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Andy Zahn / Lifewire
Cutting edge tech in a first of its kind device
Spectacular high-resolution OLED display
Excellent as a drawing tablet
Poor performance for such an expensive device
Potential durability issues
Bluetooth keyboard is cramped and confusing
Mono speaker audio
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold is a fun and exciting folding laptop, but it’s clearly a first-generation product, making it very expensive, and it may also suffer from long term durability issues associated with folding screens.
We purchased the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold is a 2-in-1 laptop with endlessly exciting potential that brings groundbreaking folding screen technology to a Windows PC device for the first time. The potential of folding screens has long been a facet of science fiction, but this one time fantasy is now a reality. Phones from Samsung and Motorola use this tech to create exciting new mobile devices, but with the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold, the folding screen has found its way into a laptop PC unlike any that has come before.
As with any pioneering technology, early adopters can expect to encounter pitfalls and teething troubles in Lenovo’s first folding screen laptop, but could they be outweighed by the exciting advantages of such a flexible device?
There really is nothing quite like the Lenovo X1 Fold; it’s truly the first commercially available folding screen PC, and taking it out and using it for the first time is a novel experience. Getting used to folding a screen in half takes time, and I was bracing myself for the crunch of breaking glass, which thankfully never came.
Let's get durability out of the way right out of the gate—this laptop is tougher than you might imagine. It’s natural to worry about a flexible screen since this new tech has experienced its fair share of teething troubles in other devices. Flexible screens have hinges in which debris may be caught, and softly textured surfaces tend to fall victim to scratches more easily than a fixed screen. However, in my weeks using the X1 Fold, the hinges functioned flawlessly, and the screen remained scratch-free.
There are a staggering array of ways to use this device, from a traditional tablet and drawing pad, to a foldable double-sided e-book, to a purely touchscreen laptop.
That said, I wouldn’t trust the X1 Fold to be as long-lasting as a traditional laptop or tablet. The hinge is a point of failure that will eventually wear out. Still, if treated carefully and kept clean, this could be one of the more robust foldable devices to date.
There is something of a contrast in the design of the X1 Fold. Its exterior is nothing less than spectacular, resembling, with its built-in leather cover, a rather thick and expensive book. Put it on a bookshelf, and you couldn’t pick it out if you didn’t already know what it was. Only the shiny black plastic that protrudes from one end when the device is folded closed spoils the illusion.
The interior is a different story, with its large screen that appears distorted and lumpy when powered off and folded out flat. It also has wide matte plastic bezels which make the interior look rather rough and unfinished, but after using the X1 Fold for a while I came to appreciate the bezels for the comfortable handholds that they are. They are soft and tactile, and can really help you hold on to the device. Coupled with the soft leather back, this is a shockingly ergonomic laptop, regardless of what shape it’s currently in.
It’s also a fairly chunky device, being both dense and thick, particularly when folded. Given its girth, you’d expect more ports around its edges, but you only get two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports, one of which can be used as a DisplayPort output. Some models of the X1 Fold also feature a nano SIM slot for a mobile data connection. Unfortunately, you only get 256GB of SSD capacity, which is bizarrely small given the price of the X1 Fold. Exterior controls consist of a power button and volume rocker located on one side of the device.
Included in some X1 Fold bundles are a Bluetooth Keyboard and Lenovo Mod Pen stylus. These are welcome additions, and though I don’t like the layout of the keyboard myself, it’s useful to have the option of using a physical keyboard. Both the keyboard and stylus are equal to the excellent quality of the X1 Fold itself. There is an elastic loop on one side of the keyboard in which to stow the stylus, and the keyboard is designed to fit inside the folded screen of the laptop.
The X1 Fold automatically senses when the keyboard is attached and resizes the screen to fit. You can also unfold a rear flap of the leather backplate when the X1 Fold is in tablet mode, and then use the keyboard separately for a desktop PC style experience. There are a staggering array of ways to use this device, from a traditional tablet and drawing pad, to a foldable double sided e-book, to a purely touchscreen laptop. Though it’s hardly a master at all of its roles, it could certainly be termed as a true jack of all trades.
Whatever you may say about the other aspects of the X1 Fold and its daring design, the one thing that is beyond dispute is the quality of its high-resolution OLED display. With a resolution of 2048x1536 in a 13.3-inch device, it delivers crystal clear detail, thanks to the resulting high pixel density, but the real star of the show is the OLED. The deep blacks and rich colors put other more traditional displays to shame, and to some extent, it helps justify the hefty price tag beyond the novelty of its folding design.
My only nitpick is that though viewing angles are very good, the two halves do appear differently due to the varying angles when they are viewed in tablet mode. However, this wasn’t too noticeable or distracting, so it doesn’t really count against the overall excellence of the display. Generally, its aspect ratio is more suited to productivity than media consumption, however, the screen is so vibrant and detailed that movies and shows look great on OLED display, and you can easily ignore the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen.
The initial setup of Windows 10 went pretty much as normal, though once I got to the desktop there were more than the usual number of firmware and software updates to run. Connecting the Bluetooth keyboard was fairly straight forward, though the power switch on the keyboard is minute and a little tricky to operate.
The Lenovo Mod pen required charging, and this was a little tricky as there don’t seem to be any included instructions for its operation, so I had to look it up. Turns out that the pen opens up to reveal a USB-C port for charging. A small note with accessory setup instructions would have been a big help.
Using the X1 Fold is an interesting experience, to say the least, but despite being a bit rough around the edges, it really does deliver on its promise of flexibility. The touchscreen is as responsive as any other, though when partly folded it can be somewhat tricky to tap things right on the crease.
The magnetic Bluetooth keyboard is quite cramped, particularly for my large hands, and the layout is a bit weird. It’s very condensed with a lot of keys doing double duty, with some symbols requiring odd key combinations to access. The trackpad on the keyboard is an itsy bitsy thing, so I was surprised by how competent it is. Its size is a limitation, but it’s quite usable and features gesture support. The most serious issue with the keyboard, though, is that the lag when typing is very noticeable and unpleasant.
The on-screen keyboard is a better option in many ways, though it lacks the tactility of a physical keyboard. It’s definitely worth going into the settings and choosing a more complete keyboard layout with letters and numbers displayed simultaneously, unlike the default on-screen keyboard. Using this I was able to type quite comfortably, though it would be better if Lenovo tweaked the Windows on screen keyboard to fill a larger portion of the screen to offer a more spacious typing surface.
Overall, the X1 Fold is definitely superior to a traditional tablet in terms of typing and navigation, but it’s not exactly a laptop replacement in this regard. However, it does function spectacularly as a drawing tablet. The included Lenovo Mod Pen is extremely accurate, which makes this a great companion for artists on the go.
With only 8GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5, you wouldn’t guess that the X1 fold has much in the way of power, and you’d be correct. In the PC Mark 10 test, it came away with a meager score of just 2,470, which is absolutely abysmal, and not what you’d expect from a laptop equipped with a 10th gen Core i5.
It performed well at the essentials portion of the test, but the score for digital content creation was so poor that it dragged all other factors down. This lack of graphics processing capability was confirmed by the GFXBench test, which achieved just 4,141. Don’t plan on using the X1 Fold for anything more than the most basic of photo editing and graphic design applications. You can just forget about using it for gaming.
In a $500 laptop, this would be mildly disappointing, but in a device that’ll set you back nearly three grand, it’s truly hard to stomach. Fortunately, it does well enough at simple tasks that if you’re just using it to browse the web, do some writing, and a bit of sketching, then it will feel quite snappy. However, the lack of power in the X1 Fold does cut into its ability to adapt to a wide range of tasks.
The deep blacks and rich colors put other more traditional displays to shame, and to some extent, it helps justify the hefty price tag beyond the novelty of its folding design.
Aside from a few built-in Lenovo and Microsoft apps, the X1 Fold came with very little bloatware installed. The Lenovo Commercial Vantage software was quite useful for checking the computer's status, installing updates, and managing the extra level of Wi-Fi security that Lenovo offers. Windows 10 itself functions surprisingly well, considering the constantly shifting way in which the X1 Fold is designed to function. There were only a few hiccups here and there as the device figured out my orientation or whether I’d attached the keyboard.
The single speaker on one side of the X1 Fold isn’t bad, but its quality isn’t the issue. The problem is that it's singular, and all on its lonesome it can’t hope to deliver loud or impressive audio. The best that can be said is that it's there if you need it, but honestly, you’re going to want to use external audio if at all possible with this device.
The 5MP webcam in the X1 Fold is no better or worse than I’d expect. It provides acceptable results given good light, and can capture video up to 1440p resolution. Its placement on one of the short sides of the screen makes it more ideal for use with the X1 Fold in laptop or vertical tablet mode than in landscape tablet mode.
The X1 Fold features Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, and a nano Sim slot, so you can potentially connect to a cellular network. This makes the X1 Fold one of the faster and more versatile laptops out there in terms of connecting with the world. I never had reason to complain about its Wi-Fi performance or the reliability of its Bluetooth.
Don’t plan on using the X1 Fold for anything more than the most basic of photo editing and graphic design applications.
Lenovo’s claims of 8.5 to 10.4 hours of battery life was fairly accurate. This is definitely adequate, though not terribly impressive by modern laptop standards. It will get you through a day of work without having to recharge, depending on use, of course.
As tested, the X1 Fold will set you back $2,750, and that is this brilliant device’s greatest Achilles heel. That much money would buy you a seriously powerful gaming laptop capable of so much more than the measly i5 processor and 8GB of RAM that power the X1 Fold. The tiny 256GB SSD is insultingly small. Its components would be more at home in a laptop one third the price. However, with the X1 Fold, you’re not paying for power, and it's really up to you to judge if the neat tricks justify the cost, though that beautiful OLED certainly sweetens the deal.
If you don’t mind giving up a little bit of flexibility, the Dell XPS 13 7390 2-in-1 offers a thinner, lighter, more refined experience for nearly $1000 less. It’s more powerful, and has significantly more storage capacity, as well as an awesome trackpad and keyboard that make it so much better for typing. Although the XPS 13 will be the better choice for most people, the X1 Fold offers flexibility beyond compare and a glimpse into the exciting technology of the future.
This immensely versatile, though expensive device grants a glimpse into the future of mobile technology.
One look at the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold and you know it's something completely new. Its large, foldable screen and clever design paired with well-integrated accessories allows it to morph to fit a variety of different use cases. However, there’s no getting around the painfully high price point, mediocre performance, and all the little flaws that are the hallmark of a first-generation product.
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