Lenovo enters Chromebook game with ThinkPad X131e

Still no consumer Chromebook from Lenovo quite yet
Still no consumer Chromebook from Lenovo quite yet

Lenovo announced today that it's making a bold step into the Chromebook market, which is great news if you're an elementary school student or a teacher though not so much if you work outside the classroom.

For Lenovo's first foray into Google's operating system, it's launching the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook, a Chrome OS laptop built specifically for K-12 schools.

To survive in that kind of educational environment, the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook is a tough piece of hardware, with a rubber bumper built into the top cover and reinforced corners to help it survive the occasional - or frequent - accidental fall.

The hinge has also been strengthened and Lenovo claims it can safely withstand being opened and shut more than 50,000 times.

In actuality, the laptop is a Chrome OS model for Lenovo's existing Windows-based ThinkPad X131e line, so the rugged design should be familiar to educators and students who have been using them since last year.

Chromebooks in the classroom

The ThinkPad X131e Chromebook's key benefit is from the Chrome OS itself, giving the laptop fast boot times and battery life that can last the entire school day.

It will rely on Google Apps for Education and the Chrome Web Store for applications, which will provide all of the necessary tools for students like creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

The actual hardware features an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 anti-glare display and Intel processor along with three USB ports, HDMI and VGA ports for class presentations, and a webcam to allow collaborative programs between different schools.

Since the ThinkPad X131e Chromebook is meant for K-12 education, Lenovo is only selling the laptops directly to schools and institutions priced at $429 (EU£268, AU$406). Interested educators can place bulk orders for their school starting Feb. 26.

Despite it's limited in release, could Lenovo be testing the Chrome OS waters for a future entrant aimed at a wider audience? We hope so, though perhaps without the extra padding. We're not that clumsy.