ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Review
I remain unclear about the Chromebook market for enterprises. To some degree, I get school use that can make do with web-based apps. But most enterprise roles call for working beyond basic, so the constraints of Chrome OS literally take Chromebooks off the table for most information and knowledge workers. The primary issue isn’t hardware; a Chromebook monster can be made—it’s that no one needs a Chromebook monster because the devices simply don’t support enough the high-end apps that many corporate employees need.
So, we end up with devices like the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook that is almost as good a Chromebook as you can ask for (if it only had a full HD front-facing camera).
Unfortunately, this unit appears limited on Lenovo’s website, with only one configuration available, at lesser specifications than our evaluation unit. As of post time, the $599 ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook was selling for $349, which makes it a buy worth considering if you are indeed in the market for a Chromebook.
The basic 1080p 13.3: display is perfectly adequate but average. At 72% gamut, the C13 isn’t designed for graphics design or video editing, and at 300 nits, it’s mostly an indoor use device.,
As with most Lenovo laptops, the keyboard inherits its design from the best of the best keyboards. And the keyboard is the one place where Chromebooks tell a better story than the PC or Mac—their simplified layout. No one will be confused about what a Chromebook’s keys do.
The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook also comes with an available pen, which was not included with the evaluation unit. It appears the one configuration available on Lenovo’s website does ship with a pen.
The AMD Ryzen 3 3250C CPU provides plenty of power, again, for the basics. The 4GB of DDR4 2400MHz memory was also OK, though the device will take up to 16GB. The 128GB storage is also acceptable, especially when complemented with a full SD slot.
Rapid charge takes the C13 from zero to 80% in about an hour. Lenovo rates the battery up to 12.5 hours, but available power will vary considerably based on use cases.
A fingerprint reader complements a webcam privacy cover and a Kensington lock. As with much of ChromeOS, the OS handles security, malware and virus protection in stride, and enterprises can layer on additional security, including remote management.
Nothing is particularly collaboration-oriented on the ThinkPad C13 Yoga, save for the webcam. An available 5MP world-facing camera can be included, likely for some collaborative purpose, but I’m not sure this is a device that will often find itself supporting team meetings.
Wi-Fi 6 AX200 802.11AX brings solid wireless connectivity, and Bluetooth® 5.0 covers off device support.
As ChromeOS laptops go, the ThinkPad C13 Yoga offers a bounty of ports, including 2 USB-A 32.1 G1 ports, 2 USB-3.2 Gen 1 Type-C ports, HDMI 2.0, a MicroSD card read and a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack.
The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook looks very professional, including the red dot above the I in ThinkPad on the cover that glows when charging or on standby. The Yoganess supports a 360 flip to tablet mode. My unit did not include a pen, so the C13 becomes a touch tablet in that configuration. An available pen garages on the front of the device. The insert that takes the place of the pen probably costs as much as the pen.
The Abyss Blue finish looks nice and hides fingerprints.
Lenovo does its usual strong job on the packaging, though a cardboard insert rather than foam would be preferred around the unit.
Lenovo offers a strong position on sustainability from materials to operations. More information can be found here.
No proprietary software.
What we like
The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook bleeds ThinkPad, from its keyboard to the pointing stick. A solid build, plenty of ports and adequate CPU and memory make for a device that will ChromeOS anything that ChromeOS can ChromeOS.
The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook looks professional, offers a long battery life, and has a great keyboard. Those who like devices with a bevy of ports will be happy with the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook’s selection.
Other than those features, the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook proves a pretty average Chromebook housed in a ThinkPady exterior (and with ThinkPad quality applied).
What could be improved
Any current laptop model without an HD front-facing camera deserves a ding. I get that some budget models will still retain a 720p camera with sketchy lowlight properties, but a device aimed at professionals requires a professional camera with lowlight support, full HD, and some smart software if possible, like Apple’s center stage.
Any pen-capable device should come with a pen. The diminutive pen can’t cost that much. The pen retails for $44.99—and it doesn’t come up on the associated accessories on the website. I had to search for it to discover the price. Just include it.
General, on pens, it’s time to pick a technology. The specification clearly states, “This pen is unique to the Yoga C13.” I understand that several pen technologies exist, but a vendor should pick one that at least offers some compatibility across its own product lines. If the pen is proprietary, then bundle it, or offer a bundled configuration.
As always, I could do without the Track Point. Its day has come and gone. The trackpad that supports the pointer also complicates the hardware experience. I’m sure some people love the pointer. I have never been one of them. I would much rather that Lenovo included the pen in a pen-capable laptop than two types of pointing devices on the same keyboard layer.
I found performance adequate in the laptop-only configuration or with one external monitor. When I tapped the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook into my VisionTek USB-C dock and connected it to two external monitors of relatively low resolution, it choked—from freezing to rebooting in multiple instances. That doesn’t happen with PCs or Macs aimed at the enterprise market.
Finally, the marketing on the website appears confused. The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook page list only one configuration, and that appears pre-built—so any of the options for memory or CPU mentioned in the specifications don’t appear available. The review unit arrived with an AMD Ryzen 3 3250C, but the unit on the web comes with an AMD Athlon™ Gold 3150C Processor and only 32GB of non-upgradable storage. I put it in the cart, and besides various insurance programs, the website offered no upgrades to the base model.
ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook : The Bottom Line
If you need a Chromebook, buy a good one. The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook certainly looks and performs better than the average Chromebook, but that means it is just an average laptop. Fast, high-powered PCs and Macs exist because they run apps that demand performance. Chromebooks exist for use cases that don’t demand power, and therefore even the best Chromebooks pale in comparison to their PC and Mac counterparts.
If you really have an enterprise Chromebook use case, then consider the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook. It will likely do what you need it to do, and it will do it with the style you have come to know from ThinkPads.
Lenovo provided the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook for review. Images courtesy of Lenovo.
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Gary Brown says
I recently bought this Thinkpad C13 Chromebook on sale for $289. I can’t see how I could have gotten a better chromebook for under $500. It is built to perfection. Yoga form factor, graphic pen, touch-screen, great keyboard, aluminum frame, Trackpoint, lots of ports including micro SD, HDMI and headphone jack. Sorry that the writer doesn’t use the red Trackpoint. I learned to use it many years ago on a Thinkpad and it’s just great to have. No need to remove your hand from the keyboard to navigate. Perfect for getting work done fast when you have to type. The writer should invest the time to learn how to use the Trackpoint if he’s going to advocate for it’s banishment.
Daniel W. Rasmus says
Hi Gary. Appreciate your fondness for the TrackPoint. I do understand the use for the TrackPoint, as I used one for years, even before the touchpad. And I understand it has a loyal following–if it didn’t, Lenovo would not continue to design around it. As a technology reviewer, however, I find too many options on a single device confusing. I know on some recent devices Lenovo has tried to better integrate the clicks, but some trackpads are hard enough to master without trying to also figure out which clicks go with the TrackPoint. Again, glad it works for you, and I’m sure it will continue on. I think Lenovo will seek new uses for the TrackPoint, so perhaps they will win me over in the future. For now, I think it adds complexity, especially for new users who might otherwise love a ThinkPad but coming from Apple or Dell or elsewhere view the TrackPoint as an unnecessary feature that keeps them away from Lenovo ThinkPad devices. This discussion is one of the reasons we have so much diversity in PC offerings. Long live the TrackPoint for those who like it!