Lenovo ThinkBook Plus & ThinkPad X1 Fold Review – The folding screen notebook might be familiar to you if you read my hands-on with the prototype back in May. The difference now, it’s got a name, it’s got a price. And not only did Lenovo let me film it from all angles this time. It even busted one open, so we could see the guts. Today I will talk about Lenovo ThinkBook Plus & ThinkPad X1 Fold.
Lenovo ThinkBook Plus
This is the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus. And at first glance, it’s precisely the kind of conventional laptop that I usually skip. To see what’s interesting about it, you have to close it. Yep, that’s e-ink, a little under 11-inches worth. There’s a Wacom digitizer so you can use a stylus with it, though there’s no silo for the stylus. So you’ve got to be okay with sticking it to the side with magnets.
If you’ve got nothing to sketch, you can use the little mode selector down here to take in a book on the Kindle app or display a PDF. And then there’s this minimal desktop kind of thing. Which displays a wallpaper of your choice and can also pop up your agenda for the day to give you a little glanceable utility. Finally, there’s an Alexa button, so you don’t need to open the laptop to use it.
I think I like this thing mostly for its potential. I mean, after decades of laptops with dumb functionless covers, it’s refreshing to see someone think outside the box. Or you know you think differently on the outside of the box. Oh, God. But I’m not sure any of the demo use cases really nail it. I mean, Kindle is a no brainer with an e-ink screen. But no one wants to use an e-book this big And heavy. What’ll make or break it for me is how many notifications I can get on the outside display and from which apps they’re supported. We’ll see about that when I get around to the full review. and if you already know you want one, this is expected in March for a buck shy of 1,200 bucks.
ThinkPad X1 Fold
The highlight of the day will cost you more than twice that when it goes on sale in mid-2020, but given its potential to redefine the way laptops work, I think that’s fair. The ThinkPad X1 Fold does just what it says on the box. It folds, but unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, which comes with enough warnings to make you worry about ever touching its main display. To hear Lenovo tell it, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is built to take some abuse.
Just like how the Motorola engineers were quietly confident about the Razor’s durability at that launch event. The Lenovo folks encouraged us to mash our thumbs on the OLED screen’s protective layer here. They were also happy to bust open the casing for us to showcase that carbon fiber that reinforces the display when it’s deployed.
And they gave us a close look at the hinge mechanism too. Which takes a surprising amount of force even to adjust. That’s because the X1 Fold is designed to let you use it, not just as a tablet or as a laptop. But as any variation that makes sense in between. Now, if you’re thinking, that means half the screen equals keyboard. And typing on a touchscreen isn’t always fun, well, I agree.
But Lenovo’s way ahead of us. There’s a Bluetooth keyboard that slaps onto here with magnets, complete with trackpad. I showed you this back in the spring. But I wasn’t allowed to show you that the machine folds completely around it while it’s in there. That means you don’t need to carry it separately. Oh, and while it’s in there, it recharges wirelessly.
In the same vein, the stand here that lets you use the X1 in tablet mode. It’ll cost something like 30 bucks, but you don’t need that either. The leather wrap around contains its own kickstand. And it’s also got a loop for the pen. The power for all this comes from a Lakefield processor, which is Intel’s answer to those Qualcomm always-connected PCs I’ve been talking about for a while.
So, in theory, this should pack some pretty excellent battery life. But I’m less worried about that than I am about the software. It’s so early that the build of Windows 10 Pro running on this thing is still, you know, quite buggy, and I wonder how it’s gonna deal with this crazy new form factor even after release.
Lenovo had to build in a mode switcher to get Windows to tell the difference between open, closed, and in between. And while, again, it’s early software, I’m just less confident in Windows 10 as it exists today. Elegantly being able to manage those transitions. When Windows 10X launches with its revised UI. This thing seems like a perfect fit right down to the X in the brand name. But how well today’s Windows handles this bleeding-edge hardware, well, that’ll take a full review to figure out.