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Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 (8th gen) review: A compact Chromebook that’s fantastic value

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £379
inc VAT

Some odd decisions hamper usability, but this compact Chromebook gives you a great screen and good performance for the money


  • Bright 14in screen
  • Wi-Fi 6E connectivity
  • Excellent battery life


  • Inconsistent action on the keyboard
  • Only one USB-C port

The latest model in Lenovo’s IdeaPad Slim range of Chromebooks is an odd little beast, combining an unusually compact form factor with an interesting mix of mid-range specs, including a new low-power Intel processor that makes its Chromebook debut here.

In terms of the hardware and design, it’s identical to Lenovo’s new IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook Plus, and due to get Google’s Chromebook Plus software update in the future. Sadly, at the time of writing, that update has yet to roll out.

Still, even in its current state the IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 is a pint-sized cracker, exceeding expectations for a Chromebook at this price.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 review: What you need to know

What do I mean? Well, where many cheaper Chromebooks still leave you working with a dull 1080p display, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of painfully slow storage, the IdeaPad Slim 3i gives you a display that’s a cut above the average, plus 8GB of RAM and 256GB of eMMC storage. It’s also one of the first devices we’ve seen with of Intel’s new Alder Lake-N CPUs, here the Intel Core i3-N305.

As with all new Chromebook Plus devices, it should also get a range of additional Chrome OS features and software offers, including AI-animated wallpaper and screensavers, the Magic Eraser and HDR effects in Google Photos and offers on Adobe Photoshop for ChromeOS and the LumaFusion video-editing app.

READ NEXT: The best Chromebooks to buy today

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 review: Price and competition

Acer, Asus and Lenovo have all announced new Chromebook Plus models, while some other existing Chromebooks are being upgraded to the new designation, and all will be eligible for the same software offers.

These include the Asus Chromebook CX34 Flip (in its non-Vibe edition) and the AMD-based CM34 Flip, the HP Chromebook Plus 15.6 and the Acer Chromebook Plus 515 and 514 models. Meanwhile, Lenovo has the virtually identical IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook Plus and a 14in convertible – the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus.

Some of these devices have higher-resolution screens or faster Core i3 or Core i5 CPUs. However, the Chromebook Slim 3i 14 is definitely one of the more affordable options. Most of the above Chromebooks sell for between £400 and £600. You can find the IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook for a mere £379 online, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it discounted further in the usual pre and post-Christmas sales.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 review: Design

The Chromebook Slim 3i 14 is an unusually compact Chromebook for its screen size, partly because Lenovo has minimised the screen bezel and made the body of the laptop not much larger than a 14in, 16:9 format screen. Its desktop footprint is just 324 x 216mm – not much bigger than a magazine – although it is relatively chunky, reaching 19.3mm thick towards the rear. All the same, it’s not going to take up much room on your desk or in a bag or backpack, and at 1.5kg, it’s not going to weigh you down much, either.

The bodywork is mostly plastic, although the lid is an unnamed metal, finished in the two-tone grey Lenovo seems to favour for its Chromebook line these days. There’s no doubt that the Slim 3i 14 is a budget Chromebook but it doesn’t feel horribly cheap and the construction seems perfectly robust. In fact, Lenovo claims it’s certified for military-grade durability, along with resistance to damage from spills and drops. It hasn’t been tested against the full range of tests required for MIL-STD-810H certification, however.

On one level, connectivity is pretty good. There are USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports on each side of the chassis, along with an HDMI 1.4b port on the right-hand side with a 3.5mm audio jack on the left. However, there is only one USB-C port, which makes no sense on a Chromebook that charges via USB Type-C. If you want to plug storage or peripherals in while you’re charging, you’re going to need a USB-C hub or dock.

All the same, it’s hard to grumble too much when Lenovo has been generous elsewhere. While we’re still seeing budget Chromebooks shipping with basic Wi-Fi 5 connectivity, the IdeaPad Slim 3i comes with Wi-Fi 6E with 2×2 MIMO, not to mention Bluetooth 5.2.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 review: Keyboard and trackpad

I’ve used a lot of Lenovo laptop keyboards over the last ten years and the best are as good as it gets, while even the worst examples tend to be perfectly usable. The keyboard on the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 sits somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

It’s a chiclet-style keyboard with mid-sized square key tops and a surprisingly large amount of travel – I’d estimate around 2mm. However, the action doesn’t feel consistent from key to key. Some feel slightly wobbly and clacky, while others are firmer and near-silent. This takes a little getting used to.

What’s more, Lenovo has made the ChromeOS Launcher key – the one that sits where the Caps Lock would normally be – weirdly long. It’s longer than the left Shift key and almost as long as the oversized Ctrl key. I’m used to the idiosyncrasies of Chromebook keyboards, with their specialist function keys and missing Delete but I kept pressing that Launcher key by accident.

The touchpad is one of the smaller efforts I’ve used recently and it measures just 105 x 62mm. Still, it’s nice and smooth to the touch and tracks movements speedily and accurately.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 review: Display and sound

If I can live with the ergonomics, I’m more than happy with the screen. The 14in IPS display follows the Chromebook Plus spec with its 1080p resolution but it turns out to be surprisingly capable in other ways. Sure, colour performance isn’t anything to write home about, with an sRGB colour gamut of 61% (that’s equivalent to 43% of DCI-P3) but it goes fairly bright, reaching peaks of 329cd/m2. Colour and contrast are fine for most purposes, too, although the average Delta E of 4.21 (indicating colour accuracy) is on the high side.

You won’t want to use this laptop for serious image or video editing, but it is comfortably readable in most lighting aside from direct sunlight and it’s great for everyday work in Google Workspace apps or casual video streaming via Netflix or Disney+.

There’s a lot to be said for Lenovo’s Full HD webcam, too. Images aren’t the sharpest or most detailed I’ve seen but it copes well with tricky lighting and exposure, even without the new AI-enhancement features we’re seeing in the new Chromebook Plus models. These should come, eventually, to the IdeaPad Slim 3i and should improve things further.

Sound is another area where the IdeaPad Slim 3i does surprisingly well. You’re not going to get the richest tone or immersive surround sound here, but it isn’t horrible weedy, harsh or tinny, and you can watch old concert footage on YouTube or stream a show on Netflix without feeling like you have to plug some headphones in.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 review: Performance and battery life

Intel’s new Core i3-N305 is a peculiar little chip. It’s one of Intel’s Alder Lake-N CPUs, and with its eight cores and speeds of up to 3.8GHz, it feels it belongs in the Core i3 line rather than the barebones “Processor” line of the cheaper, four-core N100. However, those eight cores are Efficiency cores rather than the Performance cores you’ll find in the higher-end 12th and 13th gen Core i3 part, and this has a tangible impact on performance. Basically, I’d say this chip has more in common with the old Pentium Gold CPUs than a modern Core i3.

This isn’t anything like a deal-breaker. The old Pentium Gold 7505 was a decent Chromebook processor, giving you noticeably snappier performance than the Pentium Silver and Celeron CPUs often used in budget Chromebooks without ramping up the price too much. And you can say the same about the Core i3-N305.

Paired with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of eMMC storage, it’s nowhere near as fast as the Core i3 and Core i5 processors we’re seeing in devices such as the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip or Acer Chromebook Spin 714.

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 start menuWhere the Vibe CX34 Flip scored 1,805 in the Geekbench 6 single-core test and 6,517 in the multicore, the Lenovo scored just 1,025 and 2,663. In fact, its score in the WebXprt3 web application benchmark (223) is much closer to the Acer Chromebook 514 with its Pentium Gold 7505 (215) than it is the Vibe CX34 (284).

It is, however, more than fast enough to handle everyday browsing and productivity work without any hint of slowdown or a struggle, even with multiple apps and browser tabs open. And while the IdeaPad Slim 3i wouldn’t be my first choice of laptop for creative work, it runs the web-based version of Photoshop at a decent lick, handling adjustment layers and filters without any painful pauses.

What’s more, the Core i3 N305 turns out to have an upside: exceptional battery life. The 12hrs 29mins it survived in our HD video rundown test isn’t quite up there with the 13hrs 19mins we saw with the Acer Chromebook Spin 714, but the little Lenovo has more stamina than most other Chromebooks we’ve tested in the last few years. In general usage, I never found it getting close to empty by the end of a working day. In fact, it will happily keep trucking through a couple of days of light use without a recharge.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 review: Verdict

There’s much to like about Lenovo’s compact Chromebook. It’s easy to manage and solidly built, with fast wireless connectivity and a significantly brighter and more colourful screen than you’re going to find on most Chromebooks at this price.

The Intel Core i3-N305 isn’t as speedy as a more conventional Core i3, but give it 8GB of RAM to work with and it’s not going to slow you down in everyday work. What’s more, it has stamina to spare.

Were it not for the slightly chunky design, the less than stellar keyboard and the lack of extra USB-C ports, I’d pitch it as one of the best cost-conscious Chromebooks you can buy. As is, it’s still fantastic value, provided you can live with some minor issues here and there. 

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