Lenovo, the maker of some very successful laptops, has finally come out with their own Chromebook! Best of all, you aren’t going to drop a fortune on it, and it even comes with a touchscreen! Sounds perfect, right?
Well, quite possibly. But in order to find out for sure, we put it through its paces and gave it a thorough inspection of all the included hardware. So is the N20P a great Chromebook to buy, or did Lenovo fall short with this one?
At the end of this review, you’ll be able to enter our giveaway to win this Lenovo Chromebook!
About The Lenovo IdeaPad N20P
The 11.6-inch Lenovo IdeaPad N20P is Lenovo’s first attempt at the Chromebook market. The computer manufacturer is best known for its line of ThinkPad laptops, which have focused primarily on functionality, performance, and longevity over flashy looks. It has gained quite a solid following because of this, and I’m sure Lenovo hopes to gain some faithful Chromebook supporters with this device.
With the Chromebook comes some Lenovo specialties like “stand mode” and (supposedly) the same build quality. In other fancy features, it even includes a touchscreen, and retails for just $330 which is quite affordable, although a bit on the higher end when compared against other 11.6-inch Chromebooks.
Currently, there’s no Chromebook out there that matches the N20P feature-by-feature as this is the only one with the “stand mode”. However, ignoring that feature, you’ll find all but one competitor out there: the Acer C720p Chromebook.
The Acer is the same size and also comes with a touchscreen, but only costs $300. With it you’ll get a weaker processor, a larger hard drive, and a shorter advertised battery life. It’s also safe to assume with Lenovo’s higher price tag, it should offer better build quality than the Acer Chromebook. Considering that you’re encouraged to store as much as possible on Google Drive anyways, the amount of storage space on the hard drive honestly makes little difference.
Therefore, you’d want to get this Lenovo Chromebook instead of the Acer because it has better performance, a longer battery life (although not by much), and better longevity. If you don’t consider the touchscreen feature, you’re left with every 11.6-inch Chromebook out there as a competitor, and there are lots of them. Again, you’ll want to buy the Lenovo offering because it features a touchscreen, “stand mode”, and Lenovo-grade build quality.
The exterior of the packaging doesn’t cause very much excitement over what’s inside, and the interior packaging is pretty simple. There’s the Chromebook within an anti-static sleeve and protected on both ends by some styrofoam, along with the owner’s manual and the power supply. At least it’s easy to get everything out — I hate packaging that basically keeps you from the very thing you bought.
I love this Chromebook’s design. It’s very thin and only gets wider when the component in that vicinity really needs it. The official specifications state that it is 11.61 x 8.35 x 0.71 inches and just 2.9 pounds. The exterior has a very simple silver finish while the interior has an elegant black finish. The touchpad is in the center of the device rather than be aligned with the spacebar, which I actually prefer because the spacebar-aligned positioning doesn’t really help me any, but instead makes the laptop look worse.
The screen does have a larger bezel around it, but that’s understandable considering that the device has touch capabilities. It is also attached to the rest of the device via two hinges on both sides rather than a big middle hinge à la MacBook Pro. I personally haven’t really cared too much about what hinge design is used in a laptop so long as its a good one, but for the IdeaPad N20P, it’s a major component in making “stand mode” work.
This Chromebook feels like it is lacking in ports although the ports it includes are totally sufficient for a Chromebook. On the left side, you’ll find the power jack (which is a Lenovo special), a USB 3.0 port, a mini-HDMI port, and a headphone/microphone jack. On the right, you’ll find a USB 2.0 port, the power button, a battery indicator (which indicates when it’s on or charging), and an SD card reader.
Lenovo is known for their great build quality in virtually all of their laptops, and this one isn’t an exception. It feels extremely sturdy everywhere, there are no creaks or visible defects, and even the hinges feel very solid. If you shake the laptop around, the display’s angle to the keyboard doesn’t change at all.
The only issue I have in terms of build quality is a small portion of the keyboard. Whenever I press certain keys, or push down on the spaces in between those certain keys, the entire vicinity of keys suddenly goes down a little too. In other words, it looks like the keyboard isn’t held up sturdily in that area. It’s really difficult to describe, so if you’re unsure of what exactly I mean, watch the video so you can see for yourself.
The upside to this problem is that it only affects the left side of the keyboard on my particular unit (pushing down between the ‘s’ and ‘d’ keys shows the problem at its worst), and it honestly isn’t even that bad of an issue. I can’t tell at all when I’m typing on the keyboard — I only notice it when I looking at it. That’s why I mentioned this issue now rather than later on when I focus specifically on the keyboard.
The 11.6-inch display comes with a 1366 x 768 resolution, which is to be expected with that screen size. As far as I know, the smallest Chromebook screen with a 1080p resolution is 13 inches. This particular screen is also quite good, with great viewing angles, a good amount of brightness, and fairly accurate color representation. Even though an 11.6-inch screen sounds pretty small, I actually didn’t feel like it was. It felt very natural and I wasn’t straining to do anything on it.
The colors on this display aren’t quite as vivid as I’d like them to be; in comparison, they’re nowhere near Samsung’s AMOLED displays. However, a lot of Chromebooks seem to have this problem but worse, and even on those displays the experience is still acceptable, so there’s nothing wrong with this one. This might just be a particular gripe of mine because I’m used to my MacBook Pro’s Retina display.
“Stand Mode” is the one feature that sets the IdeaPad N20P apart from all other Chromebooks, and it isn’t a gimmick either. When you push the screen farther and farther back, it’ll eventually be able to form a 180-degree angle with the keyboard. Keep going, and it’ll eventually stop at approximately 290 degrees. When the device is in this configuration, it is now in “stand mode” which completely turns off the keyboard and trackpad. Noticed the rubber feet around the keyboard? These allow the device to remain completely flat while in “stand mode” and keep it from sliding around as well.
Once in “stand mode”, the touchscreen will become front and center, and it’s actually a pretty nice and fluid experience for simple things like browsing Facebook or watching YouTube. In fact, I would even encourage you to switch to “stand mode” while watching any media because it suddenly turns the speakers (which are normally downward-facing — more about them later) around to face you. That automatically makes the speakers sound better. It’s still not perfect, however, because the display is now in between you and the speakers.
You can also put the Chromebook into “stand mode” and then flip it around to put it into “tent mode”. The only difference here is that the device automatically switches the screen orientation depending on how you’ve placed the device. You can even put it on its side so that the screen switches to a portrait orientation instead of landscape.
The only possible complaint I have about this is that I would have loved to see the screen go 360-degrees so that it’s completely flush with the bottom of the device. This way, the Chromebook could’ve been used like a tablet as well. However, for whatever reason, it was made to stop before then. I’m not sure if this was a conscious decision or whether it was impossible to implement with the target price point they had in mind.
“Stand mode” was extremely useful to me and (I have to admit) a lot of fun at the same time. Like I said earlier, it’s not a gimmick — it’s a pretty killer feature.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Lenovo opted to give the common Chromebook keyboard a Lenovo-style twist. This IdeaPad N20P Chromebook comes with a keyboard with the same layout, but the keys are chiclet-style and the build quality is superb. Despite being a thin device, the keyboard still has a decent amount of key travel to make typing responsive and comfortable. Not only is Lenovo known for the build quality but also for their amazing keyboards, and this one fits right into that mantra. I really, really enjoyed typing on it.
The trackpad isn’t quite as special as the keyboard. It’s not terrible, but it’s nothing to write home about either. It’s quite responsive when I use my index finger to move the cursor, and I come across no issues at all. When I use my middle finger (which is a habit of mine, and not intended to offend the computer or anyone else!) to operate the trackpad, my finger hops a little as I drag it around, causing the trackpad to become inaccurate and emit a sound similar to that of passing gas. However, since it works just fine with my index finger, I can’t blame it on the trackpad.
Webcam and Microphone
It seems like there’s a trend among Chromebook manufacturers just to add a mediocre webcam to the device. This Lenovo Chromebook is no different, as it only offers a webcam with 800 x 600 resolution. However, good webcams can be costly so I assume that manufacturers just add these in order to get the job done and keep the cost of the device low. I’d really like to see a Chromebook with a better webcam than that someday, but that seems pretty unlikely at the moment.
Similarly, the microphone is also adequate for the job but not great. The lone microphone can be found to the left of the webcam. However, I have no complaints for both the webcam and microphone in terms of functionality — they work and lets you do what you need to do.
Most Chromebooks include speakers that are pretty lackluster but adequate enough without there being too many complaints for lack of quality. The speakers in this Lenovo Chromebook almost fall into this category, but not quite. They’re actually a little bit better than speakers in other Chromebooks.
They still don’t provide much bass, but they sound less tinny, which alone leads to an improved experience. Dialogue in YouTube videos was clear and easily understood. Add to the fact that the speakers suddenly become upward-facing when you’re in “stand mode”, and you actually have speakers that are pointed more towards you than the table or floor. So the speakers on the N20P is a surprising thumbs-up for me.
The performance of this Chromebook is excellent. Visual effects are buttery smooth, as is scrolling. YouTube videos play great, even at 1080p without any stuttering. I didn’t try playing anything with a higher resolution because a 1080p video fills up the rest of the screen’s potential that a 720p video is leaving unused.
This great performance is due to the Intel Celeron N2830 processor clocked at 2.16 GHz and 2GB of RAM. Of course, with 2 gigabytes of memory you can’t expect to do very much multitasking, but it’ll handle 10 tabs without any problems. Aiding in its fantastic performance is also 802.11ac WiFi.
Chromebooks are all about great battery life, and you can certainly expect that from this one too. Although when compared to other Chromebooks, this Lenovo N20P’s battery life isn’t spectacular. The advertised battery life is at 8 hours, while there are other Chromebooks that advertise 11 hours.
But wait — there’s good news. A lot of Chromebooks that advertise 11 hours usually get only 9 to 10 hours, and this Lenovo Chromebook actually got 9 hours from my own testing of light web usage. So while other Chromebooks might last a little bit longer, this is still a great road warrior, and the shorter battery life is a worthy trade for the extra features.
Overall, this is a fantastic Chromebook. In fact, it’s probably one of my most favorite yet. Sure, the Samsung Chromebook 2 was impressive, but with the Lenovo IdeaPad N20P, you just really get the feeling that it wants to be functional — and it is. Getting this Chromebook is a relatively small investment, and it should provide you with several years of great use.
I’ll finish off the review with this: be thankful that I have to give this Chromebook away, or else I’d keep it for myself.
MakeUseOf recommends: Buy! If you’re comfortable with an 11.6-inch screen, this is absolutely one of the best Chromebooks to get.