For a few unrelated reasons, we’ve found ourselves with the recently-discovered Lenovo Chromebook Slim 3i in the office. And while my normal course of action with a new device is to go through the standard unboxing process, I was a bit under the impressions that the device I possesed was little more than a slight variation on the Lenovo Chromebook Slim 3 we reviewed not long ago. Boy was I wrong.
That’s not to say the Lenovo Chromebook Slim 3 isn’t a shockingly-good Chromebook for the money; it really is a solid device. But this Chromebook Slim 3i takes things to the next level, and for a device that you can still get for just $424 as of the publishing of this article, it is blowing my mind so far.
When I realized it was considerably different than the standard Slim 3, I decided we would move straight to a review on this one; but after a few days with the Slim 3i, I simply couldn’t shake the feeling that I was using one of the first of the new breed of Chromebooks we expect to be called ‘Chromebook Plus’.
A quick ‘Chromebook Plus’ summary
We’ve talked at length about what ‘Chromebook Plus’ looks to become, but I’ll give you the quick version here. With this new sub-branding, Google is going to introduce a line of Chromebooks in conjunction with OEMs that will abide by a different set of rules. There are hardware requirements (1080p webcams, certain processors, and high-quality displays to name a few), but our hunch is that Google will also require a few other things to be part of the overall ‘Chromebook Plus’ equation.
And those other things come down to overall build quality and user experience. Some Chromebooks – maybe on accident sometimes – just get the overall feel and user experience more right than others. I constantly reference the Pixelbook Go in these situations since it was a lower-priced Pixelbook that absolutely leveraged mid-range specs to deliver a knockout user experience. Other devices like the Acer Chromebook 516 GE also come to mind as sub-$700 Chromebooks that just deliver an experience I constantly want to go back to.
The Lenovo Chromebook Slim 3i has the ‘it’ factor
And this new Chromebook Slim 3i from Lenovo has that exact same thing going on. It isn’t standout in any specific way, but after just a few days with it, I’m absolutely in love with this down-the-pipe Chromebook. The antiglare touchscreen and its nearly 350 nits (our tests) of brightness go hand-in-hand with the solid, backlit keyboard, and stellar trackpad. Paired up with the wildly-rigid (all-plastic) bottom chassis, this device just feels good.
And the internals deliver as well, with the 12th-gen Intel Core i3-N305 moving along at a very brisk pace and sipping battery while doing it. The 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage round things out to make this a formidable Chromebook that can be used in just about any way you need it. The full port selection (HDMI, 2x USB Type-A, 1 USB Type-C, and headphone/mic jack) gives you the flexibility you want and the 1080p webcam is better than most with its fantastic dynamic range and privacy shutter.
But this device is about far more than a spec sheet, and the minute you pick up the Slim 3i and begin to actually use it, you can see exactly why I say this. There’s something extra going on here that transcends the hardware and makes the Slim 3i a device I want to pick up again and again. Since getting it out of the box, it has been my constant companion at work and at home, and each time I open the lid, I’m reminded that a huge part of the Chromebook experience lies in the way a device feels to use: not just in the specs.
Why it is likely a ‘Chromebook Plus’
And as hard as that is to get across in a post, I still want to at least have this out there to tell all of you that it is special and an absolute joy to use thus far. It’s code name – ‘Pujjoteen’ – is among the devices leaked to become part of the ‘Chromebook Plus’ movement, but there’s nothing saying this exact model will be the one that is included. After all, multiple Chromebooks can spawn from the same baseboard, so there’s no direct evidence that the Slim 3i in my hands will in fact be a ‘Chromebook Plus’.
But I really think it will. And if it is, that is a very good thing. This device is likely one of the ‘Chromebook Plus’ devices that won’t launch as a ‘Chromebook Plus’, but will get the branding added after the fact. With this one, I really think it was 100% created as a ‘Chromebook Plus’ from the start. There’s no other explanation for a device that is this simple, straightforward, and unassuming to be so freaking good.
I could be wrong and it could end up that a slightly-tweaked version of this Chromebook ends up being the ‘Pujjoteen’ device set for ‘Chromebook Plus’ life. But if it is a different model, I doubt it will change much – and I think the current Slim 3i offers us a very good look at what ‘Chromebook Plus’ is set to become. A