Lenovo's ThinkBook Plus adds a secondary E Ink display to help you focus

Based upon its own research, Lenovo believes the E Ink display on the ThinkBook Plus is ideal for distraction-free note-taking.

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Lenovo's ThinkBook Plus is a 13-inch notebook with an additional 10-inch E Ink display on the outside of the chassis, serving as a workspace for those who don't want to deal with the chaos of their laptop's desktop. Announced Monday at CES in Las Vegas, the ThinkBook Plus will ship in March, for $1,199.

At CES, Lenovo also announced the Yoga 5G, the Qualcomm-based notebook formerly known as Project Limitless, as well as as its innovative folding tablet, the ThinkPad X1 Fold

Lenovo said the laptop came about as a result of research the company had performed with customers, asking them about the consequences of distractions and their effect on multitasking. The E Ink display is automatically configured to receive only essential notifications, such as urgent emails. The E Ink display also comes configured to use a bundled Precision Pen for note-taking.

Lenovo made an interesting choice here, and one that strikes at the effects of different devices and workspaces. Does mounting an E Ink tablet on the outside of a traditional notebook lend itself to additional productivity? Does it provide a more focused environment, without a keyboard, then opening up the clamshell? And is it worth the effort, especially when turning on Windows 10's Focus Assist also can minimize notifications or turn them off entirely? Lenovo thinks so, and the E Ink screen is clearly what differentiates the ThinkBook Plus from an ordinary ThinkBook, Lenovo's lower-cost business line (we reviewed the ThinkBook 13s a few months ago).

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Lenovo

From the insiode, Lenovo's ThinkBook Plus looks like a conventional laptop.

On the other hand, there's a bit of irony in Lenovo's related ThinkBook 13.3” Plus Sleeve, sold for $45 beginning in April. The soft material is designed to protect the E Ink screen, but also presumably to mask its display (and those urgent notifications) from the outside world. Lenovo tells us, however, that the E Ink display turns off while the ThinkBook Plus is in clamshell mode, so that your neighbors can't see notifications or urgent emails. You can also have a "private zone" that you must tap to reveal those notifications, or simply configure which notifications are sent to the E Ink display. The E Ink display can also be configured to turn on a screensaver.

(E Ink screens typically use tiny amounts of power, so the additional screen shouldn't affect battery life that much. Inside is a 45Wh battery, good for about 10 hours of use, Lenovo said.)

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Lenovo

The outer E Ink display on the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus can be used for note-taking or just a distraction-free workspace.

The days of Cortana ruling the roost are apparently over: The far-field mics built into the ThinkBook Plus will certainly work with Windows' digital assistant, but the Amazon Alexa app for the PC is specifically built in, too.

The ThinkBook Plus includes other security options, such as a Windows Hello-certified fingerprint reader mounted within the power button. Inside is an Intel 10th-gen Core processor, though Lenovo isn't specifying which one at present. 

Lenovo ThinkBook Bluetooth Silent Mouse Lenovo

Lenovo's ThinkBook Silent Mouse.

Lenovo is also offering an optional ThinkBook Plus Silent Mouse for $40, available in April. The mouse includes four silent, distraction-free buttons, including a DPI switch that offers 800, 1600, and 2400 DPI options, among others. The mouse includes track-on-glass capability.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 ThinkBook Plus basic specs

  • Display: 10.8-inch E Ink monochromatic display; 13.3-inch (1920x1080) IPS display, 300 nits
  • Processor: Up to an Intel 10th-gen Core i7
  • Graphics: Integrated UHD graphics
  • Memory: 8GB or 16GB DDR4
  • Storage: M.2 PCIe SSD (256GB, 512GB); Optane Memory H10 (256GB + 16GB, 512GB + 32GB) 
  • Ports: 2 USB-A 3.0 Gen 1 (1 always on); 1 USB-C Gen 2; 1 HDMI 1.4b; 3.5mm mic/speaker
  • Camera: (undisclosed)
  • Battery: 45Wh
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro 
  • Dimensions: 12.13 x 8.54 x 0.68 inches (17.4mm)
  • Weight: Starting at 3.08 pounds
  • Color: Mineral Gray
  • Price and availability: $1,199, available in March

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