Lenovo Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook full review
The ThinkPad brand is synonymous with dependable and premium laptops, usually of the Windows variety. For a while now though, some have come with ChromeOS installed, as is the case with theThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook from Lenovo.
So, how does the change in operating system affect the experience? Here’s the full Tech Advisor review of the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook.
Design & Build
Anyone who has seen a ThinkPad in the last decade or more will know that they come in black liveries. But, marking an unusual departure from form, the C13 Yoga Chromebook is decked out in Abyss Blue, which is a kind of metallic navy hue that looks very fetching on the aluminium chassis.
It still proudly claims its noble heritage though, thanks to the ThinkPad logo, along with the red glowing dot over the i, which occupies the top left area of the lid. Opposite this is the Chrome logo, denoting this a Chromebook, and there’s also metal plaque on the right lower side with the Lenovo brand.
While this might all sound a bit busy, it’s all tastefully done and keeps the efficient, business-like aesthetic for which ThinkPads are known.
Twin, angled hinges adorn the rear edge, providing a full 360-degrees of rotation for the 13in display, while the flanks have the ThinkPads usual wide selection of ports. These include 2x USB-C, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, a microSD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack and Kensington lock, alongside twin speakers.
Inspecting the lower edge of the front section reveals a small indentation. This is a stylus that lives inside the body of the C13 Yoga and can be used on the touchscreen display. A notched edge makes it easy to extract and then replace, which is excellent as little things like this are always easy to lose. There’s also a fingerprint sensor to the right of the trackpad, which adds another layer of security to the more business-orientated ThinkPad user.
The bottom plate is home to raised rubber feet to lift the device off the desk and allow the fan vent area to dispel heat, ensuring the Chromebook remains cool.
Opening the lid lands us in familiar territory, with the classic chiclet keyboard replete with the red button in the centre that acts as a pseudo-mouse controller for the cursor. Love it or hate it, it wouldn’t be a ThinkPad without one of these.
There’s also a trackpad with three buttons above it, cameras in the area directly above the display and also at the top of the keyboard, so you can either look at yourself or the world around you when in tent mode.
It’s a reasonably compact construction, measuring 308 x 212 x 16mm and weighing in at 1.5kg/3.3lbs. Lenovo states that’s been tested against 12-military grade requirements and a barrage of quality checks. Oh, and the device is able to survive liquid spillages (up to 330ml). As I said. It’s a ThinkPad.
Keyboard, Trackpad & Stylus
Keyboards are a strong point on ThinkPads, and the C13 Yoga continues this tradition in style. Easily one of the best typing surfaces I’ve used, with firm keys that fall nicely under the fingers.
At first, they actually look like they’re not full-sized, probably due to the curved lower edges, but straight away I was up to my normal typing speed and the letters that appeared on the screen were about as accurate as on any keyboard I’ve experienced over the years. It’s also back-lit, which is always a plus and not always a given on a Chromebook.
The trackpad is also a fine exponent of its craft, even though it seems a bit small when compared to the large surface offered by my usual MacBook Pro. Finger tracking is fast and accurate, with either tap or clicking the buttons executing commands. The three buttons are unusual on Chromebooks, and it is good to have the right click available for contextual menus. The middle one is less obvious, but clicking on web-links with it opens the destination page in a new tab, which is actually quite handy.
Taking out the stylus prompts a pop-up menu to appear with various options, including a magnifying glass to enlarge the parts of the screen you touch. It all works well and while I think you might not reach for the stylus too often, it is a nice little extra feature to have in your locker.
One tool that might be useful is the laser pointer, which puts a red dot on the part screen you touch with the stylus. This can then be dragged around to accentuate certain details on the screen. On a Zoom call or other video conference platform, this should make it easy to direct people to details in a document, spreadsheet or chart when using the Presentation mode.
Screen & Speakers
Lenovo hasn’t scrimped on the feature-set just because this is a Chromebook. In fact, this could be the most kitted out one I’ve come across so far, which is befitting of the brand name it carries.
The firm has opted for a 13.3in Full HD 1920x1080 IPS panel with multi-touch capabilities for the C13, and for the most part, it’s a good display.
The maximum brightness of 300 nits means you’ll just about be able to use it outdoors on a fairly bright day, but even though Lenovo says it has an anti-glare coating, the smooth, glossy nature of a touchscreen means you’ll still battle with reflections in strong sunlight.
Otherwise, it’s a clear panel with strong colours and eye-burning brightness when used indoors. The touch responses are all solid, as are the stylus options that I’ve already mentioned.
Twin speakers on the flanks provide adequate audio from the ThinkPad. It’s loud, but the tones are thin and tinny with a hint of reverb. Of course, there’s always the 3.5mm headphone jack that allows you to attach a beefier speaker or bypass the experience entirely with a pair of headphones.
As I said earlier, the C13 Yoga comes with not one but two cameras. An unusual prospect for a laptop. At least the review model I tested did, as the second one is an optional extra you can configure from the Lenovo store.
The normal webcam positioned above the display is a 720p unit that provides passable video. On Zoom and Duo the results were quite grainy and soft-focussed even in a reasonably bright room. It will do for general meetings, but you might want to invest in an external webcam if you want to look your best.
One security feature that’s a welcome addition is a physical lens cover that can be slid in from the right of the camera. This is a good way to protect yourself from would-be digital peeping Toms.
The optional 5Mp camera is fitted just above the keyboard, which only really comes into play when you use the laptop in tablet or tent mode. It’s similar to the main unit, although I’m somewhat puzzled as to what you might use it to capture.
As this is a ThinkPad, you’ll find plenty of ports available. Two USB-C ports is standard fare these days, but these are accompanied by two USB 3.2 (Type-A), a HDMI 2.0 port, microSD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack and the ThinkPad stalwart Kensington Lock.
It’s a fine collection for a small and thin device, which should avoid needing to mess about with dongles or hubs.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is the order of the day, which means you should be able to obtain the higher connection speeds so long as you have a Wi-Fi 6 router. There’s also Bluetooth 5.0 for peripherals and wireless headphones.
To accompany the physical lens cover and Kensington Lock mentioned earlier, Lenovo also bestows the C13 Yoga with a fingerprint sensor. This is becoming more regular on premium Chromebooks but, unlike on the HP Chromebook X360 14c, I couldn’t get this one to actually unlock the device or log into my account.
Using the ChromeOS settings I was able to scan my fingerprint quite happily, but after that, there was no recognition of it when trying to unlock the device. Not sure what’s going on with this, as Lenovo has obviously chosen to include it as part of the device, but during my test period I just couldn’t get it to work in any useful manner.
Specs & Performance
While I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Intel Core processors in Chromebooks lately, this is the first one I’ve used that has the new AMD Ryzen 3 series of chips. The one, in particular, is a 2.6GHz 3250C, which features 2 cores and 4 threads, plus a boost up to 3.5GHz when the going gets tough.
This is aided by 4GB of DDR4 RAM and a 128GB M.2 PCIe SSD. The former feels a bit stingy by modern standards, with 8GB usually deemed more suitable for devices in this price range.
For the majority of the time I had with the C13 Yoga, it was snappy and responsive. Unless you’re playing games, then Chromebooks don’t really have apps that push them that hard, as you’re unlikely to be editing video or rendering high-res graphical images. It was a bit of a surprise then when I encountered some serious slow-downs, to the point of freezing up and fans starting to kick, with only a handful of browser windows open.
It happened on a few occasions, but seemed to stop once I’d applied a new update to ChromeOS. This indicates it could have been a coding issue in the operating system rather than the hardware, and that the patch fixed the problems. Another possibility is the 4GB of RAM struggles with the load of modern programs.
To test this out I ran PUBG, but was defeated by its emulation detection that often happens when using Chromebooks running Android apps. Instead, I switched to Alto’s Odyssey which ran smoothly, but with occasional stuttering.
To give the C13 Yoga a more traditional barrage of tests, I ran the usual benchmarks, which returned scores of 538 (Single Core) 1192 (Multi Core) on Geekbench 5, 463.7 for Basemark 3.0 and 71.6 on Jetstream 2.0.
These are decent results for your average Chromebook, but don’t really stand up to the likes of the HP Chromebook X360 14c that I reviewed recently and which costs around the same.
Compared to other models in this class, the C13 Yoga doesn’t impress with its battery life. Running our standard continuous streamed HD video test, the Lenovo managed six hours and fifty minutes before giving up the ghost. That’s three and a half hours less than the HP Chromebook x360 14c and a full four hours shy of the Google Pixelbook Go.
Plugging the device back in will get you around 43% of a full charge in 30-minutes and 80% in an hour. For a total recharge, the test model reached 100% after being on charge for one hour and 40-minutes.
If you’re looking at a Chromebook in this price range, then I’m presuming you already know about ChromeOS. If not, it’s an operating system by Google that is primarily web-based. Most of the apps and services you use are online, although you can still use the likes of Googles Docs when you’re not connected to the internet, with everything syncing up once you’re connected again.
Android apps also run on all modern Chromebooks, enlarging the number of apps available. In truth, many of these haven’t been optimised for the large screens of laptops, but they still work and can be useful additions to your work or leisure time.
You’ll need to be happy living in the Google universe if you want to use a Chromebook, as Google services make up the backbone of the experience, but if that’s not a problem for you then Chromebooks really are an excellent option for those who don’t need video editing apps or specific software to achieve their desired computing goals.
Price & Availability
There are a couple of different configurations for the C13 Yoga Chromebook available on the Lenovo site. You can also get it from retailers such as Ebuyer, Amazon, Laptops Direct and Box, often for under £600.
My review model is the higher specced version, with the differences being the AMD Ryzen 3 processor and 128GB of storage, which will set you back £619.99/$819. If you prefer 64GB and a 2.40GHz AMD Athlon Gold 3150C then you can save £10, which doesn’t sound like good financial sense to me.
US buyers have a slightly different set of choices, with the AMD Athlon Gold models starting at US$599 from the Lenovo store, and fitted with only 32GB of storage. You can also buy it from Newegg and Amazon.
The Lenovo C13 Yoga Chromebook is easily one of the best-looking Chromebooks I’ve ever seen. The keyboard is excellent, it has a nice display, the stylus is useful, and the range of ports is impressive.
It’s a shame then that such a lovely chassis is let down by short battery life. ThinkPads have a history of being road-warriors, but you wouldn’t want to wander too far from a power source with this particular model.
Lenovo Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook: Specs
- AMD Ryzen 3 3250C Processor (2 Cores / 4 Threads, 2.60 GHz, up to 3.50 GHz with Max Boost, 1 MB Cache L2 / 4 MB Cache L3)
- Integrated AMD Radeon Graphics
- 13.3in FHD (1920x1080) IPS 300nits Anti-glare, 360 hinges, Multi-Touch
- 4 GB Soldered DDR4 2400MHz
- 128 GB M.2 2242 SSD
- 4 cell, 51Wh battery
- 65W USB-C Slim AC adapter
- 720p HD Camera with PrivacyShutter + World Facing 5.0MP
- Lenovo Active Pen (stylus)
- Fingerprint reader
- Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 11AX (2x2) & Bluetooth 5.0
- 308 x 212 x 16mm
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