Lenovo has a history of producing odd products. The Yoga Book, a color tablet with an e-ink touchscreen keyboard and drawing pad, was the first dual-screen hybrid from the company in 2016. Second-generation tablets and laptops with speakers built into the hinge or an eInk screen on the lid were also introduced in 2018 by Samsung. Not to mention that Lenovo was the first to announce a 5G laptop with Qualcomm in 2019, and that the 360-degree hinge system was pioneered by Lenovo.
For this reason, its release of a foldable tablet PC that can actually be purchased is no surprise. The ThinkPad X1 Fold, which we first saw in a prototype at CES 2020, is now available for purchase at $2,600. You’re getting a lot more than just a large foldable phone for that price. The 13.3-inch X1 Fold can also be used as a mini laptop when it’s folded in half and Lenovo’s companion keyboard is attached. Lenovo’s first foldable PC could have been more than a trend-following fad if it had been executed flawlessly. The X1 Fold’s execution, on the other hand, requires improvement.
The X1 Fold, like the Surface Duo, is a one-of-a-kind device. As a result, the concept of a foldable phone is no longer as revolutionary as it once was. However, Lenovo’s device is the first to run Windows and be this large, making it essentially a foldable Surface tablet. The X1 Fold’s flexible screen and sturdy hinge allow it to be used in a variety of ways, like a book or laptop, just like the Surface Duo or the Galaxy Z Fold 2. As previously mentioned, the hinge can only be opened in one direction and cannot be rotated all the way into a tent mode.
As a tablet or book
If you buy the X1 Fold for the starting price of $2,600, you won’t get a keyboard or stylus, so you’ll primarily use it as a tablet or “book.” It’s a functional gadget that’s surprisingly well-built. The leather cover makes this feel like a real notebook, but it also adds a dash of class to the overall design. The 5-megapixel webcam is located on the top bezel, and the power and volume buttons are located on the right edge. Another two USB-C ports can be found at either end of this laptop.
Although the Fold has a smaller 13.3-inch screen than the iPad Pro or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+, it is still quite large for a tablet. At 2.2 pounds, it has an 11.5mm profile, and when folded it measures about 24mm. It’s difficult to open the Fold while holding a camera in the other hand because of the Fold’s heft.
You can see a tiny gap at the hinge of the X1 Fold when you close it. In order to get the device open, you’ll need a bit of leverage from the magnets holding it in place. The hinge automatically opens when you move the screen. When you push it beyond a 25-degree angle, it becomes more difficult to bend the screen so that it remains half-closed.
It is possible to hold the X1 Fold like a book and run two apps at the same time so you can switch between them or just keep an eye on Twitter while watching YouTube, for instance. You could also prop up the Fold on the leather case’s built-in kickstand and use it as a second screen to watch Netflix or play games. When the screen is flat, the crease in the middle of the 2K OLED display isn’t noticeable, but when it’s tilted, it is. When the display is bent, the dent in the middle is significantly brighter than the rest of the panel, making full-screen viewing a little jarring.
The main reason I don’t like using the Fold as a tablet is because Windows is still a terrible operating system for touchscreen devices. Our suspicions about Microsoft have been confirmed by the company’s numerous public blunders with mobile versions of Windows over the years.
To be honest, using Tablet Mode on the X1 Fold was a pain, especially when I needed to get back to my desktop to retrieve a file I’d previously saved. Microsoft’s app store is pitiful compared to Apple and Google’s, and I couldn’t drag and drop windows the way I expected. For example, there is still no official Kindle app.
Obviously, the best mode for reading is the book mode (or it would be if there was a real Kindle app). In addition, it’s an excellent writing and note-taking tool, too. However, I prefer Microsoft or Samsung’s pens over Lenovo’s $100 version.
To Lenovo’s credit, it added its own mode-switching software to make it easier to use the Fold in Book mode. You can quickly expand an app to fill the entire screen or snap two apps together by tapping an icon in the system indicator tray. This made it easier to launch, for example, YouTube and Twitter at the same time, but I couldn’t find a use for it other than in a few very specific situations.
As a mini laptop
Lenovo’s $230 keyboard companion makes the X1 Fold an even more compelling proposition (if you forget about the price). Even though you can use your own keyboard, the one provided by the manufacturer fits snugly between the two screen halves and charges wirelessly when the tablet is closed.
Using this set-up, you’ll be able to work in a small space with a cute little mini laptop that has an approximate 7-inch screen size. All things considered, this keyboard’s buttons have a surprising amount of travel and space.
But some buttons, like the dash and equal signs at the end of the row of number keys, had to be sacrificed in order to fit all those keys on something this small. To accommodate this, the apostrophe had to be moved slightly higher and to the right of the Enter key, between the Backspace and Enter keys, instead of where it normally sits. It took some time to get used to these new rules, which made typing a little more difficult. A quick email or tweet would be fine, but I wouldn’t want to spend hours writing on this.
Even though the trackpad is only 3 inches wide and 1.5 inches tall, I appreciate Lenovo’s decision to include it on the keyboard. Despite its lack of responsiveness, I was grateful for the ability to use the Windows cursor and multi-finger gestures such as swiping to switch between applications. Quite unexpectedly, I didn’t find it to be cramped at all.
Except that, using the X1 Fold was fine. In this mode, you can only have about three app icons on the taskbar at a time because your screen is only 7 inches wide. It’s nearly impossible to read anything on such a small screen. Running two windows side-by-side will either barely fit or be so small that you will have to scroll for hours to see everything.
Performance and battery life
According to Intel, the X1 Fold’s “Hybrid technology”-enabled Lakefield Core i5 processor is “engineered for mobile performance.” It is based on ARM’s big architecture. Atom cores with lower power consumption are used for less demanding tasks, while higher-performance cores are used for more demanding ones. There were only a few minor glitches with software rather than a slow processor, but for the most part, the Fold performed admirably. When Lenovo’s mode switching tool didn’t work, it would show two random apps I had open instead of letting me select the window I wanted to open on either half of the display. For example, switching between landscape and portrait modes brought up all of my open windows, and I frequently had to wait for webpages to maximize and take up the entire screen when doing so.
When I stayed in either tablet or laptop orientations, the device generally kept up with me. These were mostly switching mode issues. Even though I didn’t do anything particularly taxing, such as video editing, the machine performed admirably for the vast majority of my normal day-to-day tasks.
When it came to our video rundown test, the X1 Fold beat out the Galaxy Tab S7+, Surface Pro 7, and the iPad Pro 12.9. I found that using the keyboard seemed to drain the battery a little faster than using it in tablet mode. By the way, a 5G-capable version of the X1 Fold is also an option, but I expect that to drain the battery even more.
In my opinion, the X1 Fold isn’t worth the money. The fact that Lenovo has a foldable PC ready for sale is impressive, and I do not mean to downplay the company’s accomplishments in any way. In contrast to many first-generation products, the X1 Fold is a high-risk venture. To put it another way, if you buy this, you’re essentially paying to be a beta tester. Various anomalies must be addressed. Because of its high price and lack of real benefits, the ThinkPad X1 Fold does not have my endorsement. In terms of Windows laptop-tablet hybrids, the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Go 2 are the most cost-effective and most productive options.