Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2nd generation) hands-on

At the end of 2020, I tested Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, the first PC with a foldable screen. A very cool idea at the time, but not particularly, shall we say, usable. Today, Lenovo announced its second attempt at this, the “Next-generation” ThinkPad X1 Fold. I spent a few minutes with the device and I can tell you: I am much more optimistic about this.

Much of this new X1 Fold will be familiar not only to fans of the previous X1 Fold, but also to the ThinkPad line in general. The device features the standard black-and-red color scheme of the series, with the stapled ThinkPad X1 logo on the lid. There is a ThinkPad-esque keyboard with a trackpoint and inverted T-arrow keys. It is well built, sturdy and sleek.

But some changes were made and I think they were the right ones.

Pretty much every major issue I had with the original X1 Fold was due in some way to its 13.3-inch size. It was fine to use as a 13-inch tablet, but when folded in laptop mode (an option that’s a big part of the appeal of foldable displays like this), it was too small to be practical for everyday use.

The second-generation device is 16 inches, an increase of 22 percent. (It’s also 25 percent thinner than the previous model). After playing around with the new device, I think it’s a lot more practical. The screen is clearly big enough to navigate my usual workflow and open multiple tabs side by side.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold closed on a white table.

Lenovo says it’s the lightest 16-inch commercial laptop available, weighing in at 2.82 pounds.

The larger chassis also allows for a larger keyboard. The 2020 X1 Fold’s keyboard was well made, but had to fit horizontally over a 13.3-inch device, meaning it was very cramped. Some keys had as many as four characters and I had to press three at a time for a question mark to appear.

This new keyboard deck (which attaches magnetically to the lower half of the chassis when folded in laptop mode) is full-sized and illuminated. I could type on it like I normally type. The keys felt ThinkPad quality. Needless to say I a lot prefer this one.

While we’re on the deck, there’s also a haptic touchpad on this thing. We’re starting to see more of it on Lenovo’s more compact ThinkPads, including the super-thin Z-series. I often find them a bit thinner than other trackpads, but this one seemed fine. I need more time to get a full impression.

That said, the bar for this touchpad is: So low. The first generation was barely big enough to scroll, let alone navigate regularly. Just because of the size, this is a definite improvement.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold in tablet mode with the bluetooth keyboard in a demonstration room.  The screen shows an image of a merry-go-round.

It produces a pretty nice picture.

Inside, the X1 Fold is powered by 12th-generation Core i5 or i7 processors with integrated graphics and optional support for Intel’s vPro business platform. Lenovo hasn’t outlined the exact models that will be available, but ThinkPads are often endlessly configurable to the point that they stress me out.

You get SSD storage up to 1TB and up to 32GB DDR5 memory, with the option of Windows 11 Home or Windows 11 Pro. There is an optional Wacom pen, which attaches magnetically to the chassis. The screen is a 16.3-inch 2024 x 2560 touch OLED that shrinks to 12 inches when folded.

There’s a 48Wh battery (with “optional extra 16Wh based on configuration”) and there’s no battery life estimate yet, which scares me a bit as the first X1 Fold got me less than five hours gave to charge and had a 50 Wh battery. Asus’ 17.3-inch Zenbook 17 Fold, also announced this week, has revealed that an OLED foldable can be able to break six hours. We’ll have to see that.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold open in laptop mode, tilted to the left.  The screen shows a pastoral night scene.

Use it right on your lap and unfold it in front of your desk.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold seen from below, closed, in a demo room.

Oh look, it even has a gate.

In my short time using this device to jump around Chrome and watch some videos, it seemed to work well enough. That’s a very good sign. I had a good time using the first generation X1 Fold, but there were all sorts of issues with the experience, especially with the onscreen keyboard. I’m looking forward to seeing how Windows 11 fares in this new chassis, as Lenovo (unlike some other laptop manufacturers) isn’t known for delivering glitchy software left and right.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold seen from the right in a demo room.

They didn’t lie – it’s not fat!

And then there’s the elephant in the room: the price.

This device, if you hadn’t guessed, isn’t going to be cheap. It is expected to hit shelves in November with a starting price of $2,499. Note that the stylus and keyboard were not included with the 13-inch model, adding $250 to the price.

That’s interestingly the same price as the 13-inch model (and this is a bigger, thinner, and generally more usable device). And it’s significantly cheaper than the $3499.99 Zenbook 17 Fold, the only other foldable near this size we’ve seen so far this year.

This could be a significantly 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 catches.

The Lenovo X1 Fold closed seen from above on a white table.

I don’t expect this device to be perfect. Even if Lenovo has done everything it can here, the experience of using the device may have a lot to do with how well other companies can make their software work with it.

But when Lenovo representatives walked me through this device, I got the sense that they were genuinely excited about it. I think they understood exactly what the limitations of the 13-inch Fold were and were happy to see a larger foldable screen. Perhaps in this new form factor, Lenovo can finally make the groundbreaking device they wanted to be the first X1 Fold.

The foldable future may not be here yet, but with each of these releases, it’s getting closer.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge

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