Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold (2nd-Gen) hands-on

I reviewed Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, the first PC with a foldable screen, in late 2020. At the time, it was a very cool idea, but not particularly, shall we say, usable. Today, Lenovo has announced its second go at this, the “Next-generation” ThinkPad X1 Fold. I spent a few minutes with the device, and let me tell you: I am much more optimistic about this one.

Much of this new X1 Fold will be familiar to fans not just of the previous X1 Fold, but of the ThinkPad line in general. The device is outfitted with the series’s standard black and red color scheme, with the staple ThinkPad X1 logo on the lid. There’s a ThinkPad-style keyboard with a trackpoint and inverted-T arrow keys. It’s well-built, sturdy, and sleek.

But some changes have been made, and I think they were the right ones.

Pretty much every major issue I had with the original X1 Fold was due, in some way, to its 13.3-inch size. It was fine to use as a 13-inch tablet, but when folded into laptop mode (an option that’s a big part of the appeal of foldable screens like this), it was too small to be practical for daily use.

The second-gen device is 16 inches, a 22 percent increase in size. (It is also 25 percent thinner than the previous model). Having played around with the new device, I think it’s a lot more practical. The screen is clearly big enough that I could navigate around my usual workflow and have multiple tabs open side by side.

Lenovo says this is the lightest 16-inch commercial laptop available at 2.82 pounds.

The bigger chassis also allows for a bigger keyboard. The 2020 X1 Fold’s keyboard was well-made but had to fit horizontally across a 13.3-inch device, which meant it was really dang cramped. Some keys had as many as four characters crammed onto them, and I had to press three at a time in order to make a question mark appear.

This new keyboard deck (which attaches magnetically to the lower half of the chassis when it’s folded in laptop mode) is full-sized and backlit. I could type on it like I normally type. The keys felt ThinkPad-quality. Needless to say, I much prefer this one.

While we’re talking about the deck, there’s also a haptic touchpad on this thing. We’re starting to see more of these across Lenovo’s more compact ThinkPads, including the super-thin Z-Series. I often find them a bit thinner than other trackpads, but this one seemed okay. I’ll need more time with it to get a full impression.

That said, the bar for this touchpad is so low. The first-generation’s was barely big enough to scroll with, let alone regularly navigate. This one is a clear improvement due to the size alone.

It makes for a pretty nice picture.

Inside, the X1 Fold is powered by 12th-Gen Core i5 or i7 processors with integrated graphics and optional support for Intel’s vPro business platform. Lenovo hasn’t outlined the exact models that will be available, but ThinkPads do tend to be endlessly configurable to the point of stressing me out.

You’ll be able to get SSD storage of up to 1TB and up to 32GB of DDR5 memory, with the option of Windows 11 Home or Windows 11 Pro. There’s an optional Wacom pen, which attaches magnetically to the chassis. The screen is a 16.3-inch 2024 x 2560 touch OLED that shrinks to 12 inches when folded.

There’s a 48Whr battery (with “optional additional 16Whr based on configuration”) and no battery life estimate yet, which…scares me a bit, since the first X1 Fold gave me under five hours to a charge and had a 50Whr battery. Asus’s 17.3-inch Zenbook 17 Fold, also announced this week, has demonstrated that an OLED foldable can be capable of breaking six hours. We’ll have to see on that.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold open in laptop mode, angled to the left side. The screen displays a pastoral nighttime scene.

Use it this way on your lap, and unfold it for your desk.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold seen from the bottom, closed, in a demo area.

Oh look, it even has a port.

In my brief time using this device to hop around Chrome and watch some videos, it seemed to work well enough. That is a very good sign. I had a good time using the first-gen X1 Fold, but there were all kinds of glitches to the experience, particularly with the onscreen keyboard. I’m looking forward to seeing how Windows 11 does in this new chassis, as (unlike some other laptop manufacturers) Lenovo is not known to ship glitchy software left and right.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold seen from the right side in a demo area.

They weren’t lying — it’s not thick!

And then there’s the elephant in the room: the price.

This device, if you hadn’t guessed, is not going to be cheap. It’s expected to hit shelves in November with a starting price of $2,499. Note that the stylus and keyboard were not included on the 13-inch model, and those added $250 to the price.

That, interestingly, is the same price the 13-inch model had (and this is a bigger, thinner, and generally more usable device). And it’s significantly cheaper than the $3499.99 Zenbook 17 Fold, the only other foldable near this size that we’ve seen so far this year.

This could end up being a significantly better deal for foldable-buyers than the 17-inch Fold — but of course, we haven’t gotten to extensively test the thing yet, so there could be all kinds of catches.

The Lenovo X1 Fold closed seen from above on a white table.

I don’t expect this device to be perfect. Even if Lenovo has done everything it can here, the experience of using the device may have a lot to do with how well other companies can get their software to behave with it.

But as Lenovo’s representatives walked me through this device, I got the sense that they were genuinely excited about it. I think they understand exactly what the limitations of the 13-inch Fold were and were happy to have a larger foldable screen come along. Maybe in this new form factor, Lenovo can finally make the groundbreaking device that they wanted the first X1 Fold to be.

The foldable future may not be here yet, but with every one of these releases, it comes closer.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge

Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz