THE LENOVO N20P Chromebook has a screen hinge that rotates 300°, allowing you to stand it in ‘tent’ mode to watch films more comfortably, for example. As you can’t reach the device’s keyboard from this position, Chrome OS offers an onscreen alternative. You might be tempted to use this anyway, as the built-in keyboard is very poor. The keys have nowhere near enough travel, so typing soon becomes tiresome. Even worse, unless you hit the keys dead centre, they won’t register your press, so missed keystrokes will be a frustratingly frequent occurrence.
This is a shame because the rest of the device is rather good. It feels well made and is thin and light. We enjoyed using the touchscreen to scroll through web pages and tap hyperlinks rather than using a touchpad. The screen is similar to that of every other Chromebook we’ve seen. Its a 1,366×768 panel that uses TN technology. It’s not the brightest and its colour coverage is average at 64.5 per cent of the sRGB gamut in our tests. The 298:1 contrast ratio and high 0.72cd/m2 black levels don’t make for particularly rich or pleasing images, but it’s acceptable for basic tasks.
Chrome OS doesn’t support Windows applications, so if you’re moving to this operating system for the first time, you’ll need to consider whether there is any Windows software you can’t live without. Before eliminating Chrome OS entirely, you should also check to see if web-based alternatives are available. For example, Adobe is beginning to make its Photoshop software available to Chrome OS users by running the software in the Cloud.
To make the most of any Chromebook, you need to commit to Google’s Cloud system. All Chromebook buyers get 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years to start them off. You also get access to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides as well as Gmail, so your basic desktop tasks are covered. You can upload Microsoft Office, Open-office and LibreOffice files to Google Drive and edit them from Google Docs, Sheets and Slides without converting them, although your success may vary depending on how the documents are formatted. There’s also a limited array of Android apps for Chrome OS, with surely more to come. If you want to use the N20p Chromebook as you would a Windows laptop, you can transfer files from USB sticks and SD cards directly to the small 16GB SSD. You’ll soon run out of space if you try to use this device as if it were a standard laptop, however.
The N20p Chromebook’s battery lasted eight hours and 55 minutes in our test, the best score of any Chromebook we’ve tested. However, this laptop is hard to recommend due to its keyboard. As the primary input method, it’s simply not good enough. We’d strongly recommend trying it for yourself before you buy. If you’re happy with it, this is a good choice. Otherwise, consider Toshiba’s Chromebook CB30-102 or the Acer C720. If you want a Windows laptop, buy the Asus Transformer Book T200TA, a great convertible with a touchscreen, albeit for a higher price.