Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold 2022 hands-on

Foldable screens are officially here to stay. Years of subpar foldable phone iterations have finally yielded worthwhile devices like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4, whose flexible displays have legitimate productivity and portability benefits. Not to be outdone, PC makers have also jumped on this trend by producing full-size foldable computers. However, as we figured out with 2020’s Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, they still had a long way to go.

Fortunately, Lenovo has gone back to the drawing board and refined its foldable PC for 2022, promising a larger display and faster performance within a slimmer body that can be easily folded up and packed into a small bag. We got some early hands-on time with this $2,499 computer ahead of its November release, and while it’s still shaping up to be a niche product, it’s still awesome to see in action.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold price and release date

Mike Andronico/CNN

The ThinkPad X1 Fold 2022 is currently slated to launch in November 2022 with a starting price of $2,499. There will also be a $2,999 model for those who want a pen and keyboard included.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

For the uninitiated, the first Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold was essentially a giant 13-inch Windows tablet that could serve as a huge canvas for drawing or watching movies when fully expanded, or act as a laptop when you fold it at a 90-degree angle and plop a keyboard on one half of the screen. And when you fully close it up, it’s about as small as an average sized book, and more portable than a typical laptop.

There’s a lot to like about this design on paper, but as we learned while reviewing it, the original 2020 version of the X1 Fold simply wasn’t ready for everyday consumers. Windows 10 wasn’t optimized for foldable screens at the time, resulting in a frustrating and oftentimes buggy software experience that made it hard to use even the most basic apps. Factor in average performance and short battery life, and you had a device that was extremely hard to justify for its steep $2,499 price tag — and that’s without the optional keyboard.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The 2022 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is just as expensive — and will likely remain a niche — but I immediately noticed significant improvements when I got my hands on one at an early preview event in New York City. The first thing that caught my eye was the new display, which isn’t just significantly bigger (16 inches versus 13.3 inches) but also more attractive and immersive, thanks to much slimmer bezels around the screen.

The X1 Fold’s OLED display looked great in action, pumping out bold colors whether I was watching a vivid Dolby Vision video of an amusement park or simply admiring the deep reds and blacks on the PC’s wallpaper. I especially liked using the big screen vertically in portrait mode — a new feature for this year’s model — as I had a ton of real estate to mark up a text document with a pen (sold separately) or keep tabs on all the big stories on Underscored’s homepage.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

I had limited time with the X1 Fold in laptop mode, but as with the previous version, using this giant screen as a notebook is as simple as folding it into an L shape and plopping the optional Bluetooth keyboard on the bottom. Lenovo arguably makes the best laptop keyboards in the business, and this separate wireless model feels nearly as good as what I’ve used on its traditional notebooks (you can also use your own Bluetooth keyboard if you like). But you’re not limited to this basic laptop mode — you can also fully expand the Fold’s display and prop it up on the included stand while snapping the keyboard to the bottom, essentially giving you a giant 16-inch display (that you can use horizontally or vertically) and a full keyboard for when you need to get work done. But unlike a traditional 16-inch laptop, this whole setup folds down to the size of a small book once it’s time to hit the road.

The 2022 ThinkPad X1 Fold’s larger, sleeker design is also complemented by more powerful internals, including the latest 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processors, up to 1TB of storage and up to 32GB of memory for smooth multitasking. And it ships with the new Windows 11 software, which will hopefully come more optimized for various display modes than Windows 10 was for the original X1 Fold. And for those looking to pick one of these up for drawing or sketching, Lenovo’s newest folding PC can be configured with a pen that supports the Wacom protocol, a common standard for artists.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

Let’s get this out of the way: Even with its improved design, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold is not made for the average consumer who just wants a good tablet/laptop hybrid. It’s much better suited for artists, creatives and heavy multitaskers who want a giant 16-inch screen to work on without sacrificing the portability that comes with a small laptop. The device’s $2,499 starting price will likely be prohibitive for many, and you’ll have to spend at least $2,999 for a model that includes a keyboard and pen.

Most folks seeking this kind of versatile setup are better off with Microsoft’s much cheaper Surface Pro 8, which is our best 2-in-1 laptop pick, thanks to its ability to function as both a powerful full-on laptop and a vivid 13-inch stand-alone screen for drawing and bingeing TV. And if you don’t need the laptop part, our best tablets picks will have your streaming and sketching needs covered. But for those willing to invest in a particularly big (but still highly portable) screen for work and play, the X1 Fold is worth keeping on your radar. Lenovo’s uniquely flexible computer launches this November, and we’re looking forward to putting it through its full paces later this year.

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