Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review 2

Lenovo’s X1 Fold is an awesome-looking device. It’s hybrid design allows you to use it as a tablet, set it up as a laptop, or fold it in half like a book with windows on each side. From a design perspective, it’s spectacular.

Eventually, though, that initial admiration of its design gets replaced with questions like “does it work?” or “is it convenient to use?” The answer to both these questions is less spectacular.

The X1 Fold acts as a tablet and a laptop, and therefore should be compared to both. And unfortunately, it doesn’t measure up to the standards set by the industry leaders in either product category. 

The X1 Fold is a device that’s a jack of all trades, master of none. It has lacklustre performance, it struggles to function as a tablet, and it’s expensive. Really expensive. The starting package costs NZD$4,465, far more than you’d need to spend on a top-of-the-range laptop. And it only gets more expensive when you include the must-have Lenovo Mod Pen and Lenovo Fold Mini keyboard.

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Pros

  • Incredible design
  • Fold works well
  • It just looks cool

Cons

  • Ridiculously expensive
  • Not great as a tablet
  • Poor performance
  • Subpar battery

Price

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold is expensive. The device starts at NZD$4,465 (USD$2,500; £2,519), and at this price, you don’t get the Lenovo Fold Mini Keyboard, NZD$426 (USD$200; £200) or Lenovo Mod Pen, NZD$146 (USD$70 ; £200). These are crucial tools for getting the most out of the device, and to include them, the package price rises to NZD$4,845 (USD$2,749; £3,089).

The X1 Fold comes with a Core i5-L16G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD configuration, and you can upgrade the storage, but that will cost an extra NZD$126 for a 512GB SSD and an extra NZD$586 for a 1TB SSD. Also, don’t forget the additional NZD$1000 for Windows Professional if you want it.

All up, a top spec’d X1 Fold, with the must-have keyboard and stylus and 1TB of storage, costs NZD$5,400 (USD$3,099). Making the X1 Fold more expensive than some of the best-performing laptops and tablets on the market. 

Design

Let’s get the elephant out of the room early. The fold. It works well. Really well, in fact. The crease in the middle is invisible when in its tablet configuration. You can see faint lines when the screen is off, but it doesn’t affect the display at all when it’s on. The only time where it’s noticeable is in clamshell/book mode. The lighting between the crease and the sides is slightly uneven (the crease being a bit brighter.) However, this wasn’t a significant issue and is much harder to notice when windows are open on either side.

The hinge in the X1 Fold is solid and sturdy. Lenovo informed me that the device went through extensive MIL-STD 810H testing and is resistant to extreme conditions like hot temperatures, sand, dust, and mechanical shock. This has created a durable hinge that stays in place. Setting the Fold in laptop mode is easy, and the screen doesn’t falter or wobble over time. 

Everything about the X1 Fold feels strong. And it needs to. When folded up, the X1 Fold measures only 299.4 x 236 x 11.5 mm and weighs just under 1 kg. It’s no bigger than a notebook, and therefore, I found myself using it like one. I often carried the Fold without a bag. And its robust build made me not worry so much about dropping it. Its leather cover not only looks nice, it also prevents scratches and bumps. It adds an extra level of protection and works well.

The Lenovo Fold Mini Keyboard is small, but it works well. The keys are well spaced, and typing is just as easy as always. Some inputs have been combined, and you’ll have to use the function button to change through possible keys, but overall it works as it should. You can use any Bluetooth keyboard with the Fold. However, they won’t fit snugly into it when folded. Obviously. 

The touchpad for moving the mouse is also small, and it may pose a problem for someone with big fingers. But for my skinny digits, it was mostly fine. However, scrolling with two fingers wasn’t as simple as other laptops.

The Fold has magnets built into the corners, which allow the keyboard to dock with it. These connections are secure, and they stop the keyboard from falling out. It’s clever and works well. The keyboard barely adds to the device’s size, and there’s also a tab where you can put the Mod Pen. You never have to think about putting the X1 Fold in a bag. It’s easily portable and is something I would’ve loved when I was at University. However, I would’ve liked the stylus to attach to the device magnetically as well.

When in tablet mode, the Fold is 13.3-inches. There’s also a kickstand built into the back of the device so that you can prop it up like a desktop screen. This can be a bit troublesome and is only really useful if you use the X1 Fold with a Bluetooth keyboard. The kickstand is on the right side of the Fold. Because it isn’t centered, touching the device too hard on the left can cause the device to wobble and possibly even fall over. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review 4

Display

The X1 Fold has a 2048 x 1536 resolution OLED panel display. It’s great. Images look sharp, and 2K videos look amazing. The display is a magnet for fingerprints, though. After using the device, I could easily see my fingerprints in dark areas of the screen.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the Fold’s display has a low maximum brightness of only 301 nits. To put that into perspective, the iPad Pro has a maximum brightness of 559 nits. The Fold isn’t bright enough. For a portable device, this can be a nuisance. It makes it hard to use outside or when the sun’s shining on the screen.

The display is flexible plastic as opposed to glass. This helps protect the screen from damage which is great for a portable device. However, it does impact the sensitivity of the touch controls. I found it difficult to drag windows from one side to the other using my finger. The Lenovo Mod Pen, or a third-party stylus, is a must-have when using the X1 Fold. The pen made it significantly easier to navigate the touch screen.

Performance

Performance with the X1 Fold is an area where it really struggles. The Intel Core i5-L16G7 CPU with 8GB of RAM doesn’t perform well at all. And for a “laptop” at this price, it’s rather disappointing.

You shouldn’t expect to be playing the latest and greatest games or doing processor-intensive video editing with the X1 Fold because that’s clearly not what it’s trying to do. But for NZD$5000, you could get a laptop that can play the best games and do things better than the Fold. Except well… fold.

The X1 Fold is also very slow to startup, and it has so many processes going that it stumbles regularly. It constantly has to process what configuration it’s in, and more often than not, it gets it wrong. On numerous occasions taking the keyboard off the screen didn’t automatically put the screen into tablet mode. And there is often quite a delay when changing between configurations.

The Intel Core i5-L16G7 in the X1 Fold is a “hybrid” processor that utilises big and small cores. These are commonly used in portable devices to save battery. This allows you to open numerous tabs on Chrome, listen to Spotify and stream Netflix simultaneously however, anything more demanding than that, causes stuttering and I often ran into freezes. 

The X1 Fold’s hybrid design is also its Achilles heel. This is a laptop with laptop-specific software on it, which is fine. But this also makes it a tablet with laptop-specific software. And this doesn’t work very well. There are many Windows apps that aren’t designed to be used on a tablet. This isn’t necessarily Lenovo’s fault. It’s more to do with Windows’ lack of a decent operating system for tablets. But as a tablet, the X1 Fold just doesn’t work as well as an iPad. Yes, you can use Windows tablet mode, and that does help slightly, but it isn’t streamlined and fluid, it’s clunky and hard to navigate, and it quickly becomes tedious. Especially when trying to resize screens so you can use them as intended. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review 1

Software

Lenovo has included Mode Switcher software that recognises when you’re changing the configuration and automatically adjusts the X1 Fold’s screen accordingly. This didn’t work very well. To start off with, the software wouldn’t automatically adjust my screen and it also doesn’t have any integration with Windows tablet mode. Again this might not be Lenovo’s fault, but it would have been nice if the mode switcher could recognise when I was in the tablet configuration and automatically turn on Windows Tablet.

I also found this very difficult to use when in the clamshell configuration. I wasn’t able to make individual windows snap to one side of the screen, and it would’ve been helpful if maximising a window only maximises it to the side it’s on. When watching YouTube in clamshell mode, maximising the video takes up the whole screen, not just one side.

The most useful software was the Pen Settings app, which allowed me to map buttons on the Lenovo stylus. It works well and is simple to navigate.

Battery

Battery life is pretty poor for a device at this price. I could use the Fold for around 5 hours in standard mode and 6 hours with Lenovo’s battery saver profile on. 

This isn’t too bad for an OLED display however, for a device that is meant to be used anywhere and that costs this much, it’s below the competition. The Surface Pro 7 lasts 2 hours longer than the X1 Fold and the iPad Pro lasts 4 hours longer.

The Fold has a 50W battery that is charged via a USB-C port. It’s pretty standard.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review 3

Verdict

I really want to like Lenovo’s X1 Fold. Its foldable screen is one of the best foldable pieces of tech I’ve used. And it’s a sturdy device that is convenient to take anywhere.

However, it just isn’t there yet. And it’s ridiculously priced. A device that costs NZD$4,845 (USD$2,749; £3,089) should be the best of the best, and it isn’t. There are better tablets and better laptops on the market, and you could get one of each for the same price as a single X1 Fold. 

Its performance struggles, it has a subpar battery, and it doesn’t function well as a tablet. Yes, Lenovo has implemented software making it easier to use; however, those struggle as well.

With that said, I am looking forward to the next instalment of the foldable laptop. With a few kinks ironed out, it could work well. But at the moment, if you’re buying the X1 Fold, you’re spending your money on the novelty of a foldable laptop, as opposed to a functional device for working, and that novelty wears off quickly.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Price
Design
Performance
Battery
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