Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook review

We live and work in the cloud. It’s nothing for us to spend an entire day online, hopping between social media, email, docs, and services.

Rarely do we need to plug into a printer, insert a disc, or sit down to the same desk. It’s for those very reasons that Google began dabbling in Chromebooks nearly a decade ago.

When Chromebooks burst onto the scene one of the first things people noticed about them was that they were considerably cheaper than traditional laptops. How could they cost $200-$300 when we’re conditioned to spending $1,000 for a similar experience?

We quickly learned that those products weren’t designed to compete with standard laptops. Corners were cut, ports and optical drives were removed, and it was pretty obvious as to the differences. In the end, however, none of that mattered all that much. We could still do everything we needed.

Over time we’ve seen Chromebooks evolve from budget-priced devices to more expensive models that feature robust hardware and interesting designs. Indeed, you can get sexy and powerful Chromebooks. This is not to suggest that Chromebooks are in a completely different space. We now have products that run the entire gamut.

Lenovo is a brand that has been producing a whole array of Chromebooks over the years. Up for review today is its IdeaPad 3 Chromebook.

Design

Priced $250, the IdeaPad 3 Chromebook features a 14-inch display that folds all the way back. Inside are Intel Celeron processor, 4GB RAM, and 32GB storage.

Silver in color, the Chromebook is unassuming if not a tad boring looking. At about 3lbs, it’s lighter than it appears thanks to polycarbonate and ABS plastics.

You’ll find that the display or top half of the Chromebook has a bit of flex to it. While it’s not exactly flimsy, it’ll bend with a moderate amount of pressure. A thick border frames the screen which has a 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution.

Speaking of the display, it has an LED backlight and tops out at about 220 nits of brightness. When compared to other budget Chromebooks, the IdeaPad 3 falls short both on paper and in practice. We found the overall picture to be fuzzy, muted, and generally dim. We could see it from virtually all angles, but we never found it to be anything special.

The IdeaPad 3’s has a fairly comfortable typing experience with a decent amount of space between them. We like it when keys are backlit but that’s not the case here. On the other hand, Lenovo says the keyboard is spill-resistant. A few drops of water from condensation on a water bottle didn’t seem to do anything at all, but we’re always reluctant to go all-in with a spill.

Audio is so-so for the most part, and can occasionally sound muddy. It largely depends on the source, of course. There are two speakers under the Chromebook which fire through to the table. Working with the IdeaPad 3 on your blanketed lap may force you to put in headphones.

Ports and Connectivity

Given they rely on so much on being connected to the internet, you’d expect solid support for Wi-Fi, right? The IdeaPad 3 Chromebook largely delivers on this front with the 802.11ac standard. We would have liked to see 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), but that is likely to keep cost in line.

On the left side of the Chromebook you’ll find a microSD expansion card slot, a USB Type-C port, a USB 3.1 Type-A port, and a combination headphone and microphone jack. The right side houses an additional USB 3.1 Type-A port and a USB-C port.

We like that the IdeaPad 3 employs USB Type-C for charging as that’s largely what makes up the cables and chargers in our home and office. Cheaper Chromebooks often use a proprietary port; this means one less cable to worry about.

Performance

Our review unit came with  a dual-core (1.1GHz) Intel Celeron N4020 processor with 4GB of memory and 32GB of flash storage. It’s about what you’d expect in a Chromebook in this price range and sufficient for day-to-day tasks.

Over a typical day of light use (web browsing, YouTube, email, social media) and having a handful of tabs open at a time, we found the IdeaPad 3 to be mostly snappy. There’s nothing overly awesome going on hardware-wise so we didn’t get into anything fancy, but the IdeaPad 3 handled all the things a student or work-from-home type might need.

When it comes to battery life, however, the IdeaPad 3 really shines. Lenovo claims about ten hours per charge and we’d have a hard time saying otherwise. This happens, though, when you’re not dealing with a super-high resolution display. The twisted nematic (TN) panel, and the lower NIT brightness are much easier on the battery than what’s found in pricier laptops.

Conclusion

If you need a Chromebook for simple computing needs such as home schooling or work-from-home tasks, and budget is a main concern, the IdeaPad 3 should meet your needs. You’ll trade off a high-resolution display and price tag for sufficient computing power, an array of external connectivity, and excellent battery life. All for a reasonable $250.

The IdeaPad 3 Chromebook is perfectly aligned with the needs of younger students or as a secondary laptop for the home. Likewise, it’s a good options for people who might want to catch up on work email and tasks from home.

Learn more about the IdeaPad 3 Chromebook at Lenovo’s website. You can purchase the device at a variety of retailers, including B&H Photo Video.

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