As much as I’ve talked about the upcoming HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook since CES 2023, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me mention one of my favorite parts of this fresh, new take on a high-end, consumer-focused Chromebook: the simplified branding. The Dragonfly Pro will come in one configuration with one simple name and two color choices. That is all and it is a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with confusing product names and equally-confounding configuration choices.
Today’s unboxing finds us in possession of a Chromebook that stands on the opposite end of the spectrum from HP’s latest in nearly every way. Sure, the new Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook 5i (16-inch) is more of a mid-range entry, but that’s not what I’m talking about, here. Instead, this Chromebook stands opposed to what I’m praising HP for in that it has a confusing, clunky name and a very confusing list of specs for the money.
Big screen downgrades
Watch the video above for only a few moments and you’ll note the striking resemblance to another recently-launched, 16-inch Chromebook from Lenovo: the IdeaPad 5i Gaming Chromebook. These two devices are so similar, in fact, that when the lid is shut, there is no way to tell them apart. And opening things up doesn’t help much, either. The screen sizes are the same (16-inches and 16:10), the keyboard layouts are exact matches, and the trackpads and speakers are situated in the same places, too.
The differences are important, though, and they probably aren’t readily-apparent to many consumers. First, the screens are wildly different. The IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook comes equipped with a beautiful QHD 120Hz screen that gets quite bright at 350 nits. The new IdeaPad 5i struggles to hit 300 nits and is much lower in resolution at FHD instead. Also, the non-gaming version is stuck at 60Hz refresh rates, too.
Next up, there is no backlighting on the keyboard in this new version, making it far less appealing than the RGB-backlit keyboard you get on the IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook. As if this isn’t enough of a downgrade, the keyframe is noticeably worse with cheap-feeling keycaps, so the keyboard experience is far and away a downgrade on this device when compared with its doppelganger that was released a few months back.
Apart from those changes, this Chromebook is largely the same thing you’d get in the Walmart version of the Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Gaming Chromebook. The 12th-gen Core i3, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage will make for a speedy Chromebook, but none of this makes sense in light of a device that already exists with better hardware for similar money. At launch, the new IdeaPad 5i 16-inch was $445 while the similarly-spec’d IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook was $429 at Walmart. That makes no sense!
And things stay weird when both devices go back to MSRP as the new IdeaPad 5i 16-inch is $549 and the better IdeaPad 5i Gaming Chromebook is only $529. With massive upgrades to the screen and keyboard in the gaming variant of this device, what in the world is Lenovo thinking with this Chromebook? Why does it exist and why is it priced this way?
For now, I have no answers to those questions, and I can only say that if you are looking at a larger Chromebook from Lenovo, please get the gaming one. There’s no way that it makes sense for this device to exist in the first place and there’s absolutely no reality where you should buy it over the gaming version. While I applaud HP for pushing towards a simpler, more-focused marketing strategy for their Chromebooks, I also know this sort of thing will continue happening in the Chromebook market. And each time it does, we’ll be here to sort it out for you.