Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook review: Hardware isn't what's holding cloud gaming back

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook review: Hardware isn’t what’s holding cloud gaming back


  • Excellent build quality
  • Bigger, more expensive games and competitions
  • Keyboard and trackpad feel premium

The inconvenients

  • No Ethernet port to minimize latency
  • Keyboard layout is odd and unintuitive
  • Might be bland for those who love “gamer aesthetics”.

Gaming Chromebooks and cloud gaming have something in common: they’re still in their infancy. Cloud gaming has had a little longer to grow, but with giants like Google still failing to “get it right” (RIP Stadia), it’s clear they still have some growing pains. . Nevertheless, its enormous and singular potential makes many technology manufacturers and service providers more than willing to ride out the storm to lay claim to the beginnings of cloud gaming.

I’ve looked at the Acer Chromebook 516 GE before, and it impressed me with its port selection and performance. Unfortunately, it’s been held back by the quirks that cloud gaming continues to go through. This review will not be a direct comparison between these two. However, both are part of the first wave of gaming Chromebooks, similarly priced and intended for the same purpose. So it makes sense that we occasionally refer to this model’s closest rival.

Honestly, the differences in this comparison will be slim for the most part. My testing of the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook proved to me, once and for all, that the quality and enjoyment of cloud-based gaming is almost entirely based on the performance of your cloud service of choice, with very little direct correlation between internal hardware specifications. and actual gaming performance.


Processor 12th Generation Intel Core i5-1235U
Display 16-inch 120Hz IPS panel running at 2560×1600
Memory 8 GB DDR4
Storage 256GB PCIe Gen3 NVME Solid State Drive
webcam 1080p with privacy shutter
Battery 71Wh rated up to 11 hours
Connectivity WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1
Ports MicroSD card slot, 2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (with power supply and DisplayPort 1.4), 2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, headphone/mic combo
Dimensions and weight 19.95mm (H) x 356.5mm (W) x 253mm (D) (0.79 x 14.03 x 9.96 inches) | 4.01 pounds

Construction and ports

The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook with its lid closed

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook looks more like a business device from the outside than a gaming laptop.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Lenovo seems physically almost incapable of creating a poorly made device. Like its IdeaPad and ThinkPad ancestors, this gaming Chromebook feels solid from top to bottom, with no flexing or creaking at any part of it. The only negativity I can express outside of the device is that it could have used a little lens flare. Acer also kept its entry shell, but included a rainbow-tinted logo to hint at its purpose. Lenovo instead opted to make a device that, at least in this colorway, screams “buttoned-up business Chromebook.”

Ports on the left side of the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook

The MicroSD card slot is a good idea for anyone who wants to quickly add semi-permanent storage.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Port selection here includes 2 full-size USB-A ports and 2 USB-C ports. Both are USB 3.2, and the USB-C connectors each support Power Delivery (PD) and DisplayPort 1.4. It’s great both for versatility which side you want to charge the Chromebook from and for connecting external displays for big-screen gaming experiences.

The ports on the right side of the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook

The right side includes a second set of USB ports and a Kensington lock slot.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Unfortunately, there is no Ethernet port on this model. The Acer Chromebook 516GE included a compact Ethernet port, which could have fit on the slightly slimmer Lenovo model. While Ethernet is something most laptops can comfortably ignore, striving for the best latency and fastest connection is of the utmost importance for a device designed specifically for cloud-based gaming services. . Luckily, the included Wi-Fi 6E did a great job of bridging that gap, but I still would have preferred the option to connect with a wired connection for optimal latency reduction.

Also: How to Convert Your Home’s Old TV Wiring to Powerful Ethernet Lines

The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard layout ultimately feels unnecessarily cramped.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Unusually for a Lenovo device, I didn’t like the keyboard. The individual keys and trackpad felt good, with good travel and bounce, but the keyboard layout was unnecessarily bulky. The company opted to include a full number pad. This caused the main part of the keyboard to move to the left, which made some keys appear to be squished or moved. For example, I kept accidentally hitting the delete key instead of backspace because the latter was unusually chunky.

More: The best gaming keyboards: All the knocks and clicks

Of course, you’ll get used to this layout eventually, but I’m not sure it’s necessary initially. Very few gamers use a full number pad for anything other than custom real-time strategy layouts or unusual MMORPG control schemes. Even then, they’d probably be better served by something like the SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless, or another MMO/MOBA mouse that does the same job as a number pad.


The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook screen

The included display is richly saturated, gets more than bright enough for direct sunlight, and has pleasingly thin bezels.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

The IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook is a great general purpose Chromebook. It ably handled all the usual productivity tasks I threw at it (minus that finicky keyboard), as well as things like media consumption and general web browsing. It’s a little big for such things, but it doesn’t feel too heavy for its size and actually feels slightly slimmer than rival Acer.

When it comes to gaming, this model’s performance is close to what I reported in my Acer Chromebook 516 GE review, with a few deviations.

Also: Game console showdown: PS5 vs. Xbox Series X vs. Series S vs. Switch OLED

For example, Forza Horizon 5 performed significantly better on the Lenovo model, but that was after a recent update to Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service, which is still in beta. Conversely, Halo Infinite wouldn’t launch at all, giving me a “disconnected” message, although literally every other Xbox Game Pass game is working fine.

For this reason, I was unable to test latency in Halo, but was still able to try in Apex Legends played via GeForce Now. I intended to record a comparison video, but that would have been pointless. The results were identical to what I recorded on Acer’s model (see video below), right down to the frame-by-frame delays. In fact, GeForce performance was now identical overall. As I said in this previous review, I would feel completely comfortable playing even fast-paced FPS games like Apex casually, but I wouldn’t put my rating on the cloud version of this game, or of any game, in a truly competitive situation.

Also: The 6 best gaming mice: Click, click, BOOM

Finally, I should mention that the battery life of the IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook nearly hit its 11-hour rating. However, this was only for general productivity tasks. The game, of course, produced a much shorter lifespan, so I wouldn’t recommend heading to the LAN party without a charger.

At the end of the line

Lenovo's IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook on a desk with gaming peripherals

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook didn’t deter me from thinking that cloud-based games still have a ways to go before they replace locally installed games. However, it gave me the best possible access to services like GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming that are available today. Even if I had played the same titles I mentioned above on a $5,000 gaming PC, my experience would have been essentially the same.

This Chromebook and others like it are already more than enough to handle its share of the cloud gaming market. Now it’s up to companies like Nvidia, Microsoft and others to improve their services to the point where users can take full advantage of this hardware, without the lingering technical issues, inconsistent performance and other downsides that the cloud still suffers from. gaming.

Also: How to choose a computer for your child

Fortunately, progress is constantly being made. In the few weeks between Acer’s review and this one, Xbox Cloud Gaming has seen some noticeable performance improvements. But then again, it also keeps stopping me cold when I try to play certain games. I believe that cloud gaming will truly realize its potential…eventually. If you want a great way to take part in what’s sure to be a wild ride along the way, Lenovo’s build on a gaming Chromebook is one of the best options available.

Alternatives to consider

A slightly larger machine with a slightly less premium build quality. It also includes an Ethernet port for anyone looking for the best latency and speed their ISP can offer. It’s also $50 off right now.

Read the review: Acer Chromebook 516 GE review: As good as cloud gaming gets

If you want something designed for cloud gaming in a portable format, the Logitech G Cloud is one of the few options on the market. Its hardware is top-notch, but it wasn’t able to overcome cloud gaming flaws more than any other product I’ve tested.

Read the review: Logitech G Cloud gaming handheld review: Frustratingly close to great

Prefer to get into cloud gaming, but still retain the ability to locally install thousands of desktop titles? Valve’s Steam Deck is still your best bet. It is also now available for immediate shipment, unlike the massive shortages seen in its first year of life.

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