Lenovo laptops get weird at CES 2023
Experimental laptops are neat, but will they land with consumers?
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: Make laptops fun again
🌈 New ThinkBook Plus Twist has a twisting lid with a color e-ink rear display
💪 Lenovo promises the ThinkBook Plus Twist will have good internals too
🧲 The new ThinkBook 16p Gen 4 gets a magnetic accessory attachment
🗼A new dual-screen laptop, the YogaBook 9i, looks fun, but niche
Lenovo is making moves with its laptop screens this year, as it has in years past, updating its gadgety ThinkBook line with more of the out-there ideas that have come to define past models in the series. Will any of these end up hitting our best laptop list? I don’t know, but I’d sure like to try them to find out.
The Shortcut is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
ThinkBook Plus Twist
Lenovo announced the ThinkBook Plus Twist today – essentially, it’s an updated version of the ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 with a 12Hz, touch-sensitive color e-ink display – a huge upgrade from the black and white e-ink from past ThinkBooks Plus. Additionally, instead of the screen flipping over to the back to go into tablet mode, you can twist the screen, so that you can keep the back of the screen (whichever one you’re looking at) laying on the keyboard, and the bottom of the laptop on the table.
Besides that, you can expect upgraded internals with 13th gen Intel Core processors, a 2.8K OLED traditional touch display. Lenovo says the included pen has up to 18 months of battery life. The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Twist will start at $1,649 and is due for release in June 2023. And you know exactly how the ads will sound.
ThinkBook 16p Gen 4
The successor to the Gen 3 model before it, the ThinkBook 16p Gen 4 adds a clever new feature that I’d like to see on more laptops: a magnetic attachment point just behind the center top of the screen, called the Magic Bay, which gives the laptop a little modularity.
The Magic Bay can be used to quickly connect accessories like a light, cellular card or a webcam – Lenovo announced three such products, in fact.
As for specs, the ThinkBook 16p Gen 4 comes with a 165Hz 3.2K 16-inch screen, a 13th gen Intel Core processor, and support for two PCIe M.2 SSDs for up to 2 TB of storage. It supports a discrete GPU, and has a fast-charging 80WHr battery. It’s expected to be priced at $1,349 on release in May 2023.
Lenovo YogaBook 9i
Going much farther outside the box is the new Yoga YogaBook 9i. I’m not super sure how to categorize this one, but Lenovo is calling it a dual screen laptop. It technically has a small keyboard – a Bluetooth, detachable one – but no trackpad, which feels like a mistake, given it runs Windows 11. Even on an iPad, I find touch control awkward when using it like a laptop, so it can only be more so with an OS built from the ground up for mouse control, but with a touch interface grafted onto it.
The screens can be used stacked on top of one another in landscape or aligned vertically and tipped on its side edge, using the included folio as a stand. I don’t see how it won’t wobble all over the place in either configuration.
Still, I love wild laptop concepts, and as much as I can only see things going wrong with the YogaBook 9i, people thought the Nintendo DS would be a failure, and look what happened there! The YogaBook 9i comes in June 2023 at a starting price of $2,099.99.
Will people buy them?
I love a gadget, and am especially fond of laptops that try new things. When I saw Lenovo’s original ThinkBook with an e-ink display, I was excited by the prospect, but assumed it was a doomed, if fun, concept. Yet here we are, three years down the line, and the ThinkBook Plus Twist is bringing us a third iteration of the idea, this time with color and a fun hinge style we haven’t really seen since the early days of the convertible laptop. Somebody must be buying them then, and I love that.
As for the ThinkBook 16p Gen 4, I’m pretty excited by the Magic Bay. Combining magnets with computing devices is, I think, a great way to reduce friction when connecting accessories – MagSafe showed that years ago, and continued innovation should always be encouraged. I hope everyone copies the Magic Bay.
The YogaBook 9i could see its way into some offices, and I could see digital artists making use of it for sure – but I’m not sure it’ll ever make it’s way out of being a niche product, which is probably just fine.