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Microsoft, Lenovo to Ship Sub-$300 Windows 10 S Notebooks

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One of the strangest things about Windows 10 S, Microsoft’s Chromebook competitor and locked-down educational OS play, is that Microsoft chose to debut it with a $ 1,000 Surface Laptop, as opposed to the $ 150-$ 300 space where Chromebooks typically compete. Granted, the Surface Laptop ships with a free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro through the end of 2017, after which it’ll cost $ 50. But that device was still an odd way to showcase a restricted OS, given its price point. Today, that situation is finally being rectified, with the release of new Lenovo laptops like the N23 and N24.

N23-Laptop

The new Lenovo N23. It’s chunky, but the reversible hinge is a nice touch.

That said, there’s some conflicting information about the N23 and N24, even in Microsoft’s own store and Lenovo’s website. For one thing, only the N23 is showing up as available at Lenovo, even though MS has links to CDW-G for both systems. The N24 does show up for sale at some other third-party sites as well, but virtually every website that specifies an OS for the platform claims that it ships something other than Windows 10 S. (Lenovo, at least, properly identifies the N23 as using Windows 10 S).

Lenovo-N24-TigerDirect

Tiger Direct’s bold header claims that the N24 runs “Windows 10 Pro National Academic Standard,” while its technical specifications page states that the laptop features “Windows 10 Professional 64bit; runs all popular business applications with ease.” CDW-G’s page for the N23 claims that the installed OS is “Windows 10 Pro National Academic.” The N24, meanwhile, is advertised as shipping with Windows 10 Pro.

Lenovo-N24-CDW-G

CDW-G claims the N24 is a Windows 10 Pro system. It isn’t.

In fact, what’s particularly hilarious about this is that despite apparently declaring that Windows 10 S is now shipping on Lenovo hardware, even Microsoft’s own website doesn’t specifically say the devices use Windows 10 S. It doesn’t actually say anything at all about their operating system, whereas other models are described as “Coming Soon with Windows 10 S.”

Why Discrepancies Like This Matter

Microsoft definitely advertised the N23, at least, as being available from Lenovo and shipping with Windows 10 S, as shown below:

MS-N23

The reason issues like this matter, however, is because they set customer expectations. You’ve got different stores selling the same laptop making very different claims about it. If I buy a laptop that supposedly ships with Windows 10 Pro and I get Windows 10 S, I’m not going to be happy about it — and that assumes I’m even aware of the difference between the two. Either way, it injects an extra step and hassle for customers that may not be particularly knowledgeable on the differences between OS variants.

Also, if you are interested in one of these machines, we strongly recommend the N23 equipped with a Celeron N3160 over the N3060. The N3060 and N3160 have the same CPU clock rates (1.6GHz base, 2.24GHz Turbo) but the N3160 is a quad-core while the N3060 is a dual-core. Celerons and other low-cost chips typically need all the help they can get, so I wouldn’t scrimp on the extra cores.

The N24, meanwhile, is a bit of an odd duck. While it uses the more powerful Apollo Lake platform as opposed to the N23’s Braswell-based hardware, it has a much lower base clock, at 1.1GHz. It’s not clear whether the N24 would outperform the 3160 variant of the N23 in a head-to-head contest and likely depends on Lenovo’s cooling solutions and maximum clock rates.

We’ll see if the advent of these types of 2-in-1 solutions make a difference for Windows in the education market. Chromebooks have been gobbling up market share in that segment, and while it’s not a critical area for MS, the company is undoubtedly aware that users who become familiar with one OS in schools are less likely to move away from it as they age. Getting Windows 10 S into education markets is important to the company, particularly now that its mobile plans are effectively dead and it has no way to sell into the lucrative smartphone/tablet market (apart from Surface and Surface Pro, at least).

Now read: Windows 10: The Best Hidden Features, Tips, and Tricks

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