Can you game without having the premier processors and high end GPU’s? The new hotness in gaming seems to say yes, assuming you have the internet speeds to back it up. Replacing local specs for desktop processing with streaming, gaming Chromebooks like Lenovo’s IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook allow you to use your subscription services to the fullest without breaking the bank. There is also an i5 model available, but this model we’re reviewing is only $429 at Walmart:
- OS: ChromeOS
- 12th Generation Intel Core i3-1215U Processor (E-Core Max 3.30 GHz, P-Core Max 4.40 GHz with Turbo Boost, 6 Cores, 8 Threads, 10 MB Cache)
- Memory: 8GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz
- Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD
- Screen: 16” WQXGA (2560×1600) IPS, anti-glare, 350 nit, 120Hz refresh rate
- Storage: 128GB eMMC
- Connectivity: WiFi 6E 802.11AX (2×2), Bluetooth 5.0
- Other: MicroSD card slot, FHD webcam with privacy shutter
Specs and Design
An i3 with integrated Intel graphics is a far cry from the gaming laptops we usually run here with top-end chips and dedicated GPU’s. But with all of the game streaming services out there right now you don’t necessarily need mad specs to stream games – just a solid network connection.
That said, Lenovo’s Gaming Chromebook follows in the aesthetic footsteps of its IdeaPad siblings, with a 16″ screen with thin bezels contained in a two-tone aluminum top case with subtle Lenovo branding. An FHD camera sits above the screen with a privacy shutter, with the whole screen bending back to lay 180 degrees flat. On the deck is a light and springy keyboard with a full numpad complete with LED lighting. Under the keyboard is a large touchpad skewed a bit to the left. It’s large enough and not over-sensitive enough for accidental touches to make your cursor fly about while you’re trying to type a document, and works great when you use it with the actual intention of movement. Above the keyboard are the speakers – 4 x 2W with Waves audio.
It remains thin at 0.79″ thick with a footprint of 14.03″ x 9.96″, weighing in at 4.01lbs. It feels light and thin to carry, and as such isn’t quite thick enough to include a full size HDMI port. But we do still have a lot of inputs to play with – 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1’s, a USB-C Gen 2, a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, a MicroSD card reader, and headphone/mic combo jack. We were able to pipe the video out to a 4K monitor using the USB-C as well. That card slot is a great option for folks that want to expand their storage beyond the included 128GB on the fly.
The odd bit about it is that even though we had the signal piped out to a 4K monitor, running games still capped the resolution, not allowing us to take it up to 4K. This was the hamstring we felt running games through Geforce NOW / Steam which otherwise, as you will see below, was a great experience. ChromeOS will support game streaming from Geforce NOW, Amazon Luna, Google Stadia, and Xbox cloud gaming through Game Pass Ultimate.
So this is a Chromebook, so we couldn’t run our full battery of tests on ChromeOS since they’re mainly Windows-based. Another drawback we found is that piping the video out to a 4K monitor still caps the resolution at FHD when running Steam games off of Geforce NOW. Since we’re streaming our gaming instead of relying on our local specs, we put our faith in our FiOS connection to deliver the goods. Here’s what we were able to get:
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: We ran this benchmark while playing it on Steam through our Geforce NOW service. We’ve got that high-tier plan, so our virtual gaming rig was packing solid AMD processing and RTX 4080 power. Running it with the highest level of ray-traced shadows and turning everything else to the max we got 159 fps at FHD. Which is pretty impressive.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey: We used the same setup to test our experience through the Greek Isles. At FHD we were able to get an average of 125 fps.
We ran Deathloop and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order using Xbox Game Pass, and they worked very smoothly over our FiOS connection, but the graphics weren’t as sharp as anything we ran through GeForce NOW. That seemed to be the top-tier streaming service to play through, giving us the resolution, framerate, and ease of play we would look for on a traditional gaming laptop.
As far as non-gaming operation, since we’re running ChromeOS you can still be productive using web versions of Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace, or the Android editions of their downloadable apps.
Real-World Battery Test
Naturally ChromeOS is going to pull a lower power draw than Windows 11, so we had high hopes to see how long this lasted against the advertised 12 hours. Dropping the screen brightness to 60% we started the day. Work took place using the online versions of Microsoft 365 as well as a touch of Google Workspace to run some personal emails. I couldn’t run my advanced tasks like Microsoft Power BI or any CAD software, but I was still able to run remote access to my other Windows workstations to run what I needed to. An additional step sure, but this system wasn’t designed to be a productivity powerhouse. That being said, there are still Android editions of MS Office apps in the Play Store that can be run on ChromeOS,
Naturally there were some breaks for silly videos on YouTube, as well as a bit of media consumption on Netflix – for this test we ran though History of Swear Words, starring Nicolas Cage because, well why not? The full series ran about 2 hours and then we were back to work. I had Adobe on the agenda but again, since not much of Creative Cloud is going to run on ChromeOS, remote sessions was how we had to roll. Even with all of the network usage the battery kept chugging along, so we put it down for the day to pick up in the morning.
Continued use got us to just about 11 hours, which while short of the advertised 12, we can’t really be too mad about.
The one thing we were trying to figure out is what makes this a gaming Chromebook versus a “standard” Chromebook with similar specs? It does come with free trials of some popular game streaming services and the speakers are definitely nicer. But it’s the 120Hz refresh rate that probably really gives it that distinction. While streaming for games has been somewhat primitive since their recent mainstream entry, I got the same performance here playing top-end games from my Steam library with Geforce NOW as I would locally on my physical i9/RTX 3080 rig. Mighty impressive.
As we mentioned in previous sections the video out still caps the resolution and didn’t allow us to take full advantage of a 4K gaming monitor, but at $429 there’s not really much I can get mad at. I’m imagining use cases for students and small business – since many run natively on Google Workspace, ChromeOS plugs right into that ecosystem.
At this price we think this is a great travel companion for gamers who don’t want to lug around their full-spec gaming laptop in their carry-on bag. As long as you have strong network where you’re going, a lot of your games will still be good to go on the road.
Except for any Final Fantasy games. Anywhere. Why, I know not.
While you’re at it you have productivity at your fingertips as well. Understandably something at this price point isn’t going to run advanced design and business applications, but that’s not what it’s meant for. We love the gaming boom we get for the budget price tag here – $429 to run games at ridiculous framerates on an i3 with integrated graphics? Fantastic.