Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021- A foldable screen full of ideas

The Lenovo X1 Fold brings foldable displays and Windows together for the first time. A 13-inch OLED display and an Intel CPU are housed in a form factor that roughly corresponds to a notebook. An optional small keyboard fits perfectly into the X1 Fold and can even be loaded there. Is the ThinkPad X1 Fold the ultimate convertible for the go, or does it have to go behind more classic form factors? We will discuss Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021.

Lenovo’s ThinkPads are real classics. Little has changed in the basic structure of office laptops since the early 1990s. But IBM, or Lenovo, always had experimental outliers in there. The ThinkPad X1 Fold hits this notch and – like the legendary predecessor ThinkPad 701C – goes a completely different way: no Trackpoint, no display fastener, instead of a leather envelope, a pen, and a foldable screen.

This means that the X1 Fold is the first PC with a foldable screen and the first tablet that can be folded. It’s no surprise that something special is also going on inside the X1 Fold with so many special features. With the built-in Lakefield CPU, Intel’s first generation of a big. Little architecture is used. More on this underperformance and in the technical details.

You can find the exact technical data of my test device in the following table.

Technical specifications Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021.

Display33.7 cm (13.3 “) matt OLED display in 4: 3 format, 350 nits maximum brightness, touchscreen
resolution2048x1536px (QXGA), pixel density of approx. 192.48 PPI, or pixels per inch
processorIntel Core i5-L16G7, 5 cores / 5 threads LakeField (10nm production)
5x 1.4 GHz standard clock , boost up to 3.00 GHz
graphicIntel LakeField Mobile Graphics GT2 1GB VRAM
random access memory8 GB LPDDR4 4266 MHz
hard disk512 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe 3.0)
networkBluetooth 5.1
WiFi 6
Wireless LAN 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac / ax
4G-LTE (via NanoSIM slot)
connections2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 with 2x Thunderbolt ™ 3 support
battery packLi-Ion battery with 50 Wh
Input devicesLenovo Fold Mini Keyboard
Lenovo ModPen
Trackpoint (UltraNav ™)
SoundStereo speakers, Dolby Audio ™, dual array microphone
camera5.0 megapixel infrared webcam
securityTPM security chip
operating systemWindows 10 Professional (64-bit)
Dimensions158mm x 235.6mm x 27.8 (folded); 299mm x 235.6mm x 11.3mm (open) (WxDxH)
Weight1 kilo
Pros
  • Ultimately portable
  • Outstanding display
  • Very good keyboard
  • Mostly quiet and cool
  • A good connection between software and hardware
  • Great workmanship and feel
  • Switching between usage modes works smoothly
  • 2x ThunderBolt ™ 3 via USB-C
  • Three-year guarantee
Cons
  • Performance is only sufficient for office programs
  • Battery life is not enough for a full working day
  • Inconvenient positioning of the USB-C ports

Scope of delivery

Before we can get started with the X1 Fold, we must first remove its packaging. This is wonderfully easy and may only cause a slight surprise due to the small packaging size. But even in terms of its feel, the red and black box underlines the device’s premium quality. The ThinkPad X1 Fold fits snugly inside. Apart from the X1 Fold itself, the attachable Lenovo Fold Mini Keyboard and the Lenovo ModPen are also included.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021

A power supply unit should, of course, not be missing either. The 65W power supply uses the USB-C interface and is pleasantly compact. Because of the connection, you can also use power supplies from third-party manufacturers. Since many laptops, tablets, and smartphones now use USB-C, not having to take the power adapter with you can slightly increase the portability factor of the X1 Fold.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021

The economic use of plastic should also be noted positively. Apart from a film, Lenovo relies on paper and cardboard all around. Other manufacturers are welcome to learn from this.

You can Also Read: ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 Review 2021

Design and input devices: Literal notebook with a great feel and amazingly good input devices

Strictly speaking, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is the first real “notebook” – it brings the form factor and feels of a notebook into line with a full-fledged Windows PC. It starts with the real leather case and continues with the folding mechanism and the device’s size.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021

The legendary rubber TrackPoint – now fashionably called UltraNav – can only be found on the icing on the X1 Fold’s logo. This sits on the leather surface of the non-removable cover. How well the leather survives the test of time has to be shown in a long-term test. At first glance, however, it looks very high-quality, robust, and lies comfortably in hand. Even after a week of intensive use, it looks new and shows no abrasion.

The main component of Fold X1 is still plastic. The leather cover slides over the casing of the foldable laptop when it is opened and closed. When closed, part of the plastic protrudes, on which the Intel Core i5 sticker is emblazoned.

The visible part is covered with a kind of reflective piano lacquer and has an excellent memory for fingerprints of all kinds. Fortunately, the surface can also be cleaned very quickly and easily. The remaining part of the outer X1 housing is made of matt plastic, which is only visible under the Fold’s fold-out stand. Here, too, the quality is impeccable.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review

The folding mechanism of the stand takes place via a large hinge and can be adjusted continuously. On the inside, you will find a red color accent, which consists of pleasantly velvety fabric. The Dolby logo and a few other markers are also emblazoned here. A supposed service hatch is also hidden here—more on this under upgrade.

Logically, the 13.3-inch OLED screen dominates “inside” the ThinkPad X1 Fold. Due to the folding mechanism, its coating is not made of glass but plastic material. This still feels very high quality.

Lenovo ThinkPad

The star of the whole fold ensemble is logically the folding mechanism of the display. Lenovo has developed a sophisticated system for this, which holds the screen securely on its guide rails, even with rapid and jerky movements. Thus, the foldable screen should withstand the rough everyday work for several years.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review

There is a rubber coating around the edge of the screen, which also has a slightly matt surface and fits well with the touch. The edges of the display in 2021 only look a bit too wide, but due to the generally tiny form factor – and the technology built into it – this is more than bearable. Especially since you can hold the ThinkPad X1 Fold better thanks to the wide rubber edges in tablet mode.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

In contrast to many other foldable, Lenovo has also managed to get the screen completely flat in tablet mode. In the case of a stronger incidence of light, you can see a slight bulge in the middle, but normally this is not noticeable.

Lenovo ThinkPad

The keyboard is essential for the other types of use. Because only with it can the X1 Fold be transformed into a real mini laptop. To do this, you have to put it on one side. There it is held in place by magnets. Meanwhile, the ThinkPad X1 Fold thinks along and automatically switches to laptop mode.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 keypad

Although the keyboard is relatively small, the keystroke point and tactile feedback are excellent. Long typing is also easy and convenient. Only with umlauts or special characters do you sometimes have to contort a little or use the function key. The touchpad is also a bit too small, but it reacts quickly and precisely.

Of course, you can also remove the mini keyboard and use it in tablet mode on the ThinkPad X1 Fold. So you have an ultra-mobile PC with a huge display. Even if you are a few meters away from the X1, keyboard and mouse inputs are always registered responsively. Pairing takes place without any problems by pressing “F11” while switching on the keyboard simultaneously.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021

Only the micro-USB charging function of the mini keyboard is somewhat disappointing. However, it can also be charged inductively by the X1 Fold if you put it in the foldable when it is closed. This also closes the gap in the X1, and the convertible looks like it is made of one piece. Accordingly, I would recommend the mini keyboard purchase to every user, as it simply expands the scope of the Fold X1 enormously.

Closes the gap in the fold and is charged inductively at the same time: the Lenovo Mini Keyboard

You will also find a slot for the Lenovo Mod Pen or Lenovo Pen Pro, although we tested the former here on the keyboard. You can charge the pen via USB-C and use it as the sole touch input for the screen. It has a good 4096 pressure levels and is also suitable for finer drawing work.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold with pen

Regardless of whether you use the pen or your hands, the ThinkPad X1 Fold’s touchscreen reacts quickly and precisely to your information. For the occasional video watching on YouTube or relaxed surfing on the couch, finger input is obvious. Still, I’m not a fan of using Windows 10 only via touch. The operating system is too strongly designed for use with peripheral devices.

I was also positively surprised by the X1 Fold’s camera: It is well above the level of comparable laptops and can take photos up to a resolution of 3.7 MP. The same 1440p resolution with 30 frames per second is available for video recordings. Even with artificial light sources, details remain clearly visible, and the dynamic range is impressive. For example, Microsoft’s Surface devices are a tad better here, but overall the X1 Fold is in the upper class of laptop cameras. In tablet mode, the position of the camera is ideal for video conferences. Low angle view can be a bit annoying in laptop mode

The only drawback is the positioning in laptop mode, as it gives your counterpart a somewhat strange frog’s eye view. If you use the tablet mode with a kickstand, however, everything is as usual. Unfortunately, Lenovo does not support Windows Hello or secure login via the fingerprint sensor. For this, you then have to make do with classic passwords or PINs.

Overall, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold lives up to its claim: Like no other device, it currently combines the operating options of a real Windows laptop with those of a huge tablet – in an unmatched small form factor. Since you can also use the keyboard remotely, you are also much more variable in the setup. As a mini laptop, knee use in planes or trains is no problem either. The feel of the leather cover, the case, and the input devices are at a very high level, which also does justice to the current price of over 3,000 Dollars.

Ports – USB-C with ThunderBolt 3

At first glance, the ThinkPad X1 Fold ports are quite empty – there are only two USB-C ports. But these are extremely variable. This is due to the modern standard USB-C 3.2 of the second generation. This also allows you to use ThunderBolt 3 on both connections. So you can not only charge the device or transfer data very quickly, but you can even connect an external graphics card. How much sense this makes may be an open question, but this feature set is a very cool thing in general. Both connections can also be used as DisplayPort 1.2. This means that 4K screens can also be used on the internal graphics unit of the ThinkPad X1.

Also on board: a 4G capability. With a NanoSIM slot, you can insert your SIM card and start surfing on the go with the X1 Fold. This is an essential feature, especially for business travelers. For everyone else who likes to check their emails on the bus or anywhere else, but also very nice.

A WiFi-6 modem from Intel is also available for connection via WiFi. This will get you online as efficiently and quickly as possible.

So you are well prepared for most eventualities. Still, a normal USB Type-A port would have been nice. In the delivery state, the X1 Fold forces you to approach a dock more often. Lenovo also has a suitable one for this.

Unfortunately, this USB-C port disappears in tablet mode

My biggest point of criticism, however, is the position of the lower USB-C port. Because if you set up the ThinkPad X1 in tablet mode with its kickstand, then the lower port remains unusable. Simply relocating the kickstand would have solved this problem, but there might be another limitation in the way. This leaves you with only one USB-C connection in the – actually enjoyable – large-screen mode at your desk. Simultaneously charging or connecting something is not possible and requires a USB dock with USB power delivery. Only handheld or in laptop mode, you can use both connections.

Display – outstanding colors and infinite contrast

But now we come to the showpiece of the X1 Fold: its OLED screen. This impresses with its rich colors and infinite black value right from the start. Compared to a normal LED panel, each pixel can be switched on or off individually. The contrast, therefore, exceeds the measurable spectrum and approaches infinity. So black is really black – and not a milky gray like on many IPS or TN panels.

The fluidity of the presentation is also visually excellent. You are dealing with a “normal” 60 Hz screen, but this does not generate any lag compared to LED screens. This means that there are no brief ghost images that negatively affect mouse pointer movements’ fluidity or scrolling on websites. It feels more like sitting in front of a 90 Hz panel.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold with pen

Thanks to its QXGA resolution (2048x1536px), the ThinkPad X1 Fold also has a high pixel density of 192.48 per square inch. Content is, therefore, razor-sharp, and individual pixels can only be recognized at close range.

After the excellent subjective impressions, we still wanted to know more, and we let loose our measurement and calibration tool SpyderX Elite on the X1 Fold.

As expected, the ThinkPad’s display can show an enormously wide color space. But how good it ultimately is exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.

Many professional graphic monitors cannot keep up here because almost every color space is covered 100%—an absolutely outstanding result.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold graph 1

The white point is also hit perfectly and lies between 6400K and 6500K. This means that the ThinkPad X1 Fold is already very close to the target of 6500K in the delivery state.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold graph 2
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold graph
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold graph

Thanks to the independently illuminated organic light-emitting diodes, the screen’s brightness is very even and sufficiently bright. 313 nits. However, due to the glossy screen surface, it is best not to sit with your back to the sun or another strong light source. The color homogeneity, however, drops slightly but improves with decreasing screen brightness. The grayscale compensation (gamma) is only just next to the target value of 2.2. Almost ideal gamma value calibration of the gamma value was not possible with the adapter

Only the color fidelity turned out noticeably bad for our Spyder. This can be related to the adapter used from USB-A to USB-C. The gamma value also suffered from calibration by the Spyder connected via an adapter. Alternatively, the SpyderX Elite could have problems with OLED displays, with the former being more likely. Two adapters used each produced completely different measured values ​​for the important color fidelity. The Lenovo dock or an alternative calibration method may help. Because purely in terms of potential, the display of the Lenovo X1 Fold is terrific.Uncalibrated, color accuracy measured via adapterCalibrated, measured via an adapter

If you get the right calibration, then the display can even serve as a professional graphics monitor. With pen operation, the Lenovo X1 Fold is a powerful tool for creative people, such as graphic designers.

Of course, everyone else also benefits from the wide color space, great contrast, and accurate white point. Films, series, or simple image editing are enjoying it.

Software: Good connection between hardware and software – without ballast

Windows PCs and touchscreen operation are such a thing because Microsoft’s operating system is still fundamentally designed for a mouse and keyboard operation. Lenovo has made it easy to use for all use cases of the ThinkPad X1 Fold with in-house software developments. First of all, the Lenovo Mode Switcher should be mentioned here.

Small box, big effect: the Lenovo Mode Switcher ensures a smooth change between laptop and tablet modes.

This automatically detects whether the keyboard is resting and in which position the fold is. If this feature does not yet work for you out of the box, let the X1 perform a Windows update first.

In the beginning, my device had to download all kinds of drivers, including special drivers from Lenovo, for pen and keyboard recognition. After a few restarts and updates, all peripheral devices and options for using the X1 worked smoothly and quickly.

Interestingly, the drivers for the ModPen even come from WACOM – a clear specialist for graphic tablets. Lenovo seems to be relying on professional expertise here. Also, the pen can be configured in the good software “Lenovo Pen Settings.”The “Lenovo Display Optimizer” is also on board for photographers and graphic designers. Our Spyder had constant problems with measuring the OLED panel. Still, from a purely subjective point of view, the Lenovo modes conjure up a very accurate colour representation on the screen. Several modes are available. Blue-light-free presets are also available for night owls.

Lenovo Vantage is also on board. The software sometimes shows you advertisements when you start it, but otherwise, it is beneficial: It automatically scans BIOS or other driver updates for your ThinkPad X1.

You can also calibrate power, audio, and energy profiles with it a little more sensitively than with Windows’s own energy options. The guarantee of the X1 is also shown in it. Lenovo, of its own accord, grants three years on the fold.

Fortunately, Lenovo does without unnecessary bloatware in the ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Performance: Modern, but unfortunately only sufficient

Inside the ThinkPad X1 Fold, there is a future piece with the Intel Lakefield processor: Intel will probably also rely on a big. Little principle with the upcoming Alder Lake desktop generation. This describes the cooperation of different sized CPU cores on one chip. Four particularly economical cores and a high-performance core work together in the Intel Core i5-L16G7.

Intel Core i5-L16G7

During normal activities, such as surfing, watching videos, or office applications, the four economic representatives work primarily if an application (e.g., Adobe Photoshop) needs more power. The high-performance core switches on.

The big. Little principle is already known from ARM processors, although these also have a completely different architecture than classic x86 processors on the desktop. In the case of the Lakefield Core i5-L16G7, however, it is a classic processor.

Intel Core i5-L16G7

How does the new principle perform in x86 practice? The answer has to be a little more differentiated because Lakefield has not become fast, at least on paper. Especially in comparison to other convertibles, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro range, the Core i5 is left behind. The X1’s CineBench performance is on par with older mid-range laptop CPUs.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021
Lenovo ThinkPad X1

However, the chip only consumes 7W – and not 15 or 25. The best way to compare Lakefield is with the Core-m3 in the Microsoft Surface Go. The new processor clearly overtakes this and consumes hardly any power, which is also due to the more modern 10nm production.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold never caused major slow-downs in everyday work. Even with many open tabs and applications, the five-core remained calm and brought its performance to the road. Only with more intensive applications such as Photoshop or Lightroom did it sometimes cause slight hang-ups. Nevertheless, daily work with the ThinkPad X1 is easily possible in these apps. The processor is also supported by a very fast 8 GB LPDDR4 working memory. Quantitatively, that is not the world, but it is still sufficient for almost all modern applications.

For video editing programs, I would recommend using an eGPU. Gaming also becomes an issue with an external graphics accelerator, although the processor is likely to limit the situation here. The integrated graphics unit is a newer model, but clocks rather low due to the low power consumption. Older games can run in medium details. Newer games tend to degenerate into slide shows.

In return, the built-in SSD is speedy and, in no case, becomes a bottleneck. In the delivery state, there is also a very good 450 GB available on it.

Overall, the ThinkPad X1 Fold offers sufficient performance. It won’t let you down in Office applications or while surfing and offers roughly the performance of an entry-level ultrabook. Here you always have to put the form factor in relation. Because up to now, there was simply no device comparable to the X1.

Battery: Tidy, with some drawbacks

But now we want to know what Intel’s big. Little experiment means for battery life. As always, we use the “balanced” energy profile in our test. We set the brightness to 70% – which is sufficient in most environments with the X1 Fold.

In short: the running time is ok, but not enough for a full working day. Officially, Lenovo speaks of eight and a half hours, but around five and a half of them arrive in practice. YouTube videos were watched, many tabs were opened, and other Office applications were used. Photoshop and Lightroom also ran one time or the other. If you use the latter programs more often, the battery life can also be reduced to about four hours.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021

If, on the other hand, you set the energy profile to “Long battery life” and turn the display brightness down a lot, you can get over seven hours. I also noticed some differences between full screen and laptop use. Since half of the display is deactivated in the latter and, thanks to the OLED matrix, does not consume any power, the runtime usually increases by around half an hour.

Overall, the X1 Fold’s battery life is okay. Other convertibles last longer, but neither do they offer a comparably large OLED screen or the portability of the X1.

Emissions: quiet and cool

First of all: the X1 has an active fan. However, he only speaks up in the rarest of cases. When the time comes, the fan has the Lakefield processor under control.

The fan was only heard for a while in the Photoshop benchmark or Cinebench but never got uncomfortably high-frequency and not particularly loud.

Only our standard torture attempt for laptops elicited continuous fan operation from the X1. During this, we carry out a complete stress test via AIDA64. All relevant components are loaded for a maximum of 30 minutes. A scenario that may never happen in practice, but when you invest your money, you naturally want to get the most resilient device possible.

Lenovo ThinkPad

Many laptops often crash, or the picture freezes here. The X1 Fold, on the other hand, could continue to be used even at 100% utilization. The temperatures reached a maximum of 85 degrees and levelled off at almost 80 degrees under constant load. The X1 Fold stayed cool at 44 degrees in idle mode and was also not audible.

The case’s outside temperature should also be positively emphasized. The built-in leather case may still filter a lot, but the accessible part of the case surface only gets lukewarm even under extreme conditions. The only thing in the way of lap operations in cramped train compartments is your own flexibility, even on hot summer days. Lenovo did an excellent job here.

Upgrading: Just supposedly easy.

The X1 Fold has a supposed service flap that sits under the kickstand. But when you unscrew it, disillusionment quickly spreads – because there are only a few connectors below.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Review 2021

If you want to unscrew the fold, you have to irrevocably destroy the adhesive that connects the leather cover to the case. This means that an upgrade is only possible for absolute professionals – and you also ruin the three-year guarantee. I would advise against leveraging accordingly.

Sound – Good sound with one flaw

Notebooks or tablets are not exactly known for their excellent sound. Nevertheless, a noticeably large number of models are affixed with audio labels such as “Dolby” or “Harman and Kardon,” which has little effect on consumers. Fortunately, Lenovo does without it and places the “Dolby logo” of the X1 discreetly on the inside of the kickstand. In the Dolby Access menu, you can still adjust the sound according to your preferences. Whereby the scope of the speakers is not too great.

The X1 Fold’s sound only overdrives from a volume of over 90 percent and generally sounds very balanced. Even more difficult live recordings, such as Womack & Womack’s “Teardrops,” are reproduced fairly evenly from around 400 Hz. The small loudspeakers cannot do magic, of course, but they do their job well for their size.

Even more bass-heavy food, in the form of Efdemin’s “New Atlantis,” is even reproduced with a few deep notes. The volume is sufficient to fill a small room of around 10 square meters with sound. It doesn’t sound really voluminous and great, but it is enough if you sit in front of it. The speakers are at the top in laptop mode or on the left in tablet mode. The former is therefore preferable for listening to music, as it also creates a minimal stereo image.

Series and films also benefit from the clear, tidy sound of the ThinkPad. Voices can be clearly understood and stand out well from the rest of the soundscape. Only the waiver of a jack connection is not entirely clear to me. Logical, now many already use Bluetooth headphones, but sometimes they run out of juice. Also, the sound is significantly better via the classic interface.

Nevertheless, the ThinkPad X1 Flow delivers a good audio performance overall, especially compared to other tablets or convertibles.

Conclusion Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold – The ideas are free

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is a damn cool proof of concept, full of great ideas. Although the X1 Fold is the first device of its kind, it became a charming companion in my everyday life within a week. It combines the strengths of a Windows laptop and a tablet very well right away and can easily replace both devices for many users. Business travellers or creative people who travel a lot can benefit from the Fold X1.

It offers an outstanding 4: 3 OLED screen that has never been portable in this size. Switching between the different usage modes works (literally) smoothly and quickly. Also, the input devices are more than useful, and the keyboard, in particular, impresses with a perfect typing experience. The good quality – including a three-year manufacturer’s guarantee – also gives you a good feeling for the future.

A few teething problems, such as the lower USB-C port’s impractical positioning or the expandable battery life, leave room for improvement. Still, the ThinkPad X1 Fold really runs smoothly for a first-generation device.

folding laptop

Therefore, the operating concept of the X1 Fold may give us an outlook on the future of mobile computers. The performance is not yet on the classic convertible competition level but absolutely okay for the given size. Also, the X1 remains very quiet and almost always cool. Even our system stress test couldn’t bring it to its knees.

Including pen and keyboard, the Fold currently * costs 3,033 Dollars. With that, it will certainly remain a niche product. Nevertheless, I hope that we will soon find this operating concept even more often because it is already a lot of fun to work with.

If you are looking for a highly portable PC AND tablet that should also offer you a high-quality screen, then you can hardly avoid the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold.

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