Gadgets for humans

Lenovo put an e-ink display on the lid of its ThinkBook Plus laptop, and it’s kinda genius

A productivity nerd's wet dream

Lenovo has a bunch of interesting laptops at this year’s CES trade show, including one with 5G support, a Chromebook with a detachable keyboard, and a $2,500 foldable ThinkPad. The one that’s caught my attention is a simpler dual-display affair — the ThinkBook Plus — which has an e-ink screen screen on the lid.

The second 10.8-inch display (which is similar to the monochrome screen on an ebook reader) shows you calendar and email notifications from Microsoft Outlook, displays ebooks via Amazon’s Kindle app, and best of all, lets you take notes using an included stylus — all without ever having to open the laptop.

Sadly, I’m not at CES this year to try it out in person. But Engadget’s Chris Velazco demonstrated how responsive and accurate the screen is when used with the stylus in his hands-on, which you watch below (I’ve cued it to start at 1:50):

That’s a huge draw for me, because I’m all about taking notes by hand. I generally use pen and paper while brainstorming or when participating in meetings, but I’ve recently picked up an iPad Air along with an Apple Pencil. Combined with the Nebo app, which quickly converts your handwriting into digital text, it’s a great tool for jotting down ideas. Too bad the iPad isn’t quite as good as a laptop for work. But the ThinkBook Plus seems like the best of both worlds.

I love the idea of being able to scribble on the laptop without having to open it – and have my work saved automatically into Microsoft’s OneNote. The display also doesn’t show your notifications to passersby when you’re using the laptop, which is clever.

The ThinkBook Plus' second e-ink display can display notifications and ebooks, and lets you jot notes with a stylus
Credit: Lenovo
The ThinkBook Plus’ second e-ink display can display notifications and ebooks, and lets you jot notes with a stylus

As Velazco noted, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns yet. This is still a work in progress, and some of the software features for the e-ink display don’t work as well as they should (like the Kindle app, which isn’t a specially optimized version, but the full and kinda clunky Windows app). But I’d love to try this out and see if it fits into my workflow when it arrives this spring.

According to Tom’s Hardware, the ThinkBook Plus will come with an Intel 10th-gen processor (up to Core i7), up to 16GB RAM, and up to 512GB of SSD storage with Intel Optane memory. Lenovo said it’ll start at $1,200 at launch.

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Published January 7, 2020 — 07:11 UTC