Lenovo isn't waiting on Windows 10X to launch the world's first folding PC. The company today announced the availability of the ThinkPad X1 Fold, the first laptop ever with a foldable OLED display. We've been hands-on with the unique laptop/tablet hybrid several times over the past few years, but those were prototype units with pre-production hardware and unfinished software. Now Lenovo is ready to reveal the final specs of the X1 Fold before shipping it out to early adopters.
First, let's talk about what the ThinkPad X1 Fold actually is. It might be an oversimplification, but the fold is essentially a 13.3-inch tablet that can bend to be the size and shape of a notebook. But unlike other tablets, the X1 Fold runs full Windows 10 Pro and has laptop components, so it's closer in functionality to the Surface Pro 7 than tablets running on a mobile OS, like iPadOS or Android.
Lenovo wants you to think of the X1 Fold as a primary device capable of replacing both your laptop and tablet, and for $2,499, it better be. However, the company warns that the first-gen foldable isn't meant for everyone. Instead, it's an example of where computing could go next.
"It [ThinkPad X1 Fold] has not been designed to be a “catch-all” device for everybody," Jerry Paradise, the vice president of the commercial portfolio at Lenovo PC and smart-devices group, said. "It’s a concept that illustrates the future of computing and offers a window to the potential that such a category can fulfill."
It's an enticing premise, but one with plenty of hurdles along the way. There are obvious areas the Thinkpad X1 Fold needs to address. For one, how durable is the hinge mechanism that allows the OLED panel to bend without creasing? Can the Fold, with its power-hungry panel and compact size, last a full day on a charge? And finally, what experiences does the panel enable and why is it better than a regular laptop or tablet?
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold price and release date
The ThinkPad X1 Fold is available for pre-order today starting at $2,499. Before you close this article, remember that the X1 Fold is a first-of-its-kind device. Over time, the price will drop as supplies become more available and manufacturing is streamlined.
What I can't excuse is the extra fee for the keyboard. If Lenovo really sees its transforming device as being capable of acting as either a tablet or laptop then the keyboard should be included in the sky-high price. Also available for pre-order as optional accessories are the Lenovo Mod Pen and Easel Stand.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold design
When closed, the ThinkPad X1 Fold feels like a fancy leather notebook. The front is covered in genuine leather apart from a glossy black panel near the opening. Like its traditional siblings, the X1 Fold has "ThinkPad X1" branding on the front in the signature black and red color scheme. Overall, the X1 Fold's exterior looks similar to the prototype I saw at CES, except the pen loop was relocated from the front to the keyboard accessory.
Open the X1 Fold and you'll be greeted by a flexible LG OLED display. I'll go into more detail about the display below and instead point out the chunky bezels surrounding it. Made of silicone, the thick border acts as an extra layer of defense between the screen and its surroundings, so you don't waste $2,500 when the Fold inevitably slips from your grasp. It’s not the prettiest, but I was too distracted by the OLED panel to pay it any mind.
There are pros and cons to the new foldable form factor. Folding the device closed doubles its thickness; The X1 Fold is 1.1-inches thick, or twice as thick as the thinnest laptops. On a positive note, the PC is only 6.2 inches wide when folded, which makes it easy to carry around in one hand.
At 2.2 pounds, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is closer in heft to a featherweight laptop than a tablet. Regardless, it's portable enough to carry around or slide into your purse or backpack.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold ports
There are only two USB-C ports so be prepared to live the dongle life. One is on the bottom of the tablet while the other is on the right edge of the top cover.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold durability
The first generation of foldable smartphones was a disaster and Lenovo is aware of the durability concerns surrounding foldable displays. The company went to great lengths to assure us that the X1 Fold won't suffer the same fate as Samsung's Galaxy Fold.
After testing six different designs, Lenovo landed on a multi-link torque hinge mechanism that manages stress when you fold the PC. Ensuring the thin LG screen doesn't crease is a lightweight magnesium alloy frame with carbon fiber-reinforced plates. In all, the X1 Fold has 11 layers from the bezels to four layers of screen ending with the leather folio cover.
Lenovo says the LG OLED panel has gone through "extensive durability testing" and can withstand hard taps, tracing and drops. We've also been told to expect the same level of durability found on other ThinkPad products.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold display
This display is magnificent. I saw it in the flesh at CES this year and was mesmerized. I own an LG OLED TV and as gorgeous as it is, there is something special about holding the display in your hands.
As for the specs, the X1 Fold has a 13.3-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel (QXGA) flexible OLED panel with up to 300 nits of brightness and 95% DCI-P3 coverage. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio so the screen is taller and more narrow than the 16:9 displays on most laptops. It's similar in shape to what Apple uses on its iPads.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold keyboard
Available as an optional accessory, the Bluetooth Mini Fold Keyboard helps the X1 Fold reach its lofty ambitions of doubling as a laptop. Some clever engineering went into the accessory, which can be stored and charged inside of the tablet when it's folded shut.
You can use the keyboard away from the device with its 13.3-inch panel outstretched or you can fold the display 90-degrees and put the keyboard on the lower half so it essentially takes the place of a standard laptop keyboard. The X1 Fold knows when the keyboard is placed on the screen and automatically shifts everything to the top half.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold specs
Under the hood is an Intel Core processor with Hybrid Technology and integrated Gen 11 UHD GPU.
We don't have the exact processor model, but Lenovo told us it's an Intel Lakefield Core i5 chip so we could be looking at the i5-L16G7. As a refresher, Lakefield chips use Intel's new Foveros chip-staking technology to deliver fast performance in a compact footprint.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Windows 10 Pro
Lenovo came through on its promise to ship the X1 Fold with Windows 10 Pro. When the device was first announced, it was assumed to run on Windows 10X, Microsoft's upcoming lightweight OS for foldables and multi-screen devices.
When Windows 10X was delayed, it cast doubt over whether the X1 Fold would get pushed back. Unlike the Surface Neo (which is currently isn't under development), Lenovo chose to stick with what it knows and use Windows 10 Pro, the business version of Windows 10. Lenovo justified the decision by claiming ThinkPad customers need the security options available in Windows 10 Pro along with the ability to run x86 legacy programs.
Of course, you can't just boot Windows 10 Pro on a device with a foldable display and hope it all works out. Lenovo crafted custom software to make the transition from tablet mode to laptop mode and everything between more seamless. We got a taste of those tools at CES, but will get a better idea of how it all works together once we test a review unit.
I'm surprised to be writing this right now. Yes, Lenovo has teased this device for a few years, and I've even gone hands-on with a near-production unit. However, with Windows 10X being pushed back indefinitely and the coronavirus pandemic causing delays across the industry, I didn't think Lenovo could pull this off.
Now that it's here, what can we say about the ThinkPad X1 Fold? Well, you probably won't own one. In fact, Lenovo knows the X1 Fold isn't for everyone. Or rather, it's only meant for a specific crowd: business users with deep pockets who need an ultra-mobile product capable of acting as a laptop. The X1 Fold won't be a high-volume product — it's essentially the supercar of mobile computing — only a few will be made, only the rich can afford it, and it fits a narrow lifestyle.
If you see the potential in foldable PCs, then you should be rooting for the X1 Fold. If it sells well, and customers are happy with it, then we'll see more versions in the years to come — iterations that (hopefully) won't cost nearly as much as this one.