Despite obvious reasons why it wouldn’t be commercially viable, I’ve always wanted an E Ink laptop. What could be better than a reading and writing device with endless battery life that would be comfortable to use in the park on a sunny day? Well, Lenovo’s new ThinkBook Plus isn’t quite that, but it might be the closest thing yet.
The catch is that the 10.8-inch E Ink display is on the outside of the laptop and is mostly designed to be used when the computer is closed. Lenovo envisages people using it when carrying their laptops between meetings, for example; the display shows things like calendar events and weather information that might be more convenient to check than the phone in your pocket. When the laptop is opened, this potentially sensitive data is hidden away so that people facing you can’t see it.
For more active use when you actually get to your meeting, the E Ink display and included stylus can be used to take notes that sync to Microsoft OneNote. E Ink is known for its slow refresh rate, but I was surprised at how responsive note-taking felt on the ThinkBook Plus. Lenovo points out that small portions of the screen are capable of refreshing much faster than the entire image at once. It’s not Wacom-level, exactly, but I can see how it might be better than typing out notes in certain situations where full-on laptop use wouldn’t be appropriate.
And yes, you can use the E Ink screen as an e-reader, thanks to built-in integration with the Windows Kindle app. The form factor isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s still going to be a better option than reading an ebook on a laptop.
As a laptop itself, the ThinkBook Plus seems pretty solid, though we don’t have a full spec sheet just yet. It has a 13.3-inch 1080p IPS display with thin bezels (other than an unfortunately large one on the bottom) and Dolby Vision support. There’s a fingerprint reader built into the power button. The aluminum build is sturdy, and the keyboard is as usable as you’d expect from Lenovo.
The ThinkBook Plus will be available in March 2020, and the line will start at $1,199. That’s more than you’d pay for previous computers in Lenovo’s new ThinkBook line — but hey, it’s hard to put a price on a lid with a giant E Ink screen.