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Lenovo 500e Chromebook Review

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • $309
Chromebooks have often been portrayed as the cheap, second computer in a home. And the Lenovo 500e is a prime example of this and here's our full review.


Many give them to children because they can use the devices without worrying about scuffing the case or dropping jam sandwiches onto the keyboard. The Lenovo 500e is built to withstand the rigours of a school classroom while delivering several cool features.

PRICE
The 500e is available in two variants, both of which can be ordered directly from the Lenovo store. The entry model comes with an 11.6in IPS display, Intel Celeron N3450 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and costs £339.99/$309.

Alternatively there’s an 8GB/64GB model that is exactly the same in all other areas and costs £399.99 in the UK but doesn’t appear to be currently available to US customers.

This puts the 500e in the same ballpark as the Asus Chromebook Flip C213NA, which features a similar set of specs, rugged construction, and can be picked up for around £400 on Amazon in the UK or directly from Asus for $349 in the USA.

Lenovo also offers the Thinkpad 13 Chromebook which boasts a larger 13in display and which can be ordered directly from its official site for £379.99 in the UK or $440 in the USA.

DESIGN AND BUILD
While the 500e is in the smaller class of Chromebook, mainly thanks to its 11.6in display, the tough casing makes it a little on the bulky side. Hard plastic adorns the majority of the chassis, with thick rubber edging providing protection against drops.

Lenovo states that device is compliant with MIL-STD-810G military-grade testing, and should survive falls of 75cm, which happens to be roughly the same height as a school desk. It also features reinforced ports and hinges, which will endure anything your local coffee shop can throw at it.

This durability continues when you open the lid, as the island-style keyboard and sealed trackpad are built to withstand liquid spills of up to 330ml - the same size as a can of Coke. We found the typing experience a little lacking, with the key response feeling spongy, but accuracy was good and we could type at close to full speed without too many errors.
Displays can often be a weak point, but the 500e features Gorilla Glass 3 and something called 'Native Damage Resistance' that protects it against chipping and scratches. One downside it that it also has huge bezels, leaving you feeling that the 11.6in screen is actually smaller than it is in reality.

Running at an almost mandatory 1366x768 the panel is thankfully an IPS variant, so colours look pleasantly alive, especially compared to the matt panels we often see on Chromebooks. Of course this also means that reflections can be a problem in brightly lit rooms, and if you’re outside on a sunny day you’ll battle to push the brightness high enough to cope.

Touchscreen capabilities are included, which is something we’re seeing more and more on Chromebooks recently, and it's certainly welcome in this case.

The hinges move through 360 degrees, so the device can be used as a classic laptop, in ‘tent’ mode, or folded completely around to turn it into a makeshift tablet. This is made far more tempting than normal due to the stylus that you’ll find housed in the base of the machine. 

Pop this out and the 500e instantly recognises its arrival, no need for pairing, which makes it handy for taking notes or sketches in Google Keep, or for selecting areas of the screen to capture when editing images.

Drawing and writing with the stylus was surprisingly good. Not quite Apple Pencil or Microsoft Surface Pen territory, but fun and more than justifying its inclusion as a feature rather than gimmick.

Lenovo hasn’t skimped on the port side of things, as the device includes a good selection of apertures. These include two USB-C ports, two USB 3.0, a MicroSD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The device also has two cameras, a 720p front facing unit in the traditional space at the top of the screen, plus a second 5Mp HD lens placed just above the keyboard. The reason for the latter is that you can take pictures when using the 500e in tablet mode. We’re not sure how much this feature would be used but there’s no harm in having it.

The 500e has a perfectly serviceable construction throughout, although there are a few places on the display surround where the mould joins are clearly visible. It doesn’t affect the performance, but cheapens the aesthetics.

While there was a temptation to hurl the 500e around the office, while throwing Dr Pepper in its face to test its toughness, our better angels prevailed. For Lenovo to make these durability claims so confidently on its site means it will have to back them up.

Basically, it’s safe to say that this is a tough little laptop.

SPECS AND PERFORMANCE
An Intel Celeron 1.1Ghz N3450 processor is the brains behind the 500e, with our review model also bearing 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It’s pretty standard fare for Chromebooks and proved to be a reliable and nippy combination in the time we spent with the device.  

General web browsing while listening to music streaming in the background posed no issues. Simple puzzle games such as Brain it On were also enhanced by the stylus, and creating documents was the usual painless experience thanks to the Google suite of productivity apps.

You won’t be doing much in the way of audio or video editing on a Chromebook, but for normal day-to-day tasks the 500e is a fine companion.

Putting the 500e through some standard benchmarks returned scores of 53.2 on Jetstream 1.1, and 190 on Basemark 3.0. This makes it slightly faster than its closest rival, the Asus C213CA, but there’s not a lot in it.

Lenovo claims a 10 hour battery life on the 500e, and our tests delivered around that, with our HD video streaming over Wi-Fi test draining all power after nine hours and 40 minutes. 

SOFTWARE AND APPS
ChromeOS powers all Chromebooks, and sees constant improvement. Gone are the days when everything was reliant on an internet connection, as many apps now run offline, including Google’s own Docs and Pages. This make Chromebooks a solid choice if you want a low-cost, easy to manage PC that can get stuff done.

The recent addition of being able to run Android apps also opens up the available options. True, many have not yet been optimised for the desktop window, meaning they run in smaller, taller windows, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The stylus integration is another solid upgrade, and while there isn’t a huge amount you can do with the peripheral, it does show where things might be heading in the next year or two.

Of course, the best part about Chromebooks is that they can actually get better over time as ChromeOS is refined.

They’re not for everyone, and power users should definitely look elsewhere, but Chromebooks remain an easy recommendation for those who want to keep things simple, not worry about viruses and malware, save a bit of cash and still remain productive.

SPECS
  • Chrome OS
  • 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N3450 processor
  • 4 or 8GB RAM
  • 32 or 64GB eMMc Storage
  • 11.6in IPS HD display, 1366x768 resolution, with 10-point multitouch
  • Intel Integrated Graphics
  • 720p HD front-facing camera
  • 5Mp HD world-facing camera
  • 2 x USB-C
  • 2 X USB 3.0
  • MicroSD card reader
  • 3.5mm audio combo jack
  • 802.11 ac 2x2 Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 290 x 204 x 20.35mm
  • 1.35kg

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