At CES 2023 this week, Lenovo announced the new Smart Paper tablet. As the name implies, it’s an e-paper tablet that’s built to replace your notebook and pen and “smarten” them up. It goes on sale later this year.
All e-ink devices aim to replicate the feel of pulpy paper and polished penmanship as well as they can, and the Lenovo Smart Paper is no exception. Coming with a 10.3-inch display, the Smart Paper is built very much like a notebook. There’s an anti-glare touch display, and it comes in at a very wide aspect ratio that’s different from typical tablets — and all of it is housed in a sleek metal chassis.
Alongside this, there’s a differentiator from the Scribe: the Smart Paper Pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, 23-millisecond latency, and nine different pen settings for you to customize.
The display has a distinct matte coating to it, which means you can take notes on a surface that feels very much like paper, with something that feels very much like a pen. Writing on the display feels much more naturally than a stylus on most tablets, because there’s a bit of physical resistance on the pen tip. And in our time jotting down some words and scribbling, the pen tip tracking and palm rejection were both great.
That commitment to verisimilitude only goes so far, and Lenovo is willing to break away from it with its digital voice recorder that’s available as an accompaniment to your notes. The company highlights scenarios like being in classrooms or meetings where you’d like to have the audio context available to inform your written notes. It’s easy to fire up an audio recording at any time right next to your pen selections during note taking.
Lenovo has equipped this with 50GB of storage, enough to store all your notebooks and drawings. For reading, you can grab books from E-books.com (or load DRM-free books from your source of choice). Because it runs Android, it’s easy to plop any file on the Smart Paper and read or annotate.
Lenovo’s biggest competitor that comes to mind here is the Kindle Scribe. Recently released, the Scribe combines the appeal of the Kindle ecosystem with that of e-ink tablets. Sure it’s not as technologically advanced as the Lenovo Smart Paper, but it has brand recognition and a vast selection of content — two things that more than make up for it.
E-ink devices have never quite appealed to me. If I want paper, paper still exists. If I want to go digital, I’d rather go the whole hog. Despite all that, it’s clear at this point that they have a niche they appeal to, and most e-ink makers play both sides in any case. In this case, Lenovo competes both with the aforementioned Kindle option, as well as its own Android-powered tablet offerings. The key here will be the extra features the company highlights, as well as its own pricing and availability.
The Lenovo Smart Paper will go on sale sometime in 2023 — the company wasn’t specific other than “later,” so it may be a while. It’ll set you back $400 at launch; that’s a bit over the Kindle Scribe’s $340 price. Lenovo will no doubt point to its Smart Paper Pen as a differentiator, as well as the advanced audio features and 50GB of built-in storage. It’s up to you to decide if they’re worth the premium.