Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold hands-on: Big upgrades, inside and out

As the first laptop with a flexible OLED display, the Original ThinkPad X1 Foldable was incredibly ambitious. It was also very experimental. Although the concept showed potential, its software, performance, and design were clearly not ready for prime time. But nearly two years later, Lenovo is back with a second attempt, with some serious generational leaps.

The first major upgrade to the new X1 Fold is a larger 16.3-inch OLED display from Sharp. Not only does it have a slightly higher resolution of 2.5K, but its larger size also means you have a lot more screen real estate. But more importantly, when folded up, you now get a device more akin to a 12-inch laptop instead of a 10-inch system like the previous model. This should make the X1 Fold much more practical whenever space is an issue, such as when working on an airplane without feeling cramped.

On top of that, Lenovo has redesigned the X1 Fold’s Bluetooth keyboard. Now it uses the same keys as the ThinkPad X1 Nano, giving you longer and more comfortable actuation, it also has a new fingerprint sensor that works with Windows Hello. And while you can still lay the keyboard on the Fold’s bottom half in laptop mode, it also magnetically attaches to the base of the system when resting on its included stand, which supports both landscape and portrait orientation.

Another big change is that instead of storing the keyboard inside the Fold, it magnetically attaches to the stand to become a single, more manageable piece. So when you need to pack, all you have to do is tilt the stand forward until it docks with the keyboard, fold the fold in half, and then slam it all together. Lenovo says this change was made in response to feedback from customers who prefer using the system more like a portable all-in-one instead of a convertible laptop. And because there’s no more space inside the system for the keyboard, Lenovo was able to install a new fold-flat hinge, so everything looks sleeker and more compact. It’s almost as if the X1 Fold has spent the last couple of years hitting the gym and donning a new bespoke suit.

Along with a new design, the ThinkPad X1 Fold 2022 features exterior panels made from recycled plastic bottles.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

For the next generation, Lenovo also wanted to improve the Fold’s serviceability, so it would be easier to replace things like its SSD, batteries, and other components in the field. Sadly, the X1 Fold still isn’t water resistant, but it should still be pretty rugged, as the Fold remains subject to the same mil-spec 810G tests required on other ThinkPads. And despite having a significantly bigger screen than before, the new X1 Fold only weighs around 2.8 pounds, even if you’re looking at a kit closer to 4.2 pounds when you factor in the revamped stand and keyboard.

I also like some of Lenovo’s little touches, like the addition of a third USB-C port (two of which support Thunderbolt 4) and an improved slot for the Fold’s 5MP IR webcam, so it’s more useful. Lenovo even added a third speaker so that no matter the orientation, you’ll always get full stereo sound with Dolby Atmos support.

Gallery: Hands-on photos of the 2022 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold | 5 Pictures

When it comes to performance, we’re looking at a big boost in processing power, with the Fold supporting up to a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 U-series processor, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, while featuring a completely fanless design. For those worried about the previous model’s short battery life, Lenovo has made room for an optional 16Wh power cell to supplement the standard 48Wh battery. And because Windows 11 has much better support for different window layouts and snapping compared to Windows 10, since my brief stint with the new X1 Fold, everything has felt much smoother and more responsive.

So while I should mention that this is still a pre-production device, I really like what I’ve seen of the new X1 Fold so far. But to get a real sense of how this thing is going to hold up, we’re going to have to wait a bit longer until it continues into Q4 from around $2,800.

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