Polished proof of concept —
OLED laptops with daringly versatile form factors have been a long time coming.
Lenovo’s laptop with a screen that can roll from 12.7 inches to 15.3 inches is just a proof of concept, but it looks like a pretty serious one. The company first teased the versatile OLED laptop online in October but showed it off in person before the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona this week. Marked by an OLED screen usable in two different sizes and resolutions, it’s described as subtle looking and decently polished.
As a proof of concept, Lenovo may never release a rollable screen PC like this. However, the company told Windows Central that it prefers developing “concepts that we have a hope of selling.” Plus, Lenovo is no stranger to releasing laptops with alternative screen designs. Its 2020 ThinkPad X1 Fold was the first to attempt the foldable PC and will be succeeded by the 16-inch ThinkPad X1 Fold this year. This year should also see the release of the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i, which connects two 13.3-inch OLED screens by a hinge.
In its current form, the rollable-screen laptop prototype “looks and feels like a regular laptop,” Android Authority reported. The publication also backed Lenovo and called the prototype “polished” enough to show off in person. It even thought the system looked less clunky than Asus’ ZenBook 17 Fold, a 12th-gen Intel-based foldable PC currently going for $3,500.
The rollable-screen laptop Lenovo’s demoing is in the chassis of a ThinkBook, one of Lenovo’s more experimental laptop lines. The Verge reported that the prototype’s panel comes from Sharp, which also makes the foldable screens in the ThinkPad X1 Fold and the upcoming 16-inch ThinkPad X1 Fold.
The prototype’s screen can offer 2024×1604 pixels in a 12.7-inch size with a 4:3 aspect ratio or 2024×2368 pixels across 15.3 inches with an 8:9 aspect ratio. Pixel density remains virtually identical in both scenarios (203.4 and 203.6 pixels per inch, respectively).
That alone is worth a pause. Screens that are nearly square-shaped are rare among laptops, even as more premium options are moving away from 16:9 in favor of 16: 10 and taller displays. Users have praised taller screens for their classic feel and handiness for computing tasks like navigating long news and social media feeds, spreadsheets and articles, coding, and multi-tasking.
Lenovo’s prototype offers a view that differs from what’s currently available from laptops. An 8:9 ratio is like having two 16:9 screens stacked on top of each other (the Yoga Book 9i stacks two 16: 10 screens). And the laptop could offer a unique side-by-side portrait experience. When speaking to Android Authority, Lenovo pointed to ThinkPad X1 Fold users frequently using the device in portrait mode.
In the concept’s current form, though, getting from point A to point B requires using a switch on the laptop’s deck and enduring an awkward waiting period of about 10 seconds (by The Verge’s measurement) and the sound of whirring motors. Tech Advisor said the machine also relies on springs and rails to adjust its screen but noted that Lenovo could ultimately opt for a “manual slide-out” version.
With the laptop hiding some of its screen under the keyboard, it’s possible for a final laptop to have a design that’s trimmer than expected of a 15-inch-class PC. The Verge said it wasn’t allowed to lift the prototype or know its weight. But the system reportedly looked a bit thicker than average.
The proof of concept is still just that, though. Tech Advisor reported that as the OLED screen slides under the keyboard, its pixels remain lit. The Verge also highlighted the prototype’s crease “where its screen originally bent underneath the keyboard,” which was visible when the screen was at its max size.
Durability is also a work in progress, with Lenovo reportedly targeting 20,000 to 30,000 rolls. It’s also unclear how much battery power the rolling mechanism consumes.
That said, it’s not hard to imagine a world where this is a real product, from Lenovo or otherwise. LG’s $100,000 rollable TV works similarly by putting the OLED screen away when you don’t need it. Bendable TVs and monitors have also arrived, looking to entice users who sometimes want a curved display instead of a flat one.
And if Lenovo doesn’t release a PC with a screen you can hide, it’s likely someone else will, as computer and chip makers have been eager to shake up the design of PC screens for years.
Last fall, Samsung Display and Intel demoed a PC concept that was essentially a 13-inch tablet that could slide out into a 17.3-inch one.
Earlier this year, Samsung Display also showed off Flex Hybrid, which is a slideable OLED screen that can fold in half and can be viewed as a 10.5-inch 4:3 display or slide into a 12.4-inch, 16: 10 one.
And with Windows 11 offering the sort of flexible windows management that its predecessors didn’t, foldable PCs seem nearly ready to become a viable product category.
Right now, there’s a lot of experimenting and prototyping going around with bendy OLED-based laptops, and shoppers will be able to try or dismiss those efforts soon enough.