All the Ways

All The Ways Lenovo’s New ThinkPad X1 Fold Bends, Flips And Morphs In Real Life

Don’t get stuck in laptop mode. The new X1 Fold is crying out for you to work and play in all of its eight innovative form factors.

Walk into Lenovo’s Design Lab in Morrisville, North Carolina and you’ll find two rows of airplane seats, three in front of three. Why? Well, these seats enable developers to see how their products work in real-life settings. During the R&D phase of the new ThinkPad X1 Fold foldable PC, designers took prototypes and sat in those two rows of seats to see how the 16.3-inch Windows machine would work on typical laptop and tray tables. In other words, how it would work in a real situation.

Lenovo’s premium new X1 Fold benefits from experimentation in use, even more so than regular ThinkPad or Lenovo’s convertible Yoga 2-in-1. Sure, you can use the X1 Fold as a “traditional” laptop, in what’s known as Clamshell Mode, but you might be surprised by the options. In this traditional form, there is a choice of either an onscreen digital keyboard which pops up on one half of the folding OLED display, or you can use the included physical keyboard accessory. “That typing experience and that cursor control is really, really important to us,” says Brian Leonard, VP Design for Lenovo. “We wanted to directly take an existing keyboard from a ThinkPad, and build it as an ecosystem component.” Sticking purely with Clamshell Mode, though, is to miss out on no less than six other modes.

For business travelers looking to split-screen their Teams video meetings and Microsoft Office, two of these modes offer more screen real-estate within the keyboard experience: Portrait (with or without the screen folded at an angle) and the full 16.3-inch Landscape mode. “I’m excited about the ability to work in Portrait mode and having that long view for websites and documents,” says Lee Highsmith, senior story technologist at Lenovo. “The ability to tip into Portrait mode on a mobile device is uniquely useful.”

The X1 Fold can be used without a stand in Clamshell Mode, but for the full-screen experience, there’s a durable stand-cover made from recycled woven fabric.

In addition to business travellers and executives, Lenovo is also making a play for creatives. with superstar Danish architect Bjarke Ingels on board as an ambassador for the X1 Fold. When travelling between architectural sites and the office, flexible technology is key. “What you need is essentially something that can resiliently adapt to whatever life throws at it. And I think this is true for architecture, and it’s true for the devices we use to create architecture,” says Ingels. The X1 Fold’s Tablet Mode—again in both Portrait and Landscape—makes the most of the large 600-nits-bright, HDR display that can lay flat for informal presentations and collaborative projects. There’s also a stylus that magnetically attaches to the device for editing in PhotoShop, signing documents, doodling or writing by hand.

“The Pen has a big role in this: the ability to draw, take notes, and how it feels as it’s coming across the screen,” says Leonard. “There should be some resistance to it so it seems like it’s flowing along, but it feels super-natural.”

Last but not least, the Book Mode takes advantage of the folding screen to allow for reading articles, documents, and books in an ergonomic position, complete with e-reader-style page turning. More niche perhaps, but this is the kind of form factor that could make a user fall in love with a device like this.

None of these extra modes would be possible without some very clever design and engineering under the hood. This includes the X1 Fold’s new bell-shaped hinge that makes all these form factors possible. In addition, there is thoughtful placement and design of the webcam, and the three USB ports—meaning you can always access two of the three. And two dual microphone arrays mean that no matter the orientation of the device, you’re always going to have a mic in the perfect position.

Mostly, the seamless shape-shifting boils down to Lenovo’s own Mode Switcher software—and the power of magnets. The meticulously placed matched pairs of magnets throughout the device and its accessories mean the kickstand can be used with all the system modes and allows the keyboard to quickly attach and detach as needed. “The design philosophy is to make a lot of things disappear, which might seem a little bit manual,” explains Highsmith. “It’s this ability to flip and go, then flip back to the width of the display, all enabled by the stand and the magnets and how the engineers thought about the usability of all these modes. That’s a subtle but significant piece of the design.”

One final ace in the pack for the X1 Fold could be a surprising one: Carry Mode. Folded shut, the redesigned X1 Fold occupies less than half the footprint of a full 16-inch laptop in your bag. “Folded, it’s about the size of a 12-inch notebook, so it’s ultra-mobile,” says Carly Okerfelt, Global Head and Category Director for Lenovo’s Future Computing division. “Most 16-inch laptops weigh about five pounds, and, in our research, people don’t always want to carry around five pounds. The X1 Fold is under three pounds with a huge screen and the ability to multitask.”

All the key design decisions which shaped the new X1 Fold can be traced back to Lenovo’s surveys of both business users and early adopters. Are they asking for more battery life? Do they want to use it as a laptop with a stand? “We weigh the different options,” says Okerfelt, “and ask what is going to make the most customers happy?” In short, Lenovo’s new X1 Fold is designed to take the needs of its customers and give them the flexibility to work and create from anywhere—in the office, at the park, or flying at 30,000 feet.