First, Lenovo made a dual-screen laptop that had a normal LCD on top, and an e-ink touchscreen where its keyboard would normally be. It was a bit awkward, but also very cool. Now, at CES 2020, Lenovo has announced a new ThinkBook with a regular screen up top and an e-ink screen on its lid.
At this point, I’m convinced there’s one mad engineer at Lenovo whose only goal in life is to figure out new ways to cram e-ink screens in next-gen gadgets and will keep doing so until they get canned. But for their sake, I hope that doesn’t happen because the new ThinkBook Plus is kind of amazing.
Starting at $1,200 ( £912, UK pricing TBA), the ThinkBook Plus looks like any other normal laptop when it’s open, complete with a 13.3-inch LCD display, three assorted USB ports (both Type-A and Type-C), HDMI, a keyboard, and a touchpad.
Look, it’s just a normal laptop. (But not really.)
Its specs are solid too, with the ThinkBook Plus featuring a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB or 16GB of RAM, and up to a 512GB of SSD storage. There’s even a combo power button/fingerprint reader located on the ride side of the machine, so you can turn on the laptop and sign in to Windows with a single touch.
But when you close the ThinkBook Plus’ lid, that’s when things get spicy. I guess in some ways, the ThinkBook Plus is the closest thing to a gadget with a mullet: business up front, party in the back – where you’ll find a 10.8-inch monochrome e-display.
By default, the ThinkBook Plus’ e-ink screen can be set to display a range of static images, allowing you to customise your notebook way better than simply slapping a stupid sticker on there. The e-ink screen also syncs with the Calendar and Email apps in Windows 10, providing you with a quick and easy way to keep tabs on your schedule or incoming messages.
You can see a column of calendar appointments on the very left, a row in emails in the middle, and additional icons for Alexa, the Kindle app, OneNote, and more along the bottom.
The combo fingerprint reader is next to the ThinkBook Plus’ two USB-A ports.
Additionally, building off lessons Lenovo learned when making the Yoga Book C930, the ThinkBook Plus’ e-ink screen supports a variety of functions including sketching and note-taking in OneNote, a PDF reader with a built-in annotation feature, and even a button so you can summon Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant.
But the power of the ThinkBook Plus’ e-ink screen doesn’t stop there, because it will even allow you to make and control calls in Skype without ever needing to open the laptop. Furthermore, it seems Lenovo was listening to a feature I personally wanted to see on the Yoga Book C930 by including support for the Windows 10 Kindle app, which means you can access and read all your favourite Kindle books on the ThinkBook Plus’ monochrome exterior screen.
Hell yes they did.
Right now, it’s not clear how much of an impact the ThinkBook Plus’ e-ink screen will have on battery life, but considering how dedicated e-ink e-readers have battery lives that are typically measured in weeks or even months, it’s probably not a huge concern. Currently, Lenovo claims the ThinkBook Plus will last about 10 hours on a single charge, while also having RapidCharge when you need a quick refill.
Now I admit that having an e-ink display on the back of every laptop might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But after getting a chance to try it out on the ThinkBook Plus, I wish it would at least be a much more widely available option. After all, isn’t everyone trying to figure out better ways to multitask? And compared to much more ambitious stuff like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold with its flexible OLED display, e-ink sort of feels like a calmer, more friendly solution to productivity.
The ThinkBook Plus is slated to go on sale sometime later this year in March.
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