%

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook Laptop Review


Excellent Chromebook with a sturdy build and excellent performance

If you have seen the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook before, you already have an idea of what the Chrome version is all about. Chromebooks have of the recent past mainly targeted the education sector. However, this is changing with the introduction of the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook that seems to go the ‘for work’ way while yet leaving in enough vibe for the education sector . Talk of killing two birds with one stone. The ‘for work’ theme drives well with the exemplary security that comes with Google Chrome OS.


Pros

  • Excellent touchpad and keyboard
  • Wider processor and display options than is common with other Chromebooks
  • Excellent build – sturdy body
  • Great port selection – including two USB C ports
  • Good battery life- 8 to 9 hours

 

Cons

  • The RAM are none-upgradable
  • Its speakers offer poor sound quality
  • Displays isn’t vivid or very bright – 220 nits

 

Verdict


This is an excellent Chromebook with a sturdy build and excellent performance. Is fairly expensive for higher end specs, but gives value for money in the long run. Check the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook price at Amazon.

 


Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook Specifications

Processor Intel Core i5-6300U | Intel® Core™ i3-6100U |Intel® Celeron® 3855U
RAM 4GB LPDDR3 SDRAM 1866MHz |8 GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Internal Storaage 16 GB/ 32 GB eMMC
Display 13″ HD (1366 x 768) TN, 200 nits
13″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, 220 nits
13″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Touch |LED-lit IPS panel| Glossy finish | Accelerometer
Memory Speed  1600 MHz
Ports One USB 3.0 | Two USB Type-C | Powered USB Port | 1 HDMI
3.5 mm Headphone/Microphone combo | 4-in-1 card reader
Connectivity Wi-Fi Intel Stone Peak2 7265 ac/b/g/n | Bluetooth 4.0
Graphics Intel Integrated Graphics
OS Google Chrome
Extras Keyboard: Standard |Chicklet | Keyboard backlight: no
Sound Card Intel Valleyview SoC – HD Audio Controller
Camera 720p HD Webcam
Speakers Stereo Dolby Advanced Audio
Battery 42 Wh Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery |Claimed: 10 hrs
Tested: 8 -9 hours, can be even better with lower specs
Dimensions LWH: 322 x 223 x 19.8 (mm) or 12.68″ x 8.78″ x 0.78″ (In)
 Weight Starting at 3.2 lbs (1.4 kg)
MIL-Spec  Yes –   12 Method

The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook Check at Amazon comes with its trademark quality build that we all love, and the excellent trackpad and keyboard renown with ThinkPad. The Track Point is missing, perhaps so as to get along with the Chromebook theme.

The machine in general is in the upper end of the Chromebook line with a wider choice selection of specs which is yet uncommon with Chrome. (Though variety is on the rise with the increasing demand for Chromebooks).

There isn’t much of a difference with the Windows based ThinkPad 13 except for a spike in CPU in the Chromebook and a slight difference in storage space between the two. The main difference at this point is to what OS you prefer.


Design and Features

The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook comes in two body versions: the all plastic version and the aluminum lid version… who ever thought we’d ever see a silver ThinkPad. Wonders never cease… but it’s a beautiful wonder to behold if I may say. The plastic one comes with its signature black PC/ABS body and an additional circular Google logo that looks similar to the Chrome icon.

When it comes to build quality, ThinkPad has seldom failed to impress. The 12 method MIL test gives and assurance of excellence, durability and longevity for the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook. While we didn’t drop the machine to test it’s resilience(obviously), the feel is quite solid. Some of the tests carried out on the body are for vibration, temperature, dust, etc.

However,there’s a caveat to that.  The screen flex is a notable (especially for the plastic model which we tested). The back end of the display wraps when pressure is applied to it a little significantly. The same is witnessed at the palm rest. This might be a little of a concern especially when you consider the breakage risk the display is exposed to when travelling, whereby your machine may be packed in a little too tightly coupled with the hustles of travel. The keyboard is also not spill resistant, so don’t be too carefree with that either.


Maintenance

Maintenance is fairly easy for the ThinkPad 13. The only obstacles you have to overcome are the 9 Philips screws and many plastic clips before you have access to its internals. The other challenge is that nearly nothing is upgradable except perhaps the battery and the eMMC which you’ll have to unscrew the whole motherboard in order to upgrade.

The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook bears a couple of similarities to other Chromebooks: it is at a sleek 12.7 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches and 3.2 pounds it compares to the Dell Chromebook 13 (12.9 x 9 x 0.7 inches), the Acer Chromebook 14 (13 x 8.9 x 0.9 inches, 3.2 pounds) and the HP Chromebook 13 G1 (12.6 x 8.6 x 0.5 inches) which is slightly lighter at 2.6 pounds.


Connectivity

Chromebooks more often than not come with quite a decent port selection. The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook comes with two USB 3.0 port, two powered Gen 1 USB Type-C ports, 3.5 mm Headphone/Microphone combo, a 4-in-1 card reader, and of course a lock slot. The noticeable change in terms of the ports from the Windows version is the missing OneLink+ port.

The distribution of the ports is quite neat, thus making them easily accessible. The USB-C based charging adapter can plug into any of the two USB C ports. In the event the main charging port is broken, the other can be used instead. This most certainly is an advantage. It also means that you don’t have to unplug other devices so as to make room for the charging adapter. Any can do here. Another point worth noting is that the USB ports are powered even when the machine is sleeping which thus allows you to charge your phone or tablet through it without having to put it on.

Connectivity

The ThinkPad 13 Chromebook comes with the Intel Stone Peak2 7265 ac/b/g/n dual band wireless adapter with 2X2 connectivity and Bluetooth 4.0. The connection in both was quite solid, no concern whatsoever.


Input devices

ThinkPad has always delivered excellent keyboard and here nonetheless. The Windows and Chrome version machines bear more or less the same keypad with minor changes in the Chromebook. For instance, you won’t see the start and the function keys in the Chromebook keyboard, and the letters are in lowercase. However, the principal concerns in keyboards are well addressed with the excellent key travel, well damped keys and spacious set-up that make typing a joy. It would have been nice if the keys had backlight though.

The Synaptic clickpad doesn’t disappoint either. The two are more of the same size but the Chrome version has no buttons as in its Windows sibling, but its performance is quite good.


Display

Considering the low price theme of most Chromebooks, getting a high quality display has not always been an available option. However, trends seem to be changing as more manufacturers break into better performing Chromebooks. The display of the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook comes in three options; the 13.3’’ HD TN panel with 1366 X 768 pixel (anti-glare, non-touch), the 13.3” FHD IPS panel with 1920 X 1080 pixel (matte, non-touch) and the 13.3” FHD IPS panel with 1920 X 1080 pixel (glossy, multi-touch).

The TN panel works quite fine with for the 13’’ display, but a little upgrade doesn’t hurt. The price difference is about $100 between the TN and the FHD IPS non-touch options, and if you add some more money (about 140 bucks) you can get the multi-touch FHD option. (NB: Prices are as of date of writing this review). The TN panel is fine for most users. However you can consider picking the FHD panel for a better user experience. Better yet, go for the multi-touch display to future proof you especially with the introduction of android apps in Chrome which work best with touch.

The TN display offers less than ideal viewing angles and has 200 nits of brightness, which is a bit on the lower side. This of course means that using the machine outdoor in the sun might be a little challenging. The IPS panel on the other hand offers slightly better brightness. It comes in at 220 nits and of course better viewing angles and better display quality. Both screens come in matte finish therefore eliminating glare.

While the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook does not yoga, it comes with flexible hinges that can swing to 180 degrees. Check out the video at the end of this review.


System performance

In the recent past, it hasn’t been common to see machines sporting higher end processors or larger RAM selections. Now you can not only get the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chrome in the usual Intel Celeron 3855U configuration, but also the Core i3-6100U and Core i5-6300U configurations though at hefty price difference.

The base model that come with the Intel Celeron 3855U processor, 4GB RAM, 16GB eMCC and a 13.3” TN display panel goes for $386 as at writing this review. Getting the Core i3 processor but with all other specs remaining the same will cost you an extra $117. Going with the Core i5 option will cost you $297 more. Further, with a 8GB RAM, 16GB eMCC, 13.3” FHD IPS display and Intel Celeron processor configuration, you’ll be parting ways with $431. For 8 GB RAM, 13.3” FHD IPS display and Core i5 processor configuration on the other hand, you will part with $845. The change in processors almost doubles the price.

It’s hard to justify the cost with the anticipated shift in performance since Chrome doesn’t really require such a powerful processor. Most of its applications are web browser based, which means they aren’t that heavy to run. (Prices are according to Lenovo website and may be lower with third party retailers.)

When it comes to the RAM, the first two configurations, i.e. Celeron and Core i3, are available with the 4GB LPDDR3 SDRAM. The 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM on the other hand is only available with the Core i7 configuration.

Once bought, the internal storage and RAM are un-upgradable. The ThinkPad 13 Chromebook has no expansion slot for the internal memory; meaning that you are stuck with the 16 GB embedded Multi Media Card (eMMC) that comes with the machine. The only way to get better storage is to loose the eMMC card for a larger capacity one. Its windows counterpart however comes with 128GB SSD, 4 GB DDR3 and an expansion slot for the RAM of up to 32 GB. Further, the SSD can easily be removed for upgrade.

Unlike most Chromebooks, ThinkPad 13 Chromebook comes with a fan which seldom comes on. This is because most applications are quite light. It would take quite a few running applications to get the the machine steamy.

The battery life is excellent. With the 8GB RAM, FHD display and Core i5 Processor, the 42Wh battery manages to juice out between 8 and 9 hours run time. Moreover, this would have definitely been better with lower spec options.

Sound quality


The Lenovo ThinkPad 13’s speakers are a little disappointing. Sound quality falls short of competition and they cannot reach deep notes very well – so out with the base. They are moderately loud… rather slightly below average, but can serve nonetheless.

Conclusion


The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook comes into a world where Windows, Macs and Linux Operating systems have staked their claim over the larger PC world. Borrowing a leaf from its Windows powered sibling, the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook stands to be counted as a tough, rugged and dependable Chromebook.

Not only does it make a place for itself in the Chromebook world as among the best Chromebooks available in the market but distinguishes itself in the ‘for work’ space as well as the education sphere. And as the Chrome OS fights its way into the Windows dominated world, the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook will with no doubt find a spot among the very best of them.

While the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is deserving of praise, it does have some faults that it would do well without. For one, no upgrades are possible for the RAM – the chips is soldered on to the motherboard. This means that makes buying a One Way Street with no U-turns allowed, which is kind of a drag. Further, its speakers are a little anemic and fall far short of its best competition. It could also do well with a backlit option.

  • Buy the  Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook from Amazon.

Related laptops