This year at CES 2023, Lenovo announced its newest lineup of ThinkBook, ThinkPad and Yoga devices and more. Every year, I believe Lenovo does a great job of introducing new and innovative products that express the conceptual essence of CES. This year is no different, and I am excited to get my hands on some of these devices and discuss how Lenovo continues to push the boundaries of the notebook space as well as other parts of the market like smartphones and AR.
One area of innovation for the company is AR. At CES, Lenovo announced Project Chronos, a device that captures full-body motion for virtual and hybrid experiences. It uses an integrated RGB depth camera to capture users in real time. It is meant to sit either below a TV or monitor or else mounted on a wall and has an adjustable hinge.
Project Chronos aims to create an immersive and convenient virtual or hybrid AR experience. It doesn’t require users to put on any equipment and is able to capture movement and even facial expressions. This device reminds me of an Xbox Kinect on steroids, and yes, that’s a good thing. Project Chronos could be used to accurately depict avatars for space chats and virtual rooms like fitness or gaming experiences. The inevitable rise of virtual reality in the coming years solidifies my belief that Lenovo could be at the forefront of it, developing innovative technologies like Project Chronos.
While Project Chronos is able to capture real-time data in front of the users, I am also interested to see how it could capture data behind the users. For example, if a remote worker is being augmented into a room a complete rendering of that person would be more beneficial than only a front rendering. There are many directions that Lenovo could take Project Chronos to create immersive and convenient virtual and hybrid experiences that would include other senses like sound and touch. For now, I like how Lenovo has made Project Chronos look modern as well as functional, especially as a concept device.
I continue to be impressed with the company’s investment into XR as I believe it will go big in five to seven years.
While Android tablets have not been as successful profit-wise as other tablet experiences in the past decade, Lenovo has been relatively consistent and committed with its Android tablets. This year, it announced the Lenovo Tab Extreme, a 13.5-inch Android tablet that resembles existing and successful tablets on the market.
The Lenovo Tab Extreme is slightly smaller than the Samsung Tab S8 Ultra (14.6 inches) and slightly larger than the Galaxy Tab S8+ (12.4 inches). Rarely have I found Android tablets to be good as large devices given the state of the apps, but Android 12L and Android 13 have given me plenty of reasons to give Android tablets another go. However, compared to Windows 11 and even iPadOS, it would take a lot to convince me to switch to Android, and I believe this is true from a business compatibility standpoint as well.
This tablet also comes with a full-sized floating keyboard that resembles Apple’s iPad Air and Pro Magic Keyboard. The biggest difference is that the Lenovo Tab Extreme has a full-sized backlit keyboard with no compromises; it has a similar keyboard experience to Lenovo’s laptops. It also comes with a detachable kickstand for situations where the keyboard may take up too much room. It also has display-in and display-out capability so that the tablet can double as an external display on the road.
Lenovo Smart Paper
Right on the heels of Amazon’s release of the Kindle Scribe, Lenovo has announced its own e-ink tablet with pen support, the Lenovo Smart Paper. Lenovo is well-versed in e-ink devices, and this device is not unexpected. Where Lenovo is differentiating itself from the Kindle Scribe and the ReMarkable 2 is with its note-taking features. Lenovo says the Smart Paper can record audio when taking notes and has a lagless pen experience with pressure sensitivity and tilt detection.
Where I believe Lenovo could be competitive in the e-ink tablet market is in the value that comes with the device. The Smart Paper comes with a cover and pen included in the box, whereas ReMarkable offers those at a premium and the Kindle Scribe includes only the pen.
It’s important to note, however, that the Kindle Scribe also benefits from a robust user experience and the reach of the Amazon content ecosystem. If Lenovo is able to nail down an open ecosystem with support for book and note-taking platforms like Google Play Books, I believe it could offer a better experience than the proprietary Kindle experience, even though the Kindle Scribe also has support for Word documents. Regardless, I am all for a competitive e-ink tablet space, especially considering how dry and underwhelming the space has been over the past couple of years.
Lenovo announced the fourth-generation ThinkBook 16p with a new modular design. The ThinkBook 16p Gen 4 has Magic Bay modular pins at the top of the 16-inch display that allows the user to add new modules to the device. Lenovo showcased three Magic Bay modules: a webcam, a light and an LTE module. The first two of these offer a better webcam experience for versatile environments that should be great for on-the-go video calls. The Magic Bay webcam also has a hinge mechanism so that users can flip the camera around and use both cameras on the ThinkBook 16p Gen 4 for a collaborative experience.
To take this modularity to the next level, I’d like to see them commit to a multi-year roadmap of upgrades. I think modularity helps tell the environment story as theoretically, if you had a robust module roadmap, users would only need to recycle to old modules, not the entire notebook.
Lenovo also announced the ThinkBook Plus Twist, a modern take on an old two-in-one design. The ThinkBook Twist Plus has a twisting hinge and an e-ink display on the back of the main display so that the user can switch to using the e-ink as a main display. Even better, it is a color e-ink display with an adaptive refresh rate.
While many feature-driven devices are good at being a lot of things but not great at any one thing in particular, I believe the ThinkBook Plus Twist has the potential to be a great focus machine with the usable Windows environment on the e-ink display. Considering that e-ink displays offer great distraction-free experiences, writing on a Word document using the e-ink display could offer better focus. It would also save a considerable amount of battery life since e-ink displays have a much lower refresh rate than a typical display and does not.
The hinge also allows for a tablet mode where the keyboard is hidden, making it a better two-in-one design than most. I would be interested to hear the Lenovo product team talk about pen support for the ThinkBook Plus Twist. For me, that would be the cherry on top.
Lenovo announced the 11th-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which doesn’t have many changes from the 10th generation, and that is a good thing, because there is little to complain about in the 10th-generation device, very solid and performant. The most considerable differences are that the new model employs the 13th Gen Intel CPU and Lenovo has doubled the memory. While I would be hesitant to jump from the 10th- to the 11th-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon, I believe the more powerful Intel mobile processors and the doubled memory in the new model are hard to pass up. In short, Lenovo has engineered one of the finest commercial laptops over its decades of innovation with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11.
Lenovo also announced the first ThinkPhone through its Motorola brand. The phone is targeted at businesses and has a rugged carbon-fiber design. Very few smartphones are built to withstand harsh environments, and I believe it is a strong selling point, especially for ThinkPad-enabled businesses. Lenovo says it connects seamlessly to Lenovo ThinkPads. It also has app streaming and action center connectivity. Beyond that, the ThinkPhone can also be used as a secondary camera for a ThinkPad laptop. I believe it could be a handy companion to any Lenovo laptop, especially with its 68-watt included charger.
I would not compare the Motorola ThinkPhone to something like the Samsung XCover6 Pro, considering that the Motorola ThinkPhone doesn’t gravitate toward the ultra-durable design. Although it is made of a clean carbon fiber chassis which is more durable than comparable glass-backed smartphones, it targets a premium ThinkPad crowd.
I have waited for this Lenovo PC and phone integration for years and it is finally here. Unless Samsung gets serious about its PC business, I can see Lenovo giving Samsung a run for its money in the enterprise.
Lenovo also announced the Yoga 9i, a Yoga laptop with a dual-screen design similar to the unreleased Microsoft Surface Neo. The most notable difference between the Yoga 9i and the Surface Neo is that the Surface Neo was built for the unreleased Windows 10X OS, which was replaced by Windows 11 during the pandemic. I still like the unique design of the dual-touch display notebook and believe it adds considerable versatility, especially with Windows 11. Windows 11 has an improved user experience and better support for touch devices than its predecessor. Lenovo usually does a great job of creating devices that take advantage of the latest Windows user experience. For example, Lenovo shows how a five-finger touch on one of the displays moves the entire Windows experience to both displays in a vertical position.
The Yoga 9i has a detachable Bluetooth keyboard and a stand so that both displays can be used either vertically or horizontally on the stand. The built-in keyboard is also highly configurable. The on-screen keyboard can also be snapped to the top of the bottom display with a virtual touchpad at the bottom and sticky notes next to it. It can also be snapped to the bottom of the display with widgets above it. The Bluetooth keyboard can also be placed directly onto the display for those who prefer physical keyboards. One characteristic of the Yoga 9i that I would not have known if I did not see the device in person is that the weight and thickness of both displays are asymmetric. Although most people will not mind this asymmetry, I imagine it could bother some people.
Lenovo also announced a Yoga all-in-one (AIO) at CES 2023 with a 32-inch 4K display that it says is “architecturally inspired.” Lenovo also says that most of the internals are in the base of the display, with ports coming out of the back. The only downside is that the Yoga AIO does not allow for a monitor arm. It also has limited adjustment ability, with only a forward and back tilt, no up and down motion.
Lenovo announced a diverse portfolio of devices at CES 2023. At its base, Lenovo offers well-established and reliable devices in its ThinkPad lineup. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon doesn’t need to change much generationally, although its internal upgrades should make it even better than before. Lenovo is also innovating and bringing unique devices to the table with modular notebooks in the ThinkBook 16p Gen 4 and ThinkBook Plus Twist. It is also reacting to popular tablet trends with its Lenovo Tab Extreme and new e-ink tablet, the Lenovo Smart Paper. I am excited to see these products in action in 2023.
I want to applaud Lenovo for showing up publicly at CES 2023 and I believe it stole share of B to C voice from its competitors doing it. I enjoyed myself thoroughly in the Lenovo Experience Lounge if for nothing else, to sit at the bar, get some work done and maybe have a drink.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.