- Excellent battery life
- Touch-sensitive screen and Stand Mode
- Solid performance while staying cool and quiet
- Lousy quality display
- Uncomfortable keyboard
- Slightly more expensive than other Chromebooks
It's a little more expensive than other Chromebooks, but if you can look past the price tag, Lenovo's N20p is a great machine with only minor drawbacks.
Chromebooks have quite a bit of appeal, even if they do have a somewhat specific intended audience. If all you’re looking to do is browse the web, watch some Netflix, or maybe finish some very basic work, why should you have to shell out a fortune for a machine that does way more than you need?
It’s no surprise, then, that since Acer and Samsung debuted the original Chromebooks back in 2011, a couple of other companies have gotten into the game. In addition to HP and Google, Lenovo has thrown its hat into the ring with the N20p.
Starting at $330, the N20p is on the slightly more expensive side compared to its competitors (Samsung’s Chromebook 2, for example, starts at $250), and it’s worth bearing the low price tag is usually a Chromebook’s most appealing feature. So the question is, if you wanted a Chromebook, is the N20p worth the extra cash?
Like many of the Chromebooks before it, the N20p goes with the silver and black motif, with the entire outside of the device sporting a silver paint job and the interior, including the keyboard, coated in black. The lid features branding for both Lenovo and Google’s Chrome OS, but besides those, the N20p has a very simple aesthetic.
Unfortunately, the N20p somehow manages to be only an average weight – as opposed to on the lighter side – and for something as simple and bare bones as a Chromebook, that’s almost puzzling. There’s no HDD or optical drive on which to blame the extra weight, yet the N20p still comes in at 2.86 pounds. So it’s not heavy, it’s just not particularly light either.
It’s hard to say where exactly the weight comes from if not from the touchscreen, but the Chromebook does have a sturdy build, so perhaps the added weight is justified in some capacity. For example, it sports a unique looking hinge that’s a bit chunky, but it at least holds the display firmly in place with no wobble whatsoever, even when its flipped all the way back a full 300 degrees for Stand Mode (more on this later).
In terms of its footprint, the N20p makes good use of its space, measuring 11.6” x 8.34” x 0.7”. The bezel could be a little thinner, especially directly below the display, but given that the Chromebook sports a full keyboard, a roomy touchpad, and an 11.6” display, Lenovo could have done a lot worse with the device’s overall size.
Input and Output Ports
The N20p keeps it simple with its port selection, but offers all of the necessities. The left side features the headphone jack, a micro HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, and the charging port. The right side, meanwhile, features an SD card slot (an excellent inclusion given the lack of local storage on Chromebooks), a battery light, the power button, and a USB 2.0 port.
Screen and Speakers
There aren’t many nice things to say about the display of the N20p. While there are a number of issues with the Chromebook’s 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 display, far and away its greatest weakness is its sharpness. The relatively low resolution with a screen of this size results in a 135.09 ppi, and it shows. Users don’t have to put their noses to the display to see individual pixels; in fact, even when we were using it regularly we easily spotted some graininess.
The brightness is similarly disappointing. Even on the maximum setting, it leaves an awful lot to be desired. Thankfully the N20p doesn’t have too many issues with glare in spite of the weak brightness, but it is worth noting that its viewing angles aren’t very wide.
One of the few benefits of the display is that it is touch-sensitive, which adds a convenient layer of functionality. Though true tablet usage is out of the question – this is not a transformer, or convertible after all, so the keyboard will always be connected – the display can rotate as far back as 300 degrees so users can set up the device keyboard facedown to interact with the display.
This feature, which Lenovo has dubbed Stand Mode, gives you a good way to have the screen propped up at a nice angle if you want to temporarily switch over to a touch-only experience. And there’s no need to worry about any accidental button presses while the keyboard is face-down; both the keyboard and touchpad are disabled in Stand Mode. But even if you don’t opt for this approach, the touchscreen is still nice if you want to just lift a hand off the keyboard while typing and swipe along the screen to scroll, or tap to quickly close a window.
The N20p’s twin speakers are located on the bottom of the device toward the front (toward the user). They can pump out sound at a decent volume, but the quality is pretty rough and, in addition to the tinniness, distortion tends to kick in at louder levels.
Put simply, the keyboard of the N20p is not one of the machine’s strengths. Though the chiclet keyboard has decent build quality – it’s sturdy and doesn’t have any give toward the center – the keys have a very shallow depression range, which can make for a frustrating typing experience. Accidental key presses abound and getting so little tactile feedback with each press rarely feels comfortable. Other frustrating keyboard elements are factors of the OS, like the absence of the caps lock and delete keys (a search shortcut key and a lock key have taken their places, respectively).
The touchpad is slightly better to use than the keyboard, as it offers a generous amount of space for one’s fingertips. The tap-to-click function doesn’t always work on the first try, however, and there aren’t left and right keys, which can be maddening to get used to for longtime Windows users. Once again, the latter is a result of the OS, however, as a “right click” is performed in Chrome by clicking with two fingertips.