“Revolution of flexibility” in laptops – who needs it?

Based on materials Android Authority

The past CES 2022, as it always happens, demonstrated a lot of technologies, both necessary and not so much. This year, more than anything else, laptops attracted attention. Intel, AMD and Nvidia have new processors and graphics, and many cool new laptops have been shown. But what really stood out among everything else was the bright and cool Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED flex laptop.

The spirit of innovation is always great, and Asus’ constant efforts to push the boundaries with its products is something to be applauded and admired. However, the advent of flexible phones was a revolutionary event, but the desire to extend the “flexibility revolution” to laptops looks like an attempt to reinvent the wheel. Laptops are already foldable devices. Let’s talk about this in a little more detail.

Let’s fix what’s not broken

Traditionally, laptops have been weaker than desktop devices, but things have changed in the last few years. With advanced processors from Intel and AMD, or Apple’s M1 chip line, laptops are getting more and more powerful. Higher resolutions, screen refresh rates, color accuracy are all becoming the norm, not something extraordinary.

In general, laptops are approaching perfection, which means they do not need a revolution, much less “flexible”. Don’t get me wrong, the large, flexible laptops shown at the show are truly impressive. Devices like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold and Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED are good demonstrations of what’s possible, but the “flexibility revolution” still seems like an impractical direction for laptops that are themselves positioned as practical devices.

One of the most pointless things from this point of view is the keyboard. Because flexible laptops come with an external keyboard, it’s inconvenient to carry around. Even if it stows away in a laptop, it’s still a step backwards from the usual large built-in keyboard found in traditional laptops.

Don’t forget that if you want to completely get rid of the keyboard, touch keyboards are still not an option. They’re great for smaller devices, but in a laptop-sized device, they don’t provide the same tactile response and speed as physical ones.

A step back in availability, reliability and maintainability

Flexible display technology is a good concept, but it has a lot of pitfalls. Just look at flexible phones. To begin with, there is the problem of the fold, which is not visually unpleasant, but still remains the weak point of the display, which is subjected to significant stress due to opening and closing. Asus says the hinge on the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED has been tested for 30,000 cycles. By comparison, Samsung rates the durability of its flexible mobile devices at a more impressive 200,000 times.

There have been quite a few reports of durability issues with foldable phones, whether it’s getting dust in the hinges, cracking the displays, or breaking in some other way. At the same time, the cost of such devices is already very high. Asus hasn’t revealed the price of the Zenbook 17 Fold, but we understand it must be impressive. Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Fold had a starting price of $2,499, and the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is likely to fit right in.

The high price is justified given the amount of research and development required to create such devices. However, this cost is ultimately passed on to the buyer. In this case, durability will certainly suffer, and repair costs will certainly increase. Laptops tend to have a longer lifespan than phones, but the “flexibility revolution” could negatively impact that, or at least increase repair costs for people who use their devices longer. There are one-off discounts for screen replacements from phone manufacturers, but with larger laptop displays, the cost of repairs is bound to rise. It is unlikely that a replacement will be offered in this case for free.

But if you purchase such a device and intend to use it for its intended purpose, you will probably open and close it quite often. A big part of the appeal of these large, flexible models is the extra-large display, which is always with you. This means that you will have to unfold and fold it 180 degrees many times if you use the device to its fullest. And the question of durability here, of course, matters.

Solving a non-existent problem

Technically, laptops have always had the ability to fold, right? This is an obvious statement that raises no questions. The advent of flexible laptops is likely to lead to one of two outcomes: a revolution in laptop design or the emergence of a new product category. The question is whether these devices really solve a real problem.

However, there doesn’t seem to be much room for change here. The beauty of flexible phones is that you can unfold them to form a tablet-sized device. The advantage of flexible laptops is not entirely clear. They fold out into… a monitor? Desktop computer? If the goal is to get a portable PC, that looks like a very niche market.

On the other hand, if the goal is to save space in your backpack, the question becomes whether the trade-off is worth the durability issues. Phones fit in small pockets, tablets don’t. You win portability by purchasing a flexible phone. A laptop usually fits in a backpack, but how much can be achieved by shrinking it to fit in the same backpack? How many of us complain about not having enough space in our backpacks? Is this enough for a revolution to happen? Probably still not.

And yet – are flexible laptops needed?

Getting this category of devices to take off will require a lot more research and development, lower manufacturing costs, and improved maintainability. Flexible phones are getting better, but even they still have a long way to go before they become affordable and widespread. For laptops, the road will be even longer due to the size and complexity of the components, as well as the need to meet the expectations currently placed on traditional laptops.

It can be done, but is it necessary? Maybe not? There is nothing wrong with innovation, but it is not always necessary. Laptops are simple and reliable devices that have grown to the point that we as users no longer have to worry about. The “flexibility revolution” will change that, at least for a while, and it’s not certain that the final product will actually be worth it.

Do you see any use cases for foldable laptops? Would you buy such a device?

Source: Mobile-review.com — Все о мобильной технике и технологиях by mobile-review.com.

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