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Monday, October 19, 2020

Lenovo X1 Fold: First impressions of the first-ever foldable laptop

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold looks a lot like a book, with a leather cover. It opens up to showcase a 13.3-inch OLED screen. There is a Bluetooth keyboard that can be attached to one of the sides when in a clamshell form to create a more traditional laptop experience.

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | Las Vegas | Updated: January 7, 2020 4:20:43 pm
lenovo X1 fold, Lenovo X1 fold first impression, CES 2020 The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold looks a lot like a book, with a leather cover. (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

Lenovo has finally announced the launch of the ThinkPad X1 Fold, the world’s first foldable laptop. The product was initially announced last year and has been in the works for well over four years.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold looks a lot like a book, with a leather cover. It opens up to showcase a 13.3-inch OLED screen. There is a Bluetooth keyboard that can be attached to one of the sides when in a clamshell form to create a more traditional laptop experience. But the X1 Fold also unfolds a lot of new uses cases.

lenovo X1 fold, Lenovo X1 fold first impression, CES 2020 There is a Bluetooth keyboard that can be attached to one of the sides when in a clamshell form to create a more traditional laptop experience. (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

Where it is different from a convertible, which also can be a laptop or tablet, is that this also has a book mode where you could have two different things on both sides. While on commute you could read a book on the X1 Fold as you could read a book.

lenovo X1 fold, Lenovo X1 fold first impression, CES 2020 The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold looks a lot like a book, with a leather cover. (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

There is more. The leather case has a kickstand at the back, which means you can make it standup like a large 13-inch screen as you consume content or just use the keyboard with the larger screen.

lenovo X1 fold, Lenovo X1 fold first impression, CES 2020 Lenovo says the testing has been done for 30000 folds and the durability of the OLED has also been tested for eventualities like smartphone drops on the screen. (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

What this does is kill the need to carry around a tablet, a laptop and maybe an e-book reader. All you will need now is the Lenovo X1 Fold.

The Fold also presented a new problem. When the screen folds there is a bit of space that needs to kept for left inside the hinges. Lenovo has changed that into an opportunity by using the space to stowaway the Bluetooth keyboard which also gets charged in that slot.

How durable is the Lenovo X1 Fold?

With foldable devices, there is always the concern that the device might not last as the OLED is being folded multiple times. This is where Lenovo is sticking its neck out and pointing everyone to the ThinkPad branding. “This comes with the same durability you would expect from any ThinkPad device,” explains Thorsten Stremlau, Chief Technology Officer, Commercial Segment, Intelligent Devices Group, Lenovo. It also comes with all the guarantees and warranties you would expect from a ThinkPad device, he adds.

Lenovo says the testing has been done for 30000 folds and the durability of the OLED has also been tested for eventualities like smartphone drops on the screen.

lenovo X1 fold, Lenovo X1 fold first impression, CES 2020 The product was initially announced last year and has been in the works for well over four years. (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

How did the Lenovo X1 Fold evolve as a device?

Lenovo started working on this device over four years back. Yasumichi Tsukamoto, director and principal engineer, system innovation commercial notebook development at Lenovo says the first two problems they tried to fix was the experience of the screen, which had to be crystal clear devoid of creases, and the materials to be used. “We experimented on everything from hard metal to softer material and finally settled of carbon fibre. We already had a lot of experience using carbon fibre and that helped.” Since the OLED itself is paper-thin, the strength of the material behind it becomes crucial.

But then there were new problems to be tackled. How do you keep the thermal footprint of such a device low, for instance. This is where Lenovo decided to co-engineer with Intel. “The device had to offer a balance between portability and performance. So we finally settled on a hybrid Intel chip which offered the mix,” explains Christian Teismann, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Enterprise Business Segment. He adds that the Intel hybrid allows for a fan that helps keep the skin temperature of the device low. “People will not like to use it on the lap or as a book if the temperatures are high,” Tsukamoto explains.

In fact, this rethinking of the processor is very different from how computers have been traditionally conceived. “In this case, we changed the way of engineering. We engineered basically from the outside to the inside and the outside started with the end-user. So we did a lot of end-user testing in terms of what kind of device to release,” adds Teismann. Usually, the devices are designed inside to outside, or around a processor that is already there.

lenovo X1 fold, Lenovo X1 fold first impression, CES 2020 The product will ship with Windows 10X later this year. (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

Very different to a foldable smartphone?

Foldable devices are gradually becoming popular among the smartphone makers as they try to make the screen larger. However, for Lenovo the problem they are trying to solve is different: of being able to offer more portability without compromising on productivity.

“The smartphone makers have to just cater to open and closed. But for laptops you need to work on even thing in between also as far as the folding screen goes,” Tsukamoto tells IndianExpress.com, underlining how much more difficult and complicated that is. He says they also had to work with Microsoft to create the perfect operating system to work with a foldable screen. The product will ship with Windows 10X later this year.

lenovo X1 fold, Lenovo X1 fold first impression, CES 2020 Lenovo says the testing has been done for 30,000 folds. (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

Teismann emphasised how Lenovo was leading on most of the tech used here from the foldable screen to the material used behind it as well as the hinge supporting the fold.

The author is in Las Vegas on the invite of Lenovo India

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