Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2
The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 offers something a little different than your standard small-business laptop experience. That’s thanks to a second, power-sipping E Ink display on the exterior of the case that complements the main screen. This is not an ebook reader; it’s more of a way to display useful information when the laptop is closed, including the time, date, weather, and even your upcoming calendar appointments. The concept is intriguing, but the implementation isn’t baked to the point where it feels like a must-have innovation; more a cool curiosity.
The second-generation ThinkBook Plus is a subtle improvement over the original, which was one of the more curious products to debut at CES 2020. And even before the first generation launched, Lenovo was no stranger to experimenting with E Ink laptops, trying out the concept first with the 2-in-1 convertible Yoga Book.
Unlike the diminutive, consumer-oriented Yoga Book C930, which is more of an e-reader-and-laptop hybrid, the ThinkBook Plus is a full-fledged clamshell-style business laptop that just happens to have a second E Ink screen on the back of the display lid. Weighing just 2.6 pounds and measuring 0.54 by 11.7 by 8.2 inches (HWD), the sleek machine slips easily in and out of your bag. It looks the part of a notebook that means business, too, with a rock-solid, dark-gray aluminum chassis.
But there’s one giant curiosity you can’t miss, especially when the laptop is closed: That’s the E Ink. This second screen measures 12 inches on the diagonal, nearly as large as the main 13.3-inch LCD panel on the inside and noticeably larger than the 10-inch E Ink panel on the first-generation ThinkBook Plus.
Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2
PROS Innovative secondary E Ink screen mounted on back of display lid. Gray chassis is thin, lightweight, and stylish. High-resolution main screen.
CONS Rather pricey. Inadequate port selection.
BOTTOM LINE Adding a 12-inch E Ink screen to the back of an above-average business laptop like the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 is a cool idea, if not a slam-dunk practical one.
What can you do with all this E Ink? That’s where the ThinkBook Plus experience is a bit mixed. The screen technology, which evokes an Etch A Sketch toy, is obviously suited to ebook readers, which use it to simulate the experience of turning a physical book’s pages. But readers are typically much smaller than 12 inches, so you really need to think outside the box if you’re interested in the ThinkBook Plus.
Lenovo’s built-in software offers a few suggestions. The most obvious is viewing the types of basic information mentioned above, via a widget system. You can add up to four different widgets to display by default on the E Ink home screen when it’s active: Calendar, Unread Email, Weather, and Sticky Notes. The idea is that if you bring your laptop with you to a meeting and leave it closed on your desk, you can still use the corner of your eye to keep tabs on your schedule and email without checking your phone or opening up your laptop.
Other uses available with the preloaded software include making the entire E Ink screen a sketchpad, for use with the included digital stylus that lives on the laptop’s right edge. You could even access the full Windows desktop experience right from the E Ink screen. I wouldn’t recommend doing so, however, as even simple tasks like loading a web page take ages to display on E Ink technology, which has extremely low refresh rates by design.
The final three suggestions that Lenovo preloads in the software are rather unimpressive: an e-reader (get a Kindle or other actual e-reader for that); a Wacom-style drawing tablet when you connect the ThinkBook Plus to an external display (get an actual Wacom tablet for that); or a monochrome canvas to brighten up the display lid with a background image of your choice (get a much prettier, colorful physical case if you just want to personalize your business laptop).
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