I recently reviewed a good number of Chromebooks aimed at college students. They are a target market for many manufacturers, both because of Google Classroom’s dominance on many different levels and because of Chromebooks’ affordable price tags (compared to comparable Windows and macOS machines).
But adults and professionals alike love Chromebooks too. Some may be experienced users running Linux applications, some may make heavy use of Google Workspace in the office, and some may just like Chrome OS. That’s what the Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook is for: it’s an adult Chromebook.
That means it breaks some stereotypical ‘Chromebook’ conventions. Above all, it’s not cheap: it’s not far from the MacBook Air in price. Lenovo isn’t the first company to try this shtick: Samsung and Google, for example, have both targeted this market in the past with $ 999 Chrome OS machines, and there are Dell Latitude Chromebooks floating around that are even more expensive.
But the C13 Yoga is my favorite attempt at a premium, convertible Chromebook I’ve seen so far. It has the ThinkPad features that have made Lenovo so dominant in the business space for so many years: the lightweight and sturdy construction, the excellent keyboard, the solid specifications, the business privacy options, and more. It’s not perfect, but it’s practical. And in the end it works.
Put this Chromebook next to other members of the ThinkPad line, and you might fool me into thinking it was another premium Windows machine. ThinkPads are known for their sturdy builds, and this one is no exception. The chassis is made of aluminum all around. There’s no flex in the keyboard or screen – and I can’t remember the last time I said that about a Chromebook. The 360 hinge is sturdy and the screen doesn’t wobble at all. The C13 accomplishes all of this without getting too clunky: it’s 3.3 pounds and 0.61 inches thick. Lenovo says it has been tested against 12 “military-grade” certification methods.
The display on my review device is a 300-nit 1920 x 1080 IPS panel. The C13 is also one of the few 13-inch Chromebooks to offer a 4K OLED display option – it gets up to 400 nits. Most people wouldn’t need those as the FHD screen is good. It produces beautiful colors, good contrast and impressive details. It has the tight 16: 9 aspect ratio, something I’m glad other ThinkPads have shifted this year.
Elsewhere, you can see a number of other signature ThinkPad flourishes. There is a very comfortable backlit keyboard, including the signature red Trackpoint in the center. (It comes with a standard Chromebook layout, rather than the usual ThinkPad layout, although the inverted T-arrow keys remain.) ThinkPad fans will also recognize the discreet clickers at the top of the touchpad, as well as the match-on-chip fingerprint sensor on the right side of the keyboard deck and the small webcam shutter.
There are also some unique tidbits. It includes a Google H1 security chip, which works like the TPM chips commonly found in Windows business laptops. There is an optional camera on the keyboard deck (next to the camera on the top bezel) that you can use to take forward-facing photos when using the C13 in tablet or tent mode. At the bottom of the device are two stereo speakers that provide a nice surround quality, although the audio itself is tinny and not great.
But what’s most exciting about the C13 is that it’s the first Chromebook to use AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 3000 C-series processors. AMD introduced this “C-series” last fall as a series specifically designed for Chromebooks. That said, they are mostly rebrands of older AMD chips – the Ryzen 5 3500C included in my C13 model is basically a renamed Ryzen 5 3500U from the regular 3000 Mobile series. This is now two generations old (the 5000 mobile series came out earlier this year), but it’s still a solid processor for these types of computers.
The base C13 starts at $ 909 for 4 GB RAM, 32 GB storage and an Athlon Gold 3150C processor. That’s a terrible deal at $ 909, but Lenovo’s prices are often weird and arbitrarily discounted, and this configuration currently stands at a more reasonable $ 590.85. The model I have is priced at $ 1,247 (but currently available for $ 810.55) – it comes with the Ryzen 5 3500C, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. That’s still one bit high for those specs, but it’s a more reasonable value. I appreciate that the storage is a PCIe SSD (rather than the slow eMMC storage that companies sometimes try to sneak into expensive Chromebooks).
This is definitely the best performing Chromebook I’ve used in quite some time. I used the device as my primary driver for a few days, running over a dozen Chrome tabs and Android apps, and I hardly ever felt heat or heard the fans unless I put my ear to the keyboard deck. Nothing slowed down the system either. I was able to edit a batch of photos in Adobe Lightroom with a ton of tabs and apps open and both a Zoom call and Spotify in the background, and the experience was fine. As someone who’s recently tested some slow budget Chromebooks, it’s really refreshing to see Chrome OS run so smoothly.
AMD has claimed that the integrated Vega graphics are the best graphics you can get on a Chromebook, and while I can only verify that claim anecdotally, I had a significantly better gaming experience on the C13 than I’ve ever had with an Intel Chromebook. Rest in pieces, one of my favorite mobile games, is usually a playable but faltering experience on Chromebooks. But it was pretty smooth on the C13, with no hiccups in sight. Photo editing, in both Google Photos and Adobe Lightroom, was also no problem on this machine.
I ended up running a few benchmarks to see how this system compares to the competition. On AndroBench, which measures storage speed, the C13 Yoga Chromebook was way ahead of most tasks, and head and shoulders above the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2. On Geekbench 5, the C13 scored an 890 on single-core and a 2963 on multi-core. While those scores aren’t as good as the ones we’ve seen on our top Chromebook pick, Acer Chromebook Spin 713, (and of course not on par with MacBook Air), they are still close to the top of the Chrome OS package, beating the scores we’ve seen from both Samsung Galaxy Chromebooks and the Pixelbook Go.
I also found the built-in stylus to be smooth and responsive on this touchscreen, although it was a bit tricky to remove from the garage.
One disappointment underscores all of this, and that’s the battery life. While the C13 has a fairly large 51Wh battery, I only averaged six hours and two minutes of continuous use with the screen at 50 percent. I’ve run tests with all kinds of Android apps and tests with Chrome only, without seeing a huge difference. I’ve seen significantly more than that (with the same workload) from all kinds of Chromebooks, not to mention Windows and macOS laptops. This certainly makes me hesitate in recommending anyone get the 4K display option – I can’t imagine most people will get acceptable battery life on those configurations if this is what I get with the FHD display.
I’d be more willing to let this battery life slide on a budget device (although many budget Chromebooks last much longer). But on a $ 1,247 device, I’m disappointed I didn’t experience all day. Sure, the processor is powerful, and there is often a tradeoff between performance and efficiency. But all types of Windows laptops at this price point leave this battery life in the dust.
Another concern: I could never really get the fingerprint sensor to read my fingerprint. Lenovo says it hasn’t seen this problem before so it may have been an issue with my device.
Android apps were a hit on Chromebooks when I first started reviewing them, but a lot of them work well on the C13. For example, Messenger stopped my device every time it got a notification, but it works fine now. That said, most of the services I use on a daily basis – Twitter, Messenger, Gmail, Reddit, etc. – are equivalent or slightly better experiences on Chrome, and some work-related Android apps (like Slack and Google Docs) are still bad at Chromebooks. So I don’t generally use Android apps too much, except things like Podcast Addict, which don’t really have browser equivalents, but I’m glad the ecosystem is improving.
The C13 also supports Chrome OS tablet mode, which has gotten better, especially with the stylus. It supports several useful Android-like gestures (swipe up to go home, for example). The device sometimes took a second to rearrange and resize all my Chrome windows after I switched it back to clamshell mode, which isn’t the worst in the world.
The ThinkPad line is, in many ways, the opposite of what many people consider a Chromebook. ThinkPads are traditionally expensive, and they are very well made. But times are changing (or at least companies like Lenovo are trying to make them change). Why shouldn’t Chrome OS fans also get a ThinkPad option?
The C13 Yoga is not a perfect machine. The 16: 9 screen makes me sad and the battery life is a big miss. It’s a bit expensive for what it offers, as is often the case with laptops aimed at business users.
That said, the C13 is also the closest thing to a MacBook I’ve seen in the Chromebook space so far. It has a solid, sturdy construction that looks and feels premium. It has a strong processor, excellent keyboard, and solid screen, and it comes from a well-respected brand with a dedicated fan base.
So while the C13 may not be the right choice for most people – there are more affordable Chromebooks with longer battery life that will be a better buy for most consumers – it is objectively a neat device that is likely a certain group of Chrome OS. will make users happy. . If you’re a Chrome OS business user who has envied the premium chassis Windows and Mac users get, here’s a ThinkPad for you.
Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge