Chromebooks are small laptops that were originally driven exclusively by the Chrome OS but are now offered in Windows 10 versions that more broadly appeal to the greater user market. The version we review here is the Windows 10 version of the device.
The N23 is a convertible device (as opposed to full-sized laptops, notebooks, and ultrabooks) in that it can convert between laptop-like and tablet use modes. By simply folding away the keyboard, the N23 can be used as a touchscreen tablet.
Alternatively, the keyboard can be used to prop up the device screen for display purposes or general video and movie viewing. All in all, this is a very handy and portable device for people on limited budgets who need internet connectivity and do not want to haul around a heavy laptop.
As we stated above, the N23 Chromebook is ideal for travelers and students, since it is small enough to open up and use as a laptop on aircraft seat trays (the screen is 11.6 inches) and is very lightweight for easy portability (the N23 only weighs 3.09 pounds). Optimized for portability, the N23 also has a built-in carrying handle across the outer portion of the screen hinge and has been shock-tested to withstand impact from a 27.5-inch drop to a hard surface (that’s ¾ of a meter, so it’s pretty tough).
In case you are wondering about the significance of a 27.5-inch drop, that is the average height of a school desk. Ergo, the N23 is promoted toward education markets.
These durability features make it ideal for use in the classroom. With mechanically-attached keys that are not easily pried off, you can let the N23 loose on students and it will remain intact.
The biggest selling point is affordability, coming in at about half the price of a standard laptop for the Celeron version with Windows 10 (and a third again of that price if you opt for the Chrome OS version). This basically means that people with limited budgets who want internet connectivity and need a laptop-like device to write on and do some web browsing have an approachable device to fulfill their needs.
What is it like for Gaming?
Let us be realistic here: you will not be tearing through hordes of alien combatants with the N23. It is simply not designed for that use.
You should be able to run basic educational games on the N23 and a few newer FPS and strategy games (such as offerings from CrazyGames.com and sSega.com), provided that they are not graphics-intensive or the graphics features are tuned down.
A big selling point of the Lenovo N23 Chromebook is its affordability, being about half the price of a mid-grade laptop. That means the N23 is available to a wider range of customers who may not have funds to afford a regular laptop, but need a device that will perform some of the functions of a laptop.
The N23 is also very lightweight at just over three pounds and even features a built-in carrying handle on the hinge so that it can be easily toted around. Consumer electronic devices are often mishandled (not intentionally!) and do quite well on the going down a portion of being dropped.
The problem, however, is the impact portion of the drop, where shattered screens and housings are common, not to mention shaken hard drives, lost data, and dead machines. The N23 has been specifically designed to be rough-housed and withstand impacts on hard surfaces if dropped from a desk (a school desk worth of height, to be specific).
It goes without saying that the build quality of the N23 is excellent and made to take abuse. The entire housing is plastic, but the N23 is sturdy and small, somehow managing to fit a 3-cell battery inside with impressive 10-hour battery life.
We also like the fact that this little machine is not starved for ports. A wide range of physical connection options are available through its USB, HDMI, and combination microphone/headphone ports, as well as having an SD card reader.
Like all modern internet-ready devices, the N23 also has a full-fledged WiFi card capable of high-speed internet and Bluetooth communications. To be blunt, the N23 is not a dumb little box cut off from the world but can interface in a variety of ways to send or receive data and can be used as a projector display device through its HDMI port.
Let us talk about the display for a moment, since you will be spending a lot of time staring at it. The N23 display is an HD display, providing 1366 x 768 pixels, but is not a 4K display.
Still, the N23 display is sharp and the colors are vibrant, so viewing is comfortable. The color space coverage appears to be rather high, although we could find no ratings for how much sRGB color space coverage the display musters.
Despite all the very positive features of the Lenovo N23 Chromebook, one feature we feel should be improved is the amount of available storage, limited at the top end at 64 GB, and provided in the standard N23 version at 32 GB. This is simply way too low for laptop devices, although many users have reported that 32 GB is more than adequate for their needs.
We guess it all comes down to what you intend to do with the N23. If using the device for education or writing, then a smaller storage capacity is acceptable. However, if you intend for this to be a stand-in for a regular laptop, more storage capacity is a must.
Your standard SSDs (Solid State Drive) offered in laptops these days are either 250 GB or 500 GB versions and Lenovo could do a lot to improve the capabilities of the N32 by offering a larger storage capacity, at least 100 GB. However, there is a downside to this since that would make the N23 more expensive and thus defeat the entire purpose of making an affordable internet-ready device.
With the emergence of NVMe (non-volatile memory express) storage technology, which is much faster, capable of being much larger, and will also be much more expensive, the unit cost of SSDs is likely to diminish. That being said, look for larger storage in future versions of the N23 at reasonable prices.
One last point is the total available RAM, which is maxed out at 8 GB. We feel that 16 GB should be the top end (perhaps on next-generation N23s?) and that the motherboard should be redesigned accordingly, however, this request is based on what you intend to do with the N23. If used as an educational tool, 8 GB is likely enough, but if used for portable productivity, 16 GB would be preferable.
The specifications of the N23 Chromebook are listed below. Also included are benchmarking scores for performance comparisons to other CPUs.
No benchmark scores for the GPU of the N23 could be found since it is a specialty integrated GPU and not common enough to be found in other devices.
Processor: Intel Celeron N3160 @ 1.6 GHz
Turbo Burst Speed: 2.24 GHz
PassMark Benchmark Score: 6020
Cache Size: 2 MB
Special Features: Intel Burst Technology, integrated memory controller
RAM (max): 4 GB DDR3L SDRAM @ 1600 MHz (8 GB)
SSD 32 GB with 64 GB upgrade available
Display: LCD with LED backlight, anti-glare coating; viewing angles vertical and horizontal ±80°
TFT Type: IPS (In-Pane Switching)
Diagonal Size: 11.6 inches (29.5 cm)
Resolution: Full HD
Touchscreen (10-point multitouch)
Graphics Processor: Intel HD Graphics 400
On-Board Memory: none
WiFI: Intel Dual Band AC7260 M.2 Card (802.11a,b,g,n,ac), Bluetooth 4.0
Ethernet Port (LAN): 10/100
SD Card Reader: Yes (accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards)
Battery Type: Lithium-Ion
Total Capacity: 45 Wh
Number of Cells: 3
Power Supply: AC 110/220 V (60/50 Hz)
Consumption: 45 W, 20 V
USB 2.0 (2)
USB 3.0 Generation 1 (1)
Combo Jack (Headphone and Microphone)
Memory Card Reader
Software: Standard password protection
Physical: Fingerprint sensor, Standard Noble Wedge-type security slot
Dimensions (w x d x h): 11.8 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 3.09 lbs.
OS: Windows 10 64-bit preloaded
None, but the purchase of the N23 allows access to the Google Play Store and G Suite for Education. A variety of applications are available through these sites such as productivity and group networking software, Khan Academy, School Loop, and others.
Our general impression of the N23 Chromebook is very favorable and it is a really great device, so long as you keep in mind its intended purpose. The N23 is intended for use in educational settings and as a portable laptop-like device capable of performing basic tasks.
By comparison, we would not talk about how Maserati’s are really crappy automobiles because they cannot pull a horse trailer. Further, we would not bash a Chevy Silverado because it cannot do 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds.
The N23 Chromebook is built for portability, durability, and affordability. It is a device you can take on the road without straining the straps on your backpack, easily flip up and work from on an airline flight, and put in front of kids in the classroom who are not necessarily the most careful people when it comes to handling delicate electronics.
For these purposes, the N23 Chromebook is ideally suited to the task.
As a follow-up, we provide here a quick tips guide for helping you to make your decision on the purchase of a new laptop. Sure, you can go for the top-end machines and never be disappointed, but most of us have specific needs for what we will do with a laptop and also budgetary considerations.
The following item features are aspects of your purchase you should pay close attention to so that you are ultimately satisfied with your purchasing decision. It all comes down to what you need your laptop to do for you.
How big is big enough? That all depends on where you will use the laptop and, despite laptops being “portable”, how portable you will need it to be.
Larger laptops with 15-17-inch screens are very nice for work and watching movies, but if you intend to travel with your machine, you should consider a smaller device. Your back or shoulders will thank you later for selecting a lighter laptop since larger laptops are also heavier.
If you will be working at home or the device will basically stay at the office, a large is a big productivity booster and makes watching videos or movies with friends a more user-friendly experience. However, if you intend to travel by air, consider a smaller machine with a screen size in the 10.5-the 12.5-inch range since aircraft seating is cramped, and opening a larger laptop on a flight is difficult if not impossible under normal circumstances.
How much computing power do you need? If you will be crunching data on spreadsheets, an underpowered CPU will become a nuisance, so try to select a laptop with at least an Intel Core i5 processor (dual-core with hyperthreading is usually enough) or perhaps a latest-generation i3 with high clock speed and dedicated 4-core architecture.
If you will be doing basic writing and internet searches, a more affordable older generation i5, i3, or a Celeron CPU is usually enough for your work. AMD also makes mid-grade and budget CPUs in their Ryzen and Athlon lines as well.
If you want a laptop for gaming, a faster processor is preferable, such as the latest generation i5 or an i7. Although the graphics are handled by the GPU, CPU speed for game application management and standard operating system functions is a factor in overall gaming machine performance.
If you intend to do computer graphics work or serious gaming, then a dedicated, standalone GPU is a must to include its own on-board, dedicated RAM. AMD’s Radeon line and GeForce by Nvidia are excellent choices for these applications so long as there is enough exclusive RAM (try for 4 GB or more).
If you have simple graphics needs, Intel onboard graphics GPUs are rather powerful and more than adequate for casual use or light gaming. These GPUs share the laptop RAM with the CPU, so be sure to have at least 8 GB (16 GB is better) installed.
If you are a business traveler and need a small machine for basic work, many convertible and ultrabook laptops come with anywhere from 4-8 GB of RAM, which is typically well-balanced against the system and the intended use of the device. If you intend to do any more graphically-intensive work, 8 GB should be considered your absolute minimum.
Ideally, a system intended for graphically-intensive applications should have at least 16 GB these days, and upgrading to 32 GB will produce noticeable improvements in performance. Check the specifications of any potential purchase and ensure that the motherboard has enough memory addresses to accommodate the amount of RAM you anticipate needing.
These days, everything is going SSD and we recommend optioning to use this technology for advantages in data transfer speed and durability (no spinning platters). Prices should come down in the next year or so with the emergence off NVMe.
For estimations of battery life, you can expect in a device, seek out reviews where the reviewer has performed real-world tests under use conditions to get a true picture of what you can expect from a laptop.
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