Here in the office, we have the new Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Slim 3 – or what we tend to just call the Slim 3. This Chromebook showed up quietly, following the same design ethos that Lenovo employed for the Flex 3i we recently reviewed and really enjoyed a lot.
The Slim 3 is a classic clamshell device that’s all-plastic and designed to be easy on your wallet. Unlike the Flex 3i I just mentioned that comes equipped with the latest Intel Alder Lake-N100 chip, the Slim 3 packs MediaTek’s newest entry-level chip – the Kompanio 520. Don’t be turned off by that ‘entry-level’ label, though – I’ve been testing this device for about a week now and am honestly impressed by what Lenovo managed to achieve on a tight budget.
This device has an MSRP of $319, but it’s been on sale twice since launch for $169 (which it still is as of the time of this post). In that price range, we’re used to disappointing screens, poor build quality, slow processors, and limited storage. But surprisingly, this device isn’t your usual affordable Chromebook.It’s not flawless, obviously, but Lenovo’s attention to detail on this budget Chromebook is genuinely impressive.
Lots to like on a small budget
In terms of build quality, this thing is surprisingly robust. Again, it’s all-plastic, but it feels rigid in your hands, with no creaking or wobbling. The port selection is minimal but functional – we’re talking one USB Type-C, one USB Type-A, a headphone/microphone jack, and a micro SD card slot – and useful if you plan to supplement the small-ish 64GB of internal storage.
Open it up, and you’ll be greeted with a sturdy keyboard that, while not backlit, provides a quiet, comfortable typing experience. Flanking it, there are upward-firing stereo speakers – not exactly top-notch but enough to deliver some stereo separation. The webcam is unfortunately 720p and pretty bad, but it does have a privacy shade that I do appreciate: especially on a budget Chromebook. The mylar trackpad is surprisingly smooth, clicky, and didn’t get sticky despite heavy use. So far, so good, right?
But here’s where things get exciting – the screen! I don’t recall ever raving about a sub-$200 Chromebook screen, but this one has me sold. The Lenovo Chromebook Slim 3 has a 14-inch 1080p matte-finish touchscreen display that is really impressive. The colors are vibrant, the viewing angles are solid, it hits 300 nits of brightness, and is an absolute treat to use.
For this price, you have to cut corners
Of course, with a budget Chromebook, some limitations are inevitable. The Slim 3 only comes with 4GB of RAM, and while the Kompanio 520 chip is a step up from its predecessor (the Kompanio 500 found in the original Chromebook Duet), you’ll start noticing lags if you’re pushing it too hard. If you keep your tasks limited and try to stick to one or two things at a time, it offers a nice, smooth experience. The big benefit is battery life, which looks to easily pace at the 13-hour mark Lenovo touts for this device.
These types of caveats are fine in a $319 Chromebook, they are not even worrisome on a device that continues to be on sale for $169. At that sort of price, the Slim 3 is an absolute steal. If by the time you are reading this post you see it elevated back to the full MSRP and you are ready to get one, I’d tell you to hold off if possible: the track record on this one makes me think it will be on sale a lot.
If you’re looking for a decent Chromebook that doesn’t put much pressure on your wallet, the Slim 3 is one of the most solid options we’ve ever seen. It’s not the right choice for power users, but if you need a handy device around the house or a cost-effective option for schoolwork, this device won’t disappoint.