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Why rollable laptop screens look way more useful than foldable ones

At the Lenovo Tech World ’22 event held October 18, Lenovo teased a new ThinkPad laptop concept with a vertically expanding screen, an idea that could literally change the way we see and use our laptops in the future.

Expanding on its ThinkPad X1 Fold range of folding PCs, Lenovo shared a ThinkPad concept that rolls its screen from 12 inches to 16 inches vertically. The objective and technology behind it is very similar to foldable smartphones that are all the rage these days, allowing the user to change the form factor of the display based on their needs, while the content on the display dynamically adjusts along with it.

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Lenovo rollable display ThinkPad prototype on table.

Imagine enjoying a movie in widescreen 16:9 format one minute, and then (similar to tall monitors) scrolling large spreadsheets and documents the next — all without having to physically rotate the device or the need for accessories.

The ThinkPad X1 Fold was basically a folding tablet PC that had an on-screen keyboard; a separate keyboard dock was needed if you preferred physical keys to type on. The new concept utilizes a traditional laptop chassis combined with an expanding screen that rolls from its base. This sliding mechanism is similar to Lenovo’s Motorola rollable smartphone, also showcased at the event.

Luca Rossi, president of the Intelligence Device Group at Lenovo, said that with advancements in OLED displays and research, rollable laptops have become a compelling possibility. He added that rollable displays “will bring multitasking, browsing, and mobility applications to another level.”

While rolling and folding displays are essentially the same flexible technology, folding panels face creasing issues (although significant advancements have been made to reduce that) and do not offer the ability to alter the viewable area of the display. Rolling panels, on the other hand, reveal themselves like scrolls from their housing, like the Samsung rollable prototype shown recently, placing less stress on the panel assembly as well as having the ability to vary their display ratios. It’s more practical, less clumsy, and way more futuristic.

No technical specifications about the laptop have been provided as of yet, but it’s possible that Lenovo is saving the full reveal for CES in January 2023. Either way, I’m excited to play with this thing in the flesh.

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