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It’s second e-Ink screen on the lid that won us over

The ThinkBook Plus is a traditional laptop with an e-ink display on its lid. Here is our review of Lenovo’s fascinating Windows 10 laptop.

The ThinkBook Plus ushers in a new category of dual-screen notebooks. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

In recent years, laptop designs have become too predictable and boring. Yes, they have faster processors, edge-to-edge displays, and perhaps improved keyboards, but at the end of the day, they all look the same. Lenovo’s new ThinkBook Plus is different though and that too in a weird kind of way. That’s because of its secondary 10.8-inch e-Ink display, on the lid. You can take notes on the e-Ink display using an active pen or read e-books on the secondary display. It’s a fascinating machine with a radically new design and the sticker price reflects that: Rs 1,12,690 and up. I used the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus for a week to see how the notebook blends in my daily workflow. Here’s the verdict.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus review: What’s new?

Lenovo isn’t new to laptops with e-Ink displays. Two years back, it launched the Yoga Book C930, a $1000 2-in-1 notebook that ditched a physical keyboard in favor of an e-Ink display with haptic feedback. But that notebook was aimed at a niche audience since it lacked a real physical keyboard. However, the new ThinkBook Plus is a business notebook and the e-Ink display is now mounted on the top of the lid. Maybe it’s not as bold as using an e-Ink display as a virtual keyboard – but at least, this approach is more practical.

The exterior e-Ink screen shows time, date, and weather update. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) The exterior e-Ink screen shows time, date, and weather update. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The top-mounted monochromatic display uses the same display tech used in modern ebook readers from Amazon. Just like the Amazon Kindle, the display is touch-enabled, plus you can also use Lenovo’s Precision Pen for taking quick notes or drawing a sketch.

The advantage of a secondary e-Ink is clearly visible. When the laptop is closed, the black and white screen shows the time, date, battery indicator and weather, while also fetching upcoming appointments from your Outlook calendar. It can also show your mail synced with Microsoft Outlook. But that’s not all. Lenovo also lets you personalise the e-Ink display by changing the wallpaper. Unfortunately, there is no way I could set up my Gmail and Google Calendar and get notifications on the e-Ink display itself.

The 10.8-inch e-ink touchscreen can be used to take notes with a stylus, or read eBooks. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/ The 10.8-inch e-ink touchscreen can be used to take notes with a stylus, or read eBooks. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/ Indian Express

The e-Ink display can also be used to take quick notes and draw sketches using the active pen. It is not the same level of precision as on the iPad using the Apple Pencil or the S-Pen on a Samsung Tablet, but I really enjoyed writing and sketching on the e-Ink display. The Precision Pen attaches to the side of the laptop magnetically, but it falls off easily. It doesn’t charge wirelessly or via a cable; instead, it uses an AAAA battery which is easily available in the market. Keep in mind that the laptop’s main 13.3-inch display is not touch-enabled, so the stylus is only compatible with the e-Ink screen.

What’s missing, though, from the ThinkBook Plus’ top-mounted e-Ink display is that it refreshes too slowly. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) What’s missing, though, from the ThinkBook Plus’ top-mounted e-Ink display is that it refreshes too slowly. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Another cool feature of the e-Ink screen is that you can use it to read ebooks or PDF files, similar to how the Kindle reader works. While I could read PDFs in both portrait and landscape orientation, the Kindle app support was missing. But then it’s a big deal that the ThinkBook Plus, even though a traditional notebook, can be used to read eBooks in a car or in the flight. I know the ThinkBook Plus can’t replace the Amazon Kindle, thanks to its size and weight – but this is the only notebook that mimics a reading experience as the Kindle offers. What’s missing, though, from the ThinkBook Plus’ top-mounted e-Ink display is that it refreshes too slowly. Plus, I have also noticed that the e-Ink display lacks a backlight.

The ThinkBook Plus is a traditional-looking notebook made of aluminum with a full-size keyboard. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) The ThinkBook Plus is a traditional-looking notebook made of aluminum with a full-size keyboard. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

I, personally, can live with these trade-offs. But I am a bit worried about how to protect the external e-Ink display from scratches or dents in the long run. Even though the secondary screen is covered by Gorilla Glass, it is also exposed and more susceptible to damage. So you need to be careful when using the ThinkBook Plus when…

Anuj Bhatia

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