Lenovo IdeaPad 100S Chromebook review: Chrome OS loses the race to the bottom

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MSRP: $199.99

The Good The inexpensive Lenovo 100S Chromebook has a comfortable keyboard, battery life that'll last a workday, and just enough performance to get rudimentary tasks done.

The Bad Google's Chrome OS operating system is limited when compared to identically priced competitors that run Windows 10.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo 100S Chromebook delivers on the promise of adequate performance at a low price, but dirt-cheap Windows 10 machines have it beat there.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7

The Lenovo 100S Chromebook is the quintessential Chromebook. It's cheap and a bit bland-looking, powered by a budget Intel processor and packing a meager, low-resolution screen.

That's not so bad. This $199 (approximately £138, or AU$282) Chromebook feels solid, packs a nice keyboard and a fair amount of battery life, planting this among the better cheap options for staying connected. You will need to be near a Wi-Fi connection; this Chromebook runs Google's browser-based Chrome OS, and while the operating system has come a long way your options are still limited once you're disconnected.

But $200 will go a bit further these days, with options that offer more style, or stronger hardware, or (most importantly) a full operating system, thanks to bargain bin devices from HP, and even Lenovo, that run Windows 10.

Design and features

Chromebooks are supposed to be cheap, web-centric devices, keeping you connected with a minimum of fuss. The Walmart-exclusive Hisense Chromebook is a fine example, a nigh-disposable device that shone primarily because it was so cheap, at $150. The Asus Chromebook Flip C100 ($250; converted, £171, AU$349) tosses a touchscreen and a 360-degree hinge into the mix, though it sacrifices performance for long battery life. Google's own Chromebook Pixel is less convincing: an impressive machine saddled with an operating system that's simply too limited to justify paying $1,000.

The Lenovo 100S sits on the cheaper end of the spectrum, made of black plastic and weighing a scant 2.6 pounds (1.2kg). It's wholly unremarkable: there's a shiny little finish bordering the trackpad, but barring a few stickers and the Lenovo or Chrome branding dotted at various points around the chassis, I'd be hard pressed to tell this machine apart from the myriad of black boxes dotting the budget PC landscape.

Nate Ralph/CNET

The keyboard is roomy, so fingers won't feel cramped, and the keys offer a nice amount of feedback and depth with every press -- no typing mistakes here. The keyboard isn't backlit, but there's no chance it would be at this price.The Chromebook 100S has an 11.6-inch display, with a 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution. It does a fair job with color accuracy, but the contrast starts to degrade noticeably when viewed off axis. It's also not a touchscreen. The trackpad is fine, it's responsive and generally stayed out of my way as I bumbled around the Web. It never skipped a beat while I scrolled through web pages, or used the handful of trackpad gestures built into Chrome OS, which is appreciated.

There's an SD card slot on the side for importing files and photos, but I'd recommend using it for a bit of extra storage as the Chromebook only has 32GB of storage. That's dismal, but also kind of the point: the limited storage space hosts files you need ready, regular access to while the rest of your stuff will live in the cloud.

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