So why does it cost so much?
Well, take a closer look at the lid and you’ll notice that it’s not just a lid, it’s a secondary display. And not just any display, this is an e-ink display – yes, the same tech you’ll find in a Kindle’s screen.
This ThinkBook Plus is a premium laptop. Given that it’s powered by a 14nm 10th Gen Comet Lake CPU when the world has moved on to 11th Gen Intel parts and 7 nm 5th Gen AMD Ryzens, however, it’s not really packing premium hardware.
You get a decent display, a great keyboard, weak speakers and tolerable battery life. There’s a fingerprint reader on the side, and the lid is about as thick as the body. It’s too heavy to be an Ultrabook but not powerful enough to be anything more than a daily driver for office work.
Given its price, you’re certainly not buying this laptop for display quality, aesthetics, or performance. You’re buying it for that e-ink display, and you’re willing to put up with the added weight, bulk, and slower CPU for the pleasure of using that display.
This begs the question: Is it worth it?
Before I answer that, let me just get the regular laptop stuff out of the way.
While it’s powered by a low-power Intel Core i7 CPU, Lenovo appears to have either dialed the CPU down to an even lower power setting, or decided that silent cooling is more important than adequate cooling. In either case, the laptop scores poorly in CPU benchmarks, and doesn’t even manage to hit its 1.1 GHz base clock under load.
When using Word or Excel, performance seems adequate and the silence is appreciated. However, browsing the web is a different matter. You can feel the system slow down when too many tabs are open, and in fact, browser benchmarks indicate that this is one of the slowest laptops we’ve tested since the start of the pandemic (mask-up, people, and stay safe). The only machine that’s slower is the Microsoft Surface Go 2, and that machine uses an even lower power Core M3 CPU.
Otherwise, the laptop is great. The display covers 91 percent of the sRGB spectrum and at 1520:1, boasts of the highest contrast ratio I’ve seen on an LCD display. Text is sharp and clear and pleasing to the eye. As expected from Lenovo, the keyboard is also great. The keys are easy to index, and while a little stiff, feel good to type on. The speakers are inadequate, though. I could barely hear them over my ceiling fan and I even struggled to follow conversations in a couple of meetings.
Battery life was passable, but not enough for a full day. At 120 nits – or about half-brightness – the laptop only managed to last a little under 6 hrs. Laptops in this price category – unless they’re gaming laptops – tend to offer something in the 10-12 hr range.
Let’s talk E-ink already!
E-ink displays are great for consuming text on, which is why quality e-readers like the Kindle use them. They’re the closest thing to digital paper and since they’re not backlit, there’s no eyestrain. On the other hand, e-ink displays are slow to respond, operate at a refresh rate of less than a few Hz – vs the 60 Hz of a regular display – and can’t be viewed in the dark. Lenovo’s placed an e-ink display on the lid of the ThinkBook. When the laptop is shut, you’re looking at an e-ink screen. The idea, according to a Lenovo spokesperson, is that the e-ink screen will cut down our dependency on other screens. Read this as the gadgets we have on us all the time, including our smartwatches and smartphones. Since the e-ink screen will render all necessary information at a glance, you won’t be so dependent on other devices.
What information? Battery life, the weather, the time, your Outlook calendar, and your Outlook email. That’s it. Nothing more. Additionally, the screen is touch-se
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