Foldable PCs are far more in their infancy compared to smartphones, which have had years at this point to mature. Not that PCs haven’t, but with a lack of competition and compelling reasons to buy them, very little progress has been made on the journey to justify folding a laptop screen in half.
Lenovo has been at the forefront of experimenting with foldable PCs. With the introduction of the ThinkPad X1 Fold back in 2020, the company has been one of the only ones to ship a a laptop with a folding screen and can take on somewhat aberrant form factors.
This year at IFA, the company is furthering its efforts in the space with the next-generation ThinkPad X1 Fold. The new X1 Fold takes the same formula Lenovo established with its first iteration and improves upon it in a handful of key ways. It’s by no means a night and day difference between the first and second generations, but there’s a lot of solid steps forward here.
I got to play around with it a couple of weeks ago in New York, so here are some thoughts/specs/useful bits of information.
It’s big, bendy, and badass
Full disclosure: I never got to play with the original X1 Fold, so this second generation was my first exposure to Lenovo’s idea of a foldable. Messing around with it a bit, I immediately noticed just how big it is. The company says it has a 22 percent larger screen with a 16.3-inch OLED panel, a 25 percent thinner chassis, and slimmer bezels to give it a modern touch.
It definitely looks far more modern than the previous X1 Fold, and the bezels help a ton with that. Lenovo also used better materials to make this generation feel more like a completed product than a prototype, with an aluminum frame and back cover made from 100 percent recycled woven performance fabric. It feels extremely premium, well-built, and robust. At 2.82 pounds, it’s also pretty light.
Of course, the fun starts when you start folding the thing. The device shuts with a very satisfying clamp, and Lenovo stressed how much smaller it gets when you compared it to shutting a 16-inch laptop. It makes the X1 Fold far more portable than any 16-inch laptop on the market, it’s much easier to carry, and it just looks way cooler.
The new X1 Fold folds much flatter than the previous version, all thanks to a redesigned hinge and panel. Over 200 parts move simultaneously within the hinge to ensure the display remains consistently durable after every fold, and a new display interface helps the bezels stay slim.
The X1 Fold is so much flatter than the old model, in fact, that the Bluetooth ThinkPad keyboard it works with no longer fits inside when it’s closed. It was a pretty clever idea on Lenovo’s part to let the keyboard live between the two haves of the original X1 Fold, but with this new generation, it magnetically attaches to its exterior along with the kickstand. This adds some thickness to the form factor, but it’s still a very portable package regardless. (The magnets also felt plenty sturdy so that the keyboard wouldn’t pop off in your backpack.)
Speaking of the keyboard, Lenovo made it a lot better this time around, with an edge-to-edge design that gives you a lot more room to type compared to last time. And of course, you still get that signature TrackPoint.
Around the device, you’ll find more ports than the previous version with two Thunderbolt 4 and one standard USB-C 3.2. There are also Dolby Atmos stereo speakers, Windows Hello-compatible cameras and sensors, and a nano SIM tray (assuming you get one with sub-6GHz 5G).
Form factor versatility at its finest
With any foldable device comes a bunch of different ways you can use it, and the ThinkPad X1 Fold is no exception. Just like the last generation, you can use it in a traditional landscape orientation with the display propped up and the keyboard in front of you; vertically with the display standing up for extra height; as a book with the display slightly bent; as a traditional tablet; and as a classic clamshell with the device lying on your desk, one half of the screen bent toward you, and the keyboard on the bottom.
This is all powered by Lenovo’s Mode Switcher interface which gives you software controls to transition from mode to mode. Admittedly, I couldn’t get a lot of these modes to work properly since the units Lenovo had on hand were pre-production, but I assume they’ll be much more refined once the X1 Fold ships.
The display looks gorgeous, and the specs are a big improvement
I played around a lot with the screen on the X1 Fold, and it looked stunning in the demo area I was in. The 16.3-inch OLED panel has a resolution of 2024×2560, up to 600 nits of brightness, HDR support, Dolby Vision, and support for 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut. If you prop the X1 Fold up in clamshell mode, you get a 12-inch screen that seemed a bit cramped but serviceable for quick tasks. I’ll obviously need to test it to get a better idea of its quality in day-to-day use, but first impressions were positive.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you: the specs of this thing shocked me a bit. Lenovo is including a full-on 12th-generation Intel Core U9 i7 processor in the X1 Fold with up to 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 1TB of PCIe Gen 4 storage. It also has Intel Iris X graphics.
These specs should help to improve performance in noticeable ways compared to the previous generation, but one concern I had was heat dissipation since the device is so thin and lacks a fan. The company walked me through some of their heat dissipation methods which seemed like regular jargon for any PC focused on being as thin as possible, so that’s something I’ll be paying close attention to in my review.
The battery setup is interesting. Lenovo says each X1 Fold variant will sport a primary 48Whr cell, and based on the configuration you get, you’ll get a bonus 16Whr cell that’s found on the opposite side of the machine. I asked if you’d be able to get the extra battery and have it installed after your purchase, but I didn’t receive a response by press time.
Oh yeah, then there’s the whole conversation around servicing the X1 Fold. Lenovo told me that if your device is experiencing issues that might require getting inside of it, a service rep will visit your home or business and fix it for you. I guess that’s just the advantage of spending a ton of money on a folding PC.
Windows 11 and AI
The ThinkPad X1 Fold will come with Windows 11 out of the box, and it’ll tie in with an enhanced version of the Intel Visual Sensing Controller (VSC) which powers all of the AI features. The marquee feature is a variation of Apple’s Center Stage which helps to keep your face in the frame during video calls.
The X1 Fold will also be able to tell whether you’re in front of it and wake the screen up. In addition, it has “onlooker detection” that notifies you when someone else is looking at your screen, a “walk-away-lock” that locks the device when you leave, and the ability to dim the screen and lower the refresh rate intelligently to save power.
Pricing and availability
I hope you weren’t expecting this thing to be affordable.
Lenovo says the new ThinkPad X1 Fold will go on sale in November, starting at a whopping $2,499. It’s unclear what the base model will get you in terms of specs, and I don’t have an answer for how high the price will get if you spec it out.
That being said, I’m excited to review this thing. Foldables are starting to get very interesting, and Lenovo’s commitment to delivering another version of the X1 Fold indicates the company is taking things seriously and wants to master the concept of a foldable PC. We’ll see if they can do that when I get a review unit in the coming months.