Tech

Lenovo's new laptop is also an Android tablet

Thinkpad Plus gen 5 hero imageImage: Lenovo

Some of us have had a fascination with tech that transforms into other tech, ever since we saw Soundwave pop out his robot cassette tape and it turned into a robo-dog. Perhaps a similar fan came up with the latest Lenovo ThinkBook Plus design. Rip the screen off this otherwise unassuming laptop and you get a 14-inch Android-powered tablet. Unlike other tablet-laptop hybrids a la the Surface or Yoga form factors, this is literally two devices in one.

In its standard operating mode, the ThinkBook Plus Gen 5 Hybrid (woof, what a mouthful) is a conventional mid-range laptop. That includes a Core 7 Ultra processor, 32GB of RAM, a terabyte of Gen 4 storage, and an Arc GPU (though Lenovo’s stat sheet doesn’t say if it’s integrated or discrete). The battery is pretty roomy for the chassis size at 75 watts, and you’ll find two Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports and a fingerprint reader. All of that is in the standard laptop body, because the screen is very much its own beast.

When connected to the base station, it’s a 14.5-inch OLED with 2.8K resolution, offering touch with optional pen input. It’s pretty darn good as laptop screens go, but if you break it off, you’ll find that it’s a tablet powered by Android 13 and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor. Slyly hiding beneath that OLED panel (which is massive for a tablet, equal to Samsung’s largest Galaxy) is 12GB of dedicated RAM and 256GB of storage. The tablet has its own USB-C port for data and charging (though it’ll recharge automatically from the laptop battery when docked) and its own Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and internal 38-watt battery.

Lenovo

When docked the two pieces share the front-facing HD camera (infrared for Windows Hello) as well as the rear dual-camera setup, 13MP + 5MP. But if you want to use both devices at the same time, you have a few options. The ThinkBook Plus can use its ARM-based hardware to run Android apps in Windows 11 via “Hybrid Stream,” which Lenovo describes as a low-latency picture-in-picture system. But you can retain access to Windows with the Android tablet detached — just plug in a monitor to the bottom half of the gadget and you’re ready to use it again. The keyboard and trackpad keep working in this “headless” mode, and you can play Hearthstone on the tablet (or do something productive, I suppose).

Lenovo

What if you want to run the whole thing as an Android-based laptop? No problem. While docked you can touch a Function button, at which point Windows fades into the background and Android comes to the foreground, with your keyboard and trackpad accessible to the Google-fied interface. And yes, the tablet has access to the Google Play Store and all standard apps.

The ThinkBook Plus name is one that’s associated with this kind of form factor experimentation. Previous iterations of the laptop have included bonus e-ink screens and secondary displays next to the keyboard. And while they’re interesting, they never seem to stick around and actually influence the laptop world the way the original Yoga has. Given that this sort of hybrid Android device has been tried before (the Asus Transformer line comes to mind — probably why I ranted about Soundwave in the intro), I kind of doubt that this will catch on.

Lenovo

In order to succeed, this needs to make more sense than simply carrying a standard laptop and a tablet together. Given that the combined weight of the ThinkBook Plus is 1.76 kilograms, just shy of four pounds, it’s hardly the lightest 14-inch laptop around. It is an elegant little combination, especially if you rely on Android apps on a daily basis. But it also has a starting price of $1,999, or at least that’s Lenovo’s intention for its launch in the second quarter of this year. For that price, I think I’d rather have a nice T- or X-series laptop with around the same specs, and the latest iPad.

But who knows, Lenovo might just have a transforming hit on its hands. We’ll find out later this year.

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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