Hands on: The ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook could be the one

Google's Chrome OS has lots of compelling qualities -- but one common complaint with the platform is the level of compromise its hardware requires.

Most Chromebooks fall into one of two categories: They're entry-level, with disappointing displays, less-than-stellar build quality, and/or lower-end performance -- or they're so high-end, they cost an arm and a leg to own (hello, Chromebook Pixel).

What's been missing is a midrange Chromebook -- a device that lands somewhere in the middle, with a decent display, durable build, and the kind of performance a power user could endorse.

Well, gang, get ready: We may finally have that device.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook

I'm talking about Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook, the multimode, touch-enabled cousin of the Lenovo N20p Chromebook I reviewed last week. I've been using the system for a few days, and my first impressions have me feeling very optimistic.

The Yoga 11e Chromebook, listed for $479 but currently selling for $455 from Lenovo, strikes me as a higher-end and more rugged version of the N20p. It's not a particularly sleek or lightweight laptop, but it feels sturdy and well-constructed -- more so than any other Chromebook I've held outside of the pricey Pixel.

The Yoga 11e's keyboard and trackpad are exceptionally good, and -- here's a big point for a lot of us -- the device uses an IPS display instead of the junky TN panels found on most other Chromebooks. Its 1366-x-768 resolution isn't anything to write home about, but after using almost every Chromebook that's ever been created -- including the 1080p TN-panelled Samsung Chromebook 2 -- I'm honestly convinced that the quality of the display means more than its resolution. This thing is just a night and day leap forward from the norm.

General quality aside, what makes the ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook especially interesting is its unusual form: The device's display tilts back a full 360 degrees, meaning you can use it as a laptop, use it as a stand-supported slate (like the N20p), or -- where things really get cool -- use it as a fully flattened out tablet.


Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook Tablet

Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about this device and eager to spend more time getting to know it. There's still a lot left to consider -- long-term comfort, battery life, and perhaps most notably performance, which was an area where I found the N20p to be a bit lacking. The Yoga 11e uses a faster processor than the N20p and double the RAM, though, and hasn't felt at all sluggish to me so far. The true test is still ahead, but we're certainly off to a promising start.

I'll be continuing to live with the ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook for a little while longer and will have a detailed review to share with you soon. If my first impressions are any indication, this is one you'll definitely want to watch out for.

UPDATE: ThinkPad Yoga 11e review: A hidden Chromebook gem

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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