Hands on: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 might actually be good

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Lenovo has announced its second-generation ThinkPad X1 Fold, and ahead of the announcement, I actually got to play around with one. There are tons of changes this time around, but the biggest one is that it actually seems to be pretty good. Having a laptop with a foldable display seems to be less of a novelty and more like something that’s actually viable. I like it a lot.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 has a much bigger display

The OLED screen is still 4:3, but now it’s 16.3 inches rather than 13.3 inches. That’s a big difference, in more ways than one. Remember, there are multiple ways to use the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2.

Angled view of unfolded ThinkPad X1 Fold

One is to stand it up and put a keyboard in front of it. With the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, the idea was to give you the experience of a full-size 13.3-inch laptop, but that actually doesn’t make much sense. When you’re using the device like that, the only way to do it is on a desk or some kind of stationary surface. You can’t use it like that on your lap. With that in mind, a bigger screen makes more sense.

You can set the kickstand to any angle, and it actually has a pretty tight hinge. You can put it closer to flat and draw on it with the pen, or you can place it up more so that you can use it for productivity like in the image above.

ThinkPad X1 Fold in vertical orientation

You can also use it in vertical orientation, which is actually pretty cool. If you’re reading, writing, or doing anything with a vertical scrollbar, it makes a lot of sense. If you’ve got two apps side-by-side, well, you might want to stick with horizontal.

What’s also cool is that the IR camera will adjust to the orientation as well, so it’s easy to log in.

The new, larger screen is great. It’s twice as bright at up to 600 nits as well. It’s a pleasure to use.

Foldable PC in clamshell mode

The even bigger change to the experience is what it’s like when it’s in laptop mode. With the original ThinkPad X1 Fold, the 13.3-inch 4:3 screen folded into two 9.6-inch 3:2 displays. If you’ve ever used a laptop with a 9.6-inch display, then you know that it’s simply not usable. But you don’t know that, because laptops at that size don’t exist. No OEM would make one. The screen is simply too tiny.

With the new 16.3-inch display though, the folded size is 12 inches. The aspect ratios are the same, at 4:3 when unfolded and 3:2 when folded. This size is much more usable.

The keyboard is bigger too, and it’s better

With a device like this, the size of the keyboard has to match the size of the folded device. In fact, with the original model, it actually had to fit inside the device, so it was really small. When I’d use it in laptop mode with that tiny 9.6-inch display, and it almost felt natural. That’s because you’d never use a device like that for actual work.

It was particularly bad when the screen was unfolded and propped up on its kickstand. The whole point of that 13.3-inch display was so that it could feel like you were using a full-size laptop. But once you’d use the keyboard, it was anything but. It was small, and frankly, it wasn’t even very good.

Top down view of ThinkPad keyboard

The keyboard that comes with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 is totally redesigned, and it’s a proper full-size keyboard. The keys have a depth of 1.35mm, and I was actually told that it’s the same keyboard that you’d find in a ThinkPad X1 Nano.

To be clear, this is the best keyboard you’ll find in a ThinkPad. The 1.35mm depth is the sweet spot, and it’s nice to see it showing up in more devices. Unfortunately, it’s not in the flagship ThinkPad X1 Carbon or X1 Yoga just yet. The point is, the keyboard went from being unusable for any kind of serious work, to being one of the best around.

Also added is a TrackPoint, so the original ThinkPad X1 Fold will probably go down in history as being the only ThinkPad not to have one. I’d say that was the only thing it had going for it.

The touchpad is new too. Unlike most other ThinkPads, there are no physical buttons above the touchpad, which are designed for use with the TrackPoint. With the haptic touchpad, you can use that space as buttons, if you use the TrackPoint, or you can use it as an extension of the touchpad itself.

It’s heavier, but still under three pounds

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 is a complete redesign, and being so much bigger, it’s also heavier. The original was 2.2 lbs, or 999g, meaning that there was someone inside of Lenovo that mandated the product come in under a kilogram. This one is 2.82 pounds.

Top down view of folded ThinkPad X1 Fold

Still, I think that it’s lighter than I’d expect, considering the increase in size. It has a Woven Performance Fabric cover, replacing the heavier leather that was on the original. It has a texture that’s better to feel, and I think that it’s an improvement.

You can see in the image that the pen now magnetically attaches to the top. There’s no more pen loop to get in your way if you don’t use the pen.

Angled view of ThinkPad X1 Fold

The display also closes flat now, meaning that the keyboard is no longer inserted inside of it. It now magnetically attaches to the bottom, as does the attachable kickstand.

I understand the design choice here. This allows the keyboard to be bigger, and letting the device close flat like a book is better for a number of reasons, the least of which is that nothing will get caught inside. Note that the bezels protrude a bit, so it’s not actually the display that’s flat against itself; it’s the bezel.

What I don’t like, in general, is magnetic attachments. These are likely to fall off in your bag, just like the pen will. The device isn’t as pocketable as it was, obviously, but if you do have a giant pocket to keep this in, the keyboard might fall off in there as well.

Everything is better on the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2

So far, I’ve talked about the display, the keyboard, and the chassis, all of which have been vastly improved. That’s pretty much all I can tell you about from a hands-on article.

There’s a lot more, however, that I can’t wait to talk about when I get this thing in for review. One is the new 5MP webcam. Webcams are getting so much better, and that’s so important in the age of working from home. I did notice that when you use the device unfolded and in horizontal orientation, the webcam placement is actually on the side. That’s so it’s on top of you’re using it folded.

Angled view of Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold in tablet mode

Another thing I’m really, really looking forward to is checking out the performance. The original ThinkPad X1 Fold came with Intel’s Lakefield processors. They were horrible. they were the first to use Intel’s new hybrid architecture, so in fairness, they did lay the groundwork for everything that we’re seeing today with 12th-gen. But at the time, Lakefield only had one big core, along with four little cores. The big core wasn’t even very good. You can think of it as one Y-series core and four Atom cores.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 has proper 12th-gen U-series processors. More specifically, they’re 9W U-series processors. They come with Iris Xe graphics too, so the performance boost here in both CPU and graphics is very real. It’s going to be pretty exciting.

In short, the parts I got to play with were great, and the rest is really exciting as well. I’m really looking forward to testing it.



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