Lenovo’s second-gen X1 Fold could be the game-changer the first one wasn’t

Lenovo’s second-gen X1 Fold could be the game-changer the first one wasn’t

I reviewed Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, the first folding-screen PC, in late 2020. At the time, it was a very good idea, but not particularly, shall we say, usable. Today, Lenovo has announced its second attempt, the “next generation” ThinkPad X1 Fold. I spent a few minutes with the device and let me tell you: I am much more optimistic about this one.

Much of this new X1 Fold will be familiar to fans of not just the previous X1 Fold, but the ThinkPad lineup as a whole. The device is outfitted in the series standard black and red color scheme, with the basic ThinkPad X1 logo on the lid. There’s a ThinkPad-style keyboard with an inverted-T-shaped trackpoint and arrow keys. It is well built, robust and elegant.

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

Nearly 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 into laptop mode (an option that’s a big part of the appeal of foldable screens like this), it was too small to be practical for everyday use.

The second generation device measures 16 inches, which is 22 percent larger. (It’s also 25 percent slimmer than the previous model.) Having played with the new device, I think it is much more practical. The screen is clearly large enough that I can navigate my usual workflow and have multiple tabs open side by side.

Lenovo says this is the lightest 16-inch business laptop available at 2.82 pounds.

The larger chassis also allows for a larger keyboard. The 2020 X1 Fold’s keyboard was well made, but it had to fit horizontally on a 13.3-inch device, which meant it was very cramped. Some keys had up to four characters, and I had to press three at once to get a question mark to appear.

This new keyboard deck (which attaches magnetically to the bottom half of the chassis when folded in laptop mode) is full-size and backlit. I could write on it like I normally write. The keys felt ThinkPad-quality. Needless to say that I much I prefer this.

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

That said, the bar on this trackpad is so bass. The first generation was barely big enough to get around, let alone cruise regularly. This is a clear improvement due to size alone.

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

It makes a pretty nice picture.

Inside, the X1 Fold is powered by 12th Gen Core i5 or i7 processors with integrated graphics and optional support for Intel’s vPro enterprise platform. Lenovo hasn’t detailed the exact models that will be available, but ThinkPads tend to be infinitely configurable to the point of stress.

You’ll be able to get up to 1TB of SSD storage and up to 32GB of DDR5 memory, with your choice of Windows 11 Home or Windows 11 Pro. There’s an optional Wacom pen, which attaches magnetically 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 48Whr battery (with “optional additional 16Whr depending on configuration”) and no battery life estimates yet, which… scares me a bit as the first X1 Fold gave me less than five hours of charging and had a 50Whr battery. Asus’ 17.3-inch Zenbook 17 Fold, also announced this week, has shown that a foldable OLED they can be able to break six hours. We’ll have to see on that.

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

Wear it this way on your lap and unfold it for your desk.

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

Oh look, it even has a port.

In my brief time using this device to browse Chrome and watch some videos, it seemed to work well enough. That is a very good sign. I had a good time using the first-gen X1 Fold, but there were all kinds of flaws in the experience, particularly with the on-screen keyboard. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Windows 11 fares in this new chassis, since (unlike other laptop manufacturers) Lenovo hasn’t been known to ship buggy software left and right.

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

They weren’t lying, it’s not thick!

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

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

Interestingly, that’s the same price as the 13-inch model (and this is a bigger, slimmer, and generally more useful device). And it’s significantly cheaper than the $3,499.99 Zenbook 17 Fold, the only other foldable anywhere near this size we’ve seen so far this year.

This could end up being a significantly better deal for foldable buyers than the 17-inch Fold, but of course we haven’t been able to test it extensively yet, so there could be all sorts of catches.

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

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

But while the Lenovo representatives were explaining this device to me, I got the feeling that they were really excited about it. I think they understand exactly what the limitations of the 13-inch Fold were and were happy to have a bigger folding screen. Perhaps in this new form factor, Lenovo can finally make the groundbreaking device they wanted the first X1 Fold to be.

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

Photograph by Monica Chin/The Verge

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