The foldable phones are done and dusted. They’re cool, but your friend has one. Which means it isn’t cool? We got sidetracked. Nevertheless. It is now time for foldable tablets. And foldable tablet PCs, to be absolutely on point. How cool is that! A much bigger screen that folds. You can carry this around like a thick-ish notebook, unfold it to show the world that you carry what is the world’s first full-fledged foldable Windows 10 tablet and even prop it up and connect the Bluetooth keyboard with trackpad to use this as a more conventional laptop replacement. That is exactly what the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is, if you can afford the price tag of Rs 2,48,508 onwards for all that versatility and the excited questions of the otherwise boring businessmen you are trapped in a meeting with, in a cold and white-lite conference room.
So, what exactly do you get for the Rs 2,48,508 or whereabouts that you splurge on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold? The default specs include an Intel Core i5-L16G7 processor along with 8GB RAM and a 512GB M.2 SSD. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold has a 13.3-inch display, a built-in kickstand on the leather-finish back and runs the Windows 10 operating system. The Lenovo India website, at the time of writing this, offers further customization options that include more storage or bundling Microsoft Office apps, but there are no options for the processor or the RAM at this time. Mind you, and this is a huge relief—a slim Bluetooth physical keyboard with trackpad comes included with the folding PC, and you don’t have to run around the enticing depths of shopping websites, to buy one.
Competition landscape? There is nothing on the horizon, actually, within the Windows 10 ecosystem. At this time, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold doesn’t really have a direct foldable tablet or foldable convertible rival. It is over to the likes of HP India and MSI to join the party. Except perhaps the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 with the Magic Keyboard paired. Yet, the ThinkPad X1 Fold has to be the one glimpse of the future in the world that is still full of tablets, tablets with keyboards masquerading as laptops and authentic laptops, if you need a portable computing device. The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 prices start Rs 99,900. And if we. If we are to pair an Apple iPad Pro 12.9 with the Magic Keyboard matching the 512GB storage, the Wi-Fi variant costs Rs 1,26,900 while Wi-Fi + Cellular has a price tag of Rs 1,40,900. You’ll add the Magic Keyboard for Rs 31,900.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the foldable form factor isn’t just cool, it is incredibly convenient too. Imagine carrying a 13.3-inch tablet that isn’t foldable. Actually, just pick up your 13-inch screen size laptop (ignore the bulk) and you’ll get an idea of the footprint that would be tucked under your arm. Once folded, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold takes up half of that footprint. And the leather folio sort of replication really allows you to grip it well. While I haven’t had a chance to step out of home with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, due to the times we live in, there is that undeniable observation of this being a delightful form factor for those who travel a lot. It will not fit inside your jacket pocket like a foldable phone would, make no mistake about that, but this definitely makes things easier. This tips the scales at around 999 grams, though to be fair, it doesn’t exactly feel a lot heavier than the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 which actually weighs around 680 grams.
Price tag perceptions are, well, perceptions. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold plays its part very well with regards to the personality. It is dressed in authentic leather, in black. A very ThinkPad-esque look. You know its family. When folded, looks quite unassuming. When unfolded, the footprint gives it a mighty aura. The back panel, the one with the leather finish, moves like it sits on rails for when you fold or unfold it. The leather flexes but when unfolded, there are hardly any creases visible. Mind you. The implementation means that while the back panel is firmly fixed at one end, the other end doesn’t exactly have a tether at end. Which means that with a bit of effort, you may be able to lift it up and peek at a fraction of the sliding mechanism of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. While that is fantastic in theory, that pretty much immediately also means dust ingress will be mighty easy (keep this in a sleeve as much as possible) and this isn’t exactly sealed in as most tablets would. While observing this, I have to say that it could also be a specific issue with the review unit that I received, and this could be hinting at rough use with whoever handled this prior to me. Another hint of rough use is the incorrect positioning of the cover for where the SIM card slot is—someone has muscled that in, without much care for finesse or common sense.
There are not too many ports all around, yet the side spines aren’t exactly clean. You have the power key and the volume keys, two USB-C ports, a SIM card slot for those variants that have integrated mobile data (4G LTE) as an option and a whole bunch of chiseled out grilles, some of which are for the integrated speakers. And these spines are thick too, but that really is to be expected from what is a first-generation device. Refinements will come along the way.
Unfold this and power it on, and I have to say what was more than a slight sense of trepidation, evaporated quickly enough. There is no crease visible down the middle of the screen once this is deployed as a tablet or a laptop. It is a 13.3-inch OLED display, mind you, in a more square-er 3:2 aspect ratio. You will not note any hints of the fact that this is a foldable touchscreen as you look at it. And even if you are using the touch screen and running your finger cross the screen, there are very minimal hints that there is a crease. As I’ve noticed with most other foldable screens, there is a soft finish screen protection layer on top, which you shouldn’t at all try to peel off. Lenovo have done a fairly solid job of preventing that sort of eventuality in the hands of a daring user, by locking this down with the frame around the screen. This is a bright display, and quite colourful too. In fact, I had to manually turn down the display brightness for late evening working sessions when the room was lit by a couple of table lamps—it errs on the side of being slightly brighter.
Lenovo has given the ThinkPad X1 Fold some OLED display protection features too, in the hope to push the envelope of its usable life—these are to reduce the brightness of the background display (whatever is behind the active app on the screen at the time and also the brightness of the taskbar (though you won’t notice much if you have kept the dark mode switched on. You will find these options in Lenovo’s Commercial Vantage utility app. Alongside, there is the Lenovo Display Optimizer app which is preloaded with Windows 10 that lets you choose between different colour modes for this screen. These are Native, Standard, Photo Pro, Movie Pro and two rather relevant ones too—Blue Light Cut for Office and Blue Light cut for Reading, both of which add a different intensity of a feature similar to Night Shift on the Apple iPad and something that Windows 10 already has called Night Light. Good to see Lenovo adding further functionality, which is optimized for this form factor and this OLED display.
And this neatly takes us to an app called Lenovo Mode Switcher. As the name would have already betrayed, another Lenovo preloaded utility. The way this works is that you can divide this 13.3-inch display into two very different zones, but the requirement here is that you’d have to keep the ThinkPad X1 Fold in the portrait mode. That would be easy to do, given that the folding mechanism works brilliantly as a very stable hinge, and you can pretty much recline the screen as much as the laws of physics in conjunction with gravity would allow. The upper half and a bit more of your screen space goes to the app you are using, and the lower half can be the on-screen keyboard, for instance. Rough edges quite visible here—when I opened Microsoft Edge and tapped on the address bar, the on-screen keyboard didn’t pop up—that had to be manually invoked from the taskbar. I personally am not very comfortable typing on this sort of an implementation, which partly has to do with the fact that typing for long on a tablet display isn’t exactly fun and also, the spread of the keys as well as the layout itself.
The performance from the Intel Core i5-L16G7 processor? Let us just say this isn’t the most powerful Intel chip you’d come across in laptops or ultra-portables. In fact, you’d probably see this get trounced in raw performance comparisons, by the Apple iPad Pro’s previous generation A14 chip (forget about the M1, that is way ahead still). This is absolutely not fast, no matter which way you try to perceive this, in terms of handling apps and multitasking. Quite why Lenovo have gone for this specific chip, must have been dictated by the form factor and the frugal power requirements. This has a base frequency of 1.4GHz and can clock up to 3.0GHz for single core Turbo boost. Do not expect a mighty powerful computing device here, because the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is meant for the relaxed computing tasks more than anything else. This processor, when taxed within its strong areas, remains consistent enough to maintain a baseline performance while opening and switching apps. Things never slow down as they used to in the years gone by, but there are definitely times when the ThinkPad X1 Fold takes a second to respond to whatever icon you may have clicked on, and then takes the necessary next step. This is ideal for web browsing, reading, document editing (Spreadsheets would look especially cool on this) and media consumption.
Concluding remarks on the battery life do package some amount of disappointment. With the display brightness turned down to its lowest setting for late evening use with power mapping set to one notch above Best Battery Life, the ThinkPad X1 Fold lasts about 5 hours and 20 minutes on a single charge—this included one shutdown and restart cycle. When the performance is set to balanced and display brightness is left at automatic management, the battery life lasts around 3 hours 45 minutes. For all the versatility and ease of carrying this around, you’ll still need to remember to pack in the 65-watt USB-C charger. Because you’ll need it soon enough.
The Last Word: Lenovo Has A Great Idea, Now Back To The Drawing Board
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is very much the first of its kind computing device in the Windows 10 ecosystem. There is no comparable, at least not yet. This has a lot of style. And a generous amount of substance to follow through too. As long as you don’t need a very powerful tablet or something that can complete with the raw power that the Apple iPad line-up packs in, particularly the Apple iPad Pro. To be honest, I have to say that the positives far outweigh the compromises, something that I hadn’t expected in what is essentially a first-generation computing device. It is most definitely not a one-off. It is certainly not a gimmick. The foldable display has been implemented very well. Lenovo has added the utilities and tweaks needed to get Windows 10 working properly for foldable screens and the flexibility it brings. At least till Windows 10 (or Windows 11) get built-in functionality for this sort of form factor.
The rest of the rough edges will be ironed out in due course, since the foundation is strong. You’ll pay a lot of money for the ability to flaunt this Windows 10 device around. And for a lot less, you’d find the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 with the Magic Keyboard, a combination that is a lot more powerful and a lot more usable—the 512GB Wi-Fi variant costs Rs 1,26,900 while Wi-Fi + Cellular has a price tag of Rs 1,40,900 and you’ll add the Magic Keyboard for Rs 31,900. But would the differential power specs really matter to someone who wants to splurge for the attention?