Part of the overall charm that exists when buying or considering a Chromebook for your next computer lies in the ability to get a working laptop that does what you need at a price that comes in far below what you were expecting. Even the “high-end” Chromebooks on the market are far below what you’d pay for top-tier Windows laptops when we compare apples to apples. When you can get something as nice as the ASUS Flip C434 most days for a little over $500, you know you are dealing with a tech category that values low prices.
In our Best Chromebooks of 2019, the device we are talking about today took home the #1 prize in the $300 & under category because of the many upsides it comes with at a relatively-low price point. When spending less than $300, our expectations are quite low for any laptop, so seeing the Lenovo deliver on so many of the core competencies we all value in day-to-day laptop use is encouraging and its the reason this Chromebook shines despite a handful of not-so-great parts.
Right off the top, this Chromebook is built well and feels solid in the hand. It isn’t exactly the thinnest device on the market, but it is trim enough not to look ridiculous. Over and above last year’s C330 model, Lenovo has added in an aluminum lid that adds a feeling of rigidity and solidity to the entire package. The converting hinge feels great and the diminutive Chromebook folds into all the positions we’ve come to expect from convertibles in this category that Lenovo originally created way back with its first Yoga laptops.
Though the bottom portion of the Chromebook is plastic, it is of decent enough quality not to be off-putting. I never once had a thought of cheapness or poor construction with this Chromebook, and that’s saying something of a device that is small, affordable, and over half plastic. Not that it affects its ability to get things done, but the overall look and aesthetic is pretty nice, too, aside from one glaring thing we’ll touch on in the next section.
The screen on the Lenovo C340 is a surprising and lovely thing. It is a bit dim and Lenovo claims 250 nits of brightness, but I could only get around 180 or so in our testing. It’s bright enough for most indoor environments and it never really caused any issues unless I was near a window on a sunny day.
The major benefit here is the fact that this screen is IPS, so that means you get great colors and wide viewing angles. When we are in the sub-$300 category of Chromebooks, we generally expect crummy display panels with terrible viewing angles, washed out colors, and sub-par viewing experiences. None of that is the case with the C340 and though I feel 11.6-inch screens can be a tad restrictive for multitasking, the pixel density is fine with the 1366×768 resolution and things on the screen look nice and sharp.
What I wish they would have done is employ a screen like what HP and Acer put in their 12-inch 3:2 Chromebooks with the 1366×912 resolution. That would give this a bit more vertical screen real estate and make some use of the crazy-large bezel beneath the screen. It honestly is the oddest thing about this Chromebook across the board and I’m not really sure what the point was. I assume some concessions needed to be made to make room for a full size keyboard, but the bezels around this screen really make it look dated and odd.
Overall, though, I have few complaints about the screen choice here considering the price. I was able to use it in conjunction with my extended monitor and not feel strange moving my eyes back and forth between my desktop monitor and the built in display. When I’m not bothered constantly by the disparity between my excellent desktop display and the Chromebook I have under it, I feel like the screen on any given device is doing its job well enough.
Keyboard & Trackpad
The input methods here are quite good. Both the keyboard and trackpad are better than many I’ve tested and worse than others. They sit in the category of ‘very usable’ and didn’t add to or detract from the overall experience of using this device. Again, I tend to expect janky trackpad experiences on cheaper Chromebooks, and I was pleasantly surprised by the click, smoothness, and overall responsiveness of this trackpad. I’ll always prefer glass over plastic, but this may be the best plastic trackpad I’ve ever used.
The keyboard isn’t quite so standout, however, and is a tad on the mushy side. Lenovo tends to ship really good keyboards in all their devices, so I’m unsure what happened on this one. The definition of the keystrokes is lacking and there’s little discernible click on each key press, so I missed strokes with regularity. In the week I used the devices as my primary laptop, I never fully got used to the keyboard in a way that I felt I could type at full speed. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but it isn’t great, either.
Ports & Speakers
Again, in this category we’re met with a bit of good and a bit of bad. The good? Well, this Chromebook is connection-ready with 2 USB Type A ports, 2 USB Type C ports, a headphone/mic jack, microSD card slot, and a Kensington lock. In this day and age, that is a great selection of ports and aside from needing an HDMI converter of some sort, there’s little you’ll ever need in the way of a dongle for this Chromebook.
The speakers, however, are the absolute low point for this Chromebook. Upon listening to them and thinking they sounded like smartphone speakers, I cranked up the same song on my Pixel 4 XL and, no, these speakers are not like smartphone speakers at all. They are far worse. I’m not kidding, these are some of the absolute worst speakers I’ve heard on any device. Ever. They are tinny, very quiet, and basically not worth using. Carry headphones if this is your primary entertainment device.
Internals & Performance
Now that we have the bad stuff out of the way, it’s all good from here on out. Internally, this Chromebook is equipped with the latest budget Intel chip: the Gemini Lake Celeron N4000. We had high hopes that this year’s low-priced Intel silicon would actually be worth people using, and you know what? It actually is. With Octane scores in the 15,000 range, the N4000 delivers solid performance with all the things I need to do on a Chromebook.
Multitasking, multi-monitor setups, multiple tabs open, and multiple graphic-driven apps only slowed down this Chromebook on a few animations here and there. Knowing that I could actually plug this Chromebook into my existing setup and get all the things done I needed to was impressive. I generally expect to get fully dug into work and run into pretty massive hiccups after not too long when using budget Chromebooks. I push these things pretty hard, but the C340 stayed with me and the 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage more than kept pace as I plodded through all the things I normally do on my much more expensive Pixelbook Go.
Battery was great as well, easily getting me 10+ hours on a regular basis and never giving me even the slightest bit of pause when leaving the charger in my bag for the entirety of the work day. With a display resolution a tad lower than the standard 1080p and a power-sipping chip, this Chromebook should be a battery champ on most days for most users.
As we always do, we come to the point of every review where you want to know whether you should buy this Chromebook or not. If your budget is the $300 and under sort, I would absolutely say yes. In this price range, you’d be hard-pressed to find an overall experience this good. Sure, there are devices that may be a tad better that fall into this price range from time to time, but the C340 is constantly under $300.
Additionally, it makes for a stellar Stadia machine. With the lower resolution, Stadia never has to stream heavy 4K content and just stuck to 720 streaming, so gaming is always super-smooth and looks great on the smaller screen. I found I played games like Destiny 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint on this device more than any other I’ve had. The portability and battery life help this out as well.
Lenovo has put together a great Chromebook experience at what I feel is the right price. While I love some of the nicer things in Chromebooks like larger, higher-res screens, standout keyboards, and glass trackpads, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I sincerely enjoyed my time with the Lenovo Chromebook C340 and I think if you’re looking for a Chromebook in this price range, you will too.