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The ThinkPad X1 Fold made me a believer in the foldable PC

This story is part of our continuing coverage of CES 2020, including tech and gadgets from the showroom floor.

We have every right to be skeptical of experimental new laptop designs. Despite all the attempts to evolve laptops beyond their familiar form, none have stuck.

And yet, I’ve always wanted a device that felt as good to type and work on as it did to swipe and play on. The true 2-in-1 that Windows tablets or the iPad Pro never were.

There have been plenty of attempts at actualizing a dual-screen PC. Whether it’s conceptual prototypes or failed products like the Lenovo Yoga Book, none have taken the idea seriously enough to work out all the kinks.

But then, here at CES 2020, I beheld the ThinkPad X1 Fold for the first time. After just a few minutes of using it, I knew it was something special.

It’s all about execution

At its simplest, it’s a portable PC with a foldable 13-inch screen and magnetic keyboard. It’s a device Lenovo has been working on for years, and it shows in the execution. Seemingly everything has been considered, whether it’s the way the device feels in your hand when closed or the small touches to ensure that it’s a product that can actually fit into your life.

Take, for example, the chassis itself. When closed, the keyboard is sandwiched perfectly between the two sides of the folded screen. The entire package is held together with magnets and feels secure enough to throw into a bag.

The outside is covered in a type of leather folio material that actually moves as you fold and unfold the screen to avoid having a bunched-up spine along the back of the screen. That small design choice also leaves just enough space for the stylus to hang on its loop. It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes the X1 Fold stand out.

Then there’s the keyboard itself. It’s the smartest implementation of a removable keyboard I’ve seen yet. When folded as a laptop, the keyboard fills the entirety of the bottom half. Importantly, this leaves room for a small touchpad at the bottom, something options like the Surface Neo leave out. The wireless keyboard even charges when locked in place.

This also allows parts of the keyboard you use most — the actual letter keys — to be the same standardized size as the iconic keyboard of ThinkPad laptops. That’s essential if the X1 Fold is meant to get real work done on it. This is a ThinkPad, after all.

For work, play, and everything in between

You can, of course, use the device as a tablet, whether unfolded completely as one large 13-inch screen or slightly bent like a book for reading e-books. Bus rides and long trips on a plane? Done.

You can also just as easily set it up on a table. Just prop the screen up with the built-in folio kickstand and pull out the keyboard. Getting work done at a desk? Done.

Between all those modes and use cases, the X1 Fold is a device that I could imagine slipping into my life in all sorts of different ways. I can’t say that about most of the experimental products that I saw at CES.

Even if this specific device isn’t the one to make foldable PCs go mainstream, the design has kicked things off to a great start.

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