At every tech trade fair I’ve been to, there’s usually an outstanding innovation that highlights. For IFA 2022, foldable (or bendable) screens were without a doubt.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen manufacturers flaunt their curved screens at a trade show. Lenovo has launched its first iteration of its foldable PC – the ThinkPad X1 Fold – since 2020.
But this is the first trade show where I’ve seen technology that many manufacturers have adopted, and inside polished products rather than just a proof-of-concept prototype.
Asus kicked off the ZenBook 17 OLED Fold, a laptop with a curved screen that lets you switch between tablet and laptop mode with a simple flick of your wrist. Lenovo also launched the second version of the ThinkPad X1 Fold, which benefited from several upgrades compared to its predecessor.
Then we have the LG OLED Flex, a gaming TV with a curved screen. Curved displays have been around for years, but this is one of the first TVs that can switch between a curved design and a flat screen. With a motor built into the stand, you can change the TV into one of 20 modes with just the press of a button on the remote control.
Despite the release of several bendy devices, I still feel a lot of doubt about whether this is an innovation that is here to stay or just a gimmick that will disappear in a couple of years. This is understandable, as there are many examples of exciting technology trends that have come to nothing.
We’ve seen 3D TVs flop, due to Google Glass being scrapped, and encryption crashing. Metaverse looks like another tech concept geared towards the scrap heap. With so many failed launches, it’s no wonder why people are so suspicious of foldable screens.
But with so many leading brands making a leap of faith with foldable screens during IFA 2022, I’m starting to feel more hopeful that this technology isn’t just a flash in the pan.
Most importantly, I can see practical use of the technology, beyond simply looking cool. I recently reviewed the Asus ZenBook 17 Fold, and was impressed with its versatility. It was small enough to slip easily in a bag, while the massive 17-inch screen (when folded flat and supported by a kickstand) gave me plenty of screen space to boost my productivity and provide a more cinematic Netflix experience.
There have been numerous attempts to create 2-in-1 laptops (using a 360-degree hinge or a detachable keyboard), but this was the first time I felt like I had the unparalleled experience of using the device as a laptop and tablet.
I was also impressed with the LG OLED Flex when I saw it in person, and I can definitely see the advantage of being able to switch between flat screens and curved shapes. LG claims that the flat screen is best used for first-person shooters, making it easier to spot an enemy quickly for a quick transmission. But the curved screen offers a higher level of immersion, which is perfect for blockbuster adventure games or racers.
LG OLED Flex also allows up to 20 different curve modes, so you can find the perfect one for your setup. Previous curved screens would be stuck at one bend, so it’s a good idea to have flexibility with Flex OLED.
Are bendy screens ready to flood the market? not exactly. There are still a few pitfalls to this technology, with Asus admitting that the laptop’s foldable screen is more prone to scratches than flat panels. Foldable screens can also suffer from unsightly wrinkle marks, which aren’t ideal for a device that costs a lot of money.
Speaking of money, this is the biggest hurdle that foldable screens are facing at the moment. The Asus ZenBook 17 OLED Fold costs £3,299.99, which is double the price of laptops with similar specs.
LG has also been adamant about the price of the Flex OLED TV so far, which makes me worried it will have a very high price tag. This problem is largely out of manufacturers’ hands, as bendable screens are too new and rare to mass-produce to make them more cost-effective.
The cost will inevitably take a few years from now, but those who want to get their hands on the technology as quickly as possible will have to pay a staggering fee.
Despite these limitations, I’m still confident that foldable screens aren’t just a fad. I am a huge fan of the first wave of products, and I think there are enough useful functions here to remain popular in the years to come.
Ctrl + Alt + Delete is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals, and more. You can find it in Trusted Comments every Saturday afternoon.