Lenovo shows off the world’s first foldable PC

Folding phones are already being launched as the next big wave of technology, and if that turns out to be true or not, the industry has no plans to stop there. Lenovo just announced what it says is the world's first folding PC: a ThinkPad prototype that iterates the folding technology we've already seen on phones on a much larger scale.

Nor is it a demonstration of great technology: Lenovo has been developing this for more than three years and has plans to launch a device finished in 2020 as part of its ThinkPad X1 brand. The goal here is a premium product that will be a portable class device, not an accessory or secondary computer like a tablet.


Factor apart, why build a folding PC? The answer is largely portability. Conceptually, it is the opposite of what most collapsible phones are trying to do. There, companies like Samsung and Huawei are trying to take a device the size of a normal phone and enlarge it. But the idea behind the foldable ThinkPad is to take a full-sized PC and make it smaller.

The result is a 13.3-inch 4: 3 2K OLED screen that can be folded up to about the size of a hardcover book (we do not have the exact weight yet, but Lenovo says it weighs less than two pounds, which is equivalent to a hardcover copy of one of the largest books Harry Potter ). That's enough to put it on the lighter side of the laptop's spectrum, but the size saving is really when it is folded in half, making it dramatically smaller than a normal laptop.


The ThinkPad foldable, compared to a normal 13-inch laptop

. I have to try a functional prototype, but there is not much to see at this stage. . The screen folds, as advertised, and Windows worked well enough as a touch interface. But the real magic here, if it happens, will come with the software and the optimization of things so that they run on the unique form factors that a folding screen can provide.

I'll say that I really liked its size more than I expected. Folding, it's much smaller than a standard-sized 13-inch laptop, and while it's not exactly something that can be tucked into a jacket pocket, even a large one, it's comparatively compact. The folded mode was also very nice to hold in my hand, like a giant glowing book. Fingers crossed the fact that Lenovo (or someone) puts the right electronic reader software for the two-page futuristic digital book of my dreams.

The hardware is also clearly unfinished at this stage. The folding mechanism did not feel particularly robust in the prototype (Lenovo would not let us take close-up pictures of how the hinge works, or how it looks closed) and the screen had remarkably poor viewing angles, changing colors wildly when it looked. Even from mild angles, especially problematic for folding screens. However, all that will be ordered in more finished hardware, however.

As to how you use the device, Lenovo is imagining a variety of use cases. You can use it completely spread out as a large or partially folded tablet in a form factor similar to a book. A built-in support foot allows you to hold the screen on a table for use with a wireless keyboard and trackpad included.

And, perhaps most interestingly, you can flip the device and use it in a traditional (though smaller) form factor of portable style, using the lower surface as a digital keyboard or writing . Pad, similar to Lenovo's two-screen yoga books. Intelligently, the right side of the screen (which serves as the "bottom" part when used in portable mode) contains the entire battery, which keeps it heavy so that it does not fall.

The other big question is about the specifications, and unfortunately, we have a lot less to do. Lenovo remains firm with the specific details about the product, but this is what we do know: it will run Windows and offer an Intel CPU. No details beyond that, and specifications like RAM or even battery life are kept secret (although Lenovo says it points to a full day of use).

There are also plans for some kind of cellular support, a Wacom pen included (which hooks to the front of the device and slides sideways when deployed) , and will be charged through USB-C. (The model I used did not have a headphone jack, so it's worth it).

There is also the elephant in the room: the folding technology is still in a very early development, and the problems highlighted in the first conventional device, Galaxy Fold of Samsung, have launched a cloud about the concept. Lenovo says it is working to make sure there are no similar problems in the folding ThinkPad. The company is doubling the amount of tests it performs on the hinge to make sure things work, and it still has a long time before the launch window scheduled for 2020 to fix any errors.

At this stage, there is not much more to say about Lenovo's ThinkPad Folding. There is no price, no release date, and only hardware to review. Still, it's an ambitious idea, and it's encouraging to see that Lenovo is looking for folding technology so quickly for devices larger than phones. Someone guesses if that really works in practice when the hardware ends next year.

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