Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Fold is the world’s first genuinely foldable PC. Most other PCs are convertibles that can rotate around the hinge of the display and the keyboard or detach from the keyboard. The Thinkpad X1 Fold is the first laptop in the world that can bend in half, from a 13” tablet to a book-sized netbook. Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Fold gets many things right, though it misses in certain areas. Overall, though, I believe that users will find the Thinkpad X1 Fold incredibly useful.
Intel Lakefield and Hybrid Technology with Foveros
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold, in its standard configuration, comes with Intel’s Lakefield processor with Hybrid Technology. Additionally, it is Intel’s first foray into Foveros 3D stacking. All specs of the Thinkpad X1 Fold feature Intel’s Core i5-L16G7 processor, which combines Sunny Cove ‘big’ CPU cores with Intel Tremont efficiency cores on Intel’s latest 10nm process. Lakefield allows for impressive power efficiency, significantly more compact PCB (Printed Circuit Board) designs and overall smaller PCB—making devices like the Thinkpad X1 Fold possible. That said, Lakefield isn’t necessarily as high performance as some of Intel’s other CPU configurations. One of the unfortunate consequences of the design is that the memory comes soldered into the PCB, which limits Intel’s Lakefield to 8GB of RAM. This is not enough for serious multi-tasking, and ultimately, I think it might be the device’s biggest performance inhibitor.
Display and size
The display on the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold is the centerpiece of the device: a gorgeous 13” QXGA Foldable 2K (1536 x 2048) resolution OLED touch screen with up to 300 nits of brightness. What may slip past some people is that not only is this display OLED and foldable, but when unfolded, it features a 4:3 aspect ratio. This makes it incredibly good for productivity, allowing it to display considerably more lines of code or cells in a spreadsheet. While the display looks great, I do wish it felt more responsive to touch commands. It also has fairly thick bezels around the edges, which, if improved upon in subsequent generations, would further shrink the device’s overall footprint.
Generally, the biggest issue with any PC is how much space it takes up when it is closed and in transit. Most laptop sizes are determined by their screen sizes rather than their final size. However, this calculation may no longer matter with foldable PCs like the Thinkpad X1 Fold. When folded, the Thinkpad X1 Fold is about 9 inches tall, 6 inches wide and a little over 1 inch thick. By comparison, the Lenovo X1 Nano, another Lenovo 13” PC, is 11.5 inches tall , 8 inches wide and 0.66 inches thick—a much larger device to carry around. For someone with limited bag space who doesn’t want to carry around a particularly large device, the Thinkpad X1 Fold is the perfect design.
Both the X1 Fold and X1 Nano are incredibly light, weighing about 2.2 Lbs (or just under 1Kg). The difference is that the Thinkpad X1 Fold is much smaller when folded in half, including the keyboard, which nestles magnetically inside the Thinkpad X1 Fold’s gap. The Thinkpad X1 Fold’s leather outer case completely hides the hinge mechanism and provide a protective shell for the PC when closed. Additionally, the case features an origami-like fold-out stand for propping the Thinkpad X1 Fold up on a table.
Keyboard and typing
The Bluetooth keyboard fits perfectly inside the gap between the two halves of the display when the Thinkpad X1 Fold is folded in half. The keyboard is also functional when the device is in its netbook-like form factor, so you can still be productive in more space-constrained environments. It also easily detaches from the Thinkpad X1 Fold for use as a standard wireless keyboard.
Overall, the typing experience is quite good, a testament to Lenovo’s long history of keyboard engineering. That said, it does not have a USB Type-C connector and requires a separate micro USB connector as a backup for when you run out of juice and can’t dock the keyboard (a rare occurrence). The battery life on the keyboard is impeccable; I haven’t had to recharge it yet, which is a plus. It would be nice if the keyboard’s battery status was more easily visible, perhaps in the quick toggle Bluetooth menu on the notifications bar but since it recharges every time you need to dock it, there might not be much need to notify users unless it is low. The touchpad on the keyboard is incredibly small, but considering that the Thinkpad X1 Fold has a touch screen, I don’t see this as much of a factor. Overall, I’m not the biggest fan of the keyboard layout. It is a little on the small side and I prefer keyboards with less function keys.
Connectivity and I/O
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold comes standard with Intel’s Wi-Fi 6 AX200 Wi-Fi chipset, which also supports Bluetooth 5.1. The model that Lenovo sent me for review does not have 5G connectivity. While it is possible to add a 5G modem for an additional $462, there are not any pre-built SKUs of this PC with that configuration. The price tag might be worth it for those who want always-on internet connectivity with the added security. While Wi-Fi 6 is far more secure than previous Wi-Fi protocols, 5G is still more secure than most non-Wi-Fi 6 public networks. The Thinkpad X1 Fold’s I/O is somewhat limited, with only two USB Type-C ports, no headphone jack and no card slot (SD or microSD). That said, it comes standard with 256GB of NVMe storage and is upgradable to 1TB. The X1 Fold would absolutely benefit from a docked computing situation, but I have a feeling that many X1 Fold users don’t use docks all that much since they are constantly on the move.
I believe that Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Fold is one of the most innovative computers that I have used to date. Lenovo continues to build on its reputation as one of the biggest manufacturers of devices in the world that is still ready and willing to take risks. That said, while the X1 Fold is fairly well thought-out in concept, it has much room for improvement. In today’s environment, I find it hard to strongly recommend any laptop capped at 8GB of RAM, unless you’re a fairly lightweight user. After all, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is a $2,500 PC—in any other form factor, that will buy you considerably more performance.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold will likely be the first of many foldable PCs, and I expect it will improve considerably in the next generation. If you mostly use your PC for word processing and cloud applications, then, by all means, get it. But otherwise, you may be wise to wait and see what performance improvements come with the next generation.