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Lenovo’s first Chromebook is heading to school

Yesterday, we reported rumors that Lenovo would be next to jump on the Chromebook bandwagon. Our source focused largely on the corporate sector, concentrating on the fact that Lenovo’s ThinkPad line is popular within businesses and companies might switch from Windows to Chrome-based laptops to save money. However, today, Lenovo announced that it will indeed launch a Chromebook – and it’s not what we expected. Lenovo is gearing its new ThinkPad X131e Chromebook not towards businesses, but towards K-12 schools. 

It’s possible that Lenovo will still launch a business-centric ThinkPad Chromebook, but its first stop is the education sector. The tough ThinkPad X131e Chromebook is built to be handled by teachers, administrators, and students from kindergarten to high school seniors. Lenovo helped “school-proof” the laptops by adding a rubber bumper around the top cover, as well as stronger corners to protect from accidental drops. The company also claims to have strengthened the hinges so they last more than 50,000 open and close cycles. 

Like other Chromebooks we’ve reviewed, Lenovo claims it will be fast booting. The ThinkPad Chromebook will take advantage of the Google Apps for Education suite, which will provide a collaborative environment where students can create and share spreadsheets, documents, videos, slide show presentations, and view PDFs. With the included HDMI and VGA ports, students can use their Chromebooks to present their projects in front of the class.

Lenovo says the ThinkPad X131e has an Intel processor, but here are some additional specs. The 11.6-inch laptop also has a 1366 x 768 HD LED anti-glare screen and three USB ports (no word on whether those are USB 2.0 or 3.0). The ThinkPad weighs just less than four pounds and Lenovo says it will have a 6-cell battery that’ll last for “the entire school day.” When we tested the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, it lasted about seven hours, so if Lenovo’s Chromebook is anything like that, students will be in good shape. 

The company is also adding customization options, including custom colors, school logo etching, and tagging services to keep track of the laptops in case one’s left on the bus. 

Caesar Sengupta, Google’s director of Chrome OS product management, said in a press release that Chromebooks are already used in more than a thousand K-12 schools. Lenovo’s foray into Chromebooks will only add to that number. Although we don’t know exact pricing on these yet*, we do know that Google had offered its Samsung Series 5 Chromebook to schools for $100 back in December, discounted from its list price of $430. The ThinkPad X131e Chromebook will be available on February 26, so we’ll have to wait and see how Lenovo prices its Chromebook.  

*Update: According to an updated press release, Lenovo is pricing the Chromebook at $429.

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