A year ago, Microsoft finally started countering the Chromebook threat by heavily discounting Windows 8.1, triggering a new market for very inexpensive PCs. Key among these was HP’s excellent Stream 11, which cost just $200 but provided a superior experience for the price.
Flash forward a year, and the far more capable Windows 10 is now available. And to get a sense of what this year’s $200 PCs look like, I’ve turned to Lenovo, which offers its Windows 10-based IdeaPad 100S as a low-cost Chromebook alternative. (Indeed, Lenovo will also sell a very similar Chromebook 100S for about $20 less, though I’ve declined to examine that device.)
Like last year’s HP Stream 11, the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S is a sturdy, well-built, and attractive laptop that would be an ideal companion for virtually any young student. It’s a bit less design-heavy than the Stream, with a standard black matte deck and display bezel, but my review unit features a gorgeous red exterior that really helps it stand out from the pack.
Inside, you’ll find a 1.33 GHz Intel Atom Z3735F processor, which Intel’s web site tells me is a BayTrail part and not a newer Skylake design. There is 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of eMMC storage, where the Chromebook 100S offers only 16 GB, partially explaining the $20 price difference. The screen is a 11.6-inches and runs at 1366 x 768, which I find perfectly acceptable at this size and price point. There is no multi-touch, of course.
As an 11-inch laptop, the IdeaPad 100S is relatively thin—at 0.7-inches—and, more important, light, at just 2.2 pounds. Its small size and light weight make it a perfect fit for a backpack, but the 100S provides plenty of expansion, though some of the parts are decidedly low-rent as you might expect. HDMI-out and a microSD card slot can be found on the left side of the deck, with the power and headset ports. And there are two fulls-sized USB 2.0 ports on the right-side. For connectivity, the IdeaPad 100S of course provides Wi-Fi, though it’s just 802.11 b/g/n, as well as Bluetooth 4.0.
The keyboard isn’t quite full-sized, but it does feature the modern ThinkPad-style key types with 6 rows, and a decent but small trackpad with two buttons. The web cam is low-quality, and offers just 0.3 MP of resolution. Battery life is rated at 8 hours.
And here’s some good news: There is absolutely no crapware on this PC at all. If you were wondering whether Lenovo got the message from its travails earlier this year, fear not: The IdeaPad 100S is as clean as any Microsoft Signature PC.
As nice, the IdeaPad comes with a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, a $70 value. (And if you already have Office 365 Home, you can add 9 months of time to that subscription instead.) That, plus Windows 10 Home and the additional storage makes this a much better value than the Chromebook 100S in my opinion.
I’ll need to spend some more time with the IdeaPad 100S before I can be sure this is a viable HP Stream 11 replacement. But I’ve always really liked the fit and finish of Lenovo’s products, and this PC is like the low-end VW that provides a nice hint of the elegance of its more expensive Audi brethren. This is a neat little laptop.