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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Quick at simple tasks
Compact and lightweight
Transforms into a tablet
Poor performance in Android apps
Small screen with big bezels
Wobbly hinge mechanism
The Lenovo Chromebook C330 offers a lot of bang for your buck, despite its many flaws and limitations. It’s a great laptop for students or anyone who needs to take their laptop on the go.
The Lenovo Chromebook C330 has a lot to offer despite its low asking price. Between its touchscreen, convertible design, and snappy user experience, the C330 is positioned to offer great value for your money. However, it could be that too many corners were cut to hit that bargain-basement price point.
The Lenovo C330 is a lightweight machine, weighing just a hair over two and a half pounds. It’s also reasonably compact, though larger than it should be given its tiny 11.6-inch screen. Huge bezels surround the screen, a cheap look that makes the screen appear even tinier. It’s obvious this was done so that a large and comfortable keyboard could be included, but all that wasted screen space results in a flat, budget aesthetic.
The keyboard does indeed benefit from the extra room and provides an adequate typing experience. The trackpad is decent as well, though it took us a while to get used to the lack of a right mouse button. There’s also the option to navigate via touchscreen, which is necessary when you flip the device around to use as a tablet.
A key feature of the C330 is its ability to transform into a tablet, or a “tent mode” where the device is inverted and rested on its edge. There’s a major caveat, though—the hinge mechanism is far too loose, leading to severe wobbling when using the C330 in regular laptop mode. Just typing on it sends the screen bobbing back and forth.
This leads to concerns about durability, as it suggests a fragility that might not stand up to long term wear and tear. Other than this weak point, however, the laptop seems reassuringly sturdy with its tough plastic design.
Huge bezels surround the screen, a cheap look that makes the screen appear even tinier.
A volume rocker is located on the right-hand side of the keyboard, next to the power button and audio combo jack. The rocker is a little redundant, due to the presence of volume control keys on the keyboard when the C330 is used in laptop mode, but in tablet or tent mode it’s necessary, as keyboard input is disabled.
On the opposite side of the keyboard, there are USB-C, HDMI, and USB 3.0 ports, as well as a full-sized HDMI port. The USB-C port is primarily utilized to power the C330, but it can also be used as a Displayport connection or for HDMI passthrough.
ChromeOS is one of the easiest OSes to set up—even including the time it took to unbox it, it took less than ten minutes to get the C330 fully operational. Of course, your experience will vary depending on whether or not you choose to go through optional setup steps to customize privacy options and other settings.
The screen on the C330 is pretty low resolution at just 1366 x 768, but because it’s just an 11.6” display this is less of an issue than it would be with a larger screen, and we never noticed the lack of pixels. Text and other details are very crisp. Overall, we were impressed by the quality of the display; the C330 renders colors vividly and accurately, and both video and photos look excellent. Viewing angles are also good, with only a slight darkening when seen from the side. It’s also quite bright and reasonably usable outdoors in the sunlight.
In PCMark, the C330 hit a Work 2.0 performance score of 5482, which puts it firmly into low-end smartphone territory in terms of processing horsepower. Its little 1.70GHz MediaTek MTK8173C Processor is pretty underpowered, though the inclusion of 4 GB of RAM proved more than adequate for a Chromebook.
Our GFXBench tests also yielded tepid results, with only 416 frames in the Aztec Ruins OpenGL (High Tier) test, and 255.2 frames in the tesselation test.
With these results in mind, it should come as no surprise that the C330 really isn’t up to snuff for gaming. DOTA Underlords was barely playable at medium-low settings, though the experience was choppy, and using the mousepad was necessary due to framerate issues that rendered touch screen control nearly impossible. Though graphically simple games run fine, it’s clear that this laptop isn’t intended for gaming.
Chromebooks are defined by compromise—the ChromeOS operating system by its nature excludes a number of applications that many users of Apple or Microsoft operating systems find essential. There’s no guarantee that every Android app will function on a given Chromebook, either. Chromebooks are largely designed for ismple productivity tasks like word processing and browsing, and the C330 is no exception. Though graphically intensive Android apps struggled to run smoothly, browser-based applications were responsive and smooth.
Despite its low price point, the C330 provides performance that exceeds Windows machines that cost more than double its MSRP.
The hybrid 2-in-1 aspect goes a long way towards making the system more versatile for productivity—it’s far easier to show someone a photo or presentation in tent or tablet mode, and the touchscreen allows for more organic interaction.
Whether the C330 is capable of filling in for a traditional laptop is largely a personal matter that will vary based on your needs. If you just need to browse the web, do some writing or other office work, this Chromebook is an affordable option but photographers, video creators, and gamers will find it lacking.
Unfortunately, the C330 doesn’t come equipped with great built-in speakers. They’re quite tinny, and listening to music or audio from videos is not a good experience. Fortunately, Bluetooth support and a headphone jack provide alternative listening methods.
The C330 provided a solid and fast connection on our Wi-Fi network in our Ookla speed test. Bluetooth connectivity was also solid.
The webcam on the C330 isn’t great, but it does provide better detail and less noise than other webcams we’ve tested on more expensive laptops. However, it doesn’t handle contrast very well—if our faces were in bright light and the background was dim the camera would expose for the background. Nevertheless, it did fine in less extreme lighting conditions. Photo and video were sharp, though limited to 720p resolution.
A big advantage of Chromebooks is that they require much less power than a typical PC, and the C330 is no exception. Its advertised ten-hour battery life will vary based upon how heavily you use it, but it should get you through a day of work without charging.
So long as you understand its limitations, ChromeOS has a lot of big advantages over Microsoft and Apple operating systems. It runs simple software with alacrity and is very lightweight in terms of power usage, which allows it to run well on less powerful hardware and extend the length of your battery life. If you can live without Windows or Apple software, devices like the C330 can offer an excellent experience at a greatly reduced cost, but you’re sacrificing the breadth of those other OSes software library.
For its MSRP of $300 the C330 is a great value. It becomes even more attractive as a budget option considering that it typically retails for a discount of at least $50. Despite its low price point, the C330 provides performance that exceeds Windows machines that cost more than double its MSRP.
A comparable Windows 10 alternative to the C330 is the HP Pavilion 14”. This basic but functional laptop offers greater processing and graphics power, as well as the versatility of the Windows 10 operating system. It also features better overall build quality, a large hard drive, and a much larger screen. However, at over $600 it’s more than twice the price of the C330 and doesn’t have a touchscreen as standard. It also lacks the 360-degree hinge of the C330. If you need to be able to run more advanced software, though, that extra cost might be a worthwhile expenditure.
A great laptop for basic computing on a small budget.
It’s clear that Chromebooks aren’t for everyone. The compromises of ChromeOS severely limit what these machines are capable of, but if you just need a laptop for taking notes in class, or doing business on the go, then the Lenovo Chromebook C330 is an attractive option.
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