Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is one of the most futuristic devices of the year – the world’s first folding PC. But like so many other first generation products, it’s not for everyone.
Who is it for: As the world̵
What you need to know: At $ 2499 without a keyboard and $ 2749 with that attachment, it’s expensive to say the least. Add the buggy software, performance in the middle of the range and not so good battery life, which holds it back. The ThinkPad X1 Fold is not for most people, and you probably should not buy this unless you really do not mind exploding for a groundbreaking but niche device.
Here’s how to compare: The ThinkPad X1 Fold feels as durable as any other ThinkPad. It has the classic black color and is tough. We also have no qualms about opening and closing it several times a day. Problems are starting to appear with Windows 10; the operating system as a whole is not ready for a device like this, and in use it falls behind for other laptops and 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro 7. You will also find that while it can handle light tasks, it is not the best for things like Photoshop, video editing or games.
Lenovo’s ThinkPads date back to the IBM days and are still today, and are thoughts in the computer world. They are not fragile or flimsy; rather, they are strong and can beat.
ThinkPad X1 Fold packs the durability of a collapsible. Unlike the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, Motorola Razr or Galaxy Z Fold 2, we have no immediate concerns about opening and closing the X1 Fold.
The physical frame of the X1 Fold is a combination of carbon fiber and magnesium alloy. It also comes in only one color: black. What’s different about the X1 Fold, when it comes to materials, is a leather back that feels quite sophisticated and makes the PC look like a luxurious device. It feels very nice, and when the X1 Fold is closed, it looks like a stylish laptop or case.
The back of the leather has a part that can be folded out, and mainly allows you to support the X1 Fold up when it is fully open. In this way, it can function as a screen, and you can use it as a desktop – although the experience, true, is more like a Windows tablet, like a Surface Pro 7. After all, it is only a 13.3-inch screen.
When closed, you will see the shiny surface of the X1 Fold at the top, as the leather itself retracts when folded. But when fully opened, the leather straps to the back of the device. There are only two USB-C ports on the X1 Fold, and both can handle charging the device. You will not find many buttons either – just a power button with an LED indicator and a volume rocker.
It is best to think of this as a 13.3-inch Windows tablet that can be folded in half. You can use it unfolded in vertical or horizontal position. It can be folded at a 90-degree angle, like the Z Flip, and used as a netbook or mini-laptop with an optional keyboard. Though, let’s be honest: if you buy the X1 Fold, get yourself the keyboard. It just does not make sense not to do so.
The design of the X1 Fold is equally futuristic and functional. It is relatively compact at just over 2 pounds. In comparison, it is lighter than a MacBook Air, but heavier than an iPad Air. And it’s a hinge-highlighted design that allows this device to multimod in a way that is radically different from a regular laptop.
You know exactly where the hinge is, thanks to larger frames around the screen. The hinge is physically open at the sides. It’s a little worrying, but we have not experienced any problems with the board or the objects that are placed in the small opening.
And if you select the keyboard, you can leave it on the screen when the PC is folded. It will actually fill the board where a paper clip or sharp object can potentially slip in and puncture the screen.
When unfolded, the screen extends to fill a full 13 inches and creates excitement. This is designed to make the screen stronger in this position. Remember that this is an OLED polymer display and not glass. You also do not need to be careful when opening or closing the X1 Fold – there is a noticeable difference from folding phones. However, we noticed discoloration when using it in a laptop format, as the lower half of the screen is noticeably darker.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold screen is a 13.3-inch OLED with a resolution of 1536 x 2048. Images are rendered accurately, but it lags behind other laptops with a full 4K screen. The plastic nature of the screen increases the gloss factor, since it is super reflective. It is very difficult to use it in direct light or outdoors – especially when you add that it can not be so light.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold has two major drawbacks: Windows is not optimized for folding, and Lenovo’s customization does just that much. Intel’s Lakefield-stacked processor delivers expected performance, but does not shine with efficiency or a runway for powerful tasks.
Lenovo’s response to switching from a large screen to a seashell is a mode switch. When it works, it will detect when you fold or turn the X1 Fold through the accelerometer. With it you can choose which app is where depending on the orientation. It’s an easy way to enable you to succeed, and it was useful to stay in two apps. But too many times it did not end up engaging us when we needed it.
You will also find that many apps are not optimized to run in these smaller scenarios or in mini clamshell mode. Essentially, click the keyboard on the right side of the X1 board (or the bottom half) and it will turn off that part of the screen, giving you the top half. It allows you to use the X1 Fold as a mini-laptop. You can use the keyboard and trackpad to navigate a 7-inch screen. It has been convenient to quickly try an email inbox, but not much else.
More importantly, though, for the apps that worked with it, the keyboard worked well. You will also find that the keyboard, which attaches magnetically and charges wirelessly, uses a lot of power. In this mode, we suggest that you are connected, which takes away the convenience of using this while on the go.
And when it works properly, the X1 Fold recognizes that the keyboard is there in just a few seconds. The dock will be moved up and you are ready to rock. And even though instances of not recognizing the keyboard were more prominent before several updates, it still happens sometimes when you turn the X1 Fold on or after a reboot.
It all comes down to the fact that Windows 10 is not designed for a device like this. Windows 10X, an optimized version of Windows 10 for folding, is likely to pinch many issues, but it is delayed. It was teased along with the Surface Neo, a collapsible Surface device, which is also delayed. Many updates come on Lenovo, and it tried to squeeze as many issues as possible. The other half falls on individual app developers to take advantage of a design like this.
When the X1 Fold works, namely the mode switch, it’s great. But when it does not, it really feels like a first generation product. And as far as the processor goes, the X1 Fold works well for a mobile architecture chip from Intel. To be specific, there is an Intel Hybrid processor – i5-L16G7 – with 8 GB of RAM. And for most tasks, it will be enough to drive them; browsing, word processing, large spreadsheets and even the occasional photo editing worked well on the X1 Fold.
It just can not be scaled, but again, the X1 Fold is designed as a business laptop. We tried some games on it, and The Sims 4 was playable. However, any powerful title will crash or just not run when we tried. We also found that for some titles, auto-orientation will cause the app to crash or quit, so be careful with your movements while using this PC.
To put performance in perspective, we ran the ThinkPad X1 Fold through the Geekbench 5, which stress tests a machine with real utility issues. The ThinkPad X1 Fold received an 822 on the single-core test and a 1,738 on the multi-core test. It’s in the middle of the road and lags behind several devices, including the Intel MacBook Air, M1 MacBook Air and Surface Laptop Go.
It’s just not a very efficient processor in its current state. The efficiency problems are also transferred to the battery life. In daily use, we found that the keyboard drained a lot of power and shrunk our work days. And when we used the X1 Fold for a full working day, it required a charger nearby.
It scored behind all the aforementioned laptops and several others in our battery test, at six hours and 15 minutes.
Just from the expensive price, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is not for most people. And the fact that it’s a foldable PC makes it an even tougher sale. In its current state, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is quite a niche product, and you’ll probably be better served by a ThinkPad X1 Carbon, a Dell XPS 13, a Surface Pro X, or even a Surface Pro 7. These 2-in-1s has great hardware and an almost perfect software experience.
Still, we appreciate what Lenovo has done here. The hardware and design of the X1 Fold is excellent. It is the first folding screen that we are not afraid to put pressure on. But there is still work to be done here – the software experience needs to be improved, and a good deal of that falls on the Windows team.
Lenovo is obviously on to something here with the X1 Fold, though.