Lenovo ThinkBook e-Ink Display Gets Larger, Faster

Lenovo ThinkBook e-Ink
(Image credit: Lenovo)

E-ink screens are a wonder for eye strain, especially as so many of us have shifted during the past year to looking at screens more than ever. But while we’ve seen the occasional oddball monitor or touch-only convertible attempt to expand the role of e-ink displays beyond their traditional place in e-readers, you won’t usually find them on laptops. 

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Header Cell - Column 0 ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 iThinkBook 13x iThinkBook 14pThinkBook 16p
CPUUp to 11th Gen Intel Core i7Up to 11th Gen Intel Core i7Latest Gen AMD Ryzen mobile processorsLatest Gen AMD Ryzen mobile processors
GPUIntegrated UHD GraphicsIntegrated UHD GraphicsIntegrated AMD graphicsLatest gen Nvidia GeForce RTX Discrete Mobile Graphics
MemoryUp to 16GB LPDDR4xUp to 16GB LPDDR4xUp to 32GB DDR4Up to 32GB DDR4
StorageUp to 1TB M.2 SSDUp to 1TB M.2 SSDUp to 1TB M.2 SSDUp to 1TB M.2 SSD
Display(s)13.3 inch, 16:10, 2560 x 1600 IPS touchscreen13.3 inch, 16:10, 2560 x 1600 IPS touchscreenUp to 14 inch, 4:3, 2880 x 2160 OLED16 inch, 2:1, 2560 x 1280 IPS
Row 5 - Cell 0 AND   
Row 6 - Cell 0 12 inch, 16:10, 2560 x 1200 e-ink touchscreen   
Dimensions11.7 x 8.2 x 0.5 inches11.7 x 8.2 x 0.5 inches12.3 x 8.5 x 0.7 inches14 x 9.9 x 0.8 inches
Weight2.9 pounds2.7 pounds3.08 pounds4.4 pounds
Release DateQ1 2021Q1 2021Q1 2021Q1 2020
Starting Price$1,549 $1,189 $849 $1,299

Last CES, we saw Lenovo introduce the ThinkBook Plus, which at first glance seems like a standard ThinkBook until you close the lid and see the 10.8-inch secondary e-ink screen on its outside. The idea here was to allow users to have documents open or take notes during meetings without being distracted by a traditional laptop display. A whole laptop seemed a little bulky at the time for how much screen you got, and a low refresh rate made input a struggle. But a year later, Lenovo is now introducing the ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i, which seeks to resolve those issues. 

(Image credit: Lenovo)

At its core, the ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i has the same general idea as the Gen 1. At first blush, it seems like a standard Thinkbook, sitting at just 11.7 x 8.2 x 0.5 inches large and weighing just 2.9 pounds. Its power is on par with any other Thinkbook, with up to an 11th generation Core i7 processor, 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM, up to a 1TB M.2 SSD and integrated Intel UHD graphics. Plus, its main display is actually larger than the Gen 1’s, with a 13.3 inch, 16:10, 2560 x 1600 IPS touchscreen. But close the lid and you’ll see a new e-ink screen, which is where the ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i seeks to improve on its predecessor most.

The ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i’s screen is now 12 inches diagonally across, and has the same 16:10, 2560 x 1600 resolution as the laptop’s main display. That gives it a 68% screen-to-body ratio over the Gen 1’s 48%. But beyond that, it also has new widget options for viewing and opening calendar invites, email, news and reminders. The Gen 1’s e-ink screen, meanwhile, had icons to open notes, documents or even a Kindle app, but wasn’t as full-featured. 

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Lenovo’s also promising a faster refresh rate, though we haven’t yet had an opportunity to get our hands on the device to see any differences for ourselves. The ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i also comes with a pen which you can store directly in the device, another improvement over the Gen 1.

In general, the idea with the Gen 2 i is to make the e-ink screen more usable without needing to open the laptop. And because the Gen 2 i is thinner (by about 0.2 inches) and lighter (by about 0.2 pounds) than the Gen 1, it also puts the Gen 2 i more directly in competition with other, more traditional e-ink devices like e-readers. All these features do come with a hefty price tag, though. The ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i will launch in quarter one of this year for a starting price of $1,539. We’re not sure if the “i” in the Gen 2’s name means that we’ll eventually get an AMD version as well, though we wouldn’t be surprised.

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Of course, Lenovo’s also announced a suite of more traditional ThinkBooks this year as well. These include the ThinkBook 13x i, the ThinkBook 14p and the ThinkBook 16p. The 13x i, essentially, is a ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 without the e-ink screen, while the ThinkBook 14p and 16p are Ryzen-powered ThinkBooks that use the “latest generation of Ryzen mobile processors,” up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, up to a 1TB SSD and have screen options up to 4:3, 2.8K OLED. The 14p uses integrated AMD graphics, while the 16p has the “latest Nvidia GeForce RTX discrete mobile graphics.”  

(Image credit: Lenovo)

All three of these laptops will also be available in quarter one of this year, with the 13x i starting at $1,189, the 14p starting at $849 and the 16p starting at $1,299. 

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.