Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e Chromebook

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e Chromebook: initial impressions, a Layman’s Perspective

The screen.
First of all I think the screen is lovely. I’ve had a few Chromebooks. I’d say the screen I have disliked most is the Samsung 303 Arm. The Acer C720P was perfectly acceptable. The HP11 was downright enjoyable. The screen on the Lenovo Yoga is an IPS display like that of the HP11(G1). According to +Ken Yeh the brightness (in nits) does not go up quite as high. But to my 40 year old peepers the displays are of equal quality and delightful to use.

Glossy. It is definitely glossy. I work in an environment where this is not a problem and I actually prefer the look of a gloss screen over that of a matte. To my eyes matte screens wash out the color on the display. Then again I’m a Samsung (Android Note3) user. So I have gotten used to that oversaturated display and like the color to pop.

Touch screen and modes.
For me – really like this feature set. If you never use a touchscreen, if you have no desire for a touch screen, if you think touchscreen laptops are dumb… Then you aren’t going to buy the Yoga and instantly be impressed by the ability to touch the screen. I like using a touchscreen. I’ve got a Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 – so I am used to the ability to touch the screen, or scroll through a web page without having to use my mouse/track-pad.

Modes. This being my first Yoga style laptop I’ll have to get used to the idea that I can fold this thing up and use it as a tablet. Only time will tell If I will ever use it in Tent, or Stand mode. A cool note (you can see it in one of the pics I have posted): in tablet mode the screen orientation changes automatically from landscape to portrait if you turn the laptop 90 degrees.

And obviously (or not obvious maybe?) the Yoga hinge on the Thinkpad 11e allows the screen to rotate a complete 360 degrees (not only 300 degrees like the n20).

The keyboard.
I really like the keyboard. If you have used the HP11 or any of the Samsung Chromebooks you have got used to a really nice keyboard. If you have used the Acers you have endured with a “not terrible” keyboard. But a “not fantastic” keyboard either. I’d say the keyboard on the Lenovo Yoga 11e is right up there with the HP11. Now – this is hard to explain. I personally think it is equal to the HP11. But it does have a different feel. The only way I can think to describe it is more clicky. Not sure if that makes any sense. It is not clicky in a bad way. It is a good clicky.

The touchpad.
Terrible. So far the achilles heal of the entire experience. It works fine at times. But then it will just be jumpy. Jumping around all over the place. If it cannot be fixed through a software update then you will definitely want to go with a mouse or external trackpad. And then there is this nit-pick (that will not be fixed by a software update). It has an ever-so slightly give to it. So when you are typing around if you hit it with your palm, or even when you are two-finger scrolling a web page you hear a faint clicking sound (not a good clicky like the good clicky of the keyboard 🙂 that can be annoying. And really that is pretty nit-picky… But for the most expensive Chromebook I have purchased – I want my track pad to be a thing of beauty.

Now as far as feel goes… The trackpad surface feels good. It is a nice smooth surface that is easy to slide across for two finger scrolling and three finger gestures. It is not sticky, or grippy. It is a smoother surface than the palm rest. And it seems plenty large enough.

Battery life.
It is too soon to address this. And I don’t know if I will ever be able to properly address this and here is why… I almost always run on full brightness. I have bought two IPS displays for a reason. I like what I am looking at to look nice. So when the manufacturer quotes you battery statistics – I don’t believe it is at 100% brightness. I think it is at 50% or something like that. The other reason I probably won’t be able to confirm battery life is… …I like to be plugged in all the time. It is an old habit and it is going to die hard. I am not very mobile. Not that I cannot move. I just don’t need to. I have an office I work from and though I’d like to add a few wall outlets – there are plenty available to me. I don’t have to be unplugged.

The ports.
Pretty standard I think. 1 USB 2.0. 1 USB 3.0 The exciting news would be… A powered USB port. So if you want to charge your phone at night and your Chromebook is powered down and plugged in – you should be able to plug right into the powered USB port and charge up. The card reader is nice in that the card seats almost fully into the slot. Only about a 1/16 of an inch (1.5mm) peeks out at you.

The charging port. I like it. I always worry about breaking the port on my HP11. So much so that I do not think in terms of, “if I break it”. I think in terms of, “when I break it.” To a lesser extent I worry about the tiny little metal pieces inside the other round ports (Samsung, Acer etc.) breaking as well. The charging port on the Lenovo Yoga 11e was built to endure 3rd graders! I don’t have to worry about it breaking. And that leads us to…

The build quality.
It’s heavy-er (I know I didn’t spell that right). It is not heavy. It is heavier than the HP11 and probably most of the other Chromebooks. But it feels good. It doesn’t feel good in the MacBook Air kind of way. It feels good in the “this thing was built to endure a category 5 hurricane” kind of way. It feels good to own something that you feel like you don’t have to worry about this thing getting broken.

It’s also bigger. It is not big. But it is bigger than the HP11 (you can see from some of my pics). The bezel around the screen is bigger (especially at the bottom to accommodate the Yoga hinge).

It is thicker. It is not a super thin device. It is ruggedly constructed to withstand the wiles of life in an elementary school. If you want super thin, super light, almost invisible footprint in your shoulder bag – get the HP11 or stick with the HP11.

But… I would say in no way is the design too heavy, too big, or too thick. It is completely portable. It is simply not the lightest, smallest, thinnest Chromebook on the market. It is enjoyable. I like the way it is built. I like the way it feels. The material choice feels good. The Thinkpad insignias with the led lit “i’s” is a thoughtful addition. I like the green “connected” light. But it would have been a brilliant stroke on Lenovo’s part to use the famous Google lightbar (a-la Pixel and HP11 – but maybe that moniker is reserved for “Googlier” products?).

Bay Trail. I would say that it is as expected. A smidgen of a step down from Haswell. And a smidgen of a step up from Arm.

Let me say this (that some of you definitely won’t appreciate)… If you are doing what you are meant to do on a Chromebook than the difference in processing power and even RAM is going to be negligible (in my opinion). I know that everyone here loves there Chromebooks, boxes and bases, and that we would like to use them 100% of the time for 100% of the things. The bottom line is that not even Google designed them to that end, and that Google employees do not use them that way.

There are times when you need a MacBook or your Windows box (unfortunately).

I’ve used ChromeOS on Intel Atom N455, Arm, on the Intel Celeron 867 (5 550), on the Intel Celeron 2955U (Haswell), on the Intel Core i5-2450M, and now on the Intel Celeron N2930 (Bay Trail). What I have found (excluding the original Atom powered Cr-48 which is simply unusable) is that all of these devices have been completely usable. Do I notice a difference when I leave my i5 Chromebox in my office and hop on the Arm device in my living room? Yes. Is there a difference to such a degree that a dread firing up that Arm device and loathe every moment of it until I can get back to my office in the morning? No. This Bay Trail device falls right in line with what you can expect from a Chromebook. A little more power than Arm. A little less power than Haswell. But either way – completely usable and enjoyable. Add to that the perks of the IPS flavored touch-screen that can do “Salutation to the Sun” (Yoga joke) – and for me – this device is outstanding.

Does all of the above warrant a $475 price tag? Do you get $275 worth of more, or better experience from this device over the Acer 720 or HP11(G1) (now on sale for $200). I’d say, no.

I’m addicted to new shiny gadgets. I bought this device because it has an IPS display and the Yoga magic. I think that at $375 this device would have been a good buy. I think that $475 is too high and that if you are a person that values value you will feel like this device was a waste of your hard earned money.

I am not saying that it is a waste of your hard earned money. The bottom line is, you could buy the Acer 720P and the HP11(G1) AND go out to dinner and show for less than you can buy this device.

Personally – I am not unhappy with my purchase. But that is just the way I am. But I could see other people who are not wired the way I am being disappointed.

So there you have it. I layman’s thoughts on the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e Chromebook.

About James Welbes

James is a guy who does things. Lots of things. Nothing weird, mostly computer things like blogging, web development, Netflix. He's a total Google fanboy, (despite Allo) and has been recognized as a Google Expert in Google's Chromebook Central product forum.