At Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Lenovo has announced that a trio of Chromebooks (100e, 300e, and 500e) previously sold only through education channels would be available to the general public.
Each model addresses a specific price segment, and deliver slightly different features. The common denominator between all three is the rugged design, which has originally been created to withstand the daily grind of being used at school by young children.
To ensure their durability, Lenovo has added extra rubber bumper protection to all sides of the chassis. The laptops seem to be able to resist repeated mild drops from a desk height (75cm or 29.5”). The keyboard has been hardened and uses keys that are not possible to pry out (yes, apparently, this is something kids do). The keyboard is also spill resistant, and that’s a must-have feature for education-oriented chassis design.
The ports have been reinforced as well, because it is a potential weak point, and could be subject to stress if children try to insert unintended objects, or if they apply force to the connectors.
There are clear differences between each model. The Lenovo 100e ($219) is a clamshell laptop which features a touch-display. It is powered by an Intel Celeron N3350 and 4GB of RAM. There is only 32GB of storage, but it is normal since Chromebooks are web-computers that rely on the internet for apps and data access. With a weight of 2.75 Lbs, it is not the lightest 11.6” laptop, but the extra durability does add some weight.
The Lenovo 300e ($279) gets a slightly better IPS LCD display and supports writing on the screen with a regular carbon pen. Lenovo has tuned the display’s driver for carbon pens, although it is also possible to use other types of pens or objects on the screen. This is a technology similar to Lenovo’s AnyPen tech shows at CES a while back (now called Enhanced Pen Technology). Interestingly, the processor for this computer is a MediaTek MTK 8173C and 4GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage.
The model 500e ($349) is the fanciest of the three. It has a slightly faster Intel Celeron N3450 with up to 8GB of RAM, and a maximum of 64GB of storage. The Lenovo e500 highlight is its passive pen and the responsiveness at which Chrome OS reacts to it. Last month, Google announced some improvements to the e-Ink speed, and we were very impressed when using the Lenovo 500e at MWC."THE INK SPEED IS SIMPLY UNBELIEVABLE"
The ink speed is simply unbelievable, with virtually no lag at all. Even high-end PCs aren’t as responsive. This is perfect for note-taking, but not suited for artwork if you wonder.
These three Chromebooks deliver a very interesting value-proposition in the “kids” computer market, and the 500e could also work for adults who take a lot of notes. The affordability of these computers ($219-$349) put them out of range of many traditional PC alternatives. If you are not familiar with Chromebooks and Chrome OS, you may want to do a bit more research before getting one.