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Buoyed by Chrome OS success in schools, Lenovo unveils two new Chromebooks

The N20 and N20p models start at $279 and ship this summer

May 6, 2014 06:26 AM ET

Computerworld - With low-cost Chromebooks catching fire in education settings, Lenovo has expanded its Chromebook line to consumers.

Lenovo announced two consumer-grade clamshell Chromebook models today, each with an 11.6-in. display and running Intel Celeron processors. The Chromebooks go on sale this summer starting at $279.

The new N20p includes a touchscreen with a keyboard that can flex backwards by 300 degrees to convert the Chromebook from laptop mode to standing mode.

"Chromebooks have really taken off with those nice, low price points targeted toward education," Ashley Rodrigue, a Lenovo ambassador, said in an interview. Successful sales of earlier Lenovo clamshells with the Chrome OS prompted Lenovo to produce the new Chromebooks, which are even lower in price than some education models announced in January, and will probably attract some of the most price-conscious schools and consumers, she explained.

The N20 model, selling for $279 starting in July, has a traditional laptop design. The new N20p, selling for $329 starting in August, upgrades on the clamshell concept to include a touchscreen with a physical keyboard that can flex backwards by 300 degrees to convert the device from laptop mode to standing mode.

In standing mode, the N20p lets users watch videos or play games or browse with touch.

Each new Chromebook weighs less than 3 pounds and the 11.6-in. displays offer 1366 x 768-pixel screens.

Each model provides six to eight hours of battery life and will be powered by a Celeron processor, Rodrigue said. Also, each will come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, 16GB of internal storage and 100 GB of free cloud storage from Google.

Access to cloud storage is essential to the Chromebook concept, which allows the Chrome OS devices to keep data and many apps and services in the cloud through an Internet connection rather than on-board as with traditional laptops. As a result, these new Chromebooks boot in seconds instead of minutes and get automatic and fast updates to apps. Both models will work offline for writing emails on Gmail and while creating documents with Google docs. Users can also open, edit and share Microsoft Word and Excel files with other users on other devices. Remote desktop access to software on other PCs is also possible.

Lenovo announced two other Chromebooks in January, the ThinkPad 11e and the ThinkPad Yoga 11e, which are designed primarily for use in school. Lenovo refers to the N20 and N20p as consumer-grade Chromebooks.

The ThinkPad Yoga 11e, which goes on sale in June for $429, is a clamshell with a touchscreen that converts to a tablet with a keyboard that folds back a full 360 degrees. It can be used as a laptop or tablet, but also can be stood up in a tent mode or a standing mode. It runs either Windows 8.1 or the Chrome OS, and was originally announced for education buyers. Lenovo is now offering it for consumers, as well.

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