HFor once, it’s not about the inner values, but solely about the external appearance. In front of us lies a device with a leather border in the format of a book, but weighing one kilogram. It is the first notebook with a foldable display, an innovation that has so far only been seen on smartphones. So let’s open up the Thinkpad X1 Fold from Lenovo. The device can be flexibly folded up to 180 degrees, then you hold a tablet with a continuous display of 13.3 inches in your hand. The leather cover moves when it is opened and closed, there is air between the device and the cover, and dirt and dust could get in here.
The folding mechanism is stiff, the display shows the approximately one centimeter wide area in which the display bends. The fold is not noticeable, but you can see it. The resolution of the OLED display is 2048 × 1536 pixels, its brightness is good, but the display is only protected by plastic, not glass. On the back, part of the leather sleeve can be folded out to put the notebook in landscape format. This exercise does not work in portrait format, so Lenovo offers a stand as an accessory.
If you lock the top at 90 to about 120 degrees, the display is divided into two parts. Content can be displayed on the upper half and the Windows 10 virtual on-screen keyboard can be assigned to the lower half. Or you can put a Bluetooth keyboard in front of the unit and work with both halves of the screen. Or you can turn the display into landscape format, open it up like a book and enjoy the space-saving use. In this scenario, the Thinkpad is similar to the Surface Neo, which has only been announced by Microsoft so far, with two physically separate screens.
In view of the weight, however, it is hardly possible to keep it in book form for a long time. Since Windows does not yet support folding screens, you have to switch between the different display modes with a Lenovo app. A fold mini keyboard is also supplied, which is only a few millimeters thin and docks magnetically on one half of the display and is inductively charged there. Their greatest advantage is also their greatest disadvantage: The keys are normal-sized for fast typing. But the German umlauts and some special characters no longer fit into the available space and can only be reached with a special key combination. So nothing for nimble ten-finger writers.
Another tricky technique: The notebook can also be closed with the keyboard on. Since the display is touch-sensitive, a pen can also be used. The fold is currently available in three versions at prices between 2700 and 3500 euros. A Core i5 processor of the eleventh generation is always used, and the RAM has eight gigabytes. The two cheaper variants have an SSD with 256 gigabytes, only the top model has 512 gigabytes. The pen and the mini keyboard are standard features of the two more expensive versions. The 50 watt hour battery lasts about six to eight hours. Two USB Type-C ports complete the equipment. A new cooling system had to be developed for the device: fans, heat sinks and heat distributors enclose the motherboard, thankfully the Thinkpad X1 Fold mostly works almost silently.
Overall, the concept of the Thinkpad X1 Fold is innovative. The benefit here are the different application scenarios, while the folding smartphones are about a larger screen. Will such a thing prevail? Not in our estimation, it is a niche product. As with smartphones with a flip display, the exciting question remains unanswered: how robust the mechanics are in continuous use and how well the display is protected when you draw on it a lot with the pen.