Great keyboard and trackpad
Wide port selection
Overall great build quality
Mediocre battery life
Premium build is overkill for some
I've lamented the discontinuation of Lenovo's old ThinkPad 13 Chromebook for a while. That laptop has been my go-to travel machine for a few years now, and while it isn't perfect, it got a lot of things right. The new C13 Yoga is a worthy successor that improves on its now-dated predecessor in almost every way, adding a fold-back touch screen, a fingerprint scanner, and a beautiful dark blue aluminum chassis. It feels almost exactly like Lenovo's X1 Yoga Windows laptop, but for around half the price.
We spent several days testing Lenovo's latest ThinkPad Chromebook, both in the lab and in the real world, to see exactly how it held up under different workloads—and whether it's worth giving up Windows to own one.
About the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
The Lenovo C13 Yoga Chromebook comes in a few different variations, starting with a low-powered Athlon model that has 4GB of RAM.
We tested a more midrange model with the following specs:
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3500C (2.10GHz 4-core with up to 3.70 GHz Max Boost, and 4MB Cache)
- Storage: 128GB PCIe SSD
- Memory: 8GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM
- Display: 13.3-inch FHD (1920x1080) IPS anti-glare touch screen
- Battery: 51Wh battery with 65W rapid-charging AC adapter
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C with DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x microSD, 1 x 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack
- Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 (2x2) and Bluetooth 5.0
- Weight: 3.3 lbs
- Dimensions: 0.61 x 12.11 x 8.35 in
Our model regularly sells for between $700-800, and you can configure more powerful models going all the way up to a Ryzen 7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 4K OLED screen for just under a grand.
What We Like
The keyboard and trackpad are great
All the RAM in the world can't save you from a laptop with a wonky trackpad and a cramped, uncomfortable keyboard. The ThinkPad line has always done both of these things fantastically. While the C13's keyboard may not be as deep as some of its bulkier, business-minded siblings, it's still better than a lot of thin and light laptops you'll find these days, and I could easily type for hours on it. It's a delicate balancing act keeping the keyboard deep while keeping the chassis thin, and Lenovo walks that line very carefully.
The trackpad is similarly smooth and accurate, with a soft but satisfying click that's barely audible, which is perfect if you're using it in a quiet library or next to your napping spouse. Oh, and while I'm not personally a heavy user of the red TrackPoint nub—I know, I know—it's here in all its glory, so its hardcore fans will not be disappointed like they were with Lenovo's previous ThinkPad 13 Chromebook. (It does mean the trackpad is a bit smaller than it could be, since it needs room for physical buttons along the top, but it doesn't feel too cramped.)
You get your pick of ports
Too many thin and light laptops are following Apple's lead these days, with a paltry selection of ports that limit what you can plug in without dongles. Not so with the ThinkPad C13 Yoga: you get two USB type-C ports, both of which can be used for charging the machine, alongside two USB type-A ports for legacy devices, an HDMI port for external displays, and a microSD card reader. That's enough for most people's usage, even in an office setting (where ThinkPads are generally designed to be used), and you shouldn't need dongles unless you're plugging in a lot at once—or you want an Ethernet connection.
I especially like that Lenovo put one USB-C port on each side of the laptop, so you can plug in the charger no matter which side of the couch you're sitting on. That's one of those little things that doesn't seem like it matters until you're muttering curses under your breath because the cord won't quite reach to the "correct" side of the laptop—something I've experienced far too often.
Little touches put it above the pack
Speaking of the little things, Lenovo has plenty more where that came from. Like Lenovo's other laptops, the C13 Yoga includes a privacy shutter in the webcam, so you can cover it up when not in use. It also has a fingerprint scanner for quick logins, which has taken far too long to catch on in Chromebooks. I absolutely love the dark blue aluminum finish, too—it's not as unique as the soft-touch surface of previous ThinkPads, but I'd wager it'll hold up better over time. It's still a standout in the ThinkPad line, which tends to comprise more black-and-silver enterprise machines without much flair.
Not every design touch is a home run, but I applaud Lenovo for trying. There's a second camera along the top of the keyboard, for example, that's designed to be used as a "rear camera" when the display is flipped around in tablet mode. I don't know if anyone was actually asking for this, and since it doesn't have its own privacy shutter, it feels a little half-baked. Still, if you plan on using the laptop in tablet mode often (which Android apps make somewhat worthwhile), I suppose some may find it handy.
What we don’t like
Battery life is just OK
To test battery life, we turn the display down to a dim-but-useable 200 nits and set Google Chrome to rotate through a number of popular websites until the battery dies. This mimics a typical user's activity of continuous browsing, giving us a real-world number we can actually use to approximate how long it'll last you during the day.
Generally, we hope for a full workday's worth of battery life—about eight hours or more, which the C13 Yoga didn't quite reach. Its six hours and 51 minutes is a little below average for the Windows laptops I've used, and a couple hours below most of the Chromebooks we've tested. It's not terrible, especially given the snappiness of the Ryzen 5 chip inside, but it's a bit less than I'd like to see for an otherwise top-tier Chromebook. If you stepped down to the lower-end Athlon model you might see better battery life, albeit with more sluggish performance—not a tradeoff I'd personally be willing to make.
It may be overbuilt for some
Ultra-affordable laptops come with plenty of tradeoffs. Maybe they have sub-par displays, creaky hinges, or keyboards that aren't as easy to type on. If you're picky about those things, ThinkPads are a great bet—but for some people, their value proposition may be a bit "off."
The C13's internal hardware, for example, is quite powerful for a Chromebook—if you're only doing some light browsing with a few tabs at once, the Ryzen 5 processor and 8GB of RAM is going to be unnecessary. And while the keyboard, trackpad, hinge, and other external hardware is superbly built, it also drives up the cost. While the price may not be super expensive for a laptop, compared to other Chromebooks, it's definitely an outlier. You could get a similarly-powered machine for quite a bit less, or a lower-powered machine with build quality nearly as good. As such, the C13 may be a hard sell for folks looking at $400 Chromebooks—just like the more limited nature of Chrome OS may be a hard sell for folks looking at similarly-priced Windows laptops.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you're okay with paying a bit extra for top-notch build quality
While Chromebooks have a reputation for being ultra-cheap machines, I still think there's a place for laptops like the ThinkPad C13 Chromebook. Every time I test the latest ThinkPad X1 Yoga I fall in love, but have too hard a time stomaching the $2,000+ price point. While $766 may be expensive for a Chromebook, the build quality is mind-bogglingly good for the price compared to Windows counterparts.
If you can't stomach the price, the Lenovo Flex 5 is our current favorite Chromebook for most people, priced much lower than the C13 for both the 4GB and 8GB versions. Or, if you're on the fence about Chrome OS, the HP Envy x360 is an excellent Windows machine for a similar cost. You could also spend just a bit more and get a last-gen full-fledged ThinkPad like the X1 Yoga. If you're willing to go with macOS, the shockingly superb M1 MacBook Air still tempts me to switch teams.
If you're just looking for a cheap laptop to get things done, the ThinkPad C13 may not be for you. Honestly, even if you're looking for the best bang-for-your-buck laptop, this isn't it (ThinkPads rarely are). But if you, like me, are picky about your laptops and require top-tier hardware, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better Chromebook than this. It has the performance and build quality of much more expensive laptops for a noticeable discount—and if you want the best, it's worth every penny.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Whitson Gordon is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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