I saw again Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, the first PC with a foldable screen, at the end of 2020. At the time, it was a very cool idea, but not particularly, shall we say, usable. Today, Lenovo announced its second attempt, the “next-generation” ThinkPad X1 Fold. I spent a few minutes with the device, and let me tell you: I’m much more optimistic about this one.
Much of this new X1 Fold will be familiar to fans of not only the previous X1 Fold, but also the ThinkPad line in general. The device features the series’ standard black and red color scheme, with the base ThinkPad X1 logo on the lid. There’s a ThinkPad-style keyboard with a trackpoint and inverted-T arrow keys. It is well built, sturdy and stylish.
But some changes were made, and I think they were the right ones.
Almost all of the major issues I had with the original X1 Fold were in some way due to its 13.3-inch size. It was fine using it as a 13-inch tablet, but when folded into laptop mode (an option that’s a big part of the appeal of foldable screens like this) it was too small to be convenient for daily use.
The second-generation device measures 16 inches, a 22% increase in size. (It’s also 25% thinner than the previous model). After playing around with the new device, I think it’s much more convenient. The screen is clearly big enough for me to navigate through my usual workflow and have multiple tabs open side by side.
The larger chassis also allows for a larger keyboard. The 2020 X1 Fold’s keyboard was well made but had to fit horizontally on a 13.3-inch device, which meant it was really cramped. Some keys had up to four characters crammed into them, and I had to press three at once to bring up a question mark.
This new keyboard (which magnetically attaches to the bottom half of the chassis when folded into laptop mode) is full-size and backlit. I could type on it like I normally type. The keys were ThinkPad quality. Needless to say I a lot prefer this one.
While we’re talking about the bridge, there’s also a haptic touchpad on this thing. We’re starting to see more of Lenovo’s more compact ThinkPads, including the Ultra-thin Z series. I often find them a little thinner than other trackpads, but this one seemed okay. I will need more time to get a full impression.
That said, the bar on this touchpad is then down. The first generation was barely big enough to scroll, let alone browse regularly. This one is a definite improvement due to size alone.
Inside, the X1 Fold is powered by 12th Gen Core i5 or i7 processors with integrated graphics and optional support for Intel’s commercial vPro platform. Lenovo hasn’t outlined the exact models that will be available, but ThinkPads tend to be endlessly configurable to the point of stressing me out.
You’ll be able to get up to 1TB SSD storage and up to 32GB of DDR5 memory, with the Windows 11 Home or Windows 11 Pro option. There’s an optional Wacom stylus, which magnetically attaches to the chassis. The display is a 16.3-inch 2024 x 2560 touchscreen OLED that shrinks to 12 inches when folded.
There’s a 48Wh battery (with optional “additional 16Wh depending on configuration”) and no battery life estimate yet, which… scares me a bit, since the first X1 Fold gave me less than five hours of charge and had a 50 Wh battery. Asus 17 Fold 17.3-inch Zenbookalso announced this week, demonstrated that a foldable OLED box be able to break six hours. We will have to see on that.
In the short time that I used this device to browse Chrome and watch videos, it seemed to work quite well. This is a very good sign. I had a good time using the first-gen X1 Fold, but there were all sorts of issues in the experience, especially with the on-screen keyboard. I can’t wait to see how Windows 11 performs in this new chassis, because (unlike some other laptop makers) Lenovo isn’t known for shipping glitchy software left and right.
And then there’s the elephant in the room: the price.
This device, if you hadn’t guessed it, will not be cheap. It’s expected to arrive in November with a starting price of $2,499. Note that the stylus and keyboard weren’t included on the 13-inch model, and those added $250 to the price.
It’s, interestingly, the same price as the 13-inch model (and it’s a bigger, thinner, and generally more usable device). And it’s significantly cheaper than the $3,499.99 Zenbook 17 Fold, the only other foldable close to this size we’ve seen so far this year.
It might end up being a much better deal for foldable buyers than the 17-inch Fold – but of course we haven’t been able to test the thing extensively yet, so there could be all sorts of pitfalls.
I don’t expect this device to be perfect. Even though Lenovo did everything it could here, the experience of using the device may have a lot to do with how other companies can make their software behave with it.
But when the Lenovo reps showed me this device, I felt like they were really excited about this device. I think they understand exactly what the limitations of the 13-inch Fold were and were happy to have a larger foldable screen. Perhaps in this new form factor, Lenovo can finally create the revolutionary device it wanted the first X1 Fold to be.
The foldable future may not be here yet, but with each of these releases, it’s getting closer.
Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge