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Lenovo 500e Chromebook review: A tough little 2-in-1 Chromebook that makes very few compromises

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The Chromebook concept is rooted in simplicity. Forget Windows, with all of its complicated licenses, patches and updates. Google's free, lightweight operating system just works -- as long as you understand what a Chromebook can and can't do. You can't install Photoshop, Steam or any other Windows or Mac-dependent application -- only online apps and services that run through your browser (and now, many Android apps). With the 500e, Lenovo remains steadfast to the Chromebook premise, delivering an inexpensive laptop-tablet combination that just works -- and with surprisingly few limitations.

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7.5

Lenovo 500e Chromebook

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The tough Chromebook 500e gets the job done as a laptop and tablet, with a comfortable keyboard, responsive (included) stylus and solid battery life. Two webcameras.

The Bad

Chunky, plastic aesthetic. Mediocre display. Limited to online apps.

The Bottom Line

Well-suited for basic online use, the 500e is sturdy, portable, long-lasting Chromebook that competently doubles as a tablet.

While Samsung and Google have refined the high-end Chromebook -- see the Chromebook Pro and Pixelbook, respectively -- Lenovo has gone down-market with a lineup of Chromebooks optimized for classroom use. They're durable, convertible between laptop and tablet, and inexpensive. Priced at $310 (£340 or AU$600), the 500e is well-suited for the classroom as well as basic personal and business use.

Lenovo 500e Chromebook

Price as reviewed $310
Display size/resolution 11.6-inch 1,366x768-pixel touchscreen
CPU Dual-core 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N3450U
Memory 2GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 500
Storage 32GB eMMC
Webcam Built-in 720p HD camera and mic, 5MP HD camera and mic
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Google Chrome

A tough little machine

The 500e's plastic design lacks the metallic elegance of higher-end laptops but exudes toughness; I felt confident handing it off to my 8-year-old daughter. According to Lenovo, the rubberized bumpers can absorb a drop (up to 29.5 inches) and the water-resistant keyboard can withstand a drenching (up to about 11 ounces of liquid). The ports -- two USB-C, two USB 3.0, a microSD card slot and a headphone jack -- are reinforced.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The 11.6-inch HD multitouch Gorilla Glass display is totally mediocre: sufficiently sharp but just not bright enough, even at its maximum setting. The 500e's 360-degree convertible hinge -- similar to the one found on the pricier Yoga 920 -- is stiff and stays put at any intermediary angle, though the display will shimmy a bit if you're a forceful typist.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Respectable as a laptop and tablet

Although it's a relatively small machine, the 500e's keyboard isn't much smaller than what you'd find on the 13-inch Macbook Air, and it has a few handy extra keys for online navigation (i.e. back, forward, refresh). I found it comfortable to type on. In addition to the customary webcam embedded above the display, Lenovo has positioned a second camera above the keyboard so you can shoot photos and videos while looking at the display in tablet mode -- a thoughtful touch.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

At just a hair under 3 pounds (1.35 kg), the 500e is portable but far from elegant. It's bulky -- nearly an inch thick -- and like all convertibles with a permanently connected keyboard, it's a bit awkward to hold in tablet mode. But the 500e's included pressure-sensitive stylus, which has its own dedicated storage slot, works well. I tested it using Squid, a simple (and free) note-taking app I downloaded from the Google Play store, and found it responsive and accurate, with a slew of settings that are easily accessible and adjustable.  

Speedy enough for the basics

Lenovo makes a handful of 11.6-inch convertible laptops, including two less-expensive Chromebooks (the 300e and 100e) as well as variations that run Windows 10. The configuration we tested included the following:

  • 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N3450 CPU
  • Intel HD Graphics 500
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 32GB of eMMC storage

Equipped with an Intel Celeron processor, the 500e was never going to win any speed contests. And it got absolutely smoked in our JetStream test, which measures the performance of advanced web applications, and also in Google's Octane benchmark, which evaluates JavaScript performance. Via the built-in access to the Google Play store's Android apps (which run in a safe, walled-garden environment) we also ran the Android versions of 3DMark and Geekbench. In my own anecdotal testing, I found the 500e to be positively zippy -- quick to turn on, launch apps and load up webpages.  

Chromebooks are known for their enduring battery performance, and the 500e clocked in at just shy of 11 hours in our CNET test, handily beating out the more expensive Samsung Chromebook Plus. Plus, I was able to fully recharge the 500e in about 2 hours. 

Almost everything you want in a Chromebook

Lenovo's 500e gives you quite a lot for $310. Yes, the display isn't great and you'll have to do without Windows. But it's powerful enough to handle basic work and entertainment tasks and give you the better part of a day's worth of battery life. Though Lenovo obviously designed the 500e for kids in classrooms, it's a solid choice for anyone looking for a durable two-in-one Chromebook. 

Geekbench 4 (Multicore)

Samsung Chromebook Pro 4,968Lenovo 500e Chromebook 3,882Samsung Chromebook Plus 1,986
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark

Samsung Chromebook Pro 42,839Lenovo 500e Chromebook 28,802Samsung Chromebook Plus 19,922
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Google Octane

Samsung Chromebook Pro 22,586Samsung Chromebook Plus 13,244Lenovo 500e Chromebook 10,263
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

JetStream

Samsung Chromebook Pro 120.79Samsung Chromebook Plus 69.992Lenovo 500e Chromebook 53.108
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery-drain test (Streaming)

Lenovo 500e Chromebook 656Samsung Chromebook Plus 573Samsung Chromebook Pro 537
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

PC Geekbox Lenovo 500e ChromebookSamsung Chromebook PlusSamsung Chromebook Pro
Price as reviewed $309 $499 $549
Display size (in inches)/resolution 11.6 in, 1,366x768 12.3 in, 2,400x1,600 12.3 in, 2,400x1,600
PC CPU Intel Celeron N3450, 1.10GHzIntel Celeron 3965Y, 1.15GHzIntel Core m3-6y30
PC Memory 4GB4GB4GB
Storage 32GB32GB32GB
Operating system Chrome OSChrome OSChrome OS
01-lenovo-flex-11
7.5

Lenovo 500e Chromebook

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6Battery 8