Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review: Folding Screen PC Hits a Sweet Spot Between Laptops & Tablets

  • The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is the world’s first foldable PC.
  • It flaunts a crisp and vibrant 2K folding display.
  • The folding PC features a sturdy, durable build that feels premium too.
  • It supports eSIM-based 5G/LTE connectivity (in select regions).

The personal computer (PC) market had been on a steady decline for years, but that did not stop companies from innovating. Over the years, Lenovo introduced cool products like the Yoga series laptops with a 180-degree or even 360-degree rotating hinge for the display. It also introduced the Yoga Book Touch with a capacitive touch-sensitive surface that can be used as a sketchpad or a full QWERTY keyboard. Continuing the innovation, Lenovo has introduced the world’s first folding PC – the ThinkPad X1 Fold, with prices starting at around $2,499 in the US (around $3,300 here in India).

The foldable form factor on smartphones has some interesting use cases that we have seen on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold and Flip, Huawei Mate X, and Moto Razr devices. But how can a folding screen be useful on a laptop when it comes to offering convenience and usability? We try to answer that in our in-depth review after using the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold for close to two months now.

Design: Premium Materials and Sturdy Build Offers Good Durability

Lenovo’s ThinkPad range of laptops are known for their design and durability, and the X1 Fold continues this legacy. It is cleverly engineered and well-crafted to stand out from the crowd. When folded, the ThinkPad X1 Fold looks like a diary with a black leather cover with a textured finish. This offers a good grip when you hold it in your hand, and looks premium too. From a distance, not many will be able to make out if it is a diary or a laptop.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review leather cover

Upon opening/unfolding, reveals a full 13.3-inch foldable OLED screen, which is the same size as the laptop. There are thick bezels along all four sides of the screen and they have a rubberized finish on them which makes it easy to hold in tablet mode.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review tablet

Unlike foldable smartphones where the crease is easily noticeable, the same isn’t the case with the X1 Fold. You will only notice a sight crease when seen from an angle, that too when you know that you are looking for it. Others will not even notice it.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold weighs a little under 1kg, which is impressive.

But one of the key highlights of the ThinkPad X1 Fold is the engineering that has gone behind the hinge that holds the two back panels together. Lenovo said it took years of R&D in making the opening and closing mechanism smooth, sturdy, and durable.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review hinge

Though, you will need both hands to open and close the foldable PC. And even after two months of usage, the hinge mechanism is still solid, and it locks the display at the perfect angle, which is impressive.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review folding display

The hinge has sufficient tension to keep the screen in an upright 90% position to use it as a mini laptop.

The back right side of the leather cover also acts as a built-in kickstand allowing you to prop up the X1 Fold on the desk. This is a good addition, as seen on other devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, offering a laptop screen/desktop monitor-like experience.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review kickstand

In terms of ports, you only get two USB Type-C ones – one located on the left panel, and the other at the bottom. So, when the screen is in an upright position, only one port is accessible.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review side ports and buttons

One other thing worth mentioning is that when folded, there is a slight gap that is noticeable as the display does not completely fold. But this gap is filled when you dock the tiny keyboard, which magnetically attaches to the bezel’s frame. The Keyboard can be charged using a micro-USB port. But it can also charge wirelessly when docked on the bezel.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review bottom vent

Display: Great Viewing Experience, Especially for Multimedia Consumption

  • 3-inch OLED touchscreen, 300 nits brightness.
  • QXGA resolution, 2048x1536pixels, 4:3 aspect ratio.
  • Intel Integrated UHD Graphics.
  • Supports Lenovo Stylus Pen for creative doodling and sketching.

Besides the hinge, the folding display is the biggest highlight of the ThinkPad X1 Fold. The text looks crisp, the colors are punchy and the panel is bright enough to offer a great viewing experience whether you are indoors or using outdoors. The touch response is good too and I did not notice any delay when using it for tasks like opening or closing apps or scrolling through settings. I was a little worried at first thinking about the screen’s durability, but my confidence has only risen in the two months of usage. Kudos to Lenovo for making a strong product, especially when the folding screen is one of the most delicate parts of the PC.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review display

The OLED screen offers good viewing angles and vibrant color reproduction to enjoy watching content.

In terms of the viewing experience, the vibrant color reproduction of the screen ensures you enjoy all types of content, be it reading e-books, surfing websites, or even binge-watching favorite shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. For instance, when watching the Art of Flight, the screen produced bright whites for the snow, clear blue skies, and colors of the helicopter, the pattern on jackets of those skiing, and more. The Intel UHD integrated graphics is good enough for casual gaming or basic photo/video editing on apps, but is not intended for heavy gaming.

Talking about folding screen laptops, Senior Analyst Jene Park said, “PC makers are now offering laptops with OLED panels as a differentiator. These OLED screens not only consume less power, but also offer rich colors, even at low brightness. They also enable adding features like high refresh rate to offer smooth video viewing experience. Unlike regular laptops, foldable screen laptop form factor is compact which greatly adds to its portability and mobility. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold display panel is a foldable OLED in a tandem structure with polyimide as the cover window. Using polyimide over UTG (Ultra Thin Glass) lowers the display price for Lenovo, and the tandem structure on the panel will extend its lifespan as well.”

To take advantage of the screen real estate, Lenovo has also added a utility tool in the software – Lenovo Mode Switcher. Whether in landscape or portrait mode, it lets you run programs in full screen, or multi-task easily by dividing the screen into two parts – each running one program.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review mode switcher

Lenovo Mode Switcher makes multitasking easier.

Then there is another mode that is activated when you dock the keyboard on the frame. The screen automatically shrinks just to the part that is visible above the keyboard. It takes a couple of seconds for the screen to adjust, and the ThinkPad X1 Fold quickly transforms into a netbook. Of course, you will need to fold the screen upright position for that.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review netbook

It may not be a great experience switching from a full big screen to a tiny netbook size, but this could be useful when working from cramped spaces, such as in an airplane while keeping it on the seat tray.

Docking the keyboard and putting the screen in an upright position transforms the foldable PC into a small netbook.

Lenovo’s idea of adding a magnetic detachable Fold Mini keyboard is commendable, something that makes using this PC with a new form factor more exciting. The keys have decent travel and good feedback. They also have a rubberized finish which makes typing easier. I have written this entire review typing on the Fold Mini keyboard. Typing was tough initially due to the small size, but after getting used to it, typing experience was fun.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review typing

But Lenovo has crammed too much in the keys, the one where it gets a little frustrating where you need to use the Function key to add frequently used characters like – ?, /, [, ], { and }. Also, while the trackpad addition is good, it is too tiny to move the cursor properly.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review keyboard

The Fold Mini keyboard could have had a better layout to better accommodate frequently used characters.

Lastly, the touchscreen display also supports using the Lenovo Stylus Pen for sketching and doodling. It uses Wacom protocol and supports 4096 levels of pressure and during my usage, the sketching experience was good. It is thick enough to comfortably hold and use as a regular pen for taking notes.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review pen

The Pen charges using the Type-C port on the top. Lenovo says that a single charge offers good battery life of over 150 hours, and while I was not able to test the claims, I have only charged it once in the last two months and used for five to six hours so far.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review lenovo pen

Lenovo Stylus Pen support is another good addition for taking quick notes and sketching for amateur digital artists.

Experience: Future Ready for Windows 11, But Ships with Buggy Windows 10

  • Intel Core i5-L16G7, 5-Core/5 Threads, 1.4GHz Clock Speed, Turbo Boost 3.0GHz.
  • Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6, (Optional 5G).
  • 64-bit Windows 10 Home.
  • 5MP IR Camera (supports Windows Hello, but not enabled yet).
  • 4 Cell 50Wh battery with 65W fast charging.

Initial Hiccups Due to Poorly Optimized Windows 10

Now, when you are spending a premium on a folding PC, it all gets down to performance and there is a lot more to talk about in here. My ThinkPad X1 Fold experience started with bugs in the pre-loaded Windows 10 OS. I believe the software was corrupt, which was resulting in a “software crash with the blue screen of death” every few minutes. I went to Reset the PC when the OS completely crashed.

The only way to recover at that point was to use a USB Keyboard to boot into the startup menu, and of course, also have a USB Pen Drive with recovery media. But with two Type-C ports, it would have been difficult to recover without dongles. Luckily, I had two Type-C to regular Type-A dongles that eased the recovery process. While not everyone could encounter this issue, the full touch input and Type-C ports do have their setbacks.

Now even after restoring the system, Windows 10 was still buggy, where the programs would hang and the X1 Fold became unresponsive. At times, the touchscreen would also become unresponsive and the only way to resume was to do a hard reboot. These issues arise as Windows 10 is not properly optimized for this type of form factor, the one where Lenovo’s UI runs on top for the Mode Switcher feature.

Installing Windows 11 Gave ThinkPad X1 Fold A New Lease of Life

While talking to Lenovo, the company did mention that the X1 Fold was to be shipped with the Windows 10X OS, which was to be optimized for new foldable form factors. But Microsoft scrapped the ambitious OS, and those features are now baked in Windows 11. So, I went ahead and installed the Windows 11 Developer Preview, which has come a long way in optimizing the OS, with regular updates, ahead of upcoming official rollout.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review lead

Windows 11 brings a fresh new UI with softer visuals and transparent background. All new repositioned Start Menu, new Snap Groups and Layouts to make the best of screen real estate, Microsoft Teams integrated within the OS, and much more. All these refinements along with optimizations did make the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold experience more enjoyable.

Good Overall Performance, but a Powerful Processor Could Have Been Even Better

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is powered by Intel’s Core i5-L16G7 CPU based on Lakefield architecture. It is one of those “hybrid” processors for thin and light devices and is designed to be efficient. They are Intel’s answer to ARM chips from Qualcomm and Apple that we are now seeing in laptops. Paired with 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and Integrated UHD graphics, the X1 Fold does not have powerful hardware to suit content creators or gamers, or those with heavy usage.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review cover

But the overall performance was surprisingly good, having a Core i7 processor and 16GB RAM would have been better to offer more power and also justify the premium cost. My usage included using apps like MS Office (for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel), the Chromium Edge browser for surfing, watching movies and TV shows on OTT platforms, occasional YouTube videos, and so on. I also used apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Flipboard to scroll through the timeline, flip through the news, and more, and the experience was smooth.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review gaming

I did try to play games like Asphalt 9: Legends (downloaded from Microsoft Store), which works well but touch is still not properly optimized for Windows 11. I did load Steam to run older Flight Simulator X, but the experience was just about okay, that too on low frame-rate settings. Similarly, apps like Adobe Rush CC worked fairly well in editing videos, but it is not easy to edit with a touchscreen or the tiny bundled keyboard. Also, the rendering was not that fast. It could be good to edit occasional videos shot on phones, but this is not a PC for content creators and YouTubers who would like to edit on the go.

counterpoint lenovo thinkpad x1 fold review apps

That being said, for someone like me, who is usually writing content (be it features or product reviews), the ThinkPad X1 Fold was convenient to use. In terms of battery life, a full charge lasted me for a little over six hours, continuously, this included taking calls on Zoom and Teams, surfing, and writing. Fast charging is quick enough to top up the battery from empty to half in about 40 minutes, and a full charge in about 90 minutes.

Key Takeaways: With Right Hardware, Software Tuning, Foldable PCs Sound Promising

  • The foldable PC form factor is convenient and promising. The flexible OLED display offers good touch response and content viewing experience while also being durable.
  • Neat additions like the magnetic keyboard and stylus support from Lenovo show the full capabilities that foldable PC form factor can offer.
  • Better and more powerful hardware could have been better to offer an even smoother, hassle-free experience.
  • The ThinkPad X1 Fold works better with Windows 11 beta, but it will be interesting to see how the experience improves further with more software refinements.

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on Latest PCs and Smartphones

Ritesh is a Global Content Manager with Counterpoint Technology Market Research. With over 10 years of experience, he is joining Counterpoint from BGR India where he was the Head of Features. At BGR, Ritesh also used to cover tech news, product launches, and review consumer tech. Ritesh is a science graduate from Mumbai University, with major in Physics. He followed his passion for tech, took up writing as a career and is also a well-known tech journalist in the industry.

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