Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold: Foldable screens have moved into tablet territory

Briefly shown off last year, this folding screen Windows system can be a laptop, tablet or a mini desktop.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
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Dan Ackerman
2 min read
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold
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We're not quite at the point where flexible screens are common, but we're starting to see a few more of them. In fact, new flexible-screen devices are learning from the struggles of first-movers like the original Galaxy Fold phone. That's the case for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, a 13-inch OLED slate that can bend and fold into several different configurations. Lenovo calls it "dynamic and responsive," meaning that what you see on the screen can change with how the screen is folded or oriented. 

In practical terms, that means the 13-inch plastic screen can fold in half widthwise, forming what looks like a mini clamshell laptop. In that mode, an onscreen keyboard can pop up on the lower half, offering a decent, if not great, on-screen typing experience, at least judging by my hands-on session in a Las Vegas hotel conference room ahead of the start of CES 2020.

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More interesting is the Bluetooth keyboard, sold separately, that works with the X1 Fold. It magnetically latches onto the bottom half of the screen, mimicking and replacing the onscreen version. When docked like that, it also charges the thin keyboard's built-in battery. 

Here's another cool trick: Unfold the screen to its full 13.3-inch size, and rotate it into a landscape orientation. Take the leather back cover and fold out the slim built-in kickstand. Finally, place the wireless keyboard in front (and add a mouse), and you have a mini all-in-one desktop PC. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold
James Martin/CNET

Much more so than the handful of folding-screen phones we've seen, a design like this really does create the opportunity for multiple configurations that can each have unique uses. 

I still wouldn't call this a ready-for-mainstream device that everyone should run out and buy. It still looks and feels like early adopter tech in a lot of ways. The chassis is big and thick for a 13-inch screen, and most of it is devoted to keeping the screen safe, preventing anything from getting into the side hinge and providing protection from bumps. 

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The X1 Fold runs Windows 10 Pro, which, as of yet, doesn't know quite what to do with a folding-screen laptop, because the OS sees it as a single display. Instead, Lenovo has added a special app that jumps between full-screen mode, one-screen-plus-keyboard mode and dual-screen mode, which pops one window on the top half and one window in the bottom. 

Unlike a lot of the other folding and flexible screen prototypes we've seen recently, this one is said to be very close to getting into consumer hands. Lenovo says the X1 Fold will be available midyear, starting at $2,499. International prices aren't yet available, but that's about £1,900 or AU$3,600, converted.

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Originally published earlier this week.