Lenovo ChromeBook 500e Review: Part 2 - Keyboard, Android Apps, More Ink, & World Camera Problems
OK. So here's part two of the ongoing coverage of the Lenovo 500e ChomeBook.. I opened up the OG post to this review thread with a few lines about the keyboard and typing experience on the 500e. Let me say, the typing experience on the Lenvo 500e is pretty damned good for a device in this price-range. It's no ThinkPad experience. But if you were looking for something that refined, you'd be paying at least a couple more hundred dollars.
The 500e falls a tad short in that it led me to setting my expectations for the keyboard too high. I thought that the keys would feel the same as the lid of the laptop, which has a slight amount of texture to it; just enough for you to not lose your grip. But the keys are slick. Not quite as slick as my HP Envy 13, but slick enough that, for me, it was a problem. Since then, I have added a very small rectangular bit of non-skid to each key (yes, a very time consuming experience that I nibbled at for a number of days). For those who are more mainstream, the slickness of the keys sill most likely not be an issue. I am not a touch-typist, and when keys are too slick, using them shifts to a degree where I have to proof-read while I go, and that cognitive load is too high. Key spacing and size is fine and well within acceptance limits. There is not a ton of travel in the keyboard, but this thing is not in MacBok territory. It takes slightly more deliberate and heavier key strokes to get decent feedback, but I a already a hard typist. If you are not, your mileage may vary.
I have a few different vectors that I am testing Android apps with. Tonight's schtick was about testing native Android apps that have digital ink capability against Google Keep's inking, where I reported that I had experienced some general lag that became exacerbated under specific scenarios. I am very pleased to report that I did not experience any of that lag while working in Android apps. Inking was every bit as robust and quick to respond as if I was working in Microsoft OneNote on a Windows 10 digital ink-enabled laptop. Apps I tested included:
- INKredible Pro
- Lecture Notes
- Microsoft OneNote App
I experienced some other wonkiness in OneNote, but that was not lag in the inking mechanism. It did seem that OneNote as picking up on multiple ink strokes as a gesture to lay down a text box. I was not able to solve that problem, but I was testing for ink lag, and I did not see any when I was able to fly the pen for a long enough period of time within OneNote.
Overall, the Android Apps on Chrome experience on the 500e has been absolutely superb. It's an incredibly enabling and powerful capability that allows you to surmount a lot of problems that you may not have been able to work around on Chrome before. I should also mention that I spent a coupe of hours playing rounds of Great Little War Game on the 500e on a couple of plane trips. Again, it performed perfectly and was well up to the task as far as performance goes. Having a little mini gaming device embedded in a light-weight productivity machine is an extreme plus. In addition to that everything has worked that I needed to for other entertainment. ComiXology downloads comics just fine, as do NetFlix and Amazon Prime Video.
An interested party on Twitter reached out to me and asked if I had experienced any issues with the camera, specifically the World Camera. The World Cam is a 5MP webcam that is slung underneath the center of the hinge and sits just above the keyboard deck. Al asked me if I had seen any issues with the World Cam while the Google Keep app was up. Truth be told, I experienced all sorts of issues with that camera, whether Google Keep was up or not. It appears that when the 500e is rotated to tablet mode, the World Cam loses its ability to auto-focus. Images appeared better and it looked like auto-focus was working properly if I put something in front of the World Cam and the laptop was in the normal laptop mode. While transitioning the Chromebook from normal to tablet mode with the Camera app on, as soon as the screen broke the plane and flipped the screen to tablet mode, the camera image went to an unfocused blob. I also tested with 6 highly rated Android camera apps, all with the same results. In all of these cases, the embedded 720 webcam worked just fine.
One of the key elements marketed with this device is the ability to use the World Camera in a host of daily classroom situations. If there is a major flaw in the camera hardware or its associated software, that renders a lot of that of that capability inert, then it could easily be over the showstopper threshold for a lot of consumers. More to follow.