Chromebooks are often unremarkable laptops, but they have to be if they're going to offer the basic utility of a notebook at temptingly low prices.
One of the best you can buy for work or school is the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook. Not to be confused with the Lenovo ThinkPad 13, which runs Windows 10 and costs about $600 (AU$900, £360), this variation of the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is a Chromebook, which means it runs Chrome OS and has a starting price of $439 (converts to £360, AU$610) with different configurations featuring:
- 13.3-inch screen with either HD (1,366x768) or full HD (1,920x1,080) resolution (touchscreen optional)
- An Intel processor, either Celeron 3855U, Core i3-6100U or Core i5-6300U
- 2GB or 4GB of onboard memory
- 16GB or 32GB of storage (eMMC)
Though it's not as cheap as some other Chromebooks, the ThinkPad 13 makes up for it with solid battery life, a comfy keyboard and smooth performance.
The ThinkPad 13 has an impressively spacious keyboard that feels incredibly comfortable when typing, especially for a budget laptop. Individual keys are quick to respond, springy and slightly concave to comfortably fit your fingertips. The trackpad, located below it, is also very responsive and accurate.
It feels very roomy for a 13-inch laptop; after using it awhile I much preferred it over my MacBook Air for any prolonged writing sessions. My only pet peeve is that the keyboard is not backlit, and it's missing the classic ThinkPad trackpoint from the Windows 10 model.
Not built for Netflix
Do you want your Chromebook to become your new Netflix binge-watching buddy? The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is not the one.
First of all, its screen, while fine for Word documents and spreadsheets, lacks the brightness and colorful pop you want from a device for watching TV and movies. It's worth the extra money to upgrade to the better screen than the default 1,366x768-pixel resolution TN screen that comes with the entry-level model.
Secondly, the speakers are better left unused. If you didn't already plan on primarily using it with headphones, you should. The speakers are located on the bottom of the laptop, directing sound downward towards your lap, table, or whatever surface the laptop is placed on. In turn, audio is inevitably muffled and makes for a lackluster listening experience.
If a sleek design, like the HP Chromebook 13 (which runs $499 and up) and Acer Chromebook 14, is a priority, you won't be impressed by the Lenovo ThinkPad 13's homely, all-black, plastic design. To be fair, that hiding-in-plain-sight look is a longtime ThinkPad hallmark and makes it a popular corporate computer. At 19.8mm thin and weighing 3.2 pounds (1.4kg), it's portable and easy to carry around, but not as compact as the slim, featherweight Chromebooks noted above.