Don't bother buying a foldable PC without Windows 10X

Lenovo Foldable
Lenovo Foldable (Image credit: MrMobile)

Last week, Lenovo announced that its ThinkPad X1 Foldable PC would be launching this summer for $2500. It also announced that initially, it will only be available with Windows 10 Pro, with a Windows 10X variant coming later in the year when Microsoft is ready to start shipping Windows 10X. This means that for a significant amount of time, Lenovo's foldable PC will only be available with an OS that isn't designed for the foldable form factor.

So far, Lenovo is the only manufacturer to announce that it will be selling a foldable PC with Windows 10 Pro, but I wouldn't be surprised if other OEMs end up doing the same. Either way, I'm here to tell you that you probably shouldn't buy any foldable PC that ships without Windows 10X. There are a few critical reasons for this, the most important of which is that Windows 10X is actually designed for foldables, unlike Windows 10 Pro.

This is significant, as the software experience is just as important as the hardware experience on foldable PCs. The OS is what will make or break the foldable experience, and Windows 10 Pro is not up to scratch in this department. Windows 10 Pro isn't designed for foldables, meaning it doesn't natively support any of the different postures or setups a user would want to use with a foldable PC.

Windows 10X is key for foldable PCs

Windows 10X

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Windows 10X features a new shell UI that adapts on the fly, which is essential to having a pleasant experience on foldable devices. It's also built on Windows Core OS, a modular version of Windows that's much more lightweight, meaning it's better on battery life and performance. Windows 10X is also "more secure" thanks to sandboxing capabilities, has a less intrusive Windows Updating system and is far more modern than the legacy version of Windows 10 we have today.

For those who do buy Lenovo's foldable PC with Windows 10 Pro, Lenovo will be bundling its own custom software to help alleviate the lack of official support from Windows 10 Pro itself. This will help, but it will not be a streamlined experience, unlike the Windows 10X variant. The only people buying the Windows 10 Pro variant should be enterprise customers who need features specific to Windows 10 Pro, but at that point, you might as well just buy a normal PC. Everybody should wait for the Windows 10X variant.

If you are considering a foldable PC with Windows 10 Pro, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to switch to Windows 10X when it's made available. As I understand it, Windows 10X isn't an OS you can just install on whatever device you want. It uses a similar setup to Windows Phone, with FFU files for flashing the OS image onto devices. Lenovo hasn't said if it will allow those who buy the Windows 10 Pro version to flash Windows 10X onto their devices at a later date.

Either way, I recommend everybody waits for Windows 10X to launch before you consider buying a foldable PC of any caliber. Windows 10X is, in my opinion, essential to these foldable PCs, and will be what makes or breaks this form factor. Buying a foldable PC with Windows 10 Pro will be putting your user experience at an incredible disadvantage that could sour your views on foldable PCs as a whole. I'd reserve judgment until you've tried one with Windows 10X.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • The fact that tablet mode still sux kinda puts me off Windows 10 X
  • Windows 10 X is a different UI and experience than current Windows 10. Whether or not it will ship, without any major bugs, is a different story. Hopefully, MS will have the OS thuroughly ironed out upon releases. I expect to see a minor bug or two. But, the overall user experience will hopefully not suffer and make people have confidence in MS, when it comes to mobile computing and touch interface.
  • So, to understand your opinion / statement what is your working experience with Windows 10X? oh wait it is not there yet.....
  • W10 not only isn't suitable for folding PCs, it barely suits for tablet / touch use... And W10X going to be a mess for at least 1 year after release, lets face it. Evidence? Look at every major update fumble every year so far for W10. Look at the state of W10m when it was first released. There is a pattern.
  • What are the prospects of Windows 10X when Microsoft is rumored to start shutting the app store down, starting with the business and Enterprise apps stores this summer. If we are stuck with legacy apps anyways, why not full Windows 10?
  • "Microsoft is rumored to start shutting the app store", not true, the business one yeah but not the standard one (sounds logical if they merge the 2). And there is PWA apps already through Edge/chromium.
  • We will see. It won't be surprising if they just start with the business side and then move to start shutting it all down. Usage has to be extremely low.
  • The way MS keeps axing shells get's me worried that they're having difficulty pulling this off.
  • Windows 10 is a piece of arse for tablets as well, but that doesn't stop people buying tablet PC's. In fact, I'm pretty sure this very site touts a tablet PC as the best choice for mobile computing.
  • I don't think it is that bad actually once you look past the lack of animations and use some custom gestures etc. The OSK, clipboard etc have been improved and the pen works well in most applications build for it.
  • I don't buy a windows PC for it's tablet capability, I buy it because it's light/small and with an added keyboard and mouse, powerful enough for the serious computing I need. If I was to use an iPad I'd still want a keyboard and mouse, because there's no comparison between a on-screen keyboard and real physical keyboard. For the sake of a $30 keyboard (or $100 type cover), you get back a heck of a lot of screen and there's no difference between whether it's folding, twin screen or standard single screen there's a big penalty with the onscreen keyboards. If I go for a folding screen it will because the format and resolution means I now have a really portable dual screen setup, I'll still want all my legacy apps to work correctly, so Windows 10 is the way to go, I certainly wouldn't wait for 10X.
  • I'm one that won't trash W10 for tablet-a-bility. When I moved from the first gen iPad to the surface pro in 2016, I admit I found W10 pretty bad in usability when using touch only (touch typing wasn't as fluid or fast). But after all the Windows updates and after recently getting a current gen iPad mini with ipadOS, I will say the iPad just wasn't as good as I remembered, the surface pro is actually very comparable, with its functionality more than making up for its minor drawbacks. The filesystem on ipadOS for example is just plain dumb (making a Onedrive pdf file offline doesn't appear in the iPads native filesystem until you open the pdf with another app, in this case, Adobe reader). If the iPad is the benchmark then the Surface Pro really isn't that far behind other than with mobile apps which is of no major importance to me.
  • Agreed, certain things like the onscreen keyboard have been improved. Actually it is just tablet mode itself that is not updated (noticeably) but other things have.
  • I run my Surface Go exclusively in Tablet mode and I think it is fine. The tiles could be improved but they still give me way more glanceable information than iPadOS's icons, even with the new notification panel. Mostly the Tablet mode is a way to get to applications, and defaults to open them full screen, which is how I use my Go, and comparable to how I use an iPad. I like Microsoft's treatment of split screen better than Apple's, but that may just be familiarity. I don't find the typing/swipping functionality much better or worse going back and forth from MSs on screen keyboard to Apple's. They are different, but neither is great if you are trying to be productive. No onscreen keyboard is. From this point of view, Win 10 would work fine on a foldable PC, but it wouldn't be optimal. I notice that the Neo even comes with/supports a real keyboard.
  • Or, don't bother buying a foldable PC at all.