Foldable-screen PCs are one of the biggest trends of CES 2020, but only one of the models on display could actually make a passable substitute for a desktop when it’s unfolded. That’s Intel’s “Horseshoe Bend” prototype, which can open up to a seamless 17.3-inch display that resembles a small all-in-one PC or a mobile monitor.
The Horseshoe Bend idea is very similar to Dell’s Concept Ori prototype and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, which is scheduled to go on sale this year. All three designs have displays that bend in the middle, and all of them can be propped up on a table with an external keyboard to function as a makeshift desktop when they’re not connected.
But thanks to its larger size, Horseshoe Bend’s key feature is its ideal blend of portability and desktop usefulness. Less than a decade ago, 17-inch desktop monitors were considered large, and now we’ve got the potential for a 17-inch monitor with an entire PC behind it that can fold down into the footprint of a 12-inch tablet.
To facilitate this propping up, the Horseshoe Bend prototype has an integrated kickstand that extends out from the back. The kickstand runs the full width of the device, making it appear more like the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 than the ThinkPad X1 Fold, whose triangle kickstand is a small part of the protective leather cover.
Horseshoe Bend uses an OLED display that’s similar to the smaller foldable screens on the X1 Fold, the Concept Ori, and even the Samsung Galaxy Fold phone. During a brief demo at CES, we noticed a bit of discoloration on the display near where it folds, but that discoloration disappeared once the screen was laid flat. (Intel wouldn’t let us bend the Bend ourselves.)
Of course, the wow factor of a foldable display is best experienced when it’s, well, folded. You could use a part-folded Horseshoe Bend in several orientations, including opening it like a book and displaying two separate apps side by side, or using it like a conventional laptop with the lower half displaying a virtual onscreen touchpad and keyboard, and the top half displaying the main screen content.
For all of this to work smoothly, however, software innovation is required. Microsoft is working on a version of Windows 10 called Windows 10X that will enable foldable-screen PCs to recognize and adapt to the folding screen and its orientation, but it’s still under development. Lenovo has created its own stopgap measure in the meantime, which does enable these sorts of orientations. As for Horseshoe Bend, Intel showed it off in full-screen mode during the demo, with a single app window taking up the entire folded display, as well as in a keyboard-overlaid-on-the-screen mode.
The other orientation, though, is fully flat with a physical keyboard, like so…
Taking ‘Tiger Lake’
Here you can see the Bend prototype un-bent and set up in a sort-of all-in-one-PC mode, augmented by the same physical keyboard that you could overlay on the lower half of the screen when it is bent.
Beyond the software-mode capability, also under development is an Intel processor code-named “Tiger Lake,” which powers the Horseshoe Bend protoype and will likely power similar products if they make it to market. Intel formally announced Tiger Lake at a press conference earlier at CES 2020, but it offered few details about its features or capabilities.
For now, Horseshoe Bend is a promising example that foldable-screen PCs don’t just have to be tablet-like devices with extreme portability. Sizing up the screen a bit could get you a truly versatile device that could replace your laptop, your tablet, and your desktop.
First Look: Intel’s ‘Horseshoe Bend’ is An Even Bigger Foldable Tablet
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