About the author: Joe reviews hardware based on how it fits into his life. Joe is a sales professional that manages a team, travels weekly, a part-time professor and gamer. He is a father and husband who also has the privilege of being GWW’s President.
It can be a financial and physical challenge owning the right computer(s). Any one laptop or desktop may not cover all of the needs of a user. As a traveler and power-hungry gamer, I struggle with this. I own and regularly use 5 PCs: desktop gaming, laptop gaming, ultra-book, Surface tablet, and Kindle. While you may not have the same needs, you likely find that any one PC doesn’t quite cut it. You are always compromising in some way: battery life, frame rate, etc. Lenovo has recently introduced a new product that helps provide ThinkPad owners overcome some of those compromises. They call it, the ThinkPad Stack.
For a long time Lenovo has been strong with packaging, design and overall quality. The plethora of Lenovo products I’ve unboxed have usually impressed after being opened. This is the first time their packaging presentation has impressed me. The four components to the Stack are lightweight and attractive with their carbon-black design, polished buttons, and simple connectivity capabilities. You can travel with all or one of these items an stack them nearly anyway you’d like to. The Stack consists of a handful of physical components to round out your computing needs:
- A dual port USB power bank that can simultaneously charge two USB-equipped devices simultaneously (10,000mAh -$50)
- Lightning speed data transfer and mobile storage solution with a 1TB USB 3.0 HDD (only sold with the Access Point)
- 2×2 watt Bluetooth® speaker with noise-cancelling microphone, easy-access controls and 8 hours of playback ($90)
- Access Point that provides strong, stable and fast WiFi anywhere ($200 with a 1TB drive)
This review was written using the ThinkPad Stack Professional Kit, which includes:
- All 4 components listed above
- USB to hard drive and standard micro-USB cable
- Wall Charger
- 3.5mm audio jack
- High-end carrying pouch
The battery is my favorite of the 4 components. It’s used to power the Stack if you want to use it independent of a wall charger. It also has 2 USB ports so you can charge your mobile devices. I use this every time I travel and helps me eliminate the need for a dedicate cell-phone power brick.
I’m not a big user of mobile storage devices. I like to access my LaCie personal Cloud while I’m traveling, but I can’t tell you how many USB flash drives I own. I suppose this made me realize its best to have everything in one place. A very cool feature is to use this drive in conjunction with the Wireless Access Point. Together you can access the data stores on the drive wirelessly, and can share it with other users connected to the same AP. Pretty cool stuff.
I haven’t tested the speed myself, but from what I’ve read the write speeds are between 101-103Mb/s and the read speed is steadily at 105Mb/s.
Ultrabooks do not have Ethernet ports. I don’t miss them, necessarily. But, for those who love to be plugged in, the Stack AP component includes an Ethernet port. The point is, the Stack is bringing back features that some people love/need but are willing to live without because they need an Ultrabook.
I’m not an audiophile and I don’t really need speakers while traveling. I like to use my Bose QC’s but I’m not everyone. So let me tell you about the speaker. Not only does it feature the comforts of Bluetooth, it also has a 3.5mm jack so you can stream music from any Bluetooth capable device (laptop, Galaxy, etc.) and then decide to plug in. The battery features about 8 hours of life.
There is an optimum, or preferred stacking method as outlined by Lenovo (bottom to top): battery, hard drive, speaker, router. You’re not required to use a four components. I really have no need for the speaker so I’ve been leaving it at home while I travel, which removes about 40% of the overall weight. If traveling is your reason for getting the Stack, don’t forget you’ll also benefit from fewer cords and you’ll free up a ton of USB ports. Even if you’re not a traveler, you can benefit from the Stack. In fact, you can combine 2 or more components and achieve some pretty cool results. Combine the Access Point with the Drive and you’ve created a NAS. Add the 10,000mAh battery and suddenly you have hours of NAS without being plugged in. Rad!
While using the Stack for the past few weeks, I’ve asked myself throughout if this was the next step in mobile computing? For those who need more power, the power bank is lightweight to carry around and achieves the need. If you need more storage, use the 1TB drive. But what about those who want a gaming boost? Will Lenovo release an external video card that is as low profile as other stack components? I don’t see this coming, but I want so badly to be proven wrong. If the Stack can prevent me from needing more than 1 computer, I’d be a firm believer that indeed this is the future of mobile computing.
Overall you can purchase the full lot in a Professional Kit for $319 or just the components you want for the prices outlined above.
- Storage: 1TB USB 3.0 HDD, USB 3.0, Door Locker Software
- Sound: Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker with 2×2 watt speakers, noise-reducing mic, 3.5mm aux audio in, charged micro-USB Digital signal processor
- Connectivity: Remote access with Access Point accessory: 10M/100m RJ45 input 2.4G/5G WiFi, suports LTE USB Modems, Micro USB-in, supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
- Battery: 10,000mAh capacity, max charging up to 5v/2.1A
- Stack Management: Hotspot: Setup and Configuration | Wi-Fi HDD: File Management, Cloud Synchronize
- Weight: All four components: 1.9lbs
- Dimensions: Al four components stacked: 5.3 x 2.9 in.