Meet the Lenovo 14e Chromebook Enterprise, the only new Chromebook we could find at Mobile World Congress this year. While my AC cohorts ran themselves ragged covering phone after phone and our Windows Central counterparts salivated over Microsoft's new HoloLens 2 and a plethora of PCs and PC peripherals, I kept waiting and waiting for Chromebooks to cross my feeds, but alas, the Lenovo 14e was the only one.
And that's a waste because Chromebooks need a spotlight now more than ever.
Chromebooks have been slowly, steadily improving over the last five years — the last year and a half especially — with more and more school ditching iPads and aging PCs for easy-to-manage Chromebooks and Google Classroom. Education and Enterprise have been the bread-and-butter of Chrome OS for years now, but the desire for a lighter system and a lighter machine to grab and go whether you're working from the couch, the coffee shop, or the corporate office is starting to spread beyond seasoned travelers.
Longtime Mac users have started asking me for Chromebook recommendations for those days they don't want to pack their MacBook, its charger brick, and all its accessories. Coworkers asking their IT gurus for computer recommendations are increasingly hearing the praises of Chromebooks because they're harder to break and cheaper to buy — though premium models do exist for those looking for a status symbol machine like the Pixelbook or the 4K beast that is the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630.
Chromebooks are affordable, reliable, and apparently shy.
And while the buzz in the "real world" continues to build for these lightweight machines with lighter price tags, Chromebooks are still lost in the shuffle or ignored entirely at trade shows and tech conferences like MWC. Even at CES, there were only a couple of Chromebooks, and almost all of them were aimed squarely at the Education market rather than the everyday consumer. The only Chromebook at MWC was an Enterprise model, and that's a shame because if I were looking for a Chromebook, this is the season I'd be really starting to look for something new and shiny.
After all, a spring announcement and summer release mean back-to-school sales come fall.
The biggest event so far this year for Chromebooks has been BETT, an education summit in London that took place at the end of January, where we saw about a half-dozen new Chromebooks and Chrome tablets like this Acer Chromebook 512. These specialized events help manufacturers pitch and sell Chromebooks to district officials and certification boards looking to craft a new era of curriculum and classroom procedures around these tiny powerhouses.
Again, this is a shame because while $300 Chromebooks with low profit margins and non bleeding-edge specs might not seem super tantalizing to early-adopter enthusiasts, these machines are exactly what everyday consumers are looking for right now. My current recommendation is the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C330, because what Windows laptop can give you 10-hour battery life, 64 GB of storage — plus direct Google Drive/Google Photos integration — a 11.6-inch touchscreen and actual decent speed and performance for under $300? But if I hadn't tried this particular (excellent) laptop, it would have remained one in a sea of mid-range Chromebooks, and what we need are standouts.
Chromebooks need standout stars that don't come with Pixel branding or $700+ price tags on them. Chrome OS needs machines that can grab our attention at trade shows or standalone events and then keep our attention as we try to find the best Chromebook for everyone in our life from grade-school nephews to Facebook-addicted aunts to sports-streaming grandpas and college students that want a laptop that works great for school and even better for Netflix.
Chrome needs a hero. It has to be strong, it has to be fast, and it has to be fresh, cheap, and light.
Get your Chrome on
Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C330 ($216 at Lenovo)
All-day battery, USB-C Power Delivery charging, 64GB of storage, and a bright, responsive touchscreen for under 300. This is my daily driver Chromebook.
HP Chromebook 14 (14-db0090nr) ($300 at Amazon)
This is one of the new AMD-powered Chromebooks that was announced during CES and looks to offer performance and reliability at a wonderfully accommodating price. I haven't gotten to play with it yet, but I really want to!
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