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By: Paolo Lacuna
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SINGAPORE – Lenovo first publicly unveiled the Thinkpad X1 Fold at CES in January 2020, where it won numerous CES Awards. Touted to be the world’s first folding PC, The Thinkpad X1 Fold generated a lot of excitement. We tested the X1 Fold along with the mini keyboard and the stylus pen for about two weeks, and here’s what we think.
Disclaimer: Our test unit came from Lenovo Singapore, but all our opinions in our review are our own; they were not reviewed and vetted by Lenovo.
A mixed bag of design decisions
The Thinkpad X1 Fold is beautifully built. The premium feel begins with the leather back, solid, sturdy build, reliable hinge, and nearly creaseless inward foldable 2K screen.
When folded, the leather emulates the same nostalgic feeling of a daily planner or a thick notebook. The leather back moves along the rear of the laptop when folding or unfolding. When folded, the leather back moves to show a clean black rear with an LED indicator. This motion is not only interesting to see, but also provides an aesthetic clean look expected of a device this expensive. Carrying a 13.3-inch screen laptop in a very compact way makes it very convenient, though you have to get used to the weight of the X1 Fold which is at a muscle-building 999g.
There is a serious lack of ports with the Thinkpad X1 Fold. There are only two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps), where one can be used as a display port. These ports are positioned so that they’re accessible sideways whether you’re using the Thinkpad X1 Fold as a mini laptop, or when you unfold the screen to the larger configuration.
Bezels are quite thick, which is helpful when gripping the Thinkpad X1 Fold in its tablet mode. But the bezels also are raised, making it very tough to use the touchscreen when you need to access the edge of the screen. This becomes a non-issue when you use the pen to navigate.
The multi-link torque hinge feels robust and reliable. It unfolds smoothly and closes with a satisfying snap. The hinge is covered by a rubber-like material, connected to the bezels of both panels. You can pretty much keep it open and use it at any angle. I like holding the laptop like a book with two apps spanning the width of the screen.
And of course, the amazing folding 13.3” 2K OLED screen lights up brightly at 300 nits. I can’t fully agree that the screen is creaseless, because you can still see the crease at certain angles. But being the first folding device of this size, you have to respect Lenovo’s amazing effort. The screen is smooth, even where the crease would be, all due to the well-built plastic panel. The touchscreen was also very responsive. And even using the stylus and writing at the crease, it’s still smooth and does not disrupt my handwriting. The Lenovo Fold X1 folds with a gap in the middle, that’s just right for the optional mini keyboard.
The Thinkpad X1 Fold comes with an optional mini keyboard. True to form, the mini keyboard is built really well. Every key has a nice tactile feedback you’d expect from any other Lenovo laptop. Even if the keyboard is slightly smaller than your standard laptop keyboard, the spacing between the keys is still adequate. No nostalgic Lenovo trackpoint though.
The mini keyboard magnetically attaches to the Thinkpad X1 Fold and wirelessly charges, drawing power from the Fold itself making sure the keyboard is charged when you need it. And it also fits snugly when you fold the laptop, and the Thinkpad X1 Fold feels rather incomplete without it. Buyers of the Thinkpad X1 Fold must always include the keyboard to get the most out of this laptop.
There’s also an optional Lenovo Mod Pen for those wanting a pen input with their laptops. The stylus needs to be charged as well, and you’ll need to charge this via USB-C. I was able to test handwriting with One Note, and it feels rather smooth with very little input delay. The pen also provides 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, although I was reluctant to press too hard on the Thinkpad X1 Fold’s plastic screen. Writing on the crease also was surprisingly smooth, with no bumps at all.
An Intel Core i5-L16G7 Processor powers the Thinkpad X1 Fold’s base unit with integrated graphics, with 8GB memory, and a 256GB SSD. It’s enough to run the basics - web browsing, media consumption, and general productivity apps like Microsoft Office. But can be quite challenged for more resource extensive operations like video editing. And of course, hardcore gaming isn’t for this laptop. This was built for work, and that it can do.
The Thinkpad X1 Fold comes pre-installed with the Lenovo Mode Switcher app, which it uses to orient Windows according to how you want to use it - mini laptop mode when folded, or unfolded to a landscape or portrait tablet, or full-screen mode. It does take a full second switching from one mode to another. And what I’ve found to be the best mode for productivity is to split-screen, running two different apps at the same time.
Final thoughts and where to buy
The Thinkpad X1 Fold is a really impressive device - one of the largest consumer-ready devices with a foldable screen. The laptop does provide the user with the flexibility of transforming its form factor to suit the situation or need - whether it’s a large tablet or a small laptop. It’s really the laptop for the bold though, and do expect to pay for early-adopter tax. The Thinkpad X1 Fold starts at S$3,759, but the price does not include the Mini Keyboard and the Lenovo Mod Pen, so expect to pay a premium for this extraordinary laptop.