Lenovo ThinkBook Plus review: Second E-Ink screen adds an extra dimension Review

Lenovo’s very first ThinkBook, launched very last year, was a solidly designed notebook in both equally 13-inch and 14-inch variety factors it wasn’t extremely highly-priced, and was billed as a unit that could bridge the operate/play divide — it had the strapline ‘Built for Enterprise, Created for Technology Next’. 

This new 13.3-inch ThinkBook Plus retains some of the layout smarts of the earlier model, and adds an completely new characteristic — a 10.8-inch E-Ink screen designed into the lid. This can provide info, act as an book reader, and also has interactive aspects: you can take notes and annotate PDFs on it, for instance. You can find only just one version of the ThinkBook Plus out there in the Uk, a Main i5 model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, which fees £1,019.99 (inc. VAT £849.99 mex. VAT). Two variants are out there in the US: Main i5/8GB/256GB for $one,299 and Main i7/16GB/512GB for $one,529.

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The ThinkBook Plus runs on tenth-generation Main i5 or i7 processors. As effectively as the key 13.3-inch FHD IPS screen, it has a 2nd 10.8-inch E-Ink touchscreen on the outside the house of the lid.


Photographs: Lenovo

So, how helpful is the E-Ink panel, and how effectively does the ThinkBook Plus carry out in typical?

When you think of E-Ink you probably visualise book viewers from Amazon, Kobo and many others. But E-Ink has featured in other equipment far too. It acted as a 2nd monitor for the YotaPhone smartphone, for instance, and Lenovo utilized it to supply its 2016 Yoga E book with possibly a touch-delicate keyboard or a drawing pad in the space ordinarily occupied by a actual physical keyboard. This time, a 10.8-inch E-Ink screen occupies the bulk of the lid of the ThinkBook Plus. 

The fantastic edge of E-Ink is its small energy use. Pixels are possibly on, or off, and whilst electricity is expected to alter their point out, at the time they are established, there is certainly no electricity draw. In addition, pixels continue being noticeable in their established point out so that regardless of what they are displaying can continue being consistent. Just like with book viewers, the screen is touch-responsive, and you can also interact with it employing the offered Precision Pen stylus. 

E-Ink has some critical variances in contrast to a normal notebook monitor. It is greyscale somewhat than colour and it truly is sluggish to refresh, which limitations the use instances. It is also worthy of noting that the E-Ink panel in the ThinkBook Plus lacks a backlight.

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This implies Lenovo can only offer you a modest established of functions for the E-ink screen. There are just two apps out there from the tappable icon bar in the bottom appropriate corner: Observe and Reader, both equally of which can operate in portrait and landscape orientation.

Observe is a crafting and drawing tool. Creations made employing the Precision Pen can be saved specifically on to the desktop as photographs, text, formulae or diagrams. The E-Ink screen also synchronises with Microsoft OneNote, so your scribblings are out there in editable structure on the notebook good.

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Major: The Reader E-Ink application. Over: Configurations for the E-Ink monitor.


Photographs: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

Reader displays documents in PDF, EPUB, MOBI and TXT formats, and lets you to annotate PDFs. Even though versions of this notebook on exhibit at CES in January sported a Kindle shortcut on the E-Ink monitor, there was no Kindle aid on my review unit. Nor is there any info at Lenovo’s web site or in the E-Ink assist on the notebook itself about adding new apps.

There are a pair of further attributes out there via the E-Ink display’s set up space: you can opt to exhibit your Outlook Calendar, Outlook E-mail, the weather conditions and the day you can also find wallpaper such as employing your personal photographs. There is a small battery daily life icon in the leading appropriate corner of the wallpaper monitor. 

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The Precision Pen clings magnetically to the still left or appropriate aspect of the lid.


Graphic: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The E-Ink monitor needs safety, and Lenovo presents a sizeable sleeve for the ThinkBook Plus. Sadly neither this nor the ThinkBook Plus itself has a housing for the Precision Pen. As a substitute, the pen clings magnetically to the lid’s limited edges, but it truly is not held extremely firmly and isn’t a satisfactory resolution when the notebook is in transit.

To accommodate the E-Ink panel, the lid is somewhat thicker than usual which implies an overall thickness of seventeen.4mm thickness. The desktop footprint is minimum for a 13.3-inch notebook, at 308mm large by 217mm deep and the further panel does not add a fantastic offer to the pounds, which is one.4kg. The net consequence is a notebook that feels good but not overburdened by its 2nd monitor.
 
The key monitor is a 13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS panel with 300 nits brightness and 100% sRGB colour place protection. It isn’t touch responsive, which arguably is an omission, though this does keep both equally the price tag and the lid thickness down. Display screen bezels are a minimal broader than leading-flight Lenovo laptops tend to offer you, and the bottom bezel is noticeably deep. I uncovered it hard to have two operating programs open up aspect by aspect. If have to have be, the key monitor will open up to one hundred eighty levels and lie flat on a desk.

The speakers provide affordable top quality seem. Quantity goes really higher, and whilst the audio is a minimal limited on bass tones it need to be wonderful for video clip looking at, presentations and video clip phone calls.

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The total-size keyboard is backlit, with Skype for Enterprise incredibly hot-keys on the appropriate-hand aspect of the Fn essential row.


Graphic: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The keyboard is regular of Lenovo with its pot-bellied keys offering a lot more of a concentrate on than usual. The keys are massive and effectively-spaced, and I was really pleased touch-typing at my usual pace. The Fn keys are rather massive, with the appropriate-most pair remaining shortcut keys for Skype for Enterprise phone calls.

The touchpad feels a minimal cramped, but that’s barely unusual in a 13.3-inch notebook, and it was snug and responsive to use. It is simply disabled with a Fn essential. 

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The on/off swap is on the appropriate edge of the chassis and incorporates a fingerprint reader. This locale implies you can electricity up the notebook when the lid is down, enabling use of the E-Ink monitor. Windows Howdy authentication is also supported by using the 1MP webcam.

Our ThinkBook Plus review unit ran on a tenth generation Intel Main i5-10210U processor with integrated Intel UHD Graphics. Discrete graphics would be nice, though this would appear at a price tag. There is 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The ThinkBook Plus runs Windows 10 Professional.

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The electricity button on the appropriate-hand aspect (leading) has an integrated fingerprint reader. There are two USB 3. ports and, on the still left aspect (middle), total-size HDMI, USB-C (with DisplayPort and electricity shipping and delivery) and 3.5mm audio.


Graphic: Lenovo

Lenovo presents a total-size HDMI port as effectively as two USB 3. ports and a single USB-C port. The latter is out of motion when you are charging the notebook, and Lenovo need to have offered a 2nd USB-C port, preferably with Thunderbolt aid. There is also a 3.5mm headset jack. 

In accordance to Lenovo, the battery is great for up to 10 several hours. I place it via its usual paces, leaving video clip streaming for a a few-hour operate session whilst also operating in internet apps, viewing internet webpages and at times streaming music. The monitor was established instantly to its most (300 nits) brightness, and I would not want to operate with it a great deal decrease than that for prolonged intervals.

In the a few-hour period of time the battery dropped to 56%. I would not say I subjected the ThinkBook Plus to a especially demanding workload, and question that it would electricity my regular operating working day from a total charge. Still, there is certainly great information in the shape of Fast Charge aid, which will take the battery from zero to 80% in an hour.

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Graphic: Lenovo

Conclusions 

Lenovo’s plan of placing a 2nd monitor on the front of the ThinkBook Plus, turning what is actually usually lifeless place into an space for productive use, is laudable. The E-Ink screen’s operation is minimal, although, and it depends intensely on a stylus which you will have to have to have separately from the notebook and be careful not to eliminate. 

I would like to see Lenovo check out this plan further more, such as integrating connectivity with a lot more than just Microsoft merchandise, and adding the Kindle aid that was on exhibit at CES in January. I would like to check out book studying on this monitor in contrast to a dedicated reader or a smartphone. 

Elsewhere, the ThinkBook Plus is a effectively-made, properly intended notebook with an ergonomic keyboard and a serviceable key monitor. It could do with a 2nd USB-C port and superior battery daily life, but it truly is certainly an intriguing development for the traditional clamshell notebook.

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