Lenovo Yoga C630 Review Check-In: Performance

Posted on December 7, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 22 Comments

The Snapdragon 850-based Lenovo Yoga C630 provides better performance than its Snapdragon 835-based predecessors. And this improvement can be seen anecdotally, by using the systems side-by-side, and in benchmarks.

That’s good news. But the bigger question, of course, is whether it’s enough of an improvement to make a Snapdragon 850-based PC like the C630 something I can recommend to readers. As you may recall, that was absolutely not the case with the HP Envy x2, whose Snapdragon 835-based innards delivered great battery life but unusably-bad performance.

So let’s talk about my real-world experience so far.

As I assume you know, I use dozens of different PCs every year. So I feel like I have a good handle on how these devices work, and when something is off or different, it’s usually pretty obvious.

That was certainly the case with two of this year’s notable under-performers, the Snapdragon 835-based HP Envy x2 and the Intel Y-series-based HP Envy x2.

The Snapdragon 835-based HP Envy x2, as noted, could not be recommended because of its terrible performance and compatibility. “System performance ranges from acceptable to laughably bad, I noted in my review. “This is the first modern PC I’ve used that reminded me of a netbook in this regard. No, that is not a compliment.”

The Intel-based HP Envy x2 offers better compatibility, which makes sense. And the performance is better too, though that’s a low bar. “General system performance is notably better,” I wrote in my first impressions article. But after more testing, I concluded that this PC offered only “middling performance” that was so bad it prevented the system’s bundled HP digital pen from working properly.

The Yoga C630 provides a better experience than either of those PCs. General system performance—by which I mean using the system itself plus most Store and other bundled apps—is perfectly acceptable. I don’t ever notice that anything is off, in other words. Nothing ever takes long enough to happen where I start to mentally tally up the problems.

Even Microsoft Edge is snappy on this device. That’s not always been my experience on Windows 10 on ARM, and while I’m not sure if the performance there is related to the chipset or software improvements in Edge, it is quite noticeable. The app opens instantly and runs well as you use it.

So do the bundled Microsoft Office applications. Word is up and ready for typing within just two seconds, which is pretty impressive for an app of this lineage and size. OneNote, a more modern Windows 10 app, offers similar performance.

It is with desktop applications downloaded from the web—which are emulated in Windows 10 on ARM—where I started noticing issues. My text editor, MarkdownPad 2, takes barely a second to load on most PCs, but takes a long 7 seconds or more on the C630. Google Chrome, arguably the one desktop application that most users will want, is just as slow, at least on the first run. And subsequent actions, like opening new tabs or windows, happens leisurely.

To be clear, this isn’t a deal breaker. Anyone coming to this PC for its epic battery life and thin and light profile should evaluate a bit of slowness with some applications in the context of the overall experience. This kind of problem did make previous Snapdragon- and Intel Y-series/Pentium-based PCs non-starters. But it’s not as bad here.

Qualcomm, you may recall, claims that the Snapdragon 850 should provide a performance improvement of about 30 percent over the Snapdragon 835. It’s not clear to me if my usage verifies that number per se. But perhaps there is a benchmark-based way to do so.

As you may know, I’ve been using PCMark 10 recently because it offers a more nuanced and productivity app-focused view of system performance than other tests, which are all about pegging the CPU and seeing what it can do at peak performance. But PCMark 10 requires a 64-bit CPU to complete successfully, and one might argue that running such a benchmark under emulation is unfair.

Perhaps. But I tried anyway. And while the full test did ultimately stop with a “deshaking CPU failed” error, I was able to obtain a Productivity score of 1684. By comparison, the Snapdragon 835-based HP Envy x2 scored 1239. That’s a difference of about 26 percent.

That may be meaningless: The terrible Intel-based HP Envy x2 scored 4435 on the same test, and I find that the C630 performs far better than the Intel x2 in real-world usage. And by comparison, the Intel Y-series-based HP Spectre Folio achieved a score of 5769 on this same test; the original Surface Laptop hit 5174.

I also found out about a Microsoft Store-based benchmark called AppMark 2018 that works on both Intel- and ARM-based PCs. Running this benchmark, the Yoga C630 achieved a score of 1273, compared to 998 for the Snapdragon 835-based HP Envy x2. Do the math, and you’ll discover that that’s an improvement of about 22 percent.

Accurate or not, these scores are both pretty close to the 30 percent figure that Qualcomm cited. That may be meaningless, too. But there you go.

Regardless of benchmarks, I feel that the performance improvements are real and noticeable. And this improvement in the 850 suggests that Qualcomm’s next PC-centric processor, the Snapdragon 8cx, will offer even better performance. But in the less than good news department, neither of these chipsets solves the other major issue with Windows 10 on ARM, its incompatibility with 64-bit Win32 desktop applications (and Desktop Bridge apps) like Adobe Photoshop.

Notably, Qualcomm is working to get popular web browsers like Chromium (the basis for Chrome) and Firefox onto the platform. But getting past this major hurdle more broadly will require application makers to take the time and effort to port their wares to ARM64, assuming such a thing is even possible.

Success has a way of floating all boats. And if Qualcomm’s performance work pays off in the form of more users, anything is possible.

More soon.

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