If you’ve been following the latest developments in the world of tech, one fact is undeniable: foldable phones are the word of the day. In fact, foldable technology is widely touted as the next big thing in smart hardware. And while that may not be as certain of a trend as many experts claim, the industry is definitely not slowing down when it comes to this fad. Lenovo’s latest hardware reveal is a prime example — a foldable ThinkPad. This PC utilizes tech developed for foldable smartphones, but obviously on a grander scale.
And don’t think that this is just a concept presentation either. This is a project that has been more than three years in the making over at Lenovo, and they’re planning to present the finished product sometime in 2020. The device will be a part of the ThinkPad X1 lineup. And while this might seem like a glorified tablet, Lenovo states that it will boast laptop-class hardware. They want their users to have the foldable Thinkpad as a primary device, rather than as a secondary notebook.
But the ‘wow’ factor aside, what are the practical advantages of a folding PC? To put it in one word: portability. What they’re trying to do is go in the opposite direction from the goals of the foldable smartphone industry. While Samsung is busy trying to make a regular smartphone bigger, the folding Thinkpad is there to make a full-fledged PC that’s more compact than a laptop.
Based on the first impressions from tech journalists, they’re well on their way to achieving that. The prototype they’ve presented has a 13.3-inch OLED display, with 2K capabilities. And it folds up to the dimensions of a book. While Lenovo hasn’t revealed the exact weight, they claim it’ll be lower than two pounds. And that’s also around the weight of a larger hardcover book. So, if this device can pack the punch of a full-blown PC, the appeal is imminently clear. Plus, when you actually fold the device, it becomes the most portable PC ever, by any metric.
As one would expect, it’s got a touchscreen, with a digital keyboard. Reviewers report that Windows functions well enough with their touchscreen, but the prototype doesn’t have any model-specific software yet. And seeing what different software developers can do with a foldable PC screen will also be a large draw to customers.
While it’s not really something you can easily fit into the pocket of your jacket, for a PC — it’s still incredibly compact. On top of that, when it’s half-folded, you can use it as a futuristic digital book. It seems that e-reader software manufacturers will have a field day with this hardware.
Unfortunately, further details are scarce at this point. Seeing as this isn’t the finished product, journalists report that there are still some kinks to work out. Namely, the folding mechanism isn’t completely satisfactory yet, and the viewing angles of the screen are still problematic. However, it stands to reason that Lenovo will deal with all of this before they market the PC next year.
Lenovo is looking to draw users in with more than increased portability. They’ve envisioned quite a few ways you can use the device. For example, you can unfold it completely and simply use it as a big tablet, or in a book-ish form, as we’ve mentioned above. Plus, it’s got a kickstand built in, so you can partially fold it and use it as a screen with an external keyboard.
As we’ve mentioned, further hardware details are yet to be revealed. Lenovo has chosen not to disclose any specs beyond two very basic pieces of information: the device will run on an Intel CPU, and it’ll have Windows. Things like battery life are still a mystery, though some Lenovo officials have mentioned that their goal is 24h of usage.
The prototype they’ve presented to journalists did not come with a headphone jack, though whether that’s the final solution is still not clear. It’ll also have a USB-C charger, and perhaps cellular support. The final product will come with a Wacom pen, it seems.
While all of this is well and good, there’s still one issue looming over Lenovo’s plans for a revolutionary product; the matter of foldable technology in general. Even though all hardware manufacturers are rushing to market a product which follows this fad, the tech is still largely unproven. And even the products touted as mainstream have very basic issues, as proven by the recent Galaxy Fold issues that Samsung is working hard to fix.
Though, Lenovo has repeatedly claimed that they’re doing everything possible to make sure their foldable ThinkPad has no similar problems once it hits stores in 2020. Whether this is enough time to iron out all the wrinkles remains to be seen.