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

A new 16.3-inch screen and revamped design add up to seriously improved usability.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

As the first laptop to feature a flexible OLED display, the original ThinkPad X1 Fold was incredibly ambitious. It was also experimental. While the concept showed potential, its software, performance and design clearly weren’t ready for prime time. But almost two years later, Lenovo is back with a second attempt, sporting some serious generational leaps.

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

On top of that, Lenovo redesigned the X1 Fold’s Bluetooth keyboard. Now it uses the same keys as the ThinkPad X1 Nano, so you get a longer and cushier actuation, it also has a new fingerprint sensor that works with Windows Hello. And while you can still lay the keyboard on top of the bottom half of the Fold in laptop mode, it also attaches magnetically to the base of the system when it's 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 piece that’s easier to manage. So when you need to pack up, all you have to do is tilt the stand forward until it docks with the keyboard, bend the Fold in half, and then just slam everything 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 isn’t a space inside the system for the keyboard anymore, Lenovo was able to install a new fold-flat hinge, so everything is sleeker and more compact. It’s almost like the X1 Fold has spent the last two years going to the gym and is now putting on a fresh, custom-tailored suit.

In addition to a new design, the 2022 ThinkPad X1 Fold features exterior panels made from recycled plastic bottles.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

For the new generation, Lenovo also wanted to improve the Fold’s serviceability, so it's easier to replace things like its SSD, batteries and other components in the field. Unfortunately, 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 testing required on other ThinkPads. And despite a significantly bigger screen, the new X1 Fold only weighs around 2.8 pounds, though you’re looking at a kit that’s closer to 4.2 pounds when you factor in the revamped stand and keyboard.

I also appreciate some of Lenovo’s little touches, like the addition of a third USB-C port (two of which support Thunderbolt 4) and an improved location for the Fold’s 5MP IR webcam, so that it’s more useful. Lenovo even added a third speaker so that regardless of orientation, you still get full stereo audio with support for Dolby Atmos.

As for performance, we’re looking at a serious jump in processing power, with the Fold supporting up to a 12th-gen Intel Core i7 U-series CPU, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, while still featuring a completely fanless design. For those worried about the short battery life on the previous model, Lenovo has made room for an optional 16 Wh power cell to supplement the standard 48Wh battery. And because Windows 11 has much better support for various layouts and window snapping compared to Windows 10, from my brief time with the new X1 Fold, everything felt significantly smoother and more responsive.

So while I should mention that this is still a pre-production device, I’m really liking what I’ve seen so far from the new X1 Fold. 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 goes on sale sometime in Q4 starting at around $2,800.