Introduction, design and performance
Lenovo’s N20p Chromebook ($329, £210, AU$380) is the one of the first multi-mode Chromebooks, which is an accomplishment all on its own. With just a flip of the keyboard, this Chromebook transforms from laptop to tablet mode. When you consider that the device is only 3.1 pounds, is sleek and perfect for everyday use, you’ll fall in love with this machine. It’s more expensive than other leading, laptop-only Chromebooks, such as the Acer C720 Chromebook (starting at $199, £199, AU$399) and the HP Chromebook 11 (starting at $279, £179, AU$399), but the tablet viewing option is worth the extra cost.
The N20p is a Chrome laptop with a 10-point, multi-touch display. Features and specs are nothing special or out of the ordinary, but they come together to create a pretty seamless machine. There is an 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 touchscreen, which won’t compare to the Toshiba Chromebook 2‘s 1080p screen, but is decent enough for everyday use.
The N20p also features a quad-core Intel Celeron processor, 16GB of eMMC storage, up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 1MP webcam. This is all standard spec-wise for a Chrome OS notebook. It won’t impress like the Acer 13 Chromebook, which is powered by Nvidia’s ARM Cortex A15-based Tegra K1, but you won’t find the computer lagging behind at all.
The chiclet-style keyboard is relatively standard, although the 11-inch size of the computer leads to feeling as though some standard key functions are being left off. Plus, some of the icons for functions were difficult to distinguish (although, full disclosure, I am a frequent Mac user). Despite this, the travel between the keys was more comfortable than most small laptops, so that’s a plus given that most business uses require ample amounts of typing.
The trackpad is crisp, responsive and a very satisfying click when selecting. The non-click touch option with mouse movements and gestures (i.e., two-finger scrolling) is just sensitive enough to require minimal tapping, but not overly sensitive where you’d find yourself making many accidental or phantom swipes.
With its 2.16 GHz Intel Celeron N2830 CPU, the N20p feels spritely when completing everyday tasks like checking email and surfing the Web. Even with a large amount of tabs open (which we’re all guilty of), there was minimal slowdown of processes as the system relies on integrated graphics processing, which is sufficient for basic Web browsing. An especially nice touch was the super-quick startup time for the machine, making powering down the machine when we were finished using it less of a task and something we could incorporate into our daily routine.
Performance is on par with competing systems, with fast boot times (going from cold start to login screen in under 10 seconds) and quick browsing.
With the built-in Camera app, 1280 x 720 photos came out blurry, even with relatively good lighting, rendering pictures that were darker than expected. Video chats seem to work better with users on the other end having no issue with the video quality.
Speakers, battery life and connectivity
One disappointment was the sound quality from the laptop’s tiny speakers. Located underneath the chassis, the speakers get some more breathing room in stand mode, where they actually project toward you. But, the sound was still tinny and somewhat lacking bass, which seems to be a norm for small laptops. This was particularly a letdown for this system given the N20p lends itself to video watching, but the audio hardware just doesn’t match up.
The 34.8-watt-hour battery life is good, as promised (8 hours). After heavy and extended use both for business and leisure activities, the battery life lasted anywhere from 6-8.5 hours. The internal battery allows for a slimmer design, which makes the slate gray device sleek and easily portable.
It’s obvious Lenovo spared no expense in terms of connectivity – and it shows. The N20p features Bluetooth 4.0, as well as 802.11ac WiFi to match. This means this laptop focuses to boost video conferencing and other more intense tasks through the latest WiFi standard. Its predecessors, like the ones from Acer, attempt to do so through the Core (Acer specifically updated to the first Core i series-equipped Chromebook). But, since the Chrome OS relies so heavily on an internet connection, AC networking gives the N20p the edge.
Tablet-mode and verdict
The best feature is the N20p’s touch control and stand mode. The versatility makes this a great leisure and work device. Some difficulty does occur when using it as a tablet, as Chrome isn’t entirely tailored to touch as a largely browser-based operating system. We’d recommend using this for recreational activities (think: HBOGo viewing or Pinteresting), rather than business-use.
The 300-degree hinge lets you flip the N20p’s display backward all the way into stand mode (or ‘tent’ mode, whatever you prefer), which lends itself nicely to viewing movies or showing presentations as the image flips automatically to orient with the display.
Brightness on the Lenovo N20p is a bit on the low side and the display suffers from poor accuracy, color reproduction and viewing angles. Tilting the screen forward or backward just 20 degrees can cause the video you’re viewing to wash out or become unusually shadowy.
The screen boasts 10-point touch, which is rare in the Chromebook family with just the Acer C270P and the Google Chromebook Pixel (for a pretty penny) sharing this trait. If the image is flipped, a touch keyboard is automatically enabled for your typing needs – the keys are a bit far apart, making typing a bit cumbersome, but the option to touch type is nice.
This is one of the "sexier" Chromebooks available, showcasing Lenovo’s eye for style. Plus with two USB ports (one 3.0), and HDMI port and an SD card reader, this Chromebook delivers a great bang for its buck. Not to mention it’s multi-mode feature and strong battery life, making it a great candidate for leisure use.
While the multi-mode option is great, it would be nice if the device hinged back to the full 360-degrees, rather than stopping 60 degrees short of a full laptop-to-tablet solution. The speakers are also surprisingly weak for a multimedia-focused machine.
The N20p offers arguably more than any other Chromebook of its size. This 11-inch touchscreen device with a 300-degree hinge adds versatility and great WiFi speed for an excellent leisure experience. However, the price is slightly more than the competition, so you really have to want the tablet option. While we wouldn’t recommend it for business use, as the extra spend on the touch screen is rendered pretty useless for most uses, it’s a sufficient device for the everyday user.