Computers are supposed to make our lives easier. And yet choosing the right PC is becoming increasingly complicated. All-in-one computers are a more powerful and efficient workhorse than their bulky desktop predecessors, yet remain stable by definition. In contrast, touch-screen tablets are highly portable and great for entertainment purposes, but less efficient when it comes to hard-core productivity.
In an effort to strike a balance between the two, the venerable laptop range has evolved into a number of variations that are lightweight, fast and versatile. Some of them bend, rotate and/or detach from their monitors and keyboards, attempting to morph into any form factor the user needs whenever and wherever they need it. So Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, the world’s first folding personal computer, may be the most versatile of the bunch. I spent some time trying to determine what it does well, what it doesn’t, and who might really need it.
form following function
Folded neatly, this 2.2-pound Windows 10 computer is about the size of a hardcover book (about 6 1/4 inches by 9 1/4 inches by 1 inch), a notion that’s matched by the exquisiteness of its black leather folio. Reinforced by class and experience. the cover. It comes out as a large rectangular tablet (approximately 11 3/4 inches by 9 1/4 inches by 1/2 inch), featuring a stunning 13.3-inch 2K OLED display with 300 nits of brightness. Certainly a huge upgrade from the airplane seat-back monitor and — especially with its built-in foldout kickstand — it’s easy to prop up on a tray table, without the perennial laptop keyboard poking you in the gut.
Partially folded, you can hold it as a book (or lay on its long, folded edge). In that mode, it’s like holding two 9-inch tablets side by side. Or you can turn on the angled screen and set it aside so that it resembles a laptop (as in the photo above, on the left). In that mode, the image expands vertically to fill the display. But if you attach the optional Fold Mini keyboard (more on that accessory, below), the display automatically retracts only to the top half (as in the top photo, to the right).
When I had a fair amount of space to stretch out a bit, my favorite formation was with the tablet open, oriented in landscape, with the Bluetooth keyboard ready (as shown in the image below). To me, it seemed like the best of all worlds. I could play a game or watch a movie on the largest display, using the Mod Pen to write quick notes and type with the wireless keyboard as needed.
Multiple Multitasking Options
The ability to multitask is one of this computer’s big selling points. In tablet, book, or laptop mode (but not with the keyboard physically attached), it was able to tap the mode switcher icon on the task bar to choose whether to view one large screen-filling frame or two smaller frames. (The frames split into upper and lower when the display is vertical, and left and right frames when horizontal.) With the two windows snapped in place, one in position 2 remains the same, while alt-tabbing the other open swaps windows verse 1.
With a little practice, it was fairly simple to assign each of the two positions and move them back and forth. But it would be nice if there are simpler and more options here. For example, why not be able to click on a small thumbnail to select Pin to Top (or Bottom)? And why only two panels? Especially if I have to connect it to an external monitor, I want to see three or four panels at the same time. And in that case, I’d like to be able to arrange them in any configuration, such as one on the left half and the other two on the right half, or a two-by-two grid. Hopefully, the next iteration will be more advanced like this.
Cool Still Quirky Keyboard
For some people, this accessory can make or break the deal. The best part about this companion keyboard is that it is super compact. In fact, it’s so thin that it fits snugly inside the tablet when fully folded. The keyboard’s magnetic attachment to the tablet serves a dual purpose, both for keeping it and charging it. Typing action is quite good, considering how flat this keyboard is. And the trackpad area was surprisingly responsive and accurate, considering how small it is. But I was hesitant to use the keyboard physically attached to the display for a few major reasons.
First, as a touch typist, the Enter key was where the semicolon and apostrophe keys would normally be on a full-size keyboard. So it threw me when I wanted to type one of those (or several other shifted) characters or, more often, when I went to hit enter. Overall the keyboard was still a nice, tactile upgrade from the on-screen keyboard experience – but still not nearly as good as using a regular laptop. So its compactness is good, but it loses points for its counterintuitive key placement.
Another pain point associated with keyboards is that the computer’s task bar tends to be overcrowded. This made it difficult to see at a glance which programs were open. (Also remember, in this mode, you can’t split the screen.) So everything felt cramped. But in a pinch, I can still choose to attach the physical keyboard to my phone’s screen on thumbing up or there just isn’t enough room to open and use a larger machine (ie, while traveling and/or traveling) .
It’s also worth noting, configurations that include proprietary keyboard and pen accessories increase the cost from more than $250 to about $2,100. In all fairness, it’s on par with similar stuff from competitors. And either way, that price increase doesn’t seem like it will deter the kind of early adopter who will potentially snatch one of these devices. In fact, since the X1 Fold is compatible with other Bluetooth keypads, such users can also purchase a stylish second, more full-size wireless keyboard for the home, opting to just bring the Flat along when traveling.
Considering how controversial the mobile computing category is, anyone looking at the X1 Fold should have a few options to consider.
Most notably, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard is actually a few hundred bucks cheaper than the comparable Lenovo bundle. While you’ll lose the ability to fold, the iPad Pro is 1/3 lighter, boasts a brighter screen and a better camera.
Talking about which, the single camera of X1 Fold is a weakness. It’s placed in a way that’s awkward in any orientation: down and right in laptop mode (for above-the-nose shots), and left in landscape tablet mode. Anyhow, the camera sounds unnatural during a video call. Plus, it’s only 5 megapixels, while the iPad Pro sports multiple cameras, each offering at least twice that resolution.
Microsoft’s Surface is the other obvious competitor. recently announced duo 2 The model folds, but it’s only an 8.3-inch screen (half the size of the Lenovo), and a large hinge in the middle. So while it’s a fancy, fun 5G phablet that will easily beat the X1 Fold on weight and price, the new one actually Surface Pro X is a more viable contender. Similar to the iPad Pro, it’s significantly thinner, lighter, and less expensive. It has very strong features and specifications for a 2-in-1 laptop, including a free upgrade to Windows 11 as soon as it’s released. But it can’t turn.
Should you buy Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold?
While a lot of other computers can beat the ThinkPad X1 Fold on price or specs, nothing else does exactly as this clever device does – a nice, big, beautiful display folding without any visible hinge. So if that form factor as well as versatility make you sing and the price doesn’t bother you, you may be the ideal candidate it was designed for. The production model it’s shipping now is certainly more solid than the version that was first shown off as a concept by Lenovo a few years back. And it will be interesting to see where the foldable computing market goes over the next few years.
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