Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Chromebook Yoga review: Premium in every way

Lenovo’s ThinkPad brand is known for its business class laptops. When you buy a ThinkPad, you know you’re getting incredible build quality and reliability. For Lenovo, it makes perfect sense to combine this heritage with Chrome OS to create a premium Chromebook experience. The Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga is a Chromebook aimed at the enterprise market, but it is also a compelling option for power users in the mainstream market.

It’s often hard to find a Chromebook that has just about everything, but this ThinkPad isn’t far off. Even the color of the device stands out in a crowd, in a good way. But it is also a very expensive device and can be a bit overloaded for some users. The AMD Ryzen processor also has a few minor issues that should hopefully go away over time. So is the ThinkPad C13 Chromebook Yoga for you?

Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Chromebook Yoga: Specifications

specification Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Chromebook Yoga
Dimensions and weight
  • 15.5mm x 307.56mm x 212.1mm / 0.61 “x 12.11” x 8.35 “
  • 3.30 lbs / 1.50 kg
Display
  • 13.3 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS
  • Optional 4K panel
  • Touch screen
  • 300 nits (or 400 nits on 4K panel)
Processor
  • AMD Athlon Gold (base models)
  • AMD Ryzen 3.5 or 7 (max models)
RAM and storage
  • 4 GB + 32/64 GB eMMC (Athlon models)
  • 8 GB / 16 GB + 128/256 GB SSD (Ryzen models)
Battery charging
  • Up to 12.5 hours, 51Wh
  • Fast charge
security
  • (Optional) Match-on-host touch fingerprint reader
  • Webcam privacy cover
  • Kensington lock slot
Front camera
  • 720p HD with webcam privacy cover
Camera facing the world
  • Optional: 5 MP world-facing camera
Port (s)
  • 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
  • 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C (DP 1.4)
  • HDMI 2.0
  • MicroSD card reader
  • Headphone / microphone combo
audio
  • Two stereo speakers
  • Two far-field microphones
Connectivity
  • Realtek 8822CE 802.11AC (2 x 2)
  • Bluetooth® 5.0
Software Chrome OS / Chrome OS Enterprise
Other characteristics
  • Optional garage ICU pen
  • Upgrade to Chrome Enterprise
  • 2 in 1 convertible

About this review: I received the ThinkPad model with 8GB RAM / 256GB SSD storage, 1080p display and the Ryzen 5 3500C with Radeon Vega Mobile Gfx from Lenovo for testing. Lenovo had no input into any part of this review.

Design and keyboard / touchpad

The C13 is available in a unique color that Lenovo calls Abyss Blue. It’s refreshing to see an interesting color on a Chromebook design, far too many are solid black or gray tiles. The color is a fairly dark blue and the laptop has a nice matte finish that keeps it suitable for business.

Aside from the color, this Chromebook feels substantial in hand. You certainly won’t feel out of place to bring this laptop to a meeting or business engagement. At 3.30 pounds, it’s not exceptionally light or heavy for a Chromebook of its size. But you can feel the quality of the craftsmanship in the build, and the cold aluminum frame is top notch.

Chromebook C13 Keyboard

My model of the C13 also has the optional USI garage pen hidden in the lower front of the device. After using the Galaxy Chromebook 2 without a stylus for a few weeks, I was very happy to find a stylus in my life again. You might think the built-in stylus would force extra thickness on the device, but it’s still quite thin and easy to hold when closed.

Chromebook C13 trackpad and fingerprint sensor

Lenovo is well known for the quality of the keyboard and touchpad, but you also get the iconic ThinkPad Trackpad on the C13. While I haven’t used the Trackpad too much, it’s a nice feature to see on a Chromebook for historical fans of the ThinkPad line.

The C13’s keyboard is excellent with just what it takes for travel. The keys are also incredibly quiet, making this laptop a great desktop companion. The backlighting is subtle and uniform across the entire keyboard. There is also splash protection if you occasionally splash a glass of water on the keyboard.

Chromebook C13 closed on the outside

As for the touchpad, it’s incredibly nice for a Chromebook. It’s also absolutely wonderful to have dedicated buttons above the touchpad for left and right clicks. You can still use two fingers to click if you want, but I’m a huge fan of having the ability to press an actual button whenever I want. Bottom line, this is a beautiful Chromebook with a working keyboard and a great trackpad.

Display, performance and battery life

My C13 model arrived with the standard 1080p display, so I’ll focus on that here. Note that there is an optional 4K display upgrade on the C13, but it looks like it’s often sold out. The good news is that the FHD IPS panel is quite nice. You get a peak brightness of 300 nits, which allowed me to work pretty well outdoors in sunny Arizona. The standard on most Chromebooks is around 250 nits, so the ThinkPad outperforms the market there.

Touch accuracy is also good, with no issues with Android apps in tablet mode. Playing games and watching Netflix are enjoyable activities with the C13’s crisp screen. The speakers are just plain bad on this Chromebook, however. I was hoping for more from the stereo setup, but the actual output was incredibly flat.

Chromebook S13 open to the outside

Overall performance on the C13 is excellent, but there are a few bugs to be addressed with the arrival of Ryzen processors on a Chromebook. There are well-documented bugs that cause the C13 to crash completely (fade to black screen), when viewing certain streaming videos. This is a problem I encountered while watching a few videos on Reddit and even HBO Max. It would be nice if Google and AMD could fix this as they are aware of the problem.

Other than this little glitch, I haven’t had any issues playing games on Stadia, running Linux apps like MATLAB, and writing my articles here on XDA. I also used a USB-C docking station to connect the C13 to my LG 34in ultra wide monitor which worked really well for my workflow.

Chromebook C13 Side View

Another potential issue caused by the relatively new Ryzen processor is the accuracy of the battery gauge. Often my C13 unit would go from 100% battery to 70% or 80% in an instant. This is clearly more of a calibration issue, as I have typically used an average of 7.5 hours of battery use on a single charger. That’s a pretty respectable number for a Chromebook, but still well below the 12 hours Lenovo advertised for the C13.

USI pen and tablet mode

When I received the ThinkPad C13, the USI pen in the garage excited me. I’ve been using a Galaxy Chromebook 2 for almost a month, which doesn’t have any built-in stylus. For my day job, I spend quite a bit of time creating lecture notes for my university students. While the Galaxy Chromebook 2 can use a USI stylus, having one inside the Chromebook chassis is a big deal. I felt like I could use the C13 as a note-taking device, which I missed with the Samsung Chromebook.

Chromebook C13 USI Pen

The USI pen itself is a solid digital writing tool. Lenovo’s stylus is similar in length to the Samsung S-Pen I use with my S21 Ultra, but without the nice contours. It’s not as substantial or well weighted as an Apple Pencil, but it gets the job done and I was able to use it comfortably while writing multiple pages of math notes.

Lenovo USI Pen vs S-Pen vs Apple Pencil

One issue I noticed is that the screen has a bit of flexibility in tablet mode when using the USI stylus. When I write math I often press a little hard, so I guess some of the flexibility can be attributed to that as well. The stylus is also not as precise as the S-Pen or Apple Pencil, but that’s to be expected. Hopefully more Chromebook makers will add built-in USI styluses – that’s a really nice bonus feature.

Conclusion

With the ThinkPad C13, Lenovo has done a great job considering all possible use cases for a premium Chromebook. You get a great display, a powerful processor, plenty of storage space, and several optional extra features in build-to-order models. Personally, I think the USI stylus and fingerprint sensor are nice upgrades for anyone looking to use the C13 in a professional setting. If you need to take photos in tablet mode, you can also add the world-facing camera for an additional $ 20.

If you are thinking of buying this Chromebook, you probably already have a big budget in mind. For those who are in this situation, this is a great option in almost every way. I guess Google and AMD will eventually take care of the Ryzen bugs. Other than those little bugs and the inferior speakers, I had very few noticeable issues with this Chromebook. Most people don’t buy a Chromebook for listening to music, so you should be good with a pair of headphones.

Lenovo occasionally holds sales on the C13, so it would be wise to keep an eye out for these opportunities. Some of the more expensive models can fetch close to $ 2,000 (4K display, Ryzen C7, 16GB of RAM), but sales drop about 30% off those prices. If you own the C13 or are considering a purchase let us know what you like or dislike about it in the comments below.

    ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
    Running Chrome OS with up to an AMD Ryzen 7 3700C processor and integrated AMD Radeon graphics, the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise delivers powerful performance in a sleek and durable aluminum chassis. It only takes a few seconds to boot and it’s the perfect laptop for business applications. Plus, unlike your typical ThinkPad, this laptop comes in Abyss Blue, adding a bit of flair to the worker style.


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