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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is the first folding laptop, but is that enough?

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is a remarkable achievement with too many asterisks to give it a strong recommendation.

For

  • Gorgeous folding OLED display
  • Innovative design
  • Durable chassis
  • Luxurious leather

Against

  • Keyboard has a too-tight layout
  • Lackluster performance
  • $2,500 starting price — without keyboard
  • More software flaws than this price can afford

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold shouldn't really exist. I never thought I'd see a folding laptop in my lifetime. But Lenovo didn't care to consult my expectations, and made the wildest thing they could. A 12.9-inch tablet that folds in half and has a keyboard that snaps to its screen. Wild.

But along the way, Lenovo left a few corners cut a bit too tightly, as this ThinkPad X1 Fold review will show. Its performance is not great; Windows 10 doesn't seem ready for a folding screen and the X1 Fold's battery life is not a pretty picture. And when the X1 Fold costs as much as it does — we tested it at $2,749 — it's hard to excuse these issues. But when it works — its display is gorgeous and its design is a marvel of engineering — it really works. So let's read on to see why the X1 fold didn't make our best laptops list.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold price and configurations

You pay a lot to be an early adopter, and that's the case with the ThinkPad X1 Fold, which starts at $2,500. That price gives you a configuration with an Intel Core i5-L16G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. 

But you'll want the ThinkPad X1 Fold's external snap-on keyboard for the "ooh" factor" and its pen as well — and both of those bring your final price to $2,749. Oh, want more storage? You can get the X1 Fold with a 512GB SSD ($2,899) or a 1TB ($3,099) if you've got Scrooge McDuck bucks.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold design

Holding it in my hands for the first time, as I gripped its leather case, I was impressed that the ThinkPad X1 Fold was real. This is the kind of technology that many companies would announce and never ship. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You pay a lot to be an early adopter, and that's the case with the ThinkPad X1 Fold, which starts at $2,500.

At 2.1 pounds the ThinkPad X1 Fold feels like a sturdy piece of tech. The 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro (1.4 pounds) and Surface Pro 7 (1.7 pounds) are lighter.

But for those who need a physical keyboard, the ThinkPad X1 Fold's a bit heavier with its optional keyboard — at 2.5 pounds, which is a hair heavier than the Surface Pro 7 with its keyboard attached, which weighs 2.4 pounds.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That being said, the Dell XPS 13 is even heavier at 2.9 pounds, as is the iPad Pro (3.1 pounds) connected to its Magic Keyboard.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As for ports, you're getting a pair of USB-C ports, one for charging the X1 Fold and the other for accessories, such as the Mod Pen.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold durability

The ThinkPad X1 Fold doesn't scream "rugged," but since it's so expensive, we're happy to hear that it can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. It passed 12 MIL-STD-810G-rated tests — which are the highly specific ruggedness tests for situations including sand and dust, extreme high and low temperatures, vibration and shock and humidity.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It also feels really solid. When opening and closing the ThinkPad X1 Fold, everything looks and sounds like it will last — and it should, as Lenovo tested it to repeat this simple process thousands of times. Aside from the satisfying "chunk" noise it makes upon being closed shut, the X1 Fold is silent during the process.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Think of it as a book that's made of two big pieces, with a hinge that's hidden by the leather back. On the bezel, though, you'll see a ribbed section, which allows for the device to fold and unfold without wear or tear. You'll also see a small bar-shaped spine when you open and close the X1 Fold.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold display

While the ThinkPad X1 Fold's display is a fingerprint magnet, I quickly forgot about that the second I started watching a 4K video of footage of the Samana peninsula in the Dominican Republic. The next best thing to actually vacationing, the X1 Fold's 13.3-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel OLED panel rendered the water in a beautiful serene blue, the trees in a range of strong greens and the sands looked so crisp that I could practically imagine my toes sinking in.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

What didn't feel as luxurious, though, was moving windows between the sides of the screen while it was not 100% flat. For example, when I drag a window across the folding divide line, it detaches from my finger about half the time. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This is because X1 Fold's touch screen requires a very firm touch, at least in my testing. This is likely to prevent accidental actuation when you're holding it like a book, since your fingertips are going so close to the screen when gripping it by the bezels. Once I got used to it, I noticed that the X1 Fold accurately tracked my input. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

According to our colorimeter, the X1 Fold's display emits 147% of the sRGB color spectrum, which beats the 123% rating from the iPad Pro, the 97% from the Surface Pro 7 and the 98% from the XPS 13. 

On brightness, though, it did not hold up as well, producing an average of 301 nits. The iPad Pro (559 nits) XPS 13 (469 nits) and Surface Pro 7 (395 nits) are much brighter. That lack of brightness showed a bit when I watched that gorgeous 4K beach video darken a tad (not that badly, though) from 30 degrees to the left and right — with beaches looking slightly browner and calm waters not popping as much. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold keyboard, touchpad and Mod Pen

When you hear "foldable laptop" you automatically think of something with a keyboard, right? Well, the ThinkPad X1 Fold's keyboard is an optional ($250) accessory that snaps onto half of the display (or can be used externally). 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The touchpad is just too darn small to feel comfortable. My fingertips hit the sides as if my feet were hitting the walls of a tiny kiddie pool.

Taking it out for a spin on the 10fastfingers typing test, I had a mountain of a learning curve to handle, and slowly saw my typing speeds go up, from 49 words per minute, to as high as 75 wpm. All the while, it still felt uncomfortable, as both of those positions — attached and separate — pose their own problems. When typing with the keyboard docked, my wrists lay on the corners of the device, which was not comfortable, to say the least. And trying it out detached, I realized that the keyboard is so slight that I needed to prop it up onto something else, as it's so thin you're practically tapping your table. 

And while there were glitches with the keyboard, which I'll explain further in the Software section, my biggest gripe about this keyboard is it's pin-hole sized power button, which is so small you probably won't notice it until you go looking for it.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Oh, and about the keyboard's 2.5 x 1.3-inch touchpad. It's accurate enough, and scrolling is smooth via this method, but it's just too darn small to feel comfortable. My fingertips hit the sides of the touchpad, as if my feet were hitting the walls of a tiny kiddie pool, before I knew it.

My final frustration about the keyboard is how its scrunched layout — which reminds me of the whole "netbook" trend that disappeared (as it should have) leads to having the ?, /, [, ], { and } characters require holding the function key. And if you want the question mark or curved brackets, you're gonna need to hold down shift while you hit the function key.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The $99 Lenovo Mod Pen is a pretty good stylus. It's got the heft of a serious pen, and it's easy to keep track of, thanks to a loop attached to the keyboard for storage.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

And when you pull its "cap" off, you reveal a USB-C port where it charges. Plus, its built in eraser and right-click buttons work smoothly. I only wish it magnetically snapped onto the side of the X1 Fold. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold audio

Both Phoebe Bridgers' "Kyoto" and The Clipse's "Grindin'" sounded great on the X1 Fold, with vocals hitting clearly and drums either strong or crisp (depending on the tune) provided I had placed it into laptop mode. But say you have the X1 Fold standing upright, in landscape mode? Then one of its speakers will be pressed against your surface, muffling that sound. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Yes, the sound quality of the ThinkPad X1 Fold will depend on what position you put it in, which is annoying — it should sound great no matter how you set it up. When you buy a device for its versatility, you expect it to be great in all modes. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold performance

I'm not sure who's going to try and push this device that fast, but you might hit a wall, as its Intel Core i5-L16G7 CPU with 8GB of RAM doesn't really hold up well against the competition. Its 1,794 on the Geekbench 5 benchmark is a mere fraction of the Dell XPS 13's 5,254 (with 11th Gen Core i7 CPU and 8GB of RAM), the 4,720 from the iPad Pro (A12Z Bionic) or the 4,443 from the Surface Pro 7 (Intel Core i5-1035G4; 8GB of RAM).

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It didn't fare well on our video conversion test either. Handbrake converted a 4K movie to 1080p in 33 minutes and 31 seconds on the X1 Fold, more than 15 minutes longer than it took the XPS 13 (18:22), and under a minute longer than the already terrible 32:47 from the Surface Pro 7. 

At least the X1 Fold has a decent SSD, as it duplicated around 5GB of files at a rate of 445 MBps, beating the Surface Pro 7's 267MBps rate. The XPS 13's 728 MBps rate smokes the competition, though.

And as for gaming, we've got more bad news. Civ VI (at 1080p) ran at a mere 9 fps on the X1 Fold, notably choppier than the XPS 13's not-great score of 16 fps.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold software

Lenovo's not waiting for the modular Windows 10X that's coming, which could have made it easier for them to make such a unique tablet. And I'm not sure that was the right call. There's a lot about this device that doesn't work in a way that a $2,499 price tag would suggest. Rotating the screen from portrait to landscape takes about 3 seconds, which might not sound like a lot, but left me waiting on it repeatedly. Just merely opening Spotify would take 5 seconds. 

And while I spent some time trying to get better scores on the 10fastfingers.com keyboard test, I often saw Windows 10's software keyboard pop up on screen, even though I had the physical Bluetooth keyboard attached. I couldn't figure out why the X1 Fold thought I'd want to use both. Even more annoyingly, having a virtual keyboard on-screen — with the keyboard covering half of the screen already — gives you barely any screen estate.

There's a lot about this device that doesn't work in a way that a $2,499 price tag would suggest. Rotating the screen from portrait to landscape takes about 3 seconds.

Except, that is, when I wanted to drag one window from one half of the tablet to the other. I'd find that the X1 Fold would think my finger was trying to reduce the size of the window, and dragging it from an edge and not trying to grab the top of a window. This is a matter of how Windows 10's design isn't always perfect for touch. The OS has a lot of blocky objects — great for stubby digits — but when it can't respond as you intend it to, it gets annoying.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For example, the Lenovo Mode Switcher utility is supposed to make it easy to use apps in split view or full screen. But when I split the screen between two windows, with one window taking up the bottom half and the top half empty — every time I bring a window to the top half, it refuses to "snap" into that section of the screen. Instead, it just tries to take over the full screen. Oh, and if I use split-screen mode, but tap the Full Screen option while watching a YouTube video, it tries to take over the whole screen, not just half. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold battery life

If you're buying the X1 Fold and hoping its portable nature will mean it was designed to last a long time on a single charge, I've got some bad news. It lasted just  6 hours and 3 minutes on the Tom's Guide battery test (web surfing at 150 nits of brightness). 

Its competitors lasted much longer, with the Surface Pro 7 (7:52) making it nearly two hours longer, the iPad Pro (10:16) going 4+ hours longer and the XPS 13 (11:07) enduring for almost twice as long. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold webcam

Selfies shot with the X1 Fold's 3.6 megapixel camera are a lot like most I've taken on laptops: they're grainy. Yes. even though this sensor is sharper than most. The photos I took of myself with the ThinkPad X1 Fold looked far from crisp. It'll do for your next Skype call, but it won't leave a positive impression either.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review: Verdict

I wish I had better news for y'all. We want the future to be here, but this Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold review has shown that we've got a ways to wait before foldable laptops are a truly cool thing.

I love how the ThinkPad X1 Fold looks and feels exactly like the laptop that a villain would have in a futuristic Sci-Fi movie. It's leather, folds and can masquerade as a book. And its screen is gorgeous too. Yet, there's the big problem of actually using it. Its three major issues — short battery life, glitchy software and overall unimpressive performance — stack up to too much of a problem together. You could handle one by itself with this innovative design, but all three is too much to ask. Especially when it's $2,749 with keyboard and stylus.

Instead, you could get a similarly spec'd iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard and 2nd Gen Apple Pencil for $1,577, to get both a great tablet and laptop experience. And those who want a great Windows machine should just get the tried and true XPS 13, which is only $1,225 when similarly configured as the X1 Fold. Neither of those laptops have folding displays, but after writing this review, we know when to fold 'em, and when to walk away.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is an editor writer at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and Apple. Prior to joining Tom's Guide — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and looking for the headphone adapter that he unplugged from his iPhone.