Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review: a folding screen filled with potential


The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is superior… as an idea.

Come on, it’s a show that folds in half. You’ll be able to carry it round like a pill. You’ll be able to prop it up and use it like a Floor Professional. You’ll be able to fold it midway and use it like a clamshell laptop computer. You’ll be able to fold it barely and maintain it like a hardcover e-book. And everybody who sees you whip it out of your briefcase will ask “Wow, what’s that?” And you may inform them “Oh, nothing. Simply the world’s first foldable PC.” Image it. There’s no means you gained’t really feel like the good particular person in your assembly.

So must you purchase it?

I imply, no. Earlier than we get into this: undoubtedly not. It’s a whopping $2,499, not together with the stylus and keyboard. (Bundles with each equipment begin at $2,749 on Lenovo’s website.) That’s greater than anybody must spend even to get an excellent laptop computer — and there are just a few too many issues with the X1 Fold for me to place it in that class.

However! I do like the thought. The folding kind issue definitely makes life simpler, and I’ve little doubt that we’ll see extra units like this sooner or later — assuming producers can work out a number of the kinks.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold in tablet mode, displaying The Verge’s homepage.

It’s too early to spend $2,500 on this, however I can’t watch for the subsequent technology.

A journey professional

Right here’s how a day with the X1 Fold went for me. Within the morning, earlier than signing on for work, I lay on the sofa and used the Fold as a mini clamshell (that’s, folded at 90 levels with the keyboard on the underside half of the display screen) to make amends for emails. Somebody had despatched me an attention-grabbing YouTube video in a single day. I unfolded the laptop computer right into a 13.3-inch pill, setting the keyboard apart, and watched it fullscreen.

Then, work time. I popped out the built-in kickstand and propped the unfolded ThinkPad up on my kitchen desk, laying the keyboard out in entrance of it. I used a number of home windows in split-screen, with Slack and Spotify over prime, the way in which I’d use any customary 13-inch laptop computer. Within the early afternoon, I had an hour-long Zoom assembly, so I headed again over to the sofa and folded the factor right into a e-book form, with Zoom on one aspect and Slack on the opposite. After that, again to work — however I didn’t really feel like going again to the desk, so I folded the ThinkPad again into mini-clamshell mode and used it that means on the sofa for the remainder of the day.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold closed, standing upright on a table.

The X1 Fold helps Wi-Fi 6 and 5G (optionally available).

The ThinkPad X1 Fold in a tent form factor.

There are three ports: two USB 3.2 Sort-C Gen 2 and a micro SIM slot.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold logo.

The again body is manufactured from carbon fiber plates and magnesium alloy.

That is all simply for instance what number of totally different makes use of there are for this kind issue. I can’t say {that a} folding display screen has ever been on the prime of my “Laptop computer Options I Want” listing — however after utilizing the X1 Fold for per week, I might like to personal certainly one of these.

There’s no laptop computer I’d slightly convey on a enterprise journey than the X1 Fold, and that’s attributable to a few design selections along with the versatile kind issue. For one: it’s actually, very nice. The gadget is clad in an genuine black leather-based cowl with a sturdy kickstand built-in into it. The ThinkPad brand provides a smooth splash of pink. All of it seemed very misplaced in my drab condominium. The one components that look a tiny bit low cost are the bezels, that are giant and rubber. These are needed to guard the edges of the show from clinking in opposition to one another, they usually additionally provide you with one thing to carry when you’re utilizing the Fold as a pill.

A folding show additionally makes for a terrific journey companion. Folded in half, this ThinkPad is concerning the measurement of a hardcover e-book: 9.3 x 6.23 x 1.09 inches and a couple of.2 kilos (299.4 x 236 x 11.5 mm and 999g). The keyboard matches contained in the folded gadget (magnets preserve it safe), and it has a comfortable sleeve for the stylus on its aspect. I simply slipped the entire affair into my purse and would have liked carrying it round a commerce present or convention below my arm. Any time I introduced this someplace, I assumed, “Man, I want I’d had this in school.”

And with the leather-based cowl, I used to be by no means fearful about bumping or scratching the Fold — one thing that may be disturbing with units this costly. (Lenovo says its product underwent MIL-STD 810H testing and is proof against situations together with humidity, mud, sand, excessive temperatures, and mechanical shock. This definitely guarantees a a lot greater stage of sturdiness than we’ve seen from folding telephones to this point.)

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold stands on a table in book mode.

Lenovo says the Fold has been examined in opposition to “12 military-grade certification strategies and 27 procedures.”

The Fold

With foldable units, there’s at all times one large query. The reply to that query isn’t any: you possibly can’t see the crease when you’re utilizing the Fold (although it’s seen when the gadget is turned off). The exception is when it’s partially folded like a e-book. The lighting within the center and the lighting on the edges is a bit uneven in that case. However credit score the place credit score is due: once you’re utilizing the Fold flat, there isn’t a crease to be seen.

The hinge itself, which Lenovo says it spent years creating, is sort of sturdy and didn’t give me any issues. The ThinkPad requires two arms and a little bit of a agency tug to open. However on the plus aspect, it at all times stayed precisely within the place I put it in with none slips or wobbles.

Flat, the show is a 13.3-inch OLED with 2048 x 1536 decision. That’s a 4:3 facet ratio, which is uncommon for a laptop computer however feels fairly roomy in comparison with a conventional 16:9. I may simply stack two and even three Chrome home windows aspect by aspect, typically with Slack, Zoom, or one other app over prime, with out having to zoom out. And I didn’t discover any jelly scroll (the place one aspect of the display screen is ready to change pixels sooner than the opposite aspect), which was an issue with some early foldable phones.

The viewing expertise is a luxurious. The panel reproduces one hundred pc of the sRGB coloration gamut, one hundred pc of Adobe RGB, and 95 % of DCI-P3. It’s nice for watching movies and flicks; even the dock icons pop with coloration.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold’s center hinge, folded into tent mode.

A foldable graphite layer helps with cooling.

The Lenovo X1 Fold partially folded, from above.

Below the display screen are “a number of layers of mechanical help” to forestall creasing and effervescent within the display screen.

On the draw back, good luck utilizing this factor outdoors. Not solely is it fairly shiny, but it surely solely reached 289 nits at most brightness. That’s not an issue for indoor work, but it surely’s nonetheless a little bit of a letdown for the worth since some premium enterprise laptops supply 1,000-nit choices for much less.

Efficiency and software program

Lenovo has provide you with some neat software program tips to enhance the Fold expertise. There’s an app referred to as Pen Settings the place you possibly can map the buttons on Lenovo’s stylus: they’ll do every thing from copy / pasting to erasing, toggling music and quantity, and pulling up varied purposes.

You can too use Lenovo’s Mode Switcher (which pops up everytime you fold or unfold the gadget) to separate the display screen in half, basically creating two separate shows on both aspect of the crease. That is most helpful within the mini-clamshell kind if you wish to have one software operating up prime and one on the underside. However you can even use it when the Fold is flat, the identical means you’d use the Home windows split-screen characteristic. And for those who cut up the display screen in Mode Switcher, the Fold preserves that structure once you transfer between portrait and panorama orientations, whereas elaborate preparations of tabs and apps typically get scattered all over the place in any other case.

These are good touches, they usually present that Lenovo has actually thought via the potential this kind issue has, slightly than simply slapping a hinge onto a Floor Professional. However relating to efficiency, there are indicators that this product remains to be in an early stage.

There’s lots to commend Lenovo for right here. I get stressed simply desirous about the duties this pc has. Not solely does it must know whether or not it’s in portrait or panorama mode (like every common pill), but it surely additionally has to detect whether or not it’s folded, how a lot it’s folded, and the place the keyboard is — after which resize its interface accordingly. Given all that, I’m fairly impressed that this factor (largely) works.

Principally. Nevertheless it’s not seamless, and there are some areas the place the Fold and Home windows 10 aren’t fairly seeing eye to eye but.

For instance: sometimes after I had the Mini Keyboard linked, the Fold forgot it was there and despatched up the on-screen keyboard anyway after I chosen a textbox with the stylus. You’ll be able to flip the on-screen keyboard off in Settings if this annoys you, but it surely’s nonetheless a glitch that’s disappointing to see. Then again, often, the on-screen keyboard didn’t come up instantly after I needed it to, and I’d should prod the textual content field just a few instances earlier than the Fold acquired the trace. And the little writing field, which is meant to pop up everytime you faucet a textual content subject with the stylus, appeared to return considerably randomly: it didn’t seem at some instances after I needed it, and it did pop up at some instances after I didn’t (like if I had simply highlighted one thing in a Google Doc).

There have been two events, each after a restart, the place the Fold didn’t notice it was in mini-laptop mode and tried to broaden throughout the entire display screen. I needed to take away and exchange the keyboard earlier than the Fold detected it. (Lenovo is conscious of that concern and says it’s engaged on a repair.)

Most annoyingly, I wasn’t capable of video chat in Zoom or WebEx utilizing mini-laptop mode as a result of my video feed (just like the pill’s digital camera) was sideways. That’s not a Lenovo-specific drawback — another Home windows convertibles additionally don’t correctly rotate their cameras for those who flip them round throughout video calls. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless one thing I hope Zoom and WebEx are capable of repair. Had been it not for this concern, mini-laptop mode can be the perfect kind issue for distant conferences (WebEx on the highest half, notes on the underside).

I’ve religion that Lenovo will iron out these kinks as time goes on. However at current, they’re right here.

The X1 Fold doesn’t have as heavy-duty of a processor as you’ll discover in another ThinkPads. It’s powered by the Intel Core i5-L16G7, certainly one of Intel’s “Lakefield” CPUs. These are “hybrid” processors, environment friendly chips designed for small and light-weight units. They’re Intel’s reply to the Arm chips in telephones, tablets, and now MacBooks. (Microsoft’s dual-screen Surface Neo is meant to be getting one, too.)

The ThinkPad X1 Fold’s onscreen keyboard.

The Intel Core i5-L16G7 has 5 cores: one quick Sunny Cove core that may enhance as much as 3GHz and 4 Tremont cores that may enhance as much as 1.8GHz.

Occasional glitches apart, I used to be pleasantly shocked by the efficiency right here. Multitasking in a dozen apps and Chrome tabs was no drawback, and I may do some scrolling and shopping throughout a protracted Zoom name with out something freezing up. In fact, that’s additionally true for loads of units you may get for just a few hundred bucks.

And the Fold additionally dragged its ft on some duties the place different premium enterprise laptops (to not point out high-end shopper laptops which can be half this value) do higher. It takes a great few seconds in addition up, for instance, and I typically acquired impatient ready for it to search out issues in File Explorer and ship home windows to fullscreen. Webpages have been a bit slower than I’m used to. The ThinkPad additionally takes just a few seconds to rearrange itself between modes — and mini-clamshell mode, specifically — however I’m keen to forgive that because it’s a brand-new use case for Home windows 10.

Battery life, although, was fairly disappointing. Working the X1 Fold via my sustained workload (round 12 Chrome tabs and apps, occasional Spotify and YouTube streaming and Zoom calls, 200 nits of brightness), I averaged 4 hours and 50 minutes on the Higher Battery profile and 5 hours and 35 minutes on the Battery Saver profile (with Intel’s battery-saving options enabled). That’s not essentially surprising for a laptop computer with an OLED show and solely a 50Whr battery. Nevertheless it’s not good for a $2,500 gadget, particularly one which’s meant for use on the go. The Surface Pro 7, which has a higher-resolution display screen, acquired seven to eight hours in our testing.

The ultimate factor value mentioning right here is that Home windows 10 remains to be a “meh” working system for tablets. In case you’ve by no means used a Home windows pill earlier than, it’s fairly totally different from utilizing an iPad. Gesture controls are nonetheless pretty primary, particularly in comparison with Apple’s shortcut choices. Furthermore, most Microsoft apps aren’t designed for use on a pill the way in which that iPad apps are, so that you’ll be doing plenty of struggling to faucet packing containers and icons which can be a lot smaller than your fingertip. And actions like rearranging tabs and dragging / dropping home windows which can be second-nature with a touchpad are troublesome to do together with your fingers.

Switching to Home windows Pill Mode helps with this a bit, however you need to dig into the Motion Middle to show that on manually. The Fold doesn’t swap to it robotically once you disconnect the keyboard the way in which Floor Books do. (Once more, it’s not a Fold-specific drawback — typically, disconnecting Bluetooth keyboards from Home windows convertibles doesn’t set off Pill Mode — but it surely’s inconvenient nonetheless.) And naturally, Home windows 10 doesn’t have any distinctive options that reap the benefits of the dual-screen setup; Microsoft is engaged on an working system optimized for dual-screen {hardware} (together with its personal Floor Neo), however we don’t count on that to reach till next spring.

The operating theme right here is that the majority of those points are Microsoft’s fault, not Lenovo’s. The convertible laptops Microsoft makes use the identical working system. However the lack of pill performance makes extra sense on Floor Books and Floor Execs, which may function tablets the place wanted however are nonetheless meant to perform primarily as computer systems. The issue with the Fold is that it’s at its greatest as a pill. The best X1 Fold buyer can be utilizing it as a pill more often than not. As a result of there are two main causes I don’t advocate this gadget as a major laptop computer. These causes are…

The keyboard and touchpad

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold in mini-laptop mode.

The Mod Pen fees by way of USB-C. The Mini Keyboard fees wirelessly when it’s contained in the Fold and may cost with Micro USB.

The X1 Fold is gorgeous to have a look at and, as a pill, a marvel to make use of. However I nonetheless dreaded having to drive it for my precise work daily. That’s as a result of the keyboard and touchpad are tiny.

Now, I perceive why they’re tiny. Lenovo needed to make a keyboard sufficiently small to suit contained in the folded gadget so it wouldn’t be an additional factor to hold round. And it definitely succeeded in making a keyboard that matches completely into the folded-up pill. I used to be by no means involved that it might fall out.

However I hate typing on it. The keys really really feel fairly sturdy and have a satisfying click on to them, however Lenovo basically needed to mix various keys to realize its desired measurement. For instance: the apostrophe / citation key, normally to the left of Enter on a US keyboard, has been moved to the far proper aspect of the keyboard above Enter. (It’s a half key, sharing a slot with colon / semicolon). Each time I wanted to sort an apostrophe, I needed to consciously stretch my hand far to the precise. Roughly 50 % of my apostrophe makes an attempt resulted in instinctively slamming Enter as an alternative (as my colleagues who obtained quite a few incomplete Slack messages can attest). I assume you’ll alter to this after some time of utilizing the Fold, however boy is there a studying curve.

It will get worse: Lenovo needed to cram some keys that have been already dual-purpose collectively, that means that some buttons accommodate as many as 4 totally different symbols. Query mark / ahead slash has been mixed with interval / better than, so typing a query mark requires hitting all three of Shift, Fn, and interval on the similar time. Sprint has been relegated to Fn+9, which additionally tripped me up. I needed to undergo this evaluate and delete a bunch of unintended 9s I’d typed earlier than I filed it. And backslash requires Fn+8, which might make the X1 Fold an enormous ache for individuals in STEM fields who wants to make use of LaTeX and another programming languages.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold being used in book mode.

Lenovo says the Mod Pen will get 250 minutes of use from a five-minute cost.

Once more, I perceive why the keyboard wanted to be small. However I might slightly carry the keyboard individually than should press three keys to make a query mark. Lenovo may make a pleasant carrying case that matches the Fold, the keyboard, and the stylus, and I might be completely tremendous with that. The corporate may additionally create some more room by eradicating the touchpad — which it would as nicely as a result of the touchpad is principally ineffective.

To place in context how tiny this factor is: if I place two fingers on it (and my fingers are fairly small) there’s virtually no room above or beneath them. In order you possibly can in all probability think about, scrolling is a ache (you hit the plastic body instantly) as is clicking / dragging, highlighting, and the rest that requires two shifting fingers. (There’s nowhere near sufficient room.) Laying out a giant article, which entails copy-pasting textual content and shifting a bunch of photos round, was fairly a battle.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold laid out in tablet mode on a bench.

The Fold comes with the Dolby Entry app, the place you possibly can swap between profiles for various settings.

The touchpad additionally didn’t do what I wanted it to as typically as I needed. It typically thought I used to be holding it down after I had let go, that means I’d unintentionally transfer tabs round. And highlighting a section of textual content or getting my cursor to land in a precise spot was typically a trial-and-error course of. Even with the touchpad on its lowest sensitivity, I not often acquired the precise location on the primary go.

I don’t use third-party peripherals with laptops I evaluate, however this touchpad pushed that precept to its restrict: I’ve by no means been nearer to saying “Screw it” and plugging in a mouse to present myself a break. I ended up utilizing the stylus for many of my navigation, however that’s suboptimal for some actions (rearranging tabs, doing something in Google Docs).

General, the X1 Fold is a spectacular gadget in plenty of methods. It’s good on the one factor it’s marketed for (folding). It’s lovely, each to have a look at and to make use of. It’s sturdy. And the shape issue is beneficial. It’s not a gimmick. I might like to personal a pill like this.

The important thing phrase there’s “pill.” The X1 Fold isn’t a pill. It has a laptop computer working system and — extra importantly — it’s priced like a laptop computer. It’s priced like a really costly laptop computer.

And it’s not able to fill that function but. The battery life isn’t there but. The keyboard and touchpad aren’t there but. The software program integration, whereas commendable, isn’t there but.

The important thing phrase there’s “but.” As a result of with all that being mentioned, I can’t watch for the second technology. Samsung’s first foldable telephones have been riddled with issues — however simply over a 12 months and several other iterations later, the corporate is promoting a folding device that’s very usable (albeit fairly costly). I’m positive that’s going to be the case with foldable laptops as nicely. Lenovo has a groundbreaking concept, with a robust basis to construct on. I actually hope it’s capable of patch the Fold’s glitches with out compromising on the parts which can be already distinctive. That will be a wide ranging gadget, one that may earn my unambiguous suggestion.



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