ThinkPad X1 Fold review: Lenovo’s foldable PC is far from ready

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In tablet or book form

For the starting price of $ 2,600, you’ll only get the X1 Fold itself without a keyboard and stylus, which means you’ll be using it largely as a tablet or “book.” It is a repairable and surprisingly well made device. I love the leather cover which not only makes it look like a real (if heavy) laptop but also adds a touch of class. On the top frame is a 5-megapixel webcam, while the power and volume buttons line the right edge. There is also a pair of USB-C ports, one on the left side and one on the bottom.

With a 13.3-inch display, the Fold is big enough for a tablet, and it certainly looks bigger than iPad Pro or Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 +. It weighs 2.2 pounds and has a profile of 11.5mm, and when folded it is approximately 24mm thick. All that weight makes it difficult to maneuver with one hand, and I had a hard time opening the fold while holding a camera with the other hand.

When you close the X1 Fold, it closes magnetically and there is a small gap near the hinge. This comes in handy when you need some leverage to open the device, as the magnets that hold it together are quite strong. Once you move the screen, the hinge opens. It starts to get stronger when you push it past a 25 degree angle and you can bend the screen so it’s half closed and so on.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

In this orientation, you can hold the X1 Fold like it’s a book and run two apps side by side to drag and drop between them or just keep an eye on Twitter while watching YouTube. Or you can also install the folding on the kickstand built into its leather case and have a second screen or just to watch Netflix. The 2K OLED screen here is bright and colorful, and although there is a little crease in the middle, it’s not very obvious… when the screen is at least flat. However, when the screen is folded, the bump in the middle is noticeably brighter than the rest of the panel and makes viewing any screen in full screen a bit jarring.

My main frustration with using the Fold as a tablet is that Windows is still an excruciating touchscreen operating system. We’ve known this for a long time – Microsoft’s many public embarrassments with mobile versions of Windows have proven this point time and time again.

Honestly, it was downright maddening to use tablet mode on the X1 Fold, especially when I just wanted to go back to the desktop to find a file I had saved. Trying to drag-and-drop windows didn’t behave as I expected, not to mention that Microsoft’s App Store is pitifully bare compared to Apple’s and Google’s options. There is still no official Kindle app, for example.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Obviously, book mode is best for reading (or it would be if there was a real Kindle app). But it’s also good enough for writing and taking notes. Lenovo’s $ 100 pen is responsive and smooth, although I prefer the options from Microsoft or Samsung.

To its credit, Lenovo has attempted to make Fold in Book mode easier to use by adding its own mode switching software. By tapping an icon in the system tray, you can quickly expand an app to fill the screen or insert two apps side by side. This made it easier to launch, for example, YouTube and Twitter next to each other, but other than a few very specialized scenarios, I struggled to find a reason to actually use book mode.

As a mini laptop

Add Lenovo’s $ 230 companion keyboard, however, and the X1 Fold presents a much more compelling case (if you forget the price). Of course, you can use your own keyboard, but the company’s version not only fits perfectly into the space between the two screen halves and stays magnetically in place, but also charges wirelessly when in use. stored in the closed shelf.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

With this setup, you get a cute little mini laptop with a 7 inch screen that is perfect for working when you are in a tight space. The buttons on this naturally small keyboard provide an impressive amount of travel and space, all things considered.

But compromises had to be made to press all those keys on something so small, so some buttons like the dash and equals at the end of the row of number keys had to be sacrificed. He also had to move the apostrophe from where it would normally be next to the Enter key, a little higher and further to the right, between Backspace and Enter instead. These changes required some tweaking and made typing a bit awkward. It’s fine for a quick email or tweet, but I wouldn’t want to bang on it for hours.

I appreciate that Lenovo has included a trackpad on the keyboard, although it is quite small at 3 inches wide and 1.5 inches high. While not the most responsive touchpad, I was grateful for a way to use the cursor on Windows, as well as multi-finger gestures such as swiping to switch between apps. Surprisingly, I never felt it was too cramped.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Otherwise, using the X1 Fold as a mini laptop was… great. Because you’re reduced to using a 7-inch screen in this mode, you can only get about three app icons in the taskbar at a time unless you reduce the font and icon size. of the operating system. Doing this on such a small screen makes any text quite difficult to read. And don’t even think about running two windows side by side – they hardly won’t fit or will be so small that you have to scroll endlessly to see everything.

Performance and battery life

The X1 Fold uses an Intel Lakefield Core i5 processor with Intel’s “hybrid technology”, which, according to the chipmaker, is “designed for mobile performance.” It uses an architecture similar to ARM’s big.Little design, relegating less demanding tasks to lower power Atom cores and leveraging larger cores for more difficult processes. In general, the Fold met my needs, and the few issues I encountered seemed more related to glitchy software than a slow processor. For example, sometimes Lenovo’s mode switch tool wouldn’t work, and instead of letting me choose which window I wanted to open on either half of the screen, it would just show two apps. random that I had opened. Switching between landscape and portrait modes would bring up any windows I had open, for example, and I often had to wait for web pages to expand and fill the entire screen when I maximized them.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

These were mostly issues with switching between modes – when I stayed in the tablet or laptop orientation, the device usually kept pace. Granted, I didn’t do anything overly demanding like video editing, but for most of my daily workflow the machine held up.

In our video summary test, the X1 Fold recorded an impressive 13 hours and 30 minutes, which outperforms the Galaxy Tab S7 +, Surface Pro 7, and iPad Pro 12.9. In the real world this usually lasts all day in tablet mode, although I have found that using the keyboard seems to drain the battery a bit faster. By the way, it’s also possible to get a 5G compatible model of the X1 Fold, which I think will reduce power even more.

Wrap

I find it hard to recommend anyone to buy the X1 Fold. I don’t want to diminish Lenovo’s success here – it’s impressive that the company has succeeded in making a foldable PC that it’s ready to roll out to the public. But as is the case with many first-gen products, the X1 Fold is an expensive experience. If you buy this, be aware that you are essentially paying to be a beta tester. There are a lot of quirks to be resolved. While I’m delighted to see companies innovate, the ThinkPad X1 Fold’s sky-high price tag and lack of real benefits keep me from endorsing it. If you need a Windows-based laptop-tablet hybrid that can fit into tight spaces, the Surface Pro 7 or Surface Go 2 is much more reasonably priced and offers better productivity.

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