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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