing touchscreens to move every which way without significant damage.

Now the company must convince Samsung Mobile and/or the rest of the smartphone and odd-device-making universe to take them up on their offer to potentially produce the next wild smart device. What sort of odd creation will be released with a stretchable display first? Why would anyone ever need such a thing? Will it run Android? We shall see!

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Android prepares developers for more foldable phones

Once upon a time, Android itself would only play catch up to market and design trends while manufacturers did their own thing and fragmented the ecosystem. It seems that Google has taken a different approach and isn’t letting those companies take the lead when it comes to foldables. Right from the start, it collaborated with Samsung on the first Galaxy Fold and it is now expanding Android’s capabilities to handle devices with large and flexible screens.

Android has actually been rather weak on tablets, with Google initially refusing to even acknowledge their existence. The Android 3.0 Honeycomb release was supposed to be the first to cater to Android on large screens but that was almost doomed to fail. Since then, Android has incorporated features and components designed for tablets and even PCs but Google is now making a stronger push, ironically because of foldables.

Some of the points it makes admittedly should have been there years ago even before the time of foldable phones. Apps should, for example, learn to take advantage of larger screens with something like a SlidingPaneLayout while also allowing their apps to be controlled using a keyboard and mouse. At the same time, Google is also updating Android’s UI components so that they resize and adjust gracefully, no matter the screen size.

There are, however, also some new user experiences that are being enabled by foldable devices, like running two instances of the same app side by side and allowing content to be dragged and dropped between those. Android will also take into account fold and hinges when present to avoid content falling under those non-viewable parts.

It is definitely good to see that Google is making Android support such use cases even when there are still not that many foldable devices in the market. This could actually encourage some manufacturers to adopt that form factor, knowing that the OS directly supports it rather than having to figure out how to hack around the fold.

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Year of foldable phones: Best ones to show up in 2021

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say, foldable phones have come of age in 2021. After the initial quirks, the industry has steadied itself to present a viable option for consumers wanting bigger screen real estate from their handhelds. Foldable phones are still an exclusive device and pretty expensive in comparison to the flagship smartphones, but considering their advantages, the phones like Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Motorola Razr 2020 have carved a niche for themselves.

Samsung brought about a critical change to its portfolio of foldable smartphones with Galaxy Z Fold 2, wherein it creased out the snags in its disastrous debutant. Huawei understood the significance of a firmer hinge and an “innie” design, which better protects the larger foldable screen, with the launch of Mate X2. LG hit the market with swiveling display, but with the company exiting the smartphone arena, the market is open for more players.

A handful of other smartphone companies are considering foldable phones lucrative. Xiaomi has boarded the bus with Mi Mix Fold – it’s first foldable – while OPPO, Vivo, TCL, Google and even Apple are all expected to join the fray by next year. How many of these OEMs will deliver a device within this year is only for the time – and ongoing pandemic – to reveal, but it’s now as clear as crystal that folding phones are the future.

Even though there are double foldable and fold and roll smartphones on the cards, the arena for 2021 seems poised on two form factors – the inward, book-like fold and flip designs. Here is our prediction of the best foldable phones to show up this year. If you want a fresh foldable phone in 2021, these are the options you would have.

Huawei Mate X2

Huawei has already introduced its third generation foldable phone – Mate X2 in China. The phone is not available outside of the home country, though rumors suggest it would launch globally soon. If it does, this rather expensive smartphone will be an option to consider.

The inward-folding Huawei Mate X2 comes with an 8-inch OLED panel offering a 90Hz refresh rate, while a 6.45-inch OLED with 2700×1160 pixel resolution makes for its cover screen. Powered by in-house Kirin 9000 SoC, the phone comes with 8GB RAM and 256 or 512GB of internal storage. It has a 4,500mAh capacity battery, the same as that on last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 2, but with 55W fast charging, which is blistering quick. The Mate X2 is exorbitantly priced – RMB 17,999 (roughly $2,780) – but its optics don’t disappoint. The foldable features Ultra Vision Leica quad-camera setup spearheaded by a 50MP primary camera touting OIS and f/1.9 lens.

Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold

Xiaomi is generally on the forefront of mobile technology but it is relatively a latecomer in the foldable phone market. That said, the company now has its first foldable – Mi Mix Fold – out (currently only in China) in three variants starting at CNY 9,999 (roughly $1,500). These include 12GB RAM and 256 or 512GB internal storage and the high-end 16GB +512GB storage.

Xiaomi, according to a recent report, has claimed that the Mi Mix Fold will be launching in Europe and other international markets toward the end of May. In Europe, the top of the line 16GB + 512GB variant is said to retail for EUR 1,999 (nearly $2,500). It is going to be a costly affair of course considering the phone’s 8.01-inch OLED panel at 4:3 WQHD+ only offers a 60Hz refresh rate, though the 6.52-inch outer screen has a 90Hz refresh rate.

The Mi Mix Fold impresses with 900 nits brightness on the foldable display that supports HDR10+, has Harmon Kardon speakers, and 108MP primary camera, 8MP telephoto including liquid lens technology, and 13MP ultra-wide lens comprising the camera setup. Featuring Snapdragon 888 under the hood, the phone’s 5,020mAh battery supports 67W fast charging.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

The most anticipated foldable phone of the year is arguably the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Slated to thrive on the success of the predecessor, the new Fold model for 2021 is expected to be introduced with certain design alterations. The hinge is likely to be better sealed against dust, the hinge mechanism may be more tuned to bear the toil and to top it all off, the phone is going to – for the first time – get some sort of IP rating for dust- and water-proofing.

Samsung is rumored to be doing away with its rather successful Note series in favor of foldable devices. Therefore, it is speculated that the Z Fold 2 may include S Pen. There is no clarity on whether it will only support or even include a slot for the stylus onboard. For other specs, the phone will feature a Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz display, retain the triple camera setup, feature Snapdragon 888 with up to 16GB RAM and 512GB storage and pack only a 4,275mAh battery. The phone is expected to launch within the next couple of months.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

Alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 3, Samsung is likely to launch a new clamshell foldable phone in Galaxy Z Flip 3. This is going to retain the aesthetics of its predecessor but is expected with a bigger and brighter outer screen. The camera module adjacent to the external display will be in vertical orientation, while its hinge mechanism is slated for an update.

Since Samsung wants to full-proof its fragile, eye-candy device, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 may have Gorilla Glass Victus on all sides and come with IP rating. The phone will be powered by Snapdragon 888 and may have support for S Pen, but its 3,300mAh battery that would support only 15W charging is going to be a deal-breaker.

OPPO foldable phone

OPPO has been teasing foldable and rollable phone prototypes for quite some time now but it’s only for the first time expected to reveal a foldable phone officially. Rumors have hinted that OPPO foldable phone will launch this year and that this will not be the OPPO X 2021 rollable concept we have been anxiously waiting for, owing to its novelty.

Not much on the hardware and design is known about the OPPO foldable phone at the moment except for the fact that after having experimented with outward folding layouts, OPPO will be following its compatriots Huawei and Xiaomi to unveil Galaxy Z Fold-style inward folding phone. One of the rumors points at OPPO working on two foldable smartphones – a 7-inch and an 8-inch – simultaneously. Reportedly, the 7-inch unfolding screen variant is closer to mass production. Given the smaller screen size, this could be a foldable phone that is more affordable than the others above.

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Apple’s foldable iPhone could claim an unexpected casualty in 2023

There are a few companies out there who have been testing the waters when it comes to foldable phones, and it may not be long before we see Apple join them. A new analyst report today is claiming that Apple could launch its own foldable phone in just a couple years’ time. Among other things, this phone is expected to have an 8-inch OLED flexible display.

So says famed Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in a recent note to investors, which was obtained by the folks over at MacRumos. Kuo expects Apple to launch that 8-inch foldable smartphone in 2023, and he also expects Apple to recruit Samsung Display as “the exclusive display supplier” and Samsung Foundry “as the exclusive DDI foundry provider.”

Kuo also made some predictions about the phone itself, saying it will output in FHD+ resolution and use TPK’s silver nanowire touch technology, which could be the better choice for smartphones with multiple folds over Samsung Display’s Y-Octa tech. Based on Apple’s “request capacity plan” Kuo also believes that the company will ship 15-20 million foldable smartphones in 2023 – the same year he expects this phone to launch – so it’s clear that he expects this phone to be a success out of the gate.

Worth noting is that Kuo also envisions a future where “foldable devices will blur the product segmentations between smartphones, tablets, and laptops,” and that Apple will be primed to capitalize on that given its existing ecosystem comprised of multiple products. So, it seems there’s the expectation that foldable devices will move beyond their current niche and become a product that’s more ubiquitous fueling Kuo’s prediction here, meaning we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out.

One thing to wonder is what will happen to the iPad Mini in the event that Apple does launch an 8-inch folding iPhone. Since its inception, the iPad Mini has sported a 7.9-inch display, meaning that if Apple makes a folding iPhone with the intention of bridging the gap between smartphones and tablets, it’ll essentially be squeezing the iPad Mini out of its niche.

For now, though, the foldable smartphone segment is still very much in its infancy. Kuo’s prediction that we’ll see Apple launching foldable devices by 2023 may indeed be a bold one at the present moment, but if the foldable market continues to grow, it’s easy to imagine Apple trying its hand at it. We’ll see what happens from here, but as always, make sure you take rumors, reports, and predictions with a grain of salt.

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Tech News

Huawei Mate X2 foldable phone has some durability surprises

Although it has the lion’s share of the attention, Samsung is hardly the only one making foldable phones. There’s, for example, Royole’s FlexPai and, despite troubles with supplies, Huawei’s Mate X. The latter just had its true second-gen model, one that goes in the opposite direction from the first Huawei Mate X’s “outie” fold. The design, however, isn’t the only thing that has changed with the Mate X2 and, fortunately, the changes that come with the redesign also made it a lot more durable in the process.

To be fair, the first Huawei Mate X didn’t exactly have the same disastrous problems as the first Galaxy Fold exactly because of its outie fold. The screen was, of course, still more fragile than your regular phone screen and that design also carried its own problems. Dropping the Huawei Mate X, whether opened or even closed, was equally catastrophic.

With the Huawei Mate X2, the company switched to an innie fold just like the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 2. While more expensive, the new foldable did more than just upgrade the specs but also added some measure of redundancy and reliability. After all, you still have a screen on the outside even in the worst-case scenario that the main foldable screen breaks.

That flexible screen does get scratched with sharp nails but sand and rocks surprisingly do no damage. The Mate X2’s hinge design notably didn’t let sand get out once folded, and JerryRigEverything speculates that it wouldn’t let dust in either. Most importantly, the phone doesn’t even flex when forcibly bent the other way, an effect of the hinge and the two halves locking against each other.

The Huawei Mate X2 turns out to be quite a durable phone despite being a usually fragile foldable one. There’s still a lot of room for improvement on the screen, but every year seems to push technology and materials towards that direction. It will be interesting to see if the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which may be announced in July, has more to offer in this regard and whether it will be more accessible than a $3,000 foldable phone without Google Play Store that you can’t easily buy outside of China.

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Tech News

Galaxy Z Fold trademark confirms foldable tablet

Although there are a few companies now putting out foldable phones, it’s hard to deny that Samsung is still at the top, with no less than four models under its belt. It is expected to put out its third generation of such phones this year, but there’s still one kind of foldable device that’s missing from its portfolio. If recent leaks are to be believed, however, a Galaxy Z Fold tablet is already in the works and its existence may have just been confirmed by Samsung itself.

OK, Samsung didn’t exactly confirm the Galaxy Z Fold Tab that was leaked last week, at least not directly. What LetsGoDigital saw actually a simple clue found in a filing for the Galaxy Z Fold trademark in Europe. That filing notes that the trademark will be used for smartphones and tablets, something most already know anyway, at least for the smartphone part.

What’s notable here is the mention of “tablets”, something Samsung hasn’t exactly talked about before. Of course, tablets that fold into phones have always been part of the foldable dream but the current incarnations of that vision are mostly limited to small tablet sizes because of the need to still have a phone you can comfortably hold in one hand. The solution, apparently, is to have the tablet fold more than once.

The Galaxy Z Fold Tab, if that is what it’s name will be, is expected to have a tri-fold design so that a regular-sized tablet, around 10 inches or so. That will enable it to shrink down to the size and form of a phone, though it will most likely be a thick one.

The fact that Samsung only now applied for a trademark for the Z Fold name suggests that it’s about to use it in a bigger sense. Whether that Galaxy Z Fold Tab will be included in July’s event, however, is something to watch out for.

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Computing

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 foldable tablet first look

We get it. You’ve already decided that folding screen devices are a Mach 3 flame-out at 85,069 feet. But hear us out, because Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 foldable prototype (it has no official name yet) just might have you thinking that you’ll never want to buy another laptop again. Seriously.

The ThinkPad X1 foldable prototype concept is simple: Take a 13.3-inch, Intel-based, full-service Windows OS-running PC/tablet/device and fold it in half, with a diagonal corner-to-corner measurement of about 10 inches. At about an inch thick, it has the feel of a medium-sized journal.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 folding tablet Adam Patrick Murray

The ThinkPad X1 folding PC prototype is the size of a small journal when folded.

If you’re on the train or plane, you can simply open it and do your pleasure reading or browsing. While Lenovo didn’t disclose the weight, it felt close to or lighter than Apple’s iPad Pro 13, which comes in at 1.6 pounds.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 folding tablet Adam Patrick Murray

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 folding PC when used as a “book.”

Obviously, there is pen support as well. Lenovo said its folding tablet features a Wacom-enabled screen. You can also use it as a traditional clamshell and jot down notes while watching a presentation.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 folding tablet Adam Patrick Murray

The ThinkPad X1 folding tablet obviously has pen support.

If you’re not into the pen thing, you can move to a mode that places a virtual keyboard for “touch typing.” While we’re not into virtual keyboards for touch typing, we do acknowledge some people somewhere actually like them.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 folding tablet Adam Patrick Murray

A virtual typing keyboard lets you use it as small clam shell laptop too.

If you’re still thinking this is just more high-falutin’ concept stuff that won’t have you ditching your Dell XPS 13 or HP Spectre x360 13 anytime soon, there is one more mode that we think might convince you, the next one below.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 folding tablet Adam Patrick Murray

Fold the 13.3-screen completely flat and and you now have what is essentially a 13.3-inch, full-service Windows notebook capability.

By folding the screen completely flat, you get a spacious 2K-resolution, 13.3-inch, 4:3 aspect ratio screen. With the included Bluetooth keyboard, you basically have a full Windows PC at your hands. There’s no compromise of a tiny screen, either.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 folding tablet Adam Patrick Murray

Although we did see a little off-axis shifting on the prototype from oblique angles, the bend is barely noticeable most of the time.

To us, the compelling part is that once you’re done, you just fold it up to this incredibly portable package and slip it into your bag or walk out the door like you’re holding a book.

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