Nearly a year ago to the day, we discovered that Lenovo was quietly refreshing their EDU Chromebook lineup with the newer Gemini Lake processors from Intel as well as recycling the ARM-based MediaTek chipset that has powered quite of few of the companies Chromebooks. Well, while I was digging around on Lenovo’s product reference site this morning in the hopes of finding some sign of the Duet Chromebook Tablet, I discovered two unannounced devices.
At first glance, I really wasn’t sure what I was looking at because the new Chromebooks are branded 100e and 300e which is not different than the current EDU models from Lenovo. However, the letters AST were at the end of each device and I am unfamiliar with that branding. So, I popped open the spec sheets and that’s when I discovered that Lenovo has slapped the AMD A4-9120C APU into these two devices. Apart from the processor switch, the two devices appear to be aesthetically identical to the previous MediaTek models. There are some minor updates that include a second USB-C port and a move from a full-size SD card to a MicroSD.
The Chromebook 100e is a 180-degree clamshell while the 300e is the familiar convertible from Lenovo’s EDU line and both devices feature rugged specs that include a spill-resistant keyboard with pry-proof keys, reinforced chassis and protective wrap-around bumpers. The Chromebook 300e features a dual-camera setup with the traditional 720p webcam and optional 5MP world-facing camera with autofocus and microphone. That’s all fine and well and it’s great to see Lenovo’s continued commitment to Chromebooks in Education but what sets these new devices apart isn’t any sort of ground-breaking tech.
No, what makes these new Chromebooks so special is the fact that the AMD processors have given Lenovo the opportunity to lower costs and finally offer something that most OEMs just haven’t been able to do. Cost-effective laptops that aren’t complete garbage. We’ve seen a lot of EDU devices in our time. Some are great and others are absolute trash. Regardless of our reviews, most EDU Chromebooks start around $300 and the prices only go up from there. These new AMD Chromebooks from Lenovo aren’t technically available yet but a quick search has turned up some listings from reputable resellers that give us a good idea of what they’ll cost.
CDW has listings for both of these Chromebooks and the lesser 100e clamshell is coming in under $200. The convertible 300e is just below $300 and that puts these devices at the top of the list when it comes to value factor. No, they won’t be powerhouses and they likely won’t have the best screens but Lenovo doesn’t usually go super cheap and their EDU displays are some of the best on the market in comparison to other OEMs. Both devices are listed at 250 nits which is better than a lot of consumer Chromebooks. This could be a game-changer for the EDU market. Combining these lower prices with the longer support that Google is now providing for new Chromebooks and schools stand to save a boatload of money over the years. (These Chromebooks are slated to get updates for at least the next six years.)
I’ll be keeping an eye out for an official word from Lenovo about these new Chromebooks. I would suspect that they’ll be on the market very soon as many school districts will be gearing up to make their purchasing decisions for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. You can find the full specs for these two Chromebooks in the PDFs below.