When we reviewed the first-generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, we were excited by the prospect but felt let down by the execution. The folding screen technology was still in its infancy - some would argue it still is - and the X1 Fold Gen 1 was too small and not powerful enough to warrant a recommendation.
If those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, we’d like to declare Lenovo the opposite of doomed. Revealed at IFA 2022, the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 is more than just an improvement on the original; it feels like a whole new product. Gone is the tiny display and keyboard of the Gen 1 model, replaced by a vibrant 16.3-inch folding OLED screen and a bigger Bluetooth keyboard that feels much better to use.
Price and availability
The starting price for the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 is $2,499, though different internal configurations will be available and it’s unclear at this point what the base model will include; in the 13.3-inch original X1 Fold, the keyboard and Wacom smart stylus were paid extras. It’s worth noting that the X1 Fold Gen 2 actually shares a starting price with the base model of the original, which is impressive considering that it’s much larger and more powerful.
That base model nets you an Intel Core i5 processor, but models with i7 chips will also be available. The other variable specs run up to 32GB of DDR5 RAM, up to 1TB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage, and an optional Nano SIM slot for the 5G-enabled model.
Like the original, the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 has a range of orientations for every working environment. The keyboard and kickstand both attach magnetically to each other and the laptop itself, folding together and snapping to the exterior of the chassis when it’s folded away. The optional Wacom pen also connects magnetically to the edge of the screen.
The X1 Fold Gen 2 feels very robust, which is a relief given the propensity of foldable tech to simply break under very mild strain. The exterior panels are made from a pleasant, grippy fabric which is made from 100% recycled plastics. That eco-minded design ethos extends to the rest of the product; the speaker chamber, internal battery enclosure, and AC adapter are all made with at least 90% post-consumer-recycled materials. Even the packaging is entirely compostable.
The OLED display is quite gorgeous, with 600 nits of brightness and HDR certification. Colors pop and blacks are deep and sharp. Since it’s a bendable panel, the surface is a thin plastic that does display some very slight imperfections around the hinge area, but that’s practically unavoidable at this stage. It feels good to use the touchscreen with either a fingertip or the compatible Wacom stylus, potentially making this a great option for digital artists.
As we mentioned above, the new keyboard has benefited massively from the upgrade to a 16.3-inch form factor. The original X1 Fold’s keyboard was a cramped, uncomfortable affair; this one feels much easier to use, with full-size backlit keys that offer a decent amount of travel. Naturally, it includes Lenovo’s signature red Laptop Nipple (sorry, ‘trackpoint’) in the center. The newly enlarged haptic trackpad is sensitive enough, but feels a bit thin and doesn’t offer a very satisfying click.
We weren’t able to properly test the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 in our brief time with it, but we’ll be sure to include our usual suite of benchmark results when we receive our own unit and update this review.
Despite this, we’re feeling confident that the X1 Fold Gen 2 will blow its predecessor out of the water. With the generational leap in performance afforded by Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake CPUs, we should see improvements across the board. The lack of a discrete GPU means that it likely won’t be capable of very demanding workloads, but everyday use and low- to medium-intensity tasks should be a breeze.
Battery life could vary significantly between models, as the X1 Fold Gen 2 can be configured with a dual-battery setup that places a battery on either side of the central hinge. The default main battery is actually a 48Whr unit compared to the first-gen model’s 50Whr, which is a bit concerning - though Alder Lake’s reduced power consumption will hopefully mitigate this somewhat. The optional secondary battery is a much smaller 16Whr unit.
One interesting feature of note in our hands-on was the teardown of the hinge, which showed how Lenovo had engineered a pair of graphite plates to touch when the laptop is unfolded. This allows for superior thermal transfer across the two halves of the device - a must, since the X1 Fold Gen 2 is completely fanless.
Competition is finally heating up in the foldable laptop space, with Asus announcing its new Zenbook 17 Fold OLED at the same time. Both Asus and Lenovo itself seem to have taken lessons from the first ThinkPad X1 Fold’s failures, with bigger screens, sturdier designs, and more powerful hardware.
Comparisons are inevitable, but it’ll be impossible to judge which foldable laptop is superior until we can properly test them both. For now, we’ll simply say that the ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2 was a joy to use, and we’re a tiny bit sad that we weren’t able to perform a whirlwind heist to nab one from the Lenovo event venue.
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