I tested Lenovo’s $3,000 foldable laptop and it left me amused and confused

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ZDNET displayed on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The updated ThinkPad X1 Fold is Lenovo’s latest foldable PC that aims to make a 16-inch laptop more portable than ever.
  • The design is surprisingly durable, while the display itself is gorgeous and colorful.
  • Its biggest disadvantage is performance, which, for over $3,000, is too slow for most people to get their work done.

Lenovo is no stranger to making weird laptops. Just last year, it strapped two laptop screens together and called it the Yoga Book 9i, to the delight of our contributing writer Jason Cipriani. Before that, we had a laptop with a second E-ink screen mounted to the back of the main LCD. And, somewhere in the middle of all that chaos, Lenovo shipped its first laptop with a flexible display called the ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Review: Lenovo Yoga Book 9i: A dual-screen laptop before its time, and I’m here for it

The original X1 Fold was a tried-and-true, first-generation product with first-generation issues. With poor performance, bad battery life, a chunky design, and a high asking price, it wasn’t a practical choice for just about anyone. Now, Lenovo is starting to push its second-generation ThinkPad X1 Fold, which it sent me to review.

The new version has an improved design, upgraded specs, and a similarly high asking price of $2,499 and up. The version I’m testing costs nearly $3,300, which makes this one of the pricier laptops you can get. But what I’ve found is you’re paying for its unique design which, admittedly, is straight-up awesome. The rest of the laptop, though? That’s another story.

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Specifications (as reviewed)

Display

16.3-inch foldable OLED, 2560×2024, 600 nits, Dolby Vision

Processor

12th-generation Intel Core i5-1230U

Graphics

Intel Iris Xe

Memory and storage

16GB LPDDR5, 512GB M.2 SSD

Operating system

Windows 11

Webcam

5MP with IR for Windows Hello

Battery

64Wh (48Wh + 16Wh)

Connectivity

2x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, optional LTE

Dimensions and weight

Folded: 6.94 x 10.87 x 0.69 inches

Unfolded: 13.61 x 10.87 x 0.34 inches

Laptop: 2.78 pounds

Keyboard and stand: 1.38 pounds


There’s no denying that the folding screen of the X1 Fold is dope. Now in its second generation, the 16.3-inch OLED panel — three inches larger than the original model’s 13.3-inch display — remains sharp and bright with vivid colors. It’s a stunning screen to behold when you unfold it for the first time, and while it’s not the biggest laptop display ever shipped, it feels like it when you open it up (after all, it’s not every day you have a 16-inch OLED panel in the palm of your hand).

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold slightly bent inward.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

The sharp Quad HD+ resolution keeps everything pin-sharp, while the boosted 600 nits of brightness makes the X1 Fold easy to see, even in sunny cafes. Because it can bend in half, Lenovo uses a softer plastic material to protect the display instead of glass, which creates a crease in the middle. The crease is noticeable, and you can feel it when you drag your finger across it, but when you start using the laptop, it fades into the background, and you stop thinking about it. That’s the case for most foldable phones, too; when you start using them for a while, after a bit, the crease isn’t as distracting.

Lenovo’s bell-shaped hinge design allows the X1 Fold to close completely flat, which is a nice touch. It helps to protect the delicate display from damage caused by objects or debris that slips in through the cracks. I haven’t had any issues with durability so far, but I’d have to use it over a year or so to really put it to the test.

The crease and hinge in the middle of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

Speaking of durability, Lenovo got the X1 Fold military-grade certified for drop protection. The robust magnesium/carbon fiber alloy enclosure, coupled with a grippy textured exterior, makes this one of the strongest foldable devices I’ve ever used. I wish Lenovo would bring this aesthetic to regular laptops; it makes the whole thing feel indestructible.

Also: This is the most rugged and customizable laptop I’ve ever tested – and it’s not a Getac

Like the original, the second-gen X1 Fold keeps the keyboard separate from the main unit. Lenovo includes it in the box with every X1 Fold, along with a kickstand since a stand is no longer built into the X1 Fold itself. This allows you to prop the laptop up in a variety of ways such as in a normal laptop orientation, vertically (which is perfect for writing, by the way), or even in a clamshell style by bending the laptop upward and placing the keyboard on the lower half of the screen.

This is by far the biggest advantage of the X1 Fold. The added versatility you get from a form factor like this can’t be matched by any normal clamshell laptop, and the only one that gets close is Lenovo’s own Yoga Book 9i. Admittedly, you’ll use certain orientations far more than others (clamshell mode is really only designed for airplane tray tables), but the fact you have so many options can make buying the X1 Fold worth it to some.

The keyboard for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

The keyboard itself is a classic ThinkPad keyboard with good travel, albeit a tighter size than what you might be used to. There’s an integrated fingerprint scanner that I didn’t use all that often since the X1 Fold’s webcam works with Windows Hello, but if you prefer scanning your finger, you have that option. The laptop also ships with a stylus in the box for signing documents, sketching, and more.

Also: This ultraportable Lenovo laptop has a secret Trackpoint function

In case you haven’t been keeping track, these are four different items you need to bring with you whenever you want to travel with the X1 Fold. Lenovo says you can keep it simple and use the tablet by itself with the on-screen keyboard, but for what this is, no one should do that. So, Lenovo made it easy to stack everything up; fold the X1 Fold, collapse the kickstand and keyboard, stack them on top of each other, and attach the stylus magnetically to the side of the laptop. It’s a chunky, weighty package to lug around, but all the magnets mean everything stays together well in your bag.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold folded down and placed on top of the keyboard.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

The unit I’ve been testing costs almost $3,300, and with it comes a 12th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. I’ve used plenty of laptops in my time as a tech reviewer, and whenever I see specs like this, I assume that the laptop they’re in costs somewhere around $1,300-$1,600, not over $3,000. You can spend even more and get a Core i7 chip, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, but even that can be found in laptops like Lenovo’s Slim Pro 9i for less than $2,000.

Coupled with a unique thermal design, no physical fans, and the lack of discrete graphics, the ThinkPad X1 Fold performs like a laptop at half its price. Firing up a dozen and a half Chrome tabs, running Spotify in the background, and replying to messages in Slack is enough to make it skip a few beats, and trying to do something like edit photos in Lightroom is a bit of a headache.

Editing a Google Doc on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

Full disclosure: this laptop isn’t painfully slow, but it is if you’ve spent $3,300. It’s all about the context of the specs. These internals are fine in most normal laptops, but in one that costs three times the budget of most customers, they’re much harder to justify.

Depending on your configuration, Lenovo will give you either a 48Wh battery or a 48Wh battery coupled with an extra 16Wh cell, totaling 64Whr. I have the latter, and it’s barely enough to get through a full day. I suppose if you were careful about the amount of heavy tasks you did throughout the day, kept the brightness down, and didn’t connect too many Bluetooth devices to it, you could stretch it to eight hours. But if you use it as you would any other laptop, that endurance will quickly shrink to 4-5 hours on a full charge.

Also: Lenovo made a Mac Studio for Windows users, and it might even be better

It also takes a while to charge with the included 65Wh charger. Luckily, you’ll have a couple of different places to plug it in thanks to the two USB-C ports that are positioned on different sides of the device.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold folded slightly showing ZDNET and Spotify.

Max Buondonno/ZDNET

Surprisingly, Windows 11 runs well on the ThinkPad X1 Fold, with one huge exception: it can never figure out whether to switch to tablet mode or desktop mode. When I open up the device and prop it up on the kickstand, it remains in tablet mode 80 percent of the time. When I connect the keyboard to it, nothing changes. But once in a while, if the keyboard automatically connects, it’ll kick back to desktop mode, and all the iconography will shrink down to normal sizes. That’s only occasionally, mind you, not every time the keyboard automatically connects.

Also: HP just unveiled a portable all-in-one computer, and that wasn’t the craziest announcement

It’s usable, sure, but it’s a very weird bug that’s likely caused by the weird form factor of the X1 Fold. It’s hard for Windows to figure out when you want to use it as a tablet and when you want to use it as a laptop. The only time it gets it right is when you use the device in clamshell mode.

ZDNET’s buying advice

In the end, the X1 Fold is a laptop you should buy if you really want a ThinkPad with a folding screen. It’s an incredibly cool piece of technology, one that’s sure to grab the attention of everyone around you. But in day-to-day use, it’s not very practical given the performance and battery life limitations. For anyone who wants something similar with better performance and battery life will want to look at the Yoga Book 9i, which is the closest thing to a folding laptop that’s somewhat practical on the market today.

I’m not going to lie, I’ll miss the X1 Fold when I send my review unit back. Having such a big, folding screen is incredibly fun. But I can’t get all my work done on it, and for over $3,000, that’s a dealbreaker for me. But if you’re willing to shell it out for a glimpse into the future of laptops, you’ll enjoy toying around with it.





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