They exist, these special moments, when you realize that Chromebooks have made a lasting impression. For example, when Samsung gave its new model the noble brand “Galaxy” last spring. Or when Lenovo (still itching to type “IBM”) gives a device its prestigious name “Thinkpad”.
Admittedly, the “Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook” is not the first Chromebook that is allowed to carry this title. The 11e model — still listed on Lenovo’s website — also has this name, but the original model dates back to 2014. And after all, IT years are almost comparable to dog years.
So, a lot of time has passed until the new Chromebook Thinkpad. And this time, Lenovo is not targeting the educational market only, but has business users in mind in terms of features and price.
And there is something else that makes this Chromebook lineup stand out in the now overflowing market: the consistent use of AMD processors.
Lenovo sends its first Chromebook with the prestigious Thinkpad name into battle after years. That finally leaves the good feeling that another computer giant takes the market very seriously.
AMD introduced new “Accelerated Processing Units”, i.e. main processors with integrated coprocessors, for specialized use in Chromebooks in spring 2020. HP, among others, uses them, and Lenovo’s Thinkpad C13 Yoga is the latest addition.
The newcomer is available in three versions; starting with AMD’s “Athlon Gold 3150C” (two cores at 2.40 GHz), followed by the “Ryzen 3 3250C” (two cores at 2.60 GHz) up to the “Ryzen 5 3500C” (four cores at 2.10 GHz).
In fact, Lenovo has not been averse to ARM processors for quite some time: Three high-priced Windows Thinkpads also rely on this x86 offshoot. Thus, the adaptation into the Chromebook lineup was an obvious choice.
AMD APUs want to impress with a particularly fast system start (the Thinkpad sprints to the start screen in four seconds), a long battery life, graphics performance up to 4K, and current wireless standards like Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. Thus, they largely comply with Intel’s “Athena” specifications for laptops.
This is already noticeable at the first start: The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook has a fingerprint scanner that needs to be configured in advance — the AMD APUs include a coprocessor for security (in addition to Google’s H1 chip in Chromebooks).
It is good that a standard is emerging at least for higher-priced Chromebooks in this respect as well; after all, this feature is currently also found in Acer, Dell and HP models.
The sensor is located directly next to the trackpad — which is where it belongs in my opinion.
Our Ryzen 3 model lets the fan puff quietly more often than various Intel Core equivalents. This is not really annoying — Lenovo has worked quite discreetly here. But it is noticeable in its frequency.
For a long time, Thinkpads had the visual preconception of a “brick”: solid, but also always quite angular, the devices appeared for years, whose brand has shaped the laptop market as iconically as Apple’s Macbooks.
In the meantime, however, Lenovo’s notebooks like to please, including the Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook. It still has an angular look — but instead of a brick, you might prefer to compare it to a noble Volvo now.
The case is completely made of aluminum and has a black-navy blue color that shimmers slightly metallic depending on the incidence of light. The identity-creating Thinkpad logo with the red illuminated i-dot is embedded in the lid. That is very appealing!
The only drawback of this “Dark Knight”: every fingerprint sticks. If you are affected by the cleaning craze, you probably work overtime with this Chromebook.
Nothing has changed in terms of the proverbial robustness: Lenovo refers to the compliance with twelve military standards including splash water protection. That is to say: Even in the rough everyday life “on the road”, nothing breaks.
Another classic Thinkpad feature can be found under the lid: the characteristic “Trackpoint”, which was already invented by IBM in the late eighties and which has been the laptop range’s true distinguishing mark ever since (see also the red i-dot in the logo), is waiting in the center of the island keyboard.
Whether you like the commonly called “Nub” or “Nipple” mouse replacement or not: it doesn’t hurt to give the little pointer a chance — you might get used to it quite quickly.
However, you should reduce the mouse speed in the Chromebook settings before trying it out. Otherwise, the Trackpoint can hardly be controlled.
Speaking of mouse replacements: for the first time, Lenovo also includes the “touchpad keys” in a Chromebook. This is the implementation of the mouse keys as large buttons.
This can also serve as another unusual but welcome addition. However, the disadvantage is that the underlying matte trackpad is a bit small as a result.
Thus, the additional control surfaces probably remain a matter of taste — just like the Trackpoint. Nevertheless, I quickly appreciated the “right mouse button” in particular — because how often do you miss the right spot on the trackpad to open the context menu?
If you hold down the middle button, a vertical movement on the touchpoint scrolls the current window content. A sideways movement is used for horizontal scrolling.
Once again, the quality of Lenovo’s keyboard, which is already considered to be legendarily good, is beyond doubt. The keys are slightly concave and rounded downwards.
The stroke is quite hard, and some might miss a bit of tension. Nevertheless: the C13 Yoga probably has the best keyboard that can currently be found in the Chromebook market. At least subjectively, you have the feeling that you simply mistype less — for example when writing this article.
Once again, it proves true: simply no one can hold a candle to Lenovo when it comes to keyboards; Apple doesn’t, and neither does HP. Should the Chinese manufacturer ever consider an external variant especially for Chromebooks: it can always ring my bell when looking for customers.
The five-stage adjustable, white (unfortunately not purple this time) keyboard illumination is precise; there is no “bleeding” of light under the keys, which is often observed with Asus, for example.
Double camera equipment
The lens and light sensors above the Chrome function keys might cause irritation at first. The solution to the riddle: Lenovo installs a 5-megapixel additional camera here, which shows its strengths in tablet mode or in tent setup.
While many convertibles shoot their users almost from the desktop, the Yoga shoots from a height of almost 20 centimeters and in a resolution of 1080p.
Somewhat irritating during video conferences, however, is that you can’t see yourself— after all, you are chatting on the keyboard while the screen is looking backwards.
A webcam in the slim display bezel complements the — for a laptop — luxurious front-facing camera. However, it only manages the 720p that is common in the market.
Similar to the current HP Chromebooks, the webcam can be closed mechanically to maintain privacy after the meeting. However, this does not work with the keyboard camera — which is a bit inconsistent.
In our test, both the Chromebook’s camera app and Google Meet recognized both cameras and could be moved to switch between them with one and two mouse clicks, respectively.
Display: vivid, bright, but reflective
For rather high-priced Chromebooks, the quality of the display increasingly decides the selection. There are basically good things to report about the one that gives the Thinkpad C13 Yoga part of its name.
Like the highly popular Ideapad Flex 5 Chromebook, the Yoga has a 13.3-inch (33.8-centimeter) diagonal IPS touch display in the common 16:9 format, but it is noticeably brighter at 300 candelas per square meter (Flex 5: below 250 cd/m²).
You can therefore leave the brightness between 70 and 80 percent in normally lit rooms depending on your taste — that saves battery life.
This is countered by the decision to use a glossy display in the Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook. This is unusual because Lenovo likes to use matte screens in many other Thinkpad models aimed at business customers.
Thus, the screen is very reflective in direct light, which can be corrected at least somewhat by turning up the brightness.
ou’re going around in circles here. In general, it would be nice if the manufacturers simply gave their customers the choice when buying.
Apart from that, the Yoga display is a delight. The colors are bright and vivid, and the color space coverage (i.e. the subset of the color range that the human eye can identify) is a good 72 percent.
However, it does not come close to the display of the comparably priced Acer Chromebook Spin 713 — the latter still looks a bit sharper and is also able to shine brighter (namely at around 450 cd/m²). However, the ThinkPad screen outperforms other rivals, such as the higher-priced Asus Chromebook Flip C436, in this regard.
The Thinkpad C13 Yoga is not the first Chromebook with an included stylus, but it is the first to charge it when not in use.
This so-called “Garaged USI Pen” is not identical to the optionally available “Lenovo USI Pen”, but is much slimmer and shorter in order to “park” it in the casing’s bottom right.
This makes the pen less comfortable to hold — but it is always there. A substitute pen, yes — but a ready-to-use one.
It can be used for handwritten notes in Google Notes, but also for illustrative doodles in drawing programs, signing digital documents or as a laser pointer in presentations.
Ready to dock!
When it comes to the choice of interfaces, Lenovo goes discreetly beyond the standard. The now obligatory USB-C ports for charging and connecting peripherals are found on the left and right — even an external Displayport monitor can be connected this way.
If you like it more traditional, you will find two USB-A ports (USB 3.2) on the right plus an HDMI monitor port (up to 4K at 60 hertz). The latter might have ceased to be standard in laptops, but it is still the first choice for connecting a projector, for example. In this respect, too, the current Yoga is on par with Acer’s flagship Chromebook Spin 713.
The race is on: Lenovo virtually pulls even with Acer’s Spin 713 with the Thinkpad C13 Yoga. Keyboard and cameras make us rather bet on the Yoga, Acer is ahead with the display.
No sound artist
On the other hand, the sound of the Thinkpad Chromebook is all-around disappointing. It is annoying that manufacturers are still skimpy here. Meanwhile, even in the office at the wrong end, because in times of daily video conferencing, many appreciate good internal speakers.
The “roaring cubes” of the C13 sound tinny and cannot be spatially located at all. Even numerous smartphones sound better without connected speakers.
The internal microphones on the other hand are okay, but make the speaker sound a bit distant. We would recommend investing in a USB-C microphone for those who often participate in Zoom meetings. It is actually a pity, since the camera equipment of the Yoga is so good.
No battery miracle either
The battery life is also somewhat disappointing. Depending on the screen brightness, it was always just under nine hours in my review, which is okay in my opinion.
However, I have hoped for more than “just” average due to the use of an AMD chip; after all, the rejection of Intel is always justified by the fact that the alternatives would provide longer “breath”.
The ARM camp seems to be better positioned here — just look at the current Macbook with its M1 chip.
Nevertheless: The battery of the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook is sufficient for a longer workday— and that is what matters in the end.
Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook
Price: starts at $584
Pro: high-quality workmanship, excellent keyboard, additional 5K camera, fingerprint scanner, USI Pen included
Con: poor sound, average battery performance, frequent fan noise
Verdict: Lenovo confirms its supremacy in the Chromebook market — a great device that only has a few forgivable flaws.
Photos: Lenovo, HP, Acer