If you want a cheap laptop that can take a beating, the $269 Lenovo Flex 11 is one of the only good candidates to choose from.
The chubby Chromebook has a rubber bumper wrapped around its edges (yes, like a bumper car) because, according to Lenovo, it can withstand a 2.4-foot (75cm) drop. It also has a water-resistant keyboard tray (up to 1 cup of water or 220ml), reinforced ports and a sealed touchpad to avoid any electrical damage in case of accidental spills.
Not only is it a durable design, it’s also versatile. It has solid 360-degree hinges that allow it to prop up like a tent for easy video-watching, or fold over like a tablet — though at a little over 3 pounds, it’s too heavy to hold for long.
The Flex 11 is not without its faults, like short battery life and clunky user input, but if you’re looking for an affordable laptop for basic use that’s also extra-durable, it’s one of the only choices you have.
The Flex 11 starts at $269 in the US. International availability has yet to be announced, but UK and AU pricing converts to £207 and AU$361.
Boring, but tough
Its design is nowhere near as stylish as high-end Chromebooks like the HP Chromebook 13 or the Asus Chromebook Flip, but it’s definitely more rugged. I was able to cautiously spill some water on its keyboard and quickly dry it after with no performance issues. I also dropped it a few times from 1 to 2 feet. Other than a few scratches, it remained unscathed.
Its specs and performance are comparable to those of other Chromebooks in its modest price range, which means you won’t be getting an Intel processor or high-resolution screen Still, the Flex 11 handled basic Chrome OS tasks well. Keep in mind Chrome OS is basically just Google’s Chrome web browser, and you’re largely restricted to cloud-based online tools, rather than downloading or installing traditional Windows software.