The Chromebook market is one which continues to expand thanks to the high rate of adoption of Chromebooks by consumers. Generally speaking, Chromebooks are designed and best thought of as an affordable alternative to the likes of laptops. However, as the market has expanded, the market has also started seeing its parameters beginning to be defined by their price. As such, in spite of being on-the-whole affordable, we now have a sub-market starting to emerge of 'affordable Chromebooks'. These do seem to be somewhat aimed more towards the education sector, although many, if not all of them, are becoming available to the wider public too.
A prime example of these sub-market options comes in the form of the Lenovo Chromebook 100S. This is the latest Chromebook from Lenovo and was announced back in September, although, only saw its release within the last few weeks. The Chromebooks 100S is purpose-designed to be an affordable Chromebook and comes with a launch price of only $179.99 making this one of the most affordable new Chromebooks on the market today.
In terms of the specs, the Lenovo Chromebook 100S is not designed to be a massively spec-heavy Chromebook. In fact, it is almost designed to be the opposite - a Chromebook which brings together a decent level of performance, with a decent level of specs. In terms of the numbers, the Lenovo Chromebook 100S comes equipped with an 11.6-inch display which makes use of a 1366 x 768 resolution. Inside, the Chromebook 100S comes available in two different variations, one which makes use of 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage and one which makes use of 4GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. Both options come powered by an Intel N2840 processor, as well as the option to expand the storage thanks to the inclusion of a microSD card slot. Not forgetting, 100GB Google Drive storage is always up for grabs as well. Moving to the connectors and the Chromebook 100s comes equipped with two USB ports (one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0), one HDMI port, one audio 3.5 mm jack port and a card reader port. In terms of connectivity, the Chromebook 100S makes use of WiFi 802.11 a/c as well as Bluetooth 4.0. While in terms of the physical dimensions, the Chromebook 100S measures 11.81-inches x 8.23-inches x 0.78-inches.
Hardware & Design
Chromebooks, generally speaking, only differ in minor aspects when discussing their design. This is a 11.6-inch Chromebook and as a result, is representative in size of what you would get with a number of Chromebook in this size category. However, this is a very light Chromebook and one which is certainly lighter than a number of similar 11.6-inch Chromebooks that are currently available. The Chromebook 100S weigh in at only 1.18 kg.
In terms of the aesthetics of the design, so far, the Lenovo Chromebook 100S is a black or nothing type of Chromebook. There are no options so far in terms of color, with an all-black model all that you can get. The benefit of an all black model is that in the long-term, the Chromebook retains a much cleaner look and does not pick up scuff and usage marks quite as noticeable or as easily. Like for instance, on the HP Chromebook 14 or some of the Acer options. The downside though, is that in the short-term, this Chromebook is notorious bad for picking up fingerprint marks.
In terms of the keyboard, this is your rather typical and standard six-row keyboard, although, considering that this is a smaller 11.6-inch Chromebook, the keyboard does feel rather spacious and certainly is an easy-to-use Chromebook for typing. If you are looking for a smaller, more compact, but typing-capable Chromebook, then this is certainly one of the big points for the Lenovo Chromebook 100S.
Likewise, the mouse pad is also an aspect worth mentioning. This is a small Chromebook, however, Lenovo has made sure that the both keyboard and the trackpad are extremely well placed and used. The trackpad is at least the same size. if not bigger, than on some of the larger Chromebooks (HP Chromebook 14 for instance). The trackpad also offers a good level of tactility and was extremely easy to maneuver the on-screen mouse. Of course, it is currently unclear how long that trackpad will remain as responsive for, although, for now at least, the trackpad works extremely well. As does the keyboard in general.
The display on the other hand, is not so great. There is nothing wrong with the display and this is a 1366 x 768 resolution over an 11.6-inch display. However, compared to some of the other options, the resolution and general clarity are just too low. This is just not the Chromebook you will want to be picking up if high-quality video content playback or gaming is on the agenda for you. Of course, this is not designed to be a media-heavy Chromebook and especially at this price-point. Either way, though, is a point you should be aware of.
Likewise, the most notable issue with the design (more specifically the performance) is the audio quality on the Chromebook 100S. There is inevitably going to be some compromises when it comes to a budget-priced Chromebook and in the case of the Chromebook 100S, it does seem that the audio quality is where this one suffers the most. The speakers are bottom positioned (one on each side) and very slightly do slope over onto the sides, but the quality of the speaker and their positioning just result in a very average audio experience. The volume is disappointing, as is the general quality. Again this is not designed to be a high-end audio Chromebook, however, the sound quality was the biggest design issue noted and something you will have to factor in when considering this as a Chromebook purchase.
In terms of the connectors, the left-hand side of the Chromebook is where you will find your HDMI port along with one of the USB Ports, the headphone port and the card reader slot. The right-hand side, you will find the single additional USB port.
Software and UI
When it comes to Chromebooks, there is virtually nothing of substance that differentiates Chromebooks from each other. This is Chrome OS and is generally static across all devices it runs on. As such, the experience is one which is in-line with any Chromebook or Chrome OS device that you may have tested before.
However, where Chromebooks can differ somewhat is in the stability of the software and the general UI experience. On this note, there were no real issues with the Chromebook 100S. During testing, it was found that this was a very reliable and solid performing UI experience. Now, this is not a blazing fast Chromebook, but what it is, is nicely put together and reliable system.
Battery Life & Performance
When it comes to Chromebooks, it is no secret that battery life is one of their best features. That is, compared to more traditional laptops. Chromebooks run a much lighter OS overall and one which is better able to conserve and make use of the battery. As such, when it comes to comparing the battery life of Chromebooks, it is a matter of degrees of difference.
That said, when it comes to the Chromebook 100S, the battery on this Chromebook is seriously good. As this is a smaller display Chromebook and one which does not make use of a massively demanding resolution, the battery level on offer was excellent. When fully charged, the Chromebook typically advised of about 6-7 hours of battery left, however, it was found that this was a rather conservative interpretation of the battery level and the Chromebook 100S could easily last 6-7 hours. Even with copious video playback ongoing. When it comes to battery life, the Chromebook 100S is again, a stellar performing option.
As mentioned, part of why the battery life is better, is due to the lesser demanding capabilities of the Chromebook like the display. Both the resolution and general quality of the display (and the speakers) have already been commented on and in terms of the performance, were the weakest elements of the Chromebook 100S. Speakers and display aside though, the general performance of the Chromebook 100S was found to be a very positive one. The Chromebook performs solidly and although, is not the fastest or the most capable, was a very reliable system.
The Lenovo Chromebook 100S is not a revolutionary Chromebook and won't offer anything specifically that will make it stand out from the crowd. However, what the Lenovo Chromebook 100S will offer is a very solid and reliable Chromebook experience. What is more important, though, is that this is a Chromebook which is an extremely affordable Chromebook. The Lenovo Chromebook 100S will cost you $179 out the door and for a brand new Chromebook, as nicely built as this, you are unlikely to find a better value option anywhere.
Should you buy the Lenovo Chromebook 100S?
If you are a student at school, college or university or someone who is looking for a lightweight and reliable Chromebook and trying to not spend too much, then this will be an ideal option for you. It does compromise on the quality of the display and the audio, although, the performance of the Chromebook is great, as was the battery life. Solid purchase.