Update: We added a "Durability and drop test" section to this review with results from our Chromebook drop test report.
The Lenovo Chromebook C330 is an 11-inch convertible that has a lot in common with its competition. That includes both its best feature -- nearly 10 hours of battery life -- and its worst -- an unimpressive low-res screen. We do like that it comes with an HDMI port, which is fairly unique in this price range, as well as the comfy keyboard, but you shouldn't expect the swiftest performance. It still happens to be one of the best laptops under $300.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 price and configuration options
We tested the $259 Lenovo Chromebook C330 with 32GB of internal storage, the only spec that differs from its other model. Both feature an 11.6-Inch, 1366 x 768-pixel display, the MediaTek MT8173C CPU and 4GB of RAM. The more premium Chromebook C330, which is currently down to $249, bumps you up to 64GB of storage.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 design
Plastic through and through, the Lenovo Chromebook bears an off-white hue that reminds me of vanilla ice cream. Its chunky, glossy black bezels, though, aren't as comforting, reminding me of the ribbon-tape inside VHS cassettes.
At 0.8 inches thick and 2.8 pounds, the Lenovo Chromebook C330 is heavier than the Acer Chromebook 11 (0.7 inches, 2.4 pounds). The Dell Chromebook 5190 and the HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 (both 0.8 inches, 2.9 pounds) weigh a hair more.
The Chromebook C330 may look a little cheap, but its display has no stability problems, staying in place throughout the standard four convertible modes (laptop, stand, tablet and display). The panel also rotates smoothly on its 360-degree hinge. The Dell Chromebook 5190 and HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 also convert between modes, while the Acer Chromebook is a standard laptop.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 durability and drop test
This is not a rugged laptop and it showed in our Chromebook drop test. A corner of the Chromebook C330 broke clear off when the laptop landed on its side onto concrete from 4.5 feet. The screen also separated from the lid and we weren't able to snap it back into place. Sadly, the laptop didn't survive the drop and shut down at random intervals.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 ports
Most of the Chromebook C330's ports are on its left side, including its USB Type-C port for charging, HDMI, USB 3.0 and SD memory reader.
I was a bit surprised to see an HDMI port on this cheap a machine, as none of the laptops I'm comparing it to offer that port.
On the right side, you've got a headphone jack, security lock slot and buttons for power and volume, because convertibles place those buttons on the edges for when you're in tablet, tent or display mode.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 display
The Lenovo Chromebook C330's display may rate well for a Chromebook, but you might be used to better color or brightness. Watching the Sonic trailer, I quickly saw the telltale signs of the C330's sub-full-HD panel, as the LED readout on a cop's speed-tracking radar gun looked far too pixely, with lots of artifacts. Unfortunately, 1366 x 768 screens are extremely common among 11.6-inch Chromebooks, as the HP Chromebook 11 G1, the Acer Chromebook 11 and the Dell Chromebook 5190 all suffer from these low-res displays.
While the divisive video game character rendered in a slightly-off blue, other items, such as the wood paneling and blue suits in a Pentagon office, looked faded. While these outputs were acceptable for a budget laptop, I was shocked to see the audio stutter repeatedly as I watched Super Mario 64 footage in a YouTube video by VideogameDunkey.
According to our testing, the Lenovo Chromebook C330 produces 75% of the sRGB color gamut, which is close to the 80% Chromebook average, the 73% rating from the Dell Chromebook 5190, the 79% from the HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 and the 78% rating from the Acer Chromebook 11.
The Chromebook C330 emits up to 250 nits of brightness, which narrowly tops the 233-nit category average. We saw a similar rating from the 258-nit Dell Chromebook 5190 and lower ratings from the HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 (200 nits) and the Acer Chromebook 11 (223 nits). While its color output held up when I watched the Sonic trailer from 33 degrees to the left and right, its glossy screen picked up a lot of glare and reflection from our office's lighting.
The C330's touch screen accurately registered my taps and gestures as I navigated the desktop and web in Chrome. It also allowed for smooth scrolling.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 keyboard and touchpad
Lenovo understands that just because you've got a tight budget doesn't mean you should be stuck with a lousy typing experience. Testing the Chromebook C330 on the 10fastfingers typing test, I click-clacked my way to a rate of 70 words per minute. That's a bit down from my 80 words per minute average on mechanical keyboards, which I prefer and use more frequently.
The keys offer a good clicking feel, thanks to their 72 grams of required actuation force, which is more than the 60 gram rate we hope companies exceed. That makes up for the 1.2 millimeters of vertical travel in the keys, which is a bit shallow (we look for 1.5 to 2 millimeters).
The Chromebook C330's 4.1 x 2.4-inch touchpad tracked my taps correctly and I scrolled down web pages without a stutter. It also correctly recognized Chrome OS' three-finger navigation gestures.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 audio
Don't expect the Lenovo Chromebook C330 to replace your stereo. Listening to Carly Rae Jepsen's "Too Much" on the laptop, I liked that it provided enough sound to fill a medium-size conference room, but I was frustrated by how crunchy it made the song's smooth synths and how hollow the track's bass sounded.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 performance
You don't get much multitasking prowess from the MediaTek MT8173C processor (with 4GB of RAM) in the Chromebook C330, as I heard the audio stutter when I split its screen between a 1080p video and five Chrome tabs.
That poor performance translated to a mediocre score of 2,934 on the Geekbench 4 general benchmark, which falls below the 4,536 Chromebook average and the 4,193 from the Dell Chromebook 5190 (Celeron N3450 CPU, 4GB of RAM). We found lower scores of 1,366 from the Acer Chromebook 11 (Celeron N3350; 4GB of RAM) and 1,339 from the HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 (Intel Celeron N3350 CPU, 8GB of RAM).
The Chromebook C330 again did poorly on the WebGL Aquarium test, rendering 500 fish at 25 frames per second, a rate that's slower than the 54 fps rate from the HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 and the 46fps mark we saw from both the Dell Chromebook 5190 and the Acer Chromebook 11.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 battery life
The Lenovo Chromebook C330 can last longer than an average work day, with slightly better battery life than we expect from a Chromebook. The Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits) drained the Chromebook C330 in 9 hours and 51 minutes, which is longer than the 9:10 Chromebook average and the 9:20 from the Acer Chromebook 11. The Dell Chromebook 5190 (9:50) and the HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 posted nearly identical times.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 webcam
The 0.9 megapixel webcam is the kind of boring, pedestrian sensor that laptop reviewers expect. The camera is so sensitive to lighting that small changes can create wildly varied photos: My best advice is to have light (natural, if possible) in front of you and as little light as possible behind you.
Knowing that allowed me to accurately capture my skin tone, the greens of office plants and my trolling colleague Gia, in the background. But even with that knowledge, the photos I took featured a dearth of detail in my face and hair, with only the largest features getting much definition. The glass window behind me looks blown out because of a reflection of light bouncing in from outside.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 heat
The Lenovo Chromebook C330 is one cool customer. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the notebook, our heat gun registered the temperatures on its touchpad (75.5 degrees Fahrenheit), G&H keys (79 degrees) and underside (82 degrees). All of those readings fall under our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Lenovo Chromebook C330 software
When it comes to pre-loaded software, most Chromebooks are the same, and that's good, thanks to the complete lack of bloatware (which still plagues some Windows laptops).
Updates to Chrome OS eliminated its dependence on the Chrome Web Store, allowing Android-app emulation from the Google Play Store. Linux app support will soon be available "out of the box" for Chromebooks.
The Lenovo Chromebook C330 offers tons of endurance and its keyboard enables comfortable typing. Unfortunately, the C330's performance is mediocre and its low-res display does not impress.
For faster performance, you can get the Dell Chromebook 5190, though it costs $70 more. But if you want your Chromebook to have an HDMI port along with long battery life, the Chromebook C330 is well worth a look.