MWC 2019 may typically be all about the mobile devices but that hasn’t stopped Lenovo from breaking forward with a new AMD-powered Chromebook for the enterprise category at this year's event.
The Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise is priced to start at below $300 so the new gadget falls squarely into the budget-friendly category for Chrome OS. It's also designed completely new from the ground up to launch the company's efforts in that space in a completely new direction.
Ergonomic and blade-like
The biggest differentiator for Lenovo’s latest Chrome OS offering may not be its internals, despite that it is one of only a few Chromebooks driven by AMD components, as the design of Lenovo’s latest Chromebook is completely new for the company. The super-narrow bezels surrounding the 14e Chromebook Enterprise’s 14-inch IPS display are enabled by the fact that the new device is not a 2-in-1. So the clamshell-style Chromebook doesn’t require large bezels to make use in a tablet configuration easier.
Lenovo has also left behind the plastics found in other recently launched Chromebooks such as the Lenovo 500e Chromebook, Chromebook S330, or Chromebook C330. Instead, the Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise pulls its cues from the company’s premium yoga lineup and utilizes aluminum on the materials front. That’s shown in a smooth silver for the lid and a darker-toned brushed metal on the keyboard.
Simultaneously, the 14e Chromebook Enterprise also breaks away from previous devices completely and follows a blade-like design language. Its shape tapers toward the front, leading edge from a thicker base at the back.
This not only adds to the stylistic appeal but means that when the 14e Chromebook Enterprise is folded up, the rear edge of the keyboard sits slightly raised for a more ergonomic feel. The design looks entirely modern, minimalist, and unique compared to most Chrome OS devices presently available in its price bracket. Each edge of the frame has a rounded-off look, while clean chamfered cuts line the display panel.
Lenovo says the durability of the device will allow its use in a wide variety of use cases ranging from education to retail environments or the manufacturing floor but hasn’t offered key specifications for ruggedization. It has said that durability meets or exceeds its own exacting standards for use in the education sector.
The durability factor for the Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise hasn't been explained in-depth but could be taken to mean that its keyboard will feature at least some spill resistance. Lenovo's education-specific laptops have historically been equipped with that feature as well as being tested to survive repeated drops directly onto concrete from a reasonable height of a few feet. More information about that will likely become available as the device approaches its official sale date.
Internally, the Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise follows through with the expectations set by its design. Driving the Chrome OS user experience, and backing up new software intended to make life easier from classroom to the enterprise, Lenovo is including a dual-core AMD A4 processor clocked at 2.5 GHz. That’s supported on the visual side of things by an AMD integrated graphics chip.
Multiple memory and storage variations on that base setup will be offered as well, catering to a variety of needs. Buyers will be able to choose up to 8GB of DDR4 RAM and as much as 64GB of eMMC storage.
The internal storage hardware is backed up further by the inclusion of two standard USB 3.1 ports, two more USB Type-C 3.1 ports, and a micro SD card reader. Those are split with plenty of space between them with one USB-C port coupled with an LED battery indicator on the left-hand side, next to one standard USB port, and the SD reader. A Kensington lock slot is included just behind the remaining USB Type-C and USB-A ports on the right-hand side of the device.
For audio, users will find Dolby Audio on board for what should be well-balanced sound quality. The included 3.5mm audio combo jack, built into the left-hand side of the frame, provides for audio in loud environments or situations where more discretion is required. Attached to the build via a redesigned box-shaped-but-sleek 180-degree hinge, Lenovo has included a 14-inch display panel at up to FHD resolution with touch compatibility. The display can be laid flat for shared usage or tilted up into a laptop format when work really needs to get done.
Lenovo hasn't provided details about the webcam that's pictured just above the flat-panel display but there appear to be at least three separate mics incorporated along the top bezel next to that sensor. That should allow for clearer audio capture across the board and be particularly useful in video conferencing, voice chatting, or recording.
The entire package, including the 57-watt battery, weighs in at a substantial, but still compact and portable, 3.27 lbs while the frame itself measures 12.91 x 8.85 x 0.69-inches.
The included battery is rated to offer up to 10-hours of use between charges.
Taken as a complete package, those specs should make the Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise a gadget that can keep up with demanding needs for business or entertainment. It should also be able to keep things going all day without needing to stop mid-day for a charge up.
Pricing and availability
Pricing for the Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise is set to start at $279.99, placing the gadget at the lower end of the cost spectrum for Chrome OS. That’s in spite of its durability and sleek modern aesthetic, which would not be out of place in either a school or a boardroom. Higher RAM and storage variants haven’t been detailed with regard to price but will cost more.
Enterprise-specific devices such as Lenovo’s latest offering aren’t typically sold in the general consumer space. Lenovo doesn’t currently have plans for this device to break with that and enter the consumer market either, although the possibility should not be completely ruled out.
The Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise will land for business and education customers in the US in March.