For the most part, Chromebooks are just terminals that access the internet and its limitless content. Since broadband distribution has reached a point where most people can access the internet at respectable speeds anywhere, a computer that lives on the web makes sense.
Stripping away all the bells and whistles and leaving only the essentials to access the great wide web makes owning one affordable. With the $180 (about £120, AU$250) Lenovo 100S Chromebook, that affordability reaches new levels, but with the low price comes a ding in performance.
The 11.6-inch Lenovo 100S Chromebook brings the barest of essentials to the laptop experience. The chiclet-keyboard isn't backlit, and the corresponding numbers, letters and symbols are adhered to, rather than printed on, the keys. The bezel around the 11.6-inch screen is surprisingly large, especially given the recent laptop trend of the amazing, shrinking bezel.
If anything, the Lenovo 100S looks like it's from a different era entirely, resembling a high-end 2010 netbook. However, it makes up for its lack of visual pizazz with an aluminum palm rest, and the solid feel of metal under my wrists makes a big difference in keeping the 100S from feeling like a cheap piece of plastic.
There's nothing offensive about the laptop's design, but there's also nothing truly outstanding, either. Lenovo's Chromebook just sort of exists, navigating you through the web without drawing your ire with shortcomings in the hardware. The one exception is the shiny, beveled edge around the trackpad, which really pops when the light catches it.
Other than the silvery bevel, the Lenovo has no eye-catching design features to speak of. This puts it way behind the Asus Chromebook Flip, which somehow is made with a fully aluminum body and flips into a tablet.
Small time thrills
While the bezel around the screen is substantial, the display panel itself is adequately sized. I was worried the 11.6-inch screen would be too small to be useful, but the 1,366 x 768 resolution is just right and everything scaled well to the small screen. Color reproduction is a bit on the muddy side, as everything on the screen looks somewhat dull.
The matte-finish screen does a fine job of avoiding reflections, which makes it a decent machine to use outside, particularly on an overcast day. The screen brightness can be adjusted to a point where it's almost too bright to see, which helps it compensate for sunny days.
For a laptop aimed at students and teachers, the Lenovo 100S sure does pick up stains. The finish on the aluminum palm rest picks up fingerprints and marks from my hands entirely too easily, and you can see clearly where I've placed my fingers any time I've closed or carried the laptop. The surface doesn't easily wipe clean with the corner of a t-shirt either, and instead requires a bit of electronics cleaner and a microfiber cloth.