In addition to the new design, the outer panel of the 2022 ThinkPad X1 Fold is made from recycled plastic bottles.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold hands-on: a big upgrade, both inside and outside

As the first laptop with a flexible OLED display, the original ThinkPad X1 Fold was ambitious. It’s also very experimental. While the concept shows potential, its software, performance and design are clearly not ready for prime time. But almost two years later, Lenovo is back with a second try, making some major generational leaps.

The first major upgrade on the new X1 Fold is Sharp’s larger 16.3-inch OLED display. Not only does it have a slightly higher 2.5K resolution, but the larger size also means you have more screen real estate. But more importantly, when folded, you now get a device that’s closer to a 12-inch laptop than a 10-inch system like the previous model. This should make the X1 Fold more practical wherever space is an issue, such as when you’re working on a plane without feeling cramped.

On top of that, Lenovo has redesigned the X1 Fold’s Bluetooth keyboard. It now uses the same keys as the ThinkPad X1 Nano, so you get a longer, more comfortable drive, and it also has a new fingerprint sensor that works with Windows Hello. While you can still place the keyboard on top of the folded lower half in laptop mode, it also attaches magnetically to the bottom of the system when placed on a stand that supports both landscape and portrait orientation.

Another big change is that instead of storing the keyboard inside the fold, it attaches magnetically to the stand, making it a more manageable single piece. So when you need to pack, all you have to do is tilt the stand forward until it docks with the keyboard, fold the fold in half, and slam everything together. Lenovo says the change is in response to feedback from customers who prefer to use the system more like a portable all-in-one than a convertible laptop. Since there is no longer room for a keyboard inside the system, Lenovo was able to install a new folding hinge, so everything is sleeker and more compact. It’s almost like the X1 Fold has been going to the gym for the past two years and donning a fresh, bespoke suit.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

For the new generation, Lenovo also wants to improve the serviceability of the Fold, making it easier to replace SSDs, batteries and other components in the field. Unfortunately, the X1 Fold still isn’t waterproof, but it should still be pretty solid, as the Fold is still subject to the same mil-spec 810G testing as other ThinkPads. Despite the much larger screen than before, the new X1 Fold only weighs about 2.8 pounds, but when you factor in the improved stand and keyboard, you’re looking at a kit that weighs closer to 4.2 pounds.

I also appreciate Lenovo’s small changes, like adding a third USB-C port (two of which support Thunderbolt 4) and improving the placement of the Fold’s 5MP IR webcam so it’s more useful. Lenovo even added a third speaker, so no matter the orientation, you still get full stereo audio with Dolby Atmos support.

Gallery: Hands-on photos of the 2022 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold | 5 photos

In terms of performance, we’ve seen a huge boost in processing power, with the Fold supporting up to a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 U-series CPU, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, while still being a completely fanless design. For those concerned about the short battery life of the previous model, Lenovo made room for an optional 16 Wh battery to complement the standard 48 Wh battery. And since Windows 11 has far better support for various layouts and window snapping than Windows 10, from my brief time with the new X1 Fold, everything feels smoother and more responsive.

So while I should mention that this is still a pre-production device, I really like what I’ve seen so far from the new X1 Fold. But to really see how this thing plays out, we’ll have to wait a bit longer until it kicks off sometime in the fourth quarter, starting at around $2,800.

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