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Lenovo's ThinkBook Plus series has always been a mixed bag.
The original ThinkBook Plus kicked everything off by incorporating an e-ink display on the back of the laptop's screen. It was an interesting choice, but it didn't really pan out as the plain e-ink tech had limited usage.
Things mainly stayed the same with the second model. Then, with the third-gen ThinkBook Plus, Lenovo decided to put the extra screen next to the keyboard. It received mixed reviews with critics pointing out how awkward it was to type the Gen 3 model with the smaller display taking up room.
But with the newest ThinkBook Plus Gen 4, the rear e-ink display is back (and in color!), there's now a 2.8K resolution panel on the opposite side, and general improvements make this a solid laptop option for shoppers who want something truly unique.
As I mentioned before, the latest ThinkBook has returned to a rear e-ink panel. Only this time, it shows color. Of course, because the outer panel is an e-ink screen, colors are not as vibrant as a standard LCD or OLED display. But if you're a creative professional who favors an e-ink display and also wants to understand what colors you're working with, this is the next best thing.
I'll note that the display has a highly noticeable ghosting effect, as many e-ink panels often do. Ghosting, if you don't know, is where objects on a screen leave afterimages when they're moved. Below is a picture of what it looks like.
Fortunately, this isn't permanent. Switching to the other screen or putting the notebook to sleep fixes this problem. Speaking of which, the other side of the display is a great-looking 13-inch OLED screen. It boasts a 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800 pixel) resolution with a refresh rate of 60Hz.
OLED monitors typically have a 120Hz refresh rate, but the clarity and vividness of the Lenovo, even at 60hz, is more than good enough. The brightness is set at 600 nits, so it can shine even in sunnier environments. The OLED side has a slew of imaging-enhancing features, too. My favorite two have to be the anti-reflective coating, which ensures visibility when outdoors, and the anti-fingerprint properties to protect against smudges.
Now I can guess what you're thinking. "Is the ThinkBook Plus Gen 4 stuck with an OLED on just one side? What if I have color-sensitive work and I don't want to use the e-ink side?" There's a solution for this. When this device was first revealed at CES 2023, it was known as the ThinkBook Plus Twist because its hinge can move a full 360 degrees. This means the OLED screen can be in the back while the E-Ink display now becomes your main view. Both are touchscreens, so you can use the pen on either side without a problem.
This is very ingenious. It shows Lenovo thought things through by deciding not to force people to use the e-ink screen at inopportune moments. This is by far my favorite thing about the ThinkBook Plus Gen 4. I like how you have a choice between the two, and I'd recommend using the e-ink display as the main image when working. The technology is much easier on the eyes than the OLED, thanks to the TÜV Low Blue Light certification and Lenovo's own EyeCare.
There are a few sticking points with this computer. For starters, I do worry about its fragility. Lenovo claims the ThinkBook Plus Gen 4 meets the U.S. Department of Defense's standard for durability. The model apparently went through over 200 quality checks to ensure its toughness. I believe Lenovo; the keyboard does feel rather sturdy.
But still, this is a convertible laptop with one side constantly exposed. Neither screen has Corning Gorilla Glass or anything similar to protect it. So I worry if it can even survive minor rough handling despite company claims.
The ThinkBook Plus is a lightweight device, clocking in at less than three pounds total and measuring less than an inch thick. Because of the slim form factor, there isn't a slot for the stylus, so it's way too easy to lose the pen.
There isn't much in the way of ports either. You have two Thunderbolt 4 ports and an audio jack. That's it. It's nice of Lenovo to include the audio jack, but a little more variety would take this from A tier to S tier. On the bright side, Lenovo includes a USB-C hub when you purchase the ThinkBook Plus for connecting an HDMI cable and a USB drive to the computer.
ZDNET's buying advice
If you're a creative professional, I highly recommend the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 4. It's a delight to use, even as someone who isn't a professional artist. I thoroughly enjoyed writing on the e-ink side; It saved me from dealing with eye strain, which can be a killer after a long day of typing.
The notebook is available in two separate models, and prices differ depending on which hardware you choose. My review unit had a 13th Gen Intel i7-1355U processor, an Intel Iris Xe GPU, 16GB of LPDDR5X RAM, and 512GB of storage, totaling up to a $3,040 price tag.
Yes, these are expensive laptops, and I wouldn't fault you for opting for a less expensive but just as capable laptop. But the ThinkBook Plus Gen 4 is one of the most refreshing devices money can buy right now, and it's worth every penny.