Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2
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“The Lenovo ThinkPad Plus Gen 2 is fast enough for productivity users and has ample battery life, but its e-ink display stands out as a unique and useful feature.”
Innovative E-ink Panel
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Excellent IPS main performance
very nice keyboard and touchpad
good build quality
thin and light
performance is lacking
If you’re an avid reader, I am too, e-ink is magic. You probably appreciate how e-ink makes reading more enjoyable while also causing less eye fatigue and taking a slight toll on battery life.
But are there any applications beyond basic e-readers? Lenovo has been at the forefront of experimenting with e-ink, and its latest creation called the ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 embeds a 12-inch e-ink display on the lid of a laptop. The laptop is an improved version of the thin. and the Lite ThinkBook 13x, a tool aimed at small businesses.
I reviewed a high-end configuration of ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 With the Core i7-1160G7 and 13.3-inch 16:10 WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) display that sells for a premium price of $1,696. Like the ThinkBook 13x, it’s a bit much for a basic business laptop. The e-ink screen, however, may be worth the premium for anyone who wants to read e-books, write notes on a more comfortable display, or take a lot of notes without a battery.
We’ll start with the e-ink display because, of course, that’s what sets this laptop apart. It’s a 12-inch panel compared to the 10.8-inch version in the previous generation – it takes up more of the available lid space, with larger bezels that looked normal on a standard display a few years ago. The e-ink screen is 16:10, like the main display, and it’s sharp at the same WQXGA resolution.
It’s also not backlit, and so like all such e-ink screens, you can only use it with direct lighting. There’ll be more on that in a while, but it’s generally a good thing. It’s designed to protect your eyes from the blue light that standard displays emit and make it theoretically less tiring for long reading sessions.
To comfortably use the e-ink display, I needed a lot of ambient lighting.
The e-ink display works just like you’ll find on the Amazon Kindle and other dedicated e-book readers. Its image is created from tiny black and white particles that are electronically aligned in the right direction to form a grayscale image. As such, the display is held steady until refreshed, which takes a noticeable amount of time and causes the typical combat effect you get with technology. This makes the display suitable for things like viewing documents and other information, reading e-books and taking notes. It doesn’t work well for watching videos or anything else that requires a fast refresh rate.
When the laptop is asleep or turned off, the still image offers some personalization—you can choose your own background image, which becomes the beauty of the lid. When it’s on, you’re presented with a set of panels by default that provide customizable information, such as your Outlook calendar (if configured), the weather, a sticky notebook, and supported applications. Customizable button to open.
I was able to connect and run any application installed on the laptop, including the full suite of Office apps, Google Chrome, and Kindle Reader for PC, although not every application would work well with e-ink technology . Sure, gaming is out of the question, and you’ll want to avoid apps that require immediate feedback for input.
If I had to buy a laptop, I’d upgrade to Windows 11, join the Windows Insider Program, and install the Android version of the Kindle app. That would give me a great e-book reader that’s as good as a Kindle, minus the lighting.
And for me, there’s the rub. To comfortably use the e-ink display, I needed a lot of ambient lighting. My home office, which is usually illuminated with some indirect sunlight, didn’t have enough light by default. I needed to actively turn on a lamp just above the ThinkBook Plus Gen 2’s e-ink display to get a clear view of the image. It’s the same with my Kindle Paperwhite, with its lighting turned off and not knocking against the e-ink display. It’s just that the technology requires good lighting conditions, and that limits its usefulness.
On the other hand, if you want something to be carried to the beach (within a plastic bag or something to protect against sand), the display looks great…