Hands-on with the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e, in both Windows and Chrome OS

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/ Updated: April 15, 2014 3:29 PM PDT

Quietly announced earlier in 2014, Lenovo's new line of education laptops has turned up, allowing us to get some hands-on time with this very wide-ranging series.

Four basic 11.6-inch configurations make up the ThinkPad 11e series. The system is available in a traditional Windows 8 version, first as a non-touch clamshell, and then as a touch-screen version with a 360-degree hinge, similar to what you'd find on the company's Yoga line.

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Sarah Tew/CNET
That's standard enough for education laptops, intended as a low-cost computers for students, but the other two configurations are where it gets more interesting. The first is a Chrome OS version, again in a non-touch clamshell, while the second is a touch screen Chromebook, with the same 360-degree Yoga-style hinge the Windows version offers, making it the first Chrome OS hybrid we've seen.

The four different versions look and feel very similar, and chunkier and heavier (around 3.3 pounds) than a standard 11-inch laptop, in part because of cost, and partly because they need to be semi-rugged to stand up to schoolroom use. Ports are reinforced, hinges are stronger than standard laptops, and wide-angle Gorilla Glass IPS screens mean teachers can keep an eye on what's onscreen from across the classroom.

You can tell the difference between the two OS versions by looking at the keyboard. Besides missing the Windows key, the Chrome OS version, like other Chromebooks, has a lowercase-letter keyboard, while the Windows version's keyboard has the standard capital key keyboard.

These systems all use Intel Celeron processors, and that means they won't cost as much as the standard Core i-series Yoga laptops, but they will cost more than entry-level $200 Chromebooks. Prices range from the non-touch Chromebook version at $349, up to the touch-screen Windows version, at $549 and they should be available later this spring. Availability outside of the US has not yet been announced.

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Lenovo ThinkPad 11e (Chrome, touchscreen)

Part Number: CNETlenovoThinkPad11echrometouch
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