Lenovo’s awesome ‘foldable PC’ doesn’t make much sense

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Lenovo foldable ThinkPad
The next-generation ThinkPad launches next year.
Photo: Lenovo

While smartphone makers are scrambling to be the first to market with a foldable phone, Lenovo has been quietly working on a foldable PC. It won’t go on sale until 2020, but an early prototype shown off this week looks incredibly exciting.

But is a foldable PC really necessary?

Some might argue we already have foldable PCs. But unlike a traditional laptop, Lenovo’s doesn’t have a built-in keyboard and trackpad — it’s just a 13-inch screen that folds in half.

Lenovo insists its next-generation ThinkPad isn’t just a tablet. It’s a premium PC with proper Intel processors that delivers the kind of performance you would expect from a pricey laptop.

It runs real Windows

The foldable ThinkPad runs real Windows 10. That means all the desktop apps you already run on your PC will be compatible. Lenovo hasn’t revealed how much RAM or storage it will offer yet, but as this is a premium PC, it should be enough.

A Wacom stylus and external keyboard will be shipped with the display. A USB-C port will be used for charging and connectivity, and final models will have infrared cameras for facial recognition.

As this is an early prototype, the hardware needs work. The unit tested by The Verge “didn’t feel particularly sturdy,” and the screen had surprisingly poor viewing angles. But all that is expected to change before the device starts shipping next year.

Why a foldable PC?

The goal of the foldable phone is to make pocketable devices bigger than ever before. The goal of Lenovo’s foldable PC is the opposite: To make a laptop that’s smaller and more portable than anything on the market today. But is that really necessary?

The foldable ThinkPad isn’t small enough to slip into a pocket, so you’ll still need to carry a bag. What’s more, you will also need to pack a separate keyboard if you don’t want to type on glass. It might have some benefits, then, but there are downsides, too.

And when you consider that the foldable ThinkPad will almost certainly be incredibly pricey — just like any foldable device this early on — it makes you wonder who would choose this over a traditional notebook.

Who cares it’s not necessary?

Despite everything I just said, I’m still excited for the foldable ThinkPad. It’s great to see PC manufacturers experimenting with new ideas. We certainly don’t get enough of that with the Mac.

The new ThinkPad looks awesome, and although I don’t think there’s much of a point to it right now, I still want one.