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ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 hands-on reviews: A laptop unlike any other

Laptops come in all shapes and sizes, but share the basics in common.

And then there’s the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3, which throws convention to the wind to try something entirely new. It uses a 21:10 aspect ratio screen to make room for a secondary tablet display, built right into the keyboard deck.

It’s wild. It’s experimental. It’s the kind of thing you only see get announced at CES. And it’s safe to say that I’ve never seen a laptop like this before.

Lenovo ThinkBook PLus Gen 3 Display.
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Specs

  Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3
Dimensions 16.14 x 9.00 x 0.70 inches
Weight Less than 4.40 pounds
Processor 12th Generation Intel Core H-Series Processors
Graphics Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM Up to 32GB LPDDR5
Display Main display: 17.3-inch (3072 x 1440), 120 Hz at 21:10 Aspect Ratio

Secondary display: 8-inch (800 x 1280)

Storage Up to 2TB
Touch Included on some models, pen input also supported on the tablet but not screen
Ports Thunderbolt 4, USB-C, 2 x USB-A, HDMI, Audio Jack
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam FHD, Windows Hello IR webcam
Operating system Windows 11 Pro
Battery 69 Whr battery
Price, availability $1,399, May 2022

Design

The Lenovo Thinkbook Gen 3 from the back
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Last year’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 featured an e-ink display on the outer lid. It was designed to help sketch, read, or check notifications. That was fascinating and unique on its own. But this year’s ThinkBook Plus lid looks a bit more like a traditional laptop at first glance — at least on the outside.

The laptop sports a ThinkPad-like “Storm Gray” aluminum top cover with CNC treatment. The display cover is made of mylar, and the bottom cover is an aluminum stamping. And it’s durable, too. I felt no bending or heard no creaks as I moved my hands around the device.

But don’t let that ThinkPad look fool you. The real stars of this laptop are the main and secondary displays.

Main display

The Thinkbook Plus Gen 3 with Windows 11.
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There have been plenty of big laptops like the LG Gram 17, or the XPS 17, but the 17.3-inch screen on Lenovo’s ThinkBook is on a new level. It looks and feels so different thanks to the 21:10 aspect ratio and its 3K resolution.

Just like you, I am used to stacking my open windows side by side on laptops, and using Windows 11’s Snap Layouts to boost my productivity. My Surface Laptop Studio helps me with that thanks to its 3:2 aspect ratio, which makes for more vertical space. The XPS has a 16:10 ratio for even more screen real estate.

The ThinkBook takes that to an entirely new area. It is one wide laptop with a 21:10 aspect ratio. With relatively thin bezels along the sides, it feels like the perfect combination of a 3:2 screen and a 16:10 screen.  Especially with a 90% screen-to-body ratio and 3072 x 1440 resolution to play with, I can see this laptop as a productivity workhorse.

Don’t believe me? I opened up a couple of instances of Microsoft Edge. I was able to stack three Edge windows on my screen. That’s even more than what I usually would get out of my monitor at home. And there still was some room left for another Notepad window. Lenovo tells me that the ThinkBook’s 17.3-inch display can mean for 30% extra screen than a 14-inch laptop.

Secondary screen

The secondary display on the Thinkbook Plus Gen 3.
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Productivity on a laptop often means plugging into a second monitor, or one of the many portable displays on the market. This isn’t always convenient, but what if your laptop had a smaller, second screen built-in to give you some extra level of control?  The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 has done this before, but we found that mainly aimed at creators and app-specific functions.

After trying out the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3, Lenovo’s solution is more of an everyday thing for productivity, as well as creators. Housed at the side of the chassis, the 8-inch secondary screen can be quite useful for a couple of different situations.

Shortcuts on the secondary display.
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

First off, I not only was able to mirror a part of the main 17.3-inch display down to the second screen, but I also could enjoy some extra functions, too. In a creative app like Adobe Lightroom, for example, I was able to see thumbnails for different files on the tablet, without opening File Explorer on the main display.

In addition, the secondary screen has its own independent notepad function that can be used when web browsing or in any other app on the main display. To pair with that, Lenovo says the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 will have a garaged digital pen for notetaking.

It wasn’t ready for my demo unit, so instead, I was provided the Lenovo ColorKing Plus pen. Lenovo tells me this pen can be used to match colors. Just place the eraser on a color, and select software will pick the right color for you.

The Thinkbook Plus gen 3 Pen
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Other functions of the second screen I played with include a built-in calculator and a dashboard of all frequently used apps. I also was able to extend any app I wanted down to the secondary screen. Surprisingly, with some tricks in Windows 11, that was super easy.  You can just hover over the maximize button, and you’ll see one of the ways you can send an app over to the second display.

ThinkBook Gen 3 Plus with Microsoft Edge.
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

In my demo, I sent Edge down to the second screen, but Lenovo demoed how the screen can also be used for being more engaged in teleconferencing apps like Teams. You can drag a second chat window down while still being in a video call.

This is all a super useful way to get the most out of a second screen, and it’s pretty intuitive. This is something I’ve not felt work quite right in the past. Even though the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 could also do more of these things on its second screen. Lenovo’s version is a lot better.

The tablet has a natural resolution and feels like it belongs, rather than just sitting under the main screen and in your way. Plus, my hands naturally go to the right side of the ThinkBook, right where I need the second screen.

Keyboard & trackpad

The ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 and it's trackpad.
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The keyboard on the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is one that should feel familiar if you’ve used a Lenovo Yoga laptop. Keycaps are rounded, and the keys are very close together since the secondary display sits to the right. The keycaps also feel a bit shallow, but are still springy when typing.

As for the trackpad, it’s a good size, leaving enough room for your hands to rest on the right and left sides when typing. Any larger, and typing might have been a less than ideal experience where your hands might trigger presses and drags of the trackpad.

Ports

ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 ports.
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In 2022, most laptop makers are taking away ports. The new XPS 13 Plus, for example, only has USB-C. Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 has all the ports you might need. For the creative types that this device is targeted at, that’s much appreciated.

The mix includes Thunderbolt 4, USB-C, two USB-A ports, HDMI, and an audio jack. Dongles won’t be an issue of concern here, and neither is losing the stylus. The laptop has a “Novo Hole” where you can stick the pen in for charging.

Performance

Adobe Lightroom running on the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3.
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

The ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 comes with Intel’s 12th-generation H-series processors. In my hands-on time, I could not run benchmarks, yet I did push the unit as far as I could with multiple Microsoft Edge windows running on top of Adobe Lightroom and an image with multiple layers.

The system kept up, though there were a few bugs when trying to move things down to the secondary display. Overall, though, with options for up to 32GB of RAM, this seems like a device that’ll chug along just fine. I just wish it had an option for Nvidia’s graphics, which might make video editing and other CPU-intensive tasks even faster.

Price and availability

Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 will be available beginning May 22, with prices starting at $1,400. It is not clear which configuration this covers, but we’re assuming it’s an entry level model.

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