Chromebook sales surged in 2020 and the platform overtook the Mac to become the second biggest desktop platform by unit sales. Yes, many if not most of those Chromebooks were sold into the education market and to individuals with learn from home or work from home requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But sales to business users whose workplaces traditionally opted for Windows PCs is growing rapidly as well. And it’s perhaps not surprising that premium Chromebooks are a lucrative market for PC makers, just as are premium PCs.
The Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise isn’t the first business-class Chromebook, of course. Heck, it’s not even the first ThinkPad Chromebook. But like the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise I’m also evaluating now, it’s a nice measure of how far this platform has come, and of how a premium form factor can really elevate the experience. This is a portable computer that any office worker or executive would be happy to use and proud to carry out in the world.
It’s also very clearly a “real” ThinkPad with military-grade toughness certifications and not some plastic-covered fake. And it delivers on the core qualities that ThinkPad fans expect, from the TrackPoint and touchpad dual-pointing system to the excellent backlit keyboard, integrated fingerprint reader, and ThinkShutter webcam privacy shield.
But there are some intriguing differences too. The ThinkPad C13 Yoga is made entirely of aluminum, which contributes nicely to the premium look and feel. And its color is a bit different, too: Instead of the standard black or the optional silver color we see on recent ThinkPads, the C13 has an almost blue cast at certain angles. It’s … not quite black.
Internally, there are more differences. The C13 is powered by AMD processors, but they’re not the AMD processors you were probably expecting. Instead, you get your choice of Athlon and Ryzen Mobile 3000 C-series processors, the latter of which AMD created specifically for Chromebooks. I assume the Athlon choices are for lower-end models—and, no, I didn’t realize that AMD was still using the Athlon brand either—but the C-series processors seem pretty capable, with performance up to 4 GHz. These Chromebooks also come with Google’s H1 security chipset, which provides Trusted Platform Module (TPM) capabilities.
The ThinkPad C13 Yoga can be configured with up to 16 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and up to 256 GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. And you get two display choices, both in a 13.3-inch multi-touch panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio despite there being ample room in the display lid for a 16:10 panel, a disappointment. Entry-level models ship with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare display that throws off 300 nits of brightness, but you can also configure a C13 with a 4K/UHD (3480 x 2160) OLED display with 400 nits of brightness and an anti-reflection and anti-smudge coating.
Expansion is ample. On the left, you’ll find one USB-C 3.2 port, two full-sized USB 3.2 ports, an audio jack, and a microSD card reader.
And on the right, you’ll find an HDMI 2.0 port for video-out and a second USB-C 3.2 port, plus a power button, volume buttons, and a Kensington security lock. (The power and volume buttons are on the side because this is a convertible laptop.)
The ThinkPad C13 Yoga provides both Intel Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, and LTE connectivity is optional.
From an A/V perspective, the C13 comes with a 720p webcam and a ThinkShutter privacy shade, downward-firing stereo speakers, and a dual-array far-field microphone. A “world-facing” 5 MP camera is optional, but it’s not on the back of the display lid, it’s on the top of the keyboard, so it can be used when the C13 is in tablet or tent mode.
The C13 ships with a Lenovo USI (active capacitive) smartpen, which is protected and charged by a garage in the front of the unit. The pen offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, and a 15-second charge will provide up to 100 minutes of use.
Portability should be decent. The C13 is a bit heavy at 3.3 pounds, but that’s offset somewhat by the quality aluminum construction and its versatile convertible form factor. The 51-Wh battery is good for “all day battery life” with the Full HD display, Lenovo says, and the bundled 45-watt charger can fast-charge the device to 80 percent in 60 minutes.
As a Chromebook, the ThinkPad C13 Yoga of course ships with Chrome OS, which is the cleanest and most crapware-free desktop platform by far. Setup is both quicker and simpler than is the case with Windows or the Mac, and when you first sign-in to the system, you’ll find nothing in the way of additional apps. There isn’t even a link to the Lenovo website.
Pricing is reasonable: An entry-level Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise with an Athlon Gold processor, 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of eMMC storage, and a Full HD display will set you back less than $600, while the highest-end configuration, with a Ryzen 7 3700C processor, 16 GB of RAM, 256 GB of SSD storage, and the 4K/UHD display costs less than $1000. There are several other configuration between the two as well.