Last year, Lenovo showed off what it described as the “world’s first foldable PC” — a prototype OLED tablet that could fold up like a book or a tiny laptop. Now, at CES 2020, Lenovo is announcing how it’s going to sell the idea as a commercial product. It’s called the ThinkPad X1 Fold, and it’ll be available this year.
The hardware hasn’t changed too much from what we saw before, beyond the addition of a Windows Hello-compatible camera on an inside bezel. It still has a neat leather exterior that slides back and forth as the hinge unfolds, and the display is still a 13.3-inch 4:3 OLED panel. Its resolution is 2048 x 1536, the same as a 9.7-inch iPad, and it looks pretty great.
LG Display is providing the panel, the result of what Lenovo describes as a four-year-plus collaboration; the PC maker says it’s more than confident about the device’s durability. While there is a discernible crease down the middle of the unfolded display if you’re looking hard, it’s honestly difficult to notice in person.
The X1 Fold runs Windows 10 Pro, which means Lenovo has had to roll out its own solution for how to deal with the folding screen. (A version running Windows 10X, Microsoft’s upcoming OS for folding and dual-screen devices like the Surface Neo, will follow at an unspecified later date.) At this point, the customizations pretty much amount to a taskbar icon that brings up a pop-up menu with which you can switch between a single full-screen view or a dual-screen mode with an app pinned to each half of the display.
In portrait mode, meanwhile, there’s an additional option to bring up an on-screen keyboard at the bottom, which lets you fold the display up at an angle and type like you would on a laptop. The X1 Fold also comes with a Bluetooth keyboard that magnetically snaps onto the bottom half of the display if you’re going to be doing a lot of typing. As you’d expect from Lenovo, it feels pretty good to type on. Another bonus is that the keyboard fills in the gap between the two halves of the screen when the device is folded up.
The main advantage of this design is — no pun intended — flexibility. A tiny laptop is cool, sure, but it’s not something you’ll want to use all the time. With the X1 Fold, though, you can open up the screen to its full size, prop it up with the built-in kickstand, use the keyboard wirelessly, and get more or less the same experience that you would with a laptop. (Actual lap usage excepted.) There’s even an easel-style stand that elevates the X1 Fold into what feels like the world’s smallest all-in-one PC. In theory, this is a lot of capability for something that’d take up about as much room in your bag as a reasonably short hardcover novel.
As for the X1 Fold’s traditional performance, that’s somewhat of an unknown factor right now. Lenovo will only say that it runs on a new Intel platform that uses “hybrid technology” and suggests that the chip giant may have more information to share at CES this week. Battery life is stated as up to 11 hours, so this isn’t likely to be a processing powerhouse given its slimline nature, but we’ll have to wait for more information on that front.
What we do know is that the Windows 10 Pro version of the X1 Fold will ship in mid-2020 and start at $2,499. That’s a lot of money for any kind of laptop or tablet, let alone one in an unproven form factor. But the X1 Fold has clearly had a lot of thought put into it, and it’s encouraging that experimental devices like this are actually going to be hitting the market this year. We’re looking forward to spending a lot more time with it when we can.
Photography by Sam Byford and Vjeran Pavic / The Verge