Lenovo N22 Chromebook Review: An ultra-affordable laptop for students

Chromebooks have always held a sweet spot for me. They offer an amazingly fast web experience on decent hardware — which won’t break the bank. The Lenovo N22 Chromebook falls perfectly into that category, but with a focus towards students.

Specs

While Chromebooks generally have similar specs, let’s take a look at what’s packed inside the N22. Of course, it’s running Chrome OS along with 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, an 11.6” touchscreen, and it’s powered by an Intel Braswell N3050 processor. It also comes with an impressive 14 hours of battery life. The laptop itself weighs in at 2.7lbs, but it’s not the thinnest at .86” thick.



Hardware

The Lenovo N22 Chromebook is designed for schools. So it’s built to withstand schools throw its way. The entire body is made from a sturdy plastic that will withstand plenty of use. That sturdiness comes at the cost of being thicker, but it can be easily overlooked. On the left side, you’ll find the power port, full-size HDMI port, USB port, SD card reader, and a headphone jack. The right side just has another USB port and a Kensington lock. The ports are plenty sufficient for school use, and in some cases, are more than what other laptops offer.

There’s also an interesting addition built into the body of the N22. A handle. Lenovo says the handle can be used to carry it around briefcase style, or for hanging it on a hook. I’m not really sure how many students would desire to do this, but it’s there and it could certainly come in handy when going from class to class.

Software

This laptop is running Chrome OS. It’s relatively new to the market in comparison with the other major competitors on the market. Over the years since it was released, Chrome OS has been getting regular updates every few weeks. In fact, just since I got it, there was a nice UI update for Chrome OS that updated the quick action area icons to match the Material Design look.

If you’re not familiar with how Chrome OS works, it’s basically this: Google Chrome with a pretty wallpaper and a couple of extra layers. All your work is done in Google Chrome and any Chrome apps, some launch just as webpages, others like Hangouts are dedicated apps on the computer. The advantage is that everything is super fast — even on low specs. It boots up in seconds, and updates only take about ten seconds to complete.

If you’re unsure about switching to Chrome OS, I’ve found the best way to find out if Chrome OS works is to use Chrome on whatever computer you have now, and note every task that takes you out of the browser.

Google Play Store

It is worth noting that the Google Play Store will be coming to this Chromebook in the near future. The feature is still being tested on other Chromebooks, but expect to see it on here soon. When those apps do make it to this Chromebook, the touch screen will be even more useful.

Performance

As I mentioned, Chromebooks in general are blazing fast. This is no exception to that. The UI is pretty snappy, although I did notice some delay when starting up the file explorer. However, since Chrome is optimized to run on Chrome OS, Chrome and all the websites you load up inside of it are quite fast. So if you think the low-end processor is a problem, it’s not. The 4GB of RAM also makes it easy to keep a handful of tabs open at once without it having to constantly reload everything.

Webcam

One of the interesting features of the N22 is its webcam — it rotates. Both the camera and the microphone move, so you can flip the camera around to get a better look at an item, or show the team you’re working with. And yes — the image flips so that nothing will be upside down. The quality, however, is pretty bad. Everything is clearly pixelated and fuzzy, and in my opinion, is totally unacceptable today. Will it work? Yes. Will it look even partially nice? No. There is an annoying aspect to the flipping webcam too: light bleed. It especially bothers me when there’s light behind the laptop (as is the case at my desk). It’s something minor, but it was something that annoyed me just a bit.

Display

The display on the Lenovo N22 Chromebook is actually really nice. It gets bright enough to work in just about every situation. The model I reviewed had a touch screen, and even though touch screens can be mirror like, this one hardly reflected me, or what was behind me. I’m really glad it isn’t reflective, as a reflective touch screen hinders you from productive working. As for the quality of the screen, it’s really nice. Even though it’s only a 720p display, videos and other media look super crispy.

As for the responsiveness of the touch screen, it is quite good. The touch screen is nice to have when using the trackpad or a mouse isn’t that convenient. I don’t think that the touch screen is perfect at everything, but for just navigating around apps and websites, it’s great.

Keyboard

For students, a responsive and tactile typing experience is key. Thankfully, the N22 offers that with flying colors. The keyboard is nice and sturdy and doesn’t bend under pressure — a common flaw with low-cost laptops. Unfortunately, the keys don’t have much in the way of travel and the clickiness is at a minimum. So if that’s what you like, then you’ll certainly enjoy this minimalist keyboard.

The layout is a bit different from other laptops. If you’re used to Chromebooks, then this will be the same. But if you’re not, then I’ll summarize it for you. The function buttons are replaced with special action buttons, like brightness, volume, back/forward, and a couple other Chrome OS functions. The caps lock button is replaced with a dedicated search button, but everything else remains the same.

Trackpad

Given that this laptop is meant for students, and that they’re (supposedly) using this in schools, the trackpad should be able to stand on its own. But does it? Kinda. It’s nice to use to move the mouse around, but the clicking portion fails. You have to press reasonably hard for it to register, although on the bright side you can click anywhere on the trackpad. Right clicking is achieved with a single press from two fingers. The clicking portion will do, and you can adjust to it, but by no means is it my favorite.

Battery

While the battery life on the N22 might barely get you through a twelve hour work day, it will certainly last you for an eight hour school day. I found it held up nicely to casual usage of Docs and general website browsing, although lots of videos will drain the battery. Batteries on Chromebooks tend to be pretty consistent, because all the work is being done through the browser.

Speakers

As for the speakers on this Chromebook, there’s not much to say. There’s no fancy partnership with an audio company, or any fancy built in speakers. They’re just speakers that sound decent for whatever you need them for. Of course, if you’re working long hours on homework and need some music to go along, you’ll be best off plugging in your favorite set of headphones to get a good listening experience.

Summary

Although it may seem that the Lenovo N22 Chromebook makes compromises, it really doesn’t. The thickness is a trade-off for durability, and being able to withstand minor drops. The subpar speakers and webcam are that way to cut back on the price, and offer a great product where it matters, like the display. Overall, I think it’s a well built machine for its purpose: students.

Many aspects of this laptop are designed with students in mind. And for that, it does its job and it does it well. Best of all, it comes in at a pretty low price: $220 to $240. If you’re a student, or even a school administrator, and you’re looking for a Chromebook built for the classroom, then you may want to check this out. Links to buy this Chromebook are below!

Get the Lenovo N22 Chromebook from AmazonGet the Lenovo N22 Chromebook from Lenovo