When you think about ThinkPad, you might picture businesspeople typing up quarterly reports. But, as it turns out, many of them are using the laptops to work on book reports. Lenovo has long targeted the student market with its durable 11-inch ThinkPads, and now it has added the $455 ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook, which has the same 360-degree, foldable lid as the company's other Yoga laptops and runs Chrome OS. Though Lenovo is primarily selling the Yoga 11e to school districts, you can buy the notebook at Lenovo.com for any use you want. Is this the right Chromebook for you or your favorite student?
Design: Versatile multi-mode
The Yoga 11e speaks the same design language as other ThinkPads, with a sleek, raven black chassis that's accented only by the flashing red light in the ThinkPad logos on the lid and deck. A thin red line also accents the touchpad.
At 11.81 x 8.5 x 0.87 inches and 3.1 pounds, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e isn't the thinnest or lightest Chromebook on the block. By comparison, the Acer C720 weighs just 2.6 pounds and is thinner at 11.34 x 8.03 x 0.75 inches, while the ASUS Chromebook C200M weighs just 2.5 pounds and measures 12 x 7.9 x 0.8 inches. However, none of its competitors have ruggedized features.
Built to be durable enough for rough-and-tumble children, the Yoga 11e Chromebook has a number of rugged features, including a rubber bumper around the lid that braces for falls, a thicker bezel that protects the display, strengthened hinges and a smaller gap between keys that makes them harder to pop out.
This Chromebook has also been MIL-Spec tested to withstand high pressure, humidity, vibration, temperature shock and dust. The display is protected by Dragontail Glass, which is meant to withstand up to 132 pounds of weight.
Because I hit the bottom more than I'd like while typing, I noticed a mediocre 7 percent error rate on typingtest.com, but I managed a strong 94 words-per-minute. That's faster than my typical 86 wpm, but less accurate than my usual 1 percent error rate.
Touchpad: Smooth, but no nub
Disappointingly, the ThinkPad Yoga 11e does not have the famous TrackPoint pointing stick (aka red nub). I prefer pointing sticks to touchpads, because they provide the most accurate means of navigating around the desktop and don't require touch typists like me to lift their hands off the home row.
MORE: Best Chromebooks 2014
According to our color test, the ThinkPad Yoga 11e's panel is capable of displaying 77.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which means that there are a number of shades it just can't show. Perhaps that's why, when I watched a trailer for the Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora's green skin wasn't that vibrant, Star Lord's red jacket seemed muted and Rocket's yellow jumpsuit didn't pop. However, the C200M (59.7 percent) and Acer C720 (61.5 percent) showed far fewer colors. The Yoga 11e's screen had a mediocre Delta-E accuracy score of 10.9 (0 is perfect accuracy).
The speakers, which are hidden in the spot where the deck meets the lid, provide mediocre and tinny sound. When I listened to Patrice Rushen's bass-heavy "Forget Me Nots," the music seemed accurate, if a little flat and quiet. However, when I put on Sister Sin's heavy metal "One out of Ten," the drums sounded like static interrupting the tinny guitar sounds.
Even at maximum volume, the ThinkPad Yoga 11e cannot fill a room, but in the classroom environments this notebook is intended for, teachers probably don't want a notebook that drowns everything else out.
Despite my listening experience, the Yoga 11e hit 83 decibels on the Laptop Audio Test (measuring a tone from 32 inches), which is exactly the ultraportable notebook category average, but lower than the Acer C720 (87 dB) and Acer Chromebook 13 (91 dB).
When the ThinkPad Yoga 11e was not in Laptop mode, a virtual keyboard popped up any time I tapped on a textbox. The keyboard has large white keys, a separate screen for number and predictive text suggestions. It also conveniently resizes if you hold the device in portrait mode.
Ports and Webcam
The 720p webcam captured detailed, accurate images, even in low light. When I shot some photos of my face in a dark area of my living room, my face seemed bright. However, as in any dark shot, there was plenty of noise.
Chrome OS and Software
According to ChromeOSApps.org, Google's Chrome Web Store has more than 33,000 apps as of this writing. However, the "for your desktop" section of the store, which contains the only apps that run natively rather than on the Web, has just 44 titles (as of this writing). Most of those are simple games such as Cut the Rope and Solitaire. However, the offline section does include a couple of useful programs such as Gliffy for drawing diagrams and VNC Viewer for remote controlling your Windows PC.
MORE: 10 Best Chromebook Games
There are a lot more apps listed in the "offline apps" section of the store, which has Web tools that are capable of functioning without an Internet connection. However, many key apps don't function as well offline. For example, you have to choose which of your Google Docs you want available offline while you are still online, which requires a fair amount of forethought.
Annoyingly, a number of the apps in the Chrome Web Store -- particularly high-end games -- don't work on Chrome OS. For example, when I went to play Madden NFL, I was presented with a download button requiring me to install a plug-in. Turbo Racing 2 3D wouldn't load because it requires Flash, which Chrome OS doesn't support. You'd think that Google would screen the apps in its store to make sure that they run on its operating system.
While I was able to play some games on it, the ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook offered rather weak graphics performance overall. On the WebGL Cubes test, which renders 150,000 shapes with three lights, the notebook managed a glacial 5 fps, much slower than the Acer C720's 40fps and Acer Chromebook 13's 20 fps.
Battery Life: Below Average
Chromebooks are known for their long battery life, but unfortunately the ThinkPad Yoga 11e doesn't live up to this lofty standard. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness, the laptop lasted a sub-par 6 hours and 18 minutes. That's well below the 8-hour and 15-minute ultraportable notebook category average and much less than ASUS C200M (12:27) and Acer C720 (7:27). Kids may very well turn up the brightness all the way 253 nits, which would make the notebook die a lot sooner.
Adults and older kids looking for a Chromebook would be better off with a system that's lighter and with better battery life, such as the Acer Chromebook 13, which lasts 8 hours on a charge and provides a full HD 1920 x1080 display. Those looking for an inexpensive, 11-inch ThinkPad would be better off with the $529 ThinkPad Yoga 11e with Windows 8.1. However, if you want to give your kids a rugged Chromebook with bend-back ability, the ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook is a pretty good choice.
|CPU||2.17-GHz Intel Celeron N2930|
|Operating System||Google Chrome|
|RAM Upgradable to||4GB|
|Hard Drive Size||320GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||7,200rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||Serial ATA|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Touchpad Size||4 x 2.5 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Card Slots||2-1 card reader|
|Size||11.81 x 8.5 x 0.87 inches|