Among the surprises is that ThinkPad X1 Fold runs Windows 10 Pro. As a result, Lenovo doesn't have to wait on Microsoft's Windows 10X operating system, although there are plans to offer a Windows 10X version of the X1 Fold "at a later date."
I went hands-on with the ThinkPad X1 Fold at CES and came away impressed by its sturdy fit-and-finish. Also, the PC's 13.3-inch OLED panel is absolutely stunning and some clever software tricks make it easy to get the most out of the new form factor.
Lenovo thinks the ThinkPad X1 Fold has the ability to replace both tablets and laptops as a portable device built for productivity. While I can't predict the future, the ThinkPad X1 Fold feels like one hell of a way to kick off the impending wave of foldable PCs.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold price and availability
The ThinkPad X1 Fold is expected to ship with Windows 10 Pro in "Mid 2020" at a starting price of $2,499. The Bluetooth Mini Fold Keyboard and Active Pen will be sold separately. A Windows 10X version is expected to arrive by the end of the year.
That's a hefty price tag, but not much more than Samsung's Galaxy Fold smartphone. It's also important to remember that this is a first-of-its-kind product, and doesn't have the benefit of mass production. We expect the price of foldable PCs to shrink as they become more popular.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold design
The ThinkPad X1 Fold looks like a fancy leather notebook when closed. The front cover is layered in luxurious leather that you'd see on a pricey handbag, and a glossy black panel adds an attractive contrast.
Open the X1 Fold and your eyes will be greeted by a gorgeous flexible OLED display. The benefit of a foldable screen is that, when closed, the X1 Fold's horizontal length gets cut in half. Of course, this doubles its thickness; The X1 Fold is 1.1-inches thick, which is twice as thick as the thinnest laptops. On the other hand, the PC is just 6.2 inches wide when folded.
At 2.2 pounds, the ThinkPad X1 Fold's weight is closer to a featherweight laptop than a tablet so you won't have any problems carrying the X1 Fold around or putting it into your backpack during your commute to the office.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold's thick bezels give users a place to hold so you don't accidentally swipe the display. That thick frame also offers a buffer between the flexible plastic screen and the outer edge for added production.
I was really impressed during my hands-on testing of the ThinkPad X1 Fold. The X1 Fold's multi-link hinge kept the OLED screen perfectly flat so that the center crease was only noticeable at an angle when viewing content.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold durability
Lenovo is doing everything it can to assure you that the ThinkPad X1 Fold will be more durable and reliable than past foldable devices.
After testing six different designs, Lenovo landed on a multi-link torque hinge mechanism that manages stress when you fold the PC. This allows the ThinkPad X1 Fold to twist into various modes, so you can transform it into a book, tablet with a panel, or a clamshell laptop. The hinge felt sturdy yet I had no problem opening and closing the X1 Fold.
That hinge combines with a lightweight magnesium alloy frame and a carbon fiber-reinforced plates to reduce creases and scratches in the display. That pOLED display has gone through "extensive durability testing," according to Lenovo and should be able to withstand hard taps, tracing and even drops.
Lenovo must ensure the ThinkPad X1 Fold doesn't suffer the same fate as Samsung's Galaxy Fold smartphone if folding PCs are going to be a success. To that end, the company promises that it withstands the same stress tests as other ThinkPad laptops.
Lenovo hasn't said anything about military-grade testing, but we expect to see that certification in the future considering this is a ThinkPad device.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold ports
The ThinkPad X1 Fold will have two USB Type-C ports, one on the bottom and another on the edge of the top cover. There is also a SIM card slot so you can connect to your wireless carrier's 5G network.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold keyboard
The X1 Fold is essentially a foldable detachable 2-in-1. It doesn't have an attached keyboard but you can pair it with Lenovo's Bluetooth Mini Fold Keyboard, which is designed specifically for the X1 Fold but, sadly, sold separately.
You can use the keyboard with the full 13.3-inch display or when the device is folded in half so that there are two 9.6-inch displays. In the latter orientation, the keyboard can be placed on the lower display and the top panel will work as your primary screen.
The Mini Fold Keyboard is a definite improvement over the on-screen keyboard, but it's not as comfortable to type on as Lenovo's other ThinkPad devices, like the X1 Carbon.
When you're done using the ThinkPad X1 Fold, you can charge and store the keyboard via magnets on the inside of the foldable PC. Best of all, the keyboard fills the gap created by the X1 Fold's hinge.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold display
You really have to see the X1 Fold's display for yourself to appreciate its beauty. There's something mesmerizing about holding an LG OLED panel. The deep blacks, incredibly vivid colors and blinding brightness suck you into the ThinkPad X1 Fold's 13.3-inch panel.
We got to feast our eyes on the panel at CES 2020, and I can't overstate how wonderful it feels to hold an OLED display in your hands. The flexible 13.3-inch display has a QXGA resolution (2,048 x 1536 pixels), which gives it a 4:3 aspect ratio. The panel can reach a maximum of 300 nits of brightness, a solid if someone lower rating than expected. The color is capable of covering an impressive 95% of the DCI-P3 color space.
All these numbers mean you'll love streaming your favorite TV shows and movies on the ThinkPad X1 Fold's flexible OLED display.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold specs
One key detail missing from Lenovo's announcement is the ThinkPad X1 Fold's processor. Lenovo only says that it will be powered by an Intel Core chip with Hybrid technology and that the graphics will be integrated Gen 11 UHD.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold is limited to 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, which is probably less than what some power users would have hoped for. Nobody should complain about the ThinkPad X1 Fold's 1TB PCIe-NVMe M.2 SSD.
Windows 10 Pro
I was surprised when Lenovo told me that the X1 Fold will run Windows 10 Pro. But it makes sense for Lenovo's target audience. Business users need all of the security features offered by Windows 10 Pro. More importantly, the ThinkPad X1 Fold needs to natively run legacy 64-bit programs, which Windows 10X won't support.
Of course, Windows 10 Pro wasn't built for foldable PCs, so Lenovo crafted some nifty software to make everything run smoothly. A simple app we tested lets you divide the screen in half by pressing an icon on the Taskbar. I seamlessly moved from watching a video on the full 13.3-inch display to using the top 9.6-inch panel to write a document and the bottom half as a keyboard.
There were a few occasions when the ThinkPad X1 Fold didn't register when I switched from horizontal to vertical orientations, so hopefully, Lenovo fixes any problems with the device's sensors.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold battery life
A 50Wh battery will supposedly keep the ThinkPad X1 Fold charged for 11 hours. That's a solid runtime but we'll have to put the foldable PC through our own tests to get a better idea of real-world endurance. The ThinkPad X1 Fold supports Rapid Charge so you can quickly top up the battery.
PCs with foldable displays are still something of a mystery, but Lenovo just provided the closure we've been needing. Its ThinkPad X1 Fold, the world's first foldable PC, promises to deliver a unique viewing experience with its flexible OLED display, and couples that with ThinkPad durability, long battery life and strong performance.
We're really interested to see how Windows 10 Pro runs on the ThinkPad X1 Fold and to test some of the software tricks Lenovo has up its sleeve to make everything run seamlessly. In the meantime, we'll be daydreaming about carrying around an OLED panel that bends to the shape of a notebook.
For more laptops, tablets and more, read our CES 2020 hub page.