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Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold hands-on: Foldable laptops now seem promising

Lenovo's X1 Fold is a new foldable laptop that actually seems practical.

Published onJanuary 6, 2020

Over the last two years or so we’ve been arguing about foldables. No one can really decide if they’re practical or useless, and there’s such a lack of cohesive brain-think in the space that no one really knows if they’ll continue to exist once the hype fades.

Obviously, foldable phones are the precise thing we’ve been arguing about if you ignore that weird rollable OLED LG is supposedly shipping. That’s probably because now, they actually exist. You can go out right now and buy a Samsung Galaxy Fold from a regular store, and that means more people will have hands-on time, and more people will have opinions.

But while we’ve all been arguing about whether or not phones should go from small to big or fold inside to out, Lenovo has apparently been working on something most of us can agree actually seems useful: a foldable laptop.

Yeah, ok, you can stop it with the memes. I know laptops are already foldable. That’s what they do. But the panels aren’t foldable. Not until now, at least.

The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold is an actual product that is actually shipping this year, and it feels like something that could actually change how you work. In the, let’s call it “default” state, the X1 Fold is basically a 13.3-inch plastic OLED monitor with some pretty thick bezels. I wouldn’t blame you for calling this thing ugly in the front, but right now at least, that’s kind of the point. Lenovo understands how risky a space the nascent foldables market is, and it’s been using its Thinkpad team, known to build some pretty damn solid laptops, to construct the thing.

The bezels are thick, but that's for good reason.

The X1 Fold has a kickstand of sorts to keep it propped up in the back, and that will work in portrait orientation too if, for some reason, you wanted to code or something in that form factor. You can use the included Bluetooth keyboard to type on the thing from whichever orientation you’re using it, even in, of course, the traditional laptop orientation.

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold half unfolded with keyboard 2

If you half-close the laptop while in portrait mode, you’ll probably notice that it sort of looks like an actual laptop. The keyboard can attach to the bottom half of the screen with magnets, and you effectively get what is a normal laptop, with a relatively narrow top display.

Honestly, this orientation isn’t bad at all. The thing that stood out the most for me with this thing is just how flexible it is to your daily routine. If you’re at a desk you’ll probably want to use it in its full 13.3-inch widescreen state, but if you’re on say a bus or plane, it’s going to be a lot easier to type with the keyboard on the bottom half of the display. Generally, keyboards in this orientation feel pretty cramped, but this felt like it was right on the edge of being cramped. It felt like a normal keyboard, with nice feedback too.

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold folded in hand 2

That keyboard will also act as a sort of dust resistance when you close the laptop into its booklet form. That’s right, when you fold the laptop completely closed it basically looks like a nicely bound leather notebook. But, an actual notebook. Not the laptop kind. And it fits in my jacket pocket to top it off, which is pretty nuts.

The keyboard charges wirelessly inside the laptop from its included 50 watt-hour battery and Lenovo is claiming a week of use before you’ll have to recharge it at all. So basically, if you’ve been using the folding laptop on a desk for a week straight, you just have to close it with the keyboard inside overnight and you’ll have another week of charge on the keyboard.

The keyboard lasts a week, and charges inside the hinge.

Lenovo also wanted to note that you’ll be able to use its pens with this laptop, which is not common for foldable technologies. Usually, manufacturers try to subtly hint that you shouldn’t press “too hard” on the display to avoid damage, but Lenovo says it’s reinforced the X1 Fold with a new aluminum technology on the back plating. Because of that, you can fold and unfold it with as much pressure as you want on the display itself, and being able to use a stylus was a surprising twist.

For the first generation at least, this thing isn’t meant to be a gaming laptop, if that wasn’t clear already. The X1 Fold is running a chipset Intel is, for now, calling Intel Hybrid technology, but we’ll probably find out more about this after Intel drops its own keynote later this week. Other than that it has 8GB of RAM and starts with 256GB of storage, upgradable to 1TB for the top-of-the-line model. There’s no dedicated GPU in this thing which is what I expected, but I am interested in how this new CPU handles more demanding graphics tasks.

How much does it cost to replace a foldable phone's screen?
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold closed comparison

There’s also going to be both a 4G and 5G variant of this laptop launching this year, which is super exciting in my opinion. I’ve been wanting an LTE laptop for a while now, and the massive portability of something like this makes it even more worthwhile.

If you want all that innovation though, it’s not going to come cheap. Lenovo says the baseline 256GB storage variant of the laptop will cost $2,499. You’re probably going to shriek at that number, but foldable tech is still very low volume and thus very expensive, and when you think about the fact that the Galaxy Fold is basically $2,000, that number doesn’t seem so bad.

The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold should be launching sometime in 2020, and I’m honestly excited to see how foldables can impact devices other than smartphones. What are your thoughts on this new form factor? Let us know in the comments.

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