Lenovo’s rugged Chromebooks for schools make note taking a breeze
Lenovo has a new trio of Chromebooks, all of which are designed to be used and abused in schools. Featuring reinforced hinges, ports, and keyboards, and capable of withstanding 30-inch drops, they’re the very essence of ruggedized technology. And to my sentimental eyes, they look like a throwback to the good old days of Asus Eee PC netbooks from a decade ago. Pure function at a universally accessible price.
Starting off with the most basic 100e Chromebook, which costs $219, Lenovo gives you an awesome little keyboard with plenty of key travel and zero typing fatigue. That’s tied to an 11.6-inch screen that has a resolution of 1336 x 768 and frankly atrocious viewing angles. I’d highly recommend stepping up to the $279 300e Chromebook, which adds touch, a much improved display, and a Yoga-style 360-degree hinge. The 300e is also capable of accepting notes written on its screen with a standard HB2 pencil. In fact, it’s optimized for that purpose, and no, the pencil doesn’t leave ugly markings all over the screen. The $349 500e Chromebook model has its own stylus (and a silo for storing it in), which provides lag-free input, courtesy of a Chrome OS API that Lenovo has taken advantage of.
All three laptops share the same screen size and resolution, all three charge via USB-C, and all three promise a 10-hour battery life. Interestingly, the 100e and 500e use Intel Celeron processors — N3350 for the lower model, N3450 for the pricier one — while the 300e has an ARM-based MediaTek MTK 8173C chip. The batteries of the Intel-powered machines are 42Wh while the 300e gets a little boost with 45Wh. A final distinction for the 300e is that it has a full-size SD card slot, while the other two machines make do with MicroSD.
In my time with these three laptops at Mobile World Congress, I was surprised by just how much Lenovo has been able to squeeze into the sub-$300 computer category. Granted, I loathe the 100e’s ugly display with a passion, but I can’t say the same about its keyboard or ruggedness. Lenovo seems to have gotten the fundamentals right with these machines. In the same meeting, the company had new Flex and Yoga Windows laptops to show off, each of which cost multiple times more than these Chromebooks, but my attention remained on the 500e. That lag-free stylus input really is something to behold, and it left me doodling and annotating stuff just for the fun of this novel experience.
With a keyboard so good and a drawing experience that’s superior to vastly more expensive machines, the 500e Chromebook looks like a great little option for a secondary or even tertiary computer. It gets things done, and it promises to survive most accidentals and mishaps, whether at home or at school. Lenovo will start selling the 300e Chromebook and 500e Chromebook straight away, with the 100e Chromebook following in March.
Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge
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