The Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook has better battery life than his competition. But that is its only tangible advantage.
There are few computer manufacturers that consistently have a wide range of Chromebooks, but Lenovo is definitely one of them, with models from the lowest budget range all the way up to expensive premium models. The one we are testing here is called the Ideapad 3 Chrome and is one of the cheaper ones with a price of just under 400 USD. It is also available in slightly cheaper and slightly more expensive configurations.
We also find the same computer with seemingly the same specifications but with a different model number in different stores and at slightly different prices. But it’s about a couple of hundred bucks here and there, so it doesn’t make a huge difference. It’s a budget Chromebook in any case.
The Ideapad 3 Chrome is built on the arm-based Kompanio 500 system chip from Mediatek, the same one found in the Asus Chromebook Flip CM3. It is a processor that is suitable for some types of use but is limiting in others. With eight cores, but not that high performance per core, you get nice fluidity for multitasking and in some Google Play apps that make good use of the multi-core processor. But a browser like Chrome renders regular web pages more slowly than models with a dual- or quad-core Intel Celeron processor.
It’s not unacceptably slow, but there is some choppiness in the navigation, more so than in the Asus computer, which is probably due to the memory. One difference between our computer and the $100 more expensive Asus computer is that here we get four gigabytes of RAM instead of eight. Above all, this means that we have to be careful with the number of browser tabs or active apps and documents.
Plasticy yet comfortable
The computer has a simple design with an exterior in aluminum-imitating plastic. There’s only one design detail that really stands out: a screen lid that’s one-third covered with a ribbed pattern. Sides and underside are smooth, no active cooling or even grilles for airflow are needed here. At most, the computer gets a little lukewarm on the underside when we push it with heavier work tasks and games.
There is a distinctly plastic feel to the chassis, with a bit of creaking at the joints when we carry the computer around, but overall it seems stable and well built for its price tag. The keyboard is surprisingly well built with a nice distinct click feel and stability in the keys, but you can do without backlighting. You get that in and of itself in all competitors for up to 500 USD as we have seen. The mouse pad provides good control, which is fortunate since this isn’t a touchscreen Chromebook.
You only get external connections on one page, and they aren’t very many. A usb type c with displayport support and with which you also charge the battery, and a usb type a, as well as a headphone jack. This means that you cannot connect an external display while charging the battery, unless you also get a docking station that supports it. Both USB ports are USB 2.0, so it’s not particularly fast if you connect an external SSD.
Also on the same side is a micro sd card reader, in case the 64 gigabytes of built-in emmc storage you get isn’t enough. But if you just surf and stream with your Chromebook, it should last a while. It is mostly if you use a lot of Google Play apps or download and store a lot of movies that it can become a problem.
The screen lowers the rating
The screen of the Ideapad 3 Chrome is one of its weaker points. It uses tn technology, and has noticeably narrow viewing angles. In addition, the contrast is poor, with black surfaces looking dull gray. The color range in the screen is in typical office class, well below the srgb standard. The brightness is not a positive surprise either, and legibility can be a problem when used outdoors. In any case, you skip disturbing reflections in its pleasantly matte surface.
A slightly better screen could have raised the rating considerably, because the Ideapad 3 Chrome has better sound from the speakers than we expected. The bass is very weak, but the sound is clean, otherwise excellently balanced and highlights many details. Now, despite this, it will not be a fun experience to use it to stream movies.
There’s also an increased risk of lag, as the mediatek chip doesn’t seem to support wifi 6, but you get wifi 5 connectivity at best, and it’s not as stable as other Chromebook models with wifi 5 we’ve tested. At home it can go perfectly. In principle, all 4k TVs run WiFi 5 at best and it still works well. But there may be corners and rooms where you cannot get high speed. It can also affect the stability of a video call.
The webcam in the computer is of a simple type and delivers 720 video without major problems. Even if it’s faded colors and overexposed. In any case, it’s lag-free and admittedly sharp, and the built-in microphone does a good job of natural voice recording.
Overall, not much impresses us here. Subpar performance, even considering the processor, a pale display and annoyingly few connections. But if you appreciate good comfort when you work and want to save a little money, it could be interesting.
You also get really good battery life. The Mediatek processor, lack of screen touch and a low-power display panel mean that a full eight to ten hours of work should be possible without charging. If you dim the brightness and don’t run demanding apps, it can last from early morning to late evening.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Specifications
Product name : Lenovo Ideapad 3 Chromebook
Manufacturer : Lenovo
Processor : Mediatek Kompanio 500 MT8183, 2 GHz octa core
Graphics : ARM Mali-G72 MP3
Memory : 4 GB ddr4
Storage : 64 GB emmc, space for micro sd
Display : 14 inch matte tn, 1920×1080 pixels
Webcam : 720p
Connections : Usb 2 type c with display port, usb 2 type a, headset
Wireless : Wifi 5, bluetooth 4.2
Operating system : Chrome OS
Sound level : Fanless
Battery life: 8 h 20 min online video (max brightness), approx. 20 h mixed use (low brightness)
Size : 33.6 x 22.1 x 1.86 cm
Weight : 1.3 kg
Warranty : 2 years
With underperforming hardware, a pale screen and occasional issues with slow wifi, we can’t give a top rating. Even if some other things in the computer are of higher class, those points are too important. If battery life is the only thing you care about, the Ideapad 3 Chromebook might be worth considering. Otherwise, there are better options.