Introducing the First Foldable Laptop: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold

By: Josh Newman, Vice President, Client Computing Group at Intel

As part of Intel’s vision for the future of laptops, we are co-engineering and investing in all new experiences to meet people’s real-world needs. One of these key investment areas is form factor innovation. This has led us to a bold, new concept: foldable laptops.

Foldable laptops are ideal for people who want to use their device to help them get things done, no matter where they are or what they’re doing – from diving into a work report, to sketching a design concept, to taking notes on a video-call. A foldable laptop can meet all of these needs and workflows, and then easily slip into a person’s bag or under their arm.

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to the first foldable on the market: the ThinkPad X1 Fold, co-engineered by Lenovo and Intel and powered by Intel® Core™ processors with Intel® Hybrid Technology, code-named “Lakefield.” The X1 Fold brings together the best of a laptop, a tablet, an e-reader, a phone, and a paper notebook into a single device that can serve many different functions for people’s busy lives.

We had to solve incredibly complex technical challenges to create the X1 Fold. It took many years of close collaboration between Lenovo and Intel to make this concept a reality. The result has captured the imagination of the tech world, opened new form factor possibilities, and is now headed onto the market as the first fully functional, dual-screen, foldable laptop.

Solving for Impossible

When Lenovo and Intel’s engineers met in 2016, they held deep technical discussions on the future of the laptop. They reviewed internal research that showed people consistently turn to their PC to focus, create, and engage throughout the day. As a result, our teams wanted to design a laptop that could meet all of those needs, but also bridge the gap for people who’ve traditionally been on-the-go and demand a device that keeps up with their various workflows.

Through the 4+ year development process, the Intel and Lenovo teams were open, transparent, and collaborative. It often felt like we were all one big company, sharing the same goals, challenging the same technical barriers, celebrating the same solutions.

- Yasumichi Tsukamoto, Development Director for ThinkPad X1 Fold, Lenovo

Together, through Intel’s innovation program, Project Athena, we began a years-long co-engineering process to challenge traditional design assumptions of what was once thought impossible to deliver on this vision:

  • A foldable laptop CAN be a productivity tool. Since the X1 Fold’s chassis is split in half, it requires a tiny processor. We used Intel® Core processors with Intel® Hybrid Technology: one of the industry’s first products with Intel’s Foveros 3D-stacking and a hybrid computing architecture. These “Lakefield” processors are the smallest to deliver Intel® Core performance and full Windows* compatibility for highly mobile and innovative form factors, like the X1 Fold. The Foveros 3D-stacking technology greatly reduces the package area to just 12x12x1 mm – approximately the size of a dime – enabling flexibility in form factor design. In addition, the hardware-guided scheduling process within Lakefield works synergistically with the Windows 10* hetero scheduler, to ensure that the right thread is scheduled on the right core, so people get the performance they need on the app they’re using, when they need it.
  • An OLED screen CAN fold in half, over and over. Early on, one of the key exploration opportunities our teams identified was foldable OLED technology. But a folding screen risks creasing or warping over time. That’s why the X1 Fold underwent extensive durability testing, opening and closing more than 30,000 times, to ensure the OLED screen is not just beautiful – it’s durable, too. The result: within the screen there are multiple layers that bend. This includes the screen itself, the supporting metal layer under each side, and a second layer that has a special laser-cut folding area within the middle. The entire screen is supported by two precision machine carbon fiber plates.
  • A laptop CAN be a book, a tablet, and a clamshell—all at once. From the outset, the engineering teams knew the hinge would make or break the X1 Fold. They worked through six different hinge designs and more than twenty different variations before settling on a unique mechanism that solves key mechanical and electrical engineering challenges. With this hinge, the X1 Fold has multiple modes: open like a book, spread flat like a tablet, standing upright like a laptop, or folded shut for carrying.

We knew that the ThinkPad X1 Fold would be held in people’s hands more frequently than traditional notebooks or even convertible PCs, so we designed the X1 Fold around a set of user experience guidelines developed for always on, always connected mobile devices.

- Yasumichi Tsukamoto, Development Director for ThinkPad X1 Fold, Lenovo

Why a Foldable Laptop Matters

As people shift between different tasks and different roles throughout the day, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is there to meet their needs. Now, they won’t have to juggle different devices for reading, taking notes, writing, drawing, and other activities. They’ll have it all in one extremely portable laptop.

It’s one example of how Intel’s Project Athena innovation program is delivering the future’s most advanced laptops and form factors. The X1 Fold enables a highly mobile, immersive, and adaptive laptop form factor built for today’s always connected workforce.

This is a proof point of what is possible today, and a glimpse into the innovation ahead. Together, Intel and Lenovo are experimenting, taking risks, and stretching our imagination to deliver a new kind of laptop experience.

The Project Athena Innovation Program