Lenovo ThinkPad Fold X1 First Impressions

Posted on February 25, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 17 Comments

Marketed as the world’s first foldable PC, the Lenovo ThinkPad Fold X1 is a unique and tantalizing take on the future of portability. The question, of course, is whether the form factor makes any sense today in this first iteration.

Given its sky-high pricing—the base model starts at $2500—and our more-than-understandable worries about the durability of that folding display, probably not, at least for most. But even in this rough, initial take on a foldable computer, the Fold X1 has some interesting advantages. And yes, some awkwardness as well.

What the Fold X1 really is, is a tablet. In fact, when you open up its box, your greeted by what appears to be a fairly pedestrian 13.3-inch tablet with curiously large bezels, given the era we live in. When you pull the Fold X1 out of that box, the most striking thing about it is how thick it is: .45-inches. By comparison, the new iPad Air is about half as thick, at .24-inches.

Part of the reason for the Fold X1’s thickness is its integrated leather cover, which appears to be non-removable and covers the entire back of the device. There’s practicality there: In addition to feeling great to the hands and its protection capabilities, the Fold X1’s cover also has a built-in kickstand for propping up the tablet. It works more like the origami Kindle covers that Amazon makes than a Surface Pro kickstand, but you get the idea.

But the more important reason for the thickness is that the Fold X1, true to its name, folds. In doing so, that 13.3-inch display curves inward at its middle, and the leather cover on the back of what is now the top of the display retreats back an inch or so.

In its curved clamshell-like mode, the top of the display stays up steadily due to some innovative hinge work. But it’s not much use like that unless you clip on its included Bluetooth mini-keyboard (with touchpad), which stays put thanks to magnets. Now, the tablet has become a full-featured mini-laptop.

How much work one can get done in this configuration will depend on the user and, I suppose, the work. With my large hands, I won’t be typing many articles on this machine, not like that, and certainly no books. But it’s no less usable than a Surface Go 2. And unlike Microsoft’s mini-PC, it’s got fairly powerful innards and can, of course, transform into a much larger tablet.

But there’s a third way to use the Fold X1 that may put it over the top for some doubters. Thanks to the aforementioned kickstand you can also use the Fold X1 and its mini keyboard with the display fully open. And while the keyboard is still too small for my tastes, this is a much preferable configuration. And one could, of course, use it with any Bluetooth keyboard and mouse if desired.

 

And in case it’s not obvious, yes, you can close the Fold X1 just as you would any laptop—with the mini-keyboard inside, on less—and carry it around like a little leather folio. It’s a bit chunky in this configuration—1.09-inches—but also very small. And the whole thing weighs just 2.2 pounds, well under the 3-pound target weight for a typical Ultrabook.

So let’s talk specs.

The Fold X1 is powered by an Intel i5- L16G7 Core processor, and if it weren’t for the display, this might be the most interesting and unusual thing about this computer. The i5- L16G7 uses Intel’s Hybrid Technology, meaning that it offers an ARM-like processor architecture with one performance core and 4 efficiency cores, and it uses just 7 watts of power, compared to 15 for a typical U-series Core processor.

Beyond that, we see 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of PCIe/NVMe M.2-based 2242 SSD storage, plus Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth, and (optional) 5G for connectivity. Expansion is limited to 2 USB-C 3.2 ports and a microSD card slot. There’s a Windows Hello-capable HD webcam and Dolby Atmos-backed speakers as well.

And then there’s that display. It’s a gorgeous, bright, and glossy OLED panel with a 4:3 aspect ratio and a  resolution of 2048 x 1536. I’ve been folding and unfolding the thing in a semi-fascinated fashion, but I see no lines, seams, or other indications of wear.

Real-world battery life is rated at 8.5 hours, but it should get over 10 hours in media playback. The 65-watt charger looks like an HP charger, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a design like this from Lenovo.

From a software perspective, the ThinkPad X1 Fold ships with Windows 10 Home and a handful of Lenovo-supplied utilities. The most important of these, perhaps, is called Lenovo Mode Shifter, which lets you configure how the system reacts when you switch form factors and attach/detach the mini-keyboard. It can also be used to determine where applications go: Using either the top or bottom half of the display or the entire display.

More soon.

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Comments (18)

18 responses to “Lenovo ThinkPad Fold X1 First Impressions”

  1. crunchyfrog

    Let me get this straight; Lenovo is selling a $2500+ tablet that you can fold into something that looks like 20 year old laptop...

    • spraly

      In reply to crunchyfrog: They created a device that you can use as a laptop on your lap, or put on a desk as a monitor with an external keyboard. I see a interesting use case and I'm interested. Just not at $2500. This is a real machine not an iPad wanna be.


      • ianbetteridge

        In reply to spraly:


        For the same price you could buy a much more capable Surface Book, which is a "real machine", of any one of a thousand and one convertibles. Of course, there's someone out there for whom this is the perfect device... but basically this is a tech demo. which Lenovo is selling to those interested.


        Is it the future of computing? Probably not.

  2. mmcpher

    I have a Duo, tried out the Galaxy Fold 2, so this is something of keen interest to me. I see the Lenovo Stylus in one of the pictures above, which is really interesting. You can use a Surface stylus with the Duo because it has 2 glass screens, whereas the Z-Fold 2 didn't allow that because there the large screen folded and was consequently too soft to risk potential damage by using a pen.  How hard is the screen and how did Lenovo deal with that issue? Lenovo, for years has been experimenting with pen-stylus input ideas to the point where I was wishing that Microsoft could have done so much more with their integration of pen-input into their whole Surface line.  After the Surface Studio, Lenovo countered with its Yoga A940, so it feels like they are each working in the same fields.

  3. dougkinzinger

    Nice review and looks like a nice product. FYI the power adapter is the same in use by current Lenovo mini desktops, marketed as the ThinkCentre tiny (no caps theirs).

  4. payton

    The pen capability makes this pretty interesting to me on one level, but I would want to try it out before committing at least $2750 to get the pen and keyboard included. Make that $2800 as I would need Windows Pro as well. Having a 13" writeable tablet without having to always carry something at least 12" x 9" is appealing. But, I, too, have large hands and the 6+" X 9+" keyboard and screen sounds ridiculously small to me.

  5. imback82

    > So that means that the half screen you get when you use the Fold X1 in clamshell mode is barely 720p


    When you fold, doesn't it become 1536 x 1024?

  6. RobertJasiek

    So a 4:3 tablet with Windows exists. I would buy one immediately (and pay €150 extra for Windows Pro, sigh) if it were stable instead of foldable, had low reflectance and long battery life. This product, however, is 4:3 with Windows designed to dislike it. Why can't the manufacturers get the basics right before they offer fancy products? It is easier to buy tablets with diamonds than with low reflectance 4:3 displays, replaceable battery and Windows.

  7. spraly

    I'd love to see a video on how the keyboard works as a laptop and transitions to a keyboard with a monitor.

  8. djross95

    Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I seriously can't see the point of this thing, especially ay $2500 and up.

  9. IanYates82

    I want to like this... If I had one I'd use it for sure. But I wouldn't buy one at that price


    How does the CPU perform in everyday tasks? It's the first big/LITTLE arrangement I've seen in any laptop reviewed so it'd be nice to see what happens with basic productivity apps and more stressful apps. Similarly, does it behave radically different when on AC vs battery, or in perf mode vs battery save mode?


    Finally, do you find your laptop power bricks die after a while when wrapped like that? Or they get horrible twists in them? I went to uni with a guy who'd wrap his Toshiba brick like that and he got all sorts of kinks due to unknowingly forcing twists inside the cable for every loop he made. I'm sure you're more careful, but seeing that wrapping triggers me! ;-)

  10. rmlounsbury

    Oddly enough, where the dual-screen Duo ultimately doesn't make a lot of sense for most people in the mobile phone space. I think, that similarly, a single screen foldable laptop doesn't make sense for a lot of people in that space either.


    It seems to me that the Duo form-factor works well in a traditional clamshell style (ala the Neo) and the single screen foldable makes more sense on a mobile device. Maybe it's because I'm used to having a laptop operate with the primary screen + an external screen where as my phone is just that and being able to have a large screen on demand makes more sense.


    Maybe I'm missing something in regard to a single screen foldable device for a clamshell style device. I know I'm still interested in the Neo but have no interest in what Lenovo created in the Fold X1. This feels like a "we did it because we could" type product; a long the lines of the Duo.

  11. crunchyfrog

    The only thing more pointless than a folding phone is a folding tablet/laptop... thingy.

    • spiderman2

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      Not sure, when prices will go down for phones, and thickness will go down for laptop... I really like the idea to have a phone that can become a tablet and a tablet that can become a laptop (as size)

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      I expect that once the issues with folding devices are fixed (durability issues, primarily) these will be mostly the form-factor we see in the future.

      • ianbetteridge

        In reply to curtisspendlove:

        Although I can see that happening in phones and "pure" tablets, I don't think it will in laptops, which this is attempting to be. To make something work well as a laptop, you need to have more weight on one side than the other – this is the issue the Surface Book and iPad (with Magic Keyboard) both struggle with. A tablet, on the other hand, needs the weigh distributed evenly to make it better to hold in the hands.


        Foldable screens make no difference to this, other than placing a little more weight in the centre where the hinge mechanism is.

  12. jim.mcintosh

    How can this be a ThinkPad? ThinkPads come with a TrackPoint. Since the first ThinkPad in 1992.


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