The First Computer With A Folding Screen

Folding screens are the hottest technological trend today in the field of smartphones. It is not surprising that technology manufacturers are now trying to adapt it to the configuration of the laptop, but is it an interesting tool experiment or a product that can indeed benefit from this capability? Lenovo is known as a manufacturer that does not hesitate to test different configurations, so it is not surprising that it is the first of all the major computer manufacturers to launch a computer with a folding screen: the ThinkPad X1 Fold.

We were privileged to experience it for a few days, and although it is a very short time to have a full opinion on this computer, we will still try to give you a taste of what can be done on it. However it is important to note that in one section we will not experience an opinion precisely for this reason – the battery. In addition, it is important to take into account that the device we had is part of a pre-production series, so it is very possible that Lenovo will make changes or further adjustments to the final product. However, in terms of configuration there will probably be no changes.

It is difficult to define the ThinkPad X1 Fold as computers or even as a beautiful product. It comes wrapped in a sort of leather cover reminiscent of luxury purses or diaries, but which unfortunately does not really provide the durability required of a computer that finds itself traveling or shaking inside a bag. When closed, the computer looks like an average book, or diary as such. On the other hand it has quite a few openings and sockets available for the accumulation of dust or crumbs. It is important to remember that this is a configuration designed for use on the road or in traffic, and open sockets as well as a speaker or ventilation grille, may provide bear service in this regard.

The folding screen is the highlight, it is bordered by a hard but high quality plastic rim. The screen surface is slightly sunken to maintain it when you open the computer. The hinge that holds the screen open in tablet or book configuration feels very durable. However, this is a screen that weighs about a kilogram, not something you can walk around with in your hand for more than a few minutes. Despite this the large layout of the panel distributes the weight over a relatively large surface area so that it is tolerable.

There are no locks or rattles in operation here. One of the advantages of this screen configuration is that it can actually be placed in almost any position or angle – which gives a very impressive operational flexibility. If you want to put the screen for laptop-like use, the back of the cover opens in part and provides a leg that holds it fairly stably.

The attached keyboard seems to be intended for people with very small hands, but it is probably intended for spot use and not as an input for regular use. Its design is somewhat gray and the trace surface of the mouse is quite small – however it can be tucked inside the computer when it is closed.

The specifications of the ThinkPad X1 Fold include an i5 processor from the Lakefield series, that is, not the most powerful processor that can be found and only 8 GB of operating memory. This is very little considering the (outrageous) price of the computer. But it is a great choice for a computer that is designed to operate without a power outlet and away from the desk. Lakefield processors are the intelligent equivalent of computers, of ARM processors, which can be found in smartphones and tablets (and in Apple’s new Pro bottle). However, the built-in graphics chip and limited working memory may provide significant power savings – but far from enabling the performance required for gaming, video or even Photoshop editing.

But the highlight here is of course the screen. This is an OLED panel with a resolution of 2K or 2,048 by 1,536 pixels originating from LG, the company that soon promised us rolling screens. It is very bright and high quality. In fact it provides very impressive color at the level of professional monitors and can get almost 100% of the color layout in sRGB or Adobe RGB and 95% in DCI-P3. It’s also great for watching movies, basic graphic design or even easy photo editing.

Its size stands at 13.3 inches when open, or about 7 inches in a mini laptop configuration. In the latter configuration, the keyboard is located on the bottom of the screen when folded, giving it a look that may be reminiscent of netbooks from days gone by. Its 4: 3 format allows more flexibility than a standard laptop and you can easily work here with two windows running parallel on both sides of the screen.

There is also support for the stylus, but unfortunately we did not get it this time. However, given the excellent sensitivity of the touch screen, as well as its relative durability, and especially the outer plastic panel all of these will provide a much more natural writing experience than on a screen with a glass panel. However since we are dealing with a flexible screen, the recommendation is not to press hard as this may damage the exterior coating. In addition, the coating retains fingerprints easily, so it is best to keep hands or at least fingers clean during use.

Beyond the basic capabilities of the processor and specs, you will find here a standard flash drive of 512 GB. In terms of sockets, you are limited to two in a USB-C configuration, one of which is designed to supply power when connected to the charging socket. Lenovo may offer with the final version a kind of father with additional sockets, but in this current configuration there is no doubt that there are too few of them here. Mainly for a work computer. The webcam is built into the side edge and not at the top in a horizontal configuration. In addition, it is located slightly on the side of the computer so that it can be used in a semi-open book configuration for example. Right thought.

Windows 10 installed here is the same one you will find on other computers. Except for a mechanism that allows you to select the screen layout and adapt it for use as a tablet, as a book or as a computer screen. Microsoft has not yet adapted the capabilities of the operating system to an innovative configuration such as that of the Fold, but despite this, from the little we have used, there are no problems that prevent efficient or smooth work. In fact there is almost no need to learn movements or re-interface, which is also very convenient for those who come from the worlds of mouse and keyboard.

All in all, if Microsoft really thinks about how to leverage the folding screen configuration into something useful, software that is tailored to that configuration may provide quite a few benefits. But at the moment these are still features that can be found in most laptops on the market. On the other hand, Lenovo has made adjustments and this makes it possible to make fairly fluid use of the various configurations of the fold without the need for exceptional finger acrobatics.

Let’s end with the most painful point in the fold, price. It costs about NIS 15,000, including the keyboard and stylus. Without them, you will still have to pay about NIS 13,000 and will have to make do with an unadapted third-party keyboard. That’s a lot of money. Especially for a computer that is not designed to perform more than basic tasks. However, Samsung’s fold also doubled the price of any smartphone when it was launched, and now no one is surprised by prices of NIS 5,000 and up for a cell phone. It may be that as more folding computers enter the market the price will go down accordingly, but in my estimation, this will probably not happen any time soon.

The fold will be especially suitable for innovation enthusiasts, wealthy executives who want to impress colleagues at board meetings or for those who want a computer whose work configuration can be adapted to a variety of road scenarios such as building engineers (it has MIL-STD 810H military durability standard) or health staff for example. It can be used in a crowded airplane seat or on a coffee table. However this is still a fairly limited potential buying audience. But if you are part of the same small audience, the ThinkPad X1 Fold may very well be able to replace at least three devices, which means that in this respect it may be considered economical.

In conclusion, the Fold is one of the most interesting configuration experiments in the last thirty years, it really adds value to the generic laptop configuration, even if at the moment it is not completely perfect in my opinion its future actually looks quite bright. One can only hope that the manufacturers will indeed put extra effort into adapting the hardware and software for such use – as Google did for Android – then we can really abandon the tablet, laptop and in some cases even the smartphone.

Reviewer overview

The First Computer With A Folding Screen - /10


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