Laptops have always posed a problem for me. You can't deny the convenience of having a portable computer, but you end up making sacrifices where the screen is concerned. Portability and display versatility aren't a good combination, and even portable monitors add an extra level of hassle.
But then Lenovo revealed the rollable laptop concept at MWC 2023. A machine that carries additional screen capacity within itself, and effectively offers the benefit of a multi-screen setup without actually needing an extra display. That's a prospect that I'm rather excited about.
It's far more exciting than a rollable phone, or even those foldable laptop screens. And it's all thanks to that hiddden screen space.
The Lenovo rollable laptop has the same form factor as an ordinary 13-inch laptop. But the 12.7-inch display is able to extend upwards into a 15.3-inch display — complete with an aspect ratio of 8:9. That means it is essentially two 16:9 displays stacked on top of each other.
If I'm using my laptop at home I'll typically plug straight into my home office setup. A setup that includes a 24-inch monitor, among other things. But take that laptop anywhere else, even in a different room, that monitor can't come with me. Not without some considerable effort, particularly where cables are concerned.
It doesn't matter if I'm in another room or another country, my laptop ends up being limited to its built-in 14-inch display. Having a rollable screen, like the one Lenovo has on show in Barcelona, would be an absolute game changer in situations like this.
At the push of a button I can add several inches of screen space to my working space. Not quite double the space, since the rollable’s original display has a 4:3 aspect ratio, but more than enough to have a significant impact on what you can and can’t have on a single screen.
A 4:3 aspect ratio display has already proven to be incredibly valuable, certainly in the process of multitasking. It may not offer any extra width compared to the more typical 16:9 displays, but the extra length makes it a lot easier to have multiple windows open without restricting the amount of available information. In my days using a 16:9 display attempting this led to a lot of scrolling. Which is far from ideal.
Naturally. the option to extend my screen up even further could enhance that capability immeasurably. Whether that’s having two ‘full-screen’ windows on top of each other, an even longer pair of dual windows, or any other number of combinations.
Sadly, Lenovo’s rollable laptop is only a proof of concept right now, and is far from ready to be mass produced. One major reason is because the machine needs a lot more ruggedization, presumably to make sure it can handle all the rolling and unrolling in addition to everyday wear and tear.
Looking at the extended display up close it does look incredibly fragile. Incredibly thin, and I feel as though it has the potential to break very easily. Certainly not the kind of machine I’d want to take out into the big bad world.
Plus, being a proof of concept, it’s unlikely that Lenovo’s rollable laptop has particularly good specs. The company did admit that the rolling mechanism needs to be shrunk down quite a bit more to ensure there’s room for the battery and better hardware. That suggests what’s inside the concept device isn’t particularly good right now.
But this gives me some hope for what the future of laptops might involve. Especially if it means I can put off buying a portable monitor for a little bit longer. They may be easy to carry around, but finding the space to actually set it up and use them kind of defeats the purpose of being able to work on the go.