First, there were phones with folding screens. Now, there’s a laptop with a folding screen. Not just any laptop—a ThinkPad.
PC maker Lenovo, which acquired the ThinkPad brand from IBM 15 years ago and has continued to pump out the boxy business machines, just revealed more details about its upcoming foldable ThinkPad. This isn’t just a clamshell that folds at the hinge. It’s a laptop with an actual flexible display—like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold phone or the new Motorola Razr, but laptop-sized. Lenovo first teased the foldable ThinkPad at its Accelerate conference in May of last year. Now, at CES this week, it’s pulling back the curtain even more.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold is expected to ship sometime in mid-2020, and will start at $2,499. It’s an Intel-powered machine, and will likely run on Intel’s upcoming hybrid Lakefield CPU, though Lenovo declined to confirm this. Unsurprisingly, it will run on Microsoft’s Windows OS. But the rollout of these kinds of foldable displays also introduces an interesting software bifurcation, since they’ll have to work when they’re both creased and fully opened. According to Lenovo, the earliest versions of the foldable will run on Windows 10 Pro, with a Lenovo software skin for duality; a Windows 10X version, which is a streamlined version of Windows designed for dual-screen devices, will come later, likely in the fall.
Lenovo says it’s been working on the foldable for four years now. “In 2015 we started doing user research on the size of screens, the utility of twin displays versus a single folding display, and what is sort of the right form factor,” says Tom Butler, Lenovo’s ThinkPad marketing director. The company landed on a single, flexible, 13.3-inch OLED display with a 4 by 3 aspect ratio. The display technology comes from LG Display, which Lenovo says it co-developed the screen with.
WIRED had the chance to see a prototype version of the ThinkPad X1 Fold last fall, and again at CES this week. When folded shut, the ThinkPad X1 Fold looks like a handsome leather folio. When fully unfolded, it’s a giant tablet. That folio has an integrated kickstand in the back, so you can prop it up in tablet mode for “snackable content,” as Lenovo puts it. When creased in the center, it becomes a quasi-laptop, though it requires either using a virtual keyboard or slapping a Bluetooth keyboard on one half of the multitouch display. (It also works with a stylus pen.) It weighs just under 2.2 pounds, lighter than an Apple MacBook Air.