Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630
“The Yoga C630 has excellent battery life, living up to ARM’s promise, but it’s still too slow.”
- Great build quality
- Thin and light design
- Excellent battery life
- LTE connectivity included
- Windows on ARM is still too slow
- Limited app compatibility
The second wave of Qualcomm-based Windows 10 on ARM laptops have hit the market, promising faster performance to go along with lasting a long time on a charge and letting you work wherever and whenever you want. Lenovo’s Yoga C630 is a member of that second wave, and it aims to make up for the first generation’s poor performance.
We reviewed a configuration with the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 SoC, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of eUFS storage, and a 13.3-inch Full HD display. You’ll pay $940 for this configuration, with a 4GB version available for $860 and a 256GB storage version for $1,000.
That’s a premium price to pay for a laptop that hasn’t proven its ability to compete with Intel’s best. Does the Lenovo C630 offer enough oomph to justify its relatively hefty pricing?
A solidly built laptop that feels great in hand
If you’ve kept up with Lenovo’s Intel-based Yoga line, then the Yoga C630 will seem very familiar. Simply put, Qualcomm inside doesn’t mean dramatic changes outside, and that’s a good thing. The Yoga C630 fits Lenovo’s attractive yet conservative aesthetic, with a dark gray color scheme that’s not marred by any bling. The Asus NovaGo is a Qualcomm-based 2-in-1 that stands out a bit more with some chrome accents on the hinge and edges.
Even better, the Yoga C630 also maintains the line’s penchant for solid build quality. It’s an all-aluminum laptop with zero bending or flexing in the lid, keyboard deck, or chassis. It feels solid in hand as well, just like its Intel-based and more expensive cousin, the Yoga C930. In fact, the Yoga C630 is more rigid than other 2-in-1 competitors like the HP Spectre x360 13 and Lenovo’s own Yoga 730, and clamshells like the Dell XPS 13. Accounting for the difference in screen size, the Yoga C630 feels a lot like a miniature version of the C930.
The Yoga C630 maintains the line’s penchant for tank-like build quality.
You’ll also like the Yoga C630’s dimensions. It’s roughly the same size as the Yoga 730, although it’s slightly thinner at 0.51 inches compared to 0.55 inches. It’s almost exactly as heavy, too, at 2.6 pounds versus 2.62 pounds. Compared to the Spectre x360 at 0.54 inches and 2.78 pounds, the Yoga C630 feels just a tad smaller. Generally, speaking we’d love to see a Windows 10 version of this form factor – it’s sized right for a 2-in-1, and it’s a pleasure to carry around.
Connectivity is a bit limited at two USB-C Gen 1 ports, with only one providing power delivery. Along with the Nano SIM card for the LTE support – which we tested and it worked very well in keeping us connected no matter where we went – there’s only a 3.5mm audio combo jack. In addition to LTE, wireless connectivity includes 2X2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2.
Input that mimics its Windows 10 cousins
Keyboard feel is another thing the Yoga C630 shares with the rest of the Yoga line. There’s the same relatively shallow key mechanism that still manages to be responsive and precise. It’s not as good as the much snappier keyboards on the Spectre x360 and the XPS 13, but it won’t disappoint touch typists.
The touchpad is also a pleasure thanks to Windows Precision drivers, and it supports all of the usual Windows 10 gestures. The touchpad surface provides just the right amount of tactile feedback and is comfortable when swiping and gesturing, and the buttons click nicely but aren’t too loud. It’s a little larger than the touchpads on the Spectre x360 and XPS 13, which we always appreciate.
Finally, there’s the usual touch display that works just fine for scrolling web pages and tapping the occasional button. The optional Lenovo Pen supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt, just like the Surface Pro 6 pen, but it Lenovo didn’t include it with our review unit. Windows 10 Hello password-less login is supported by a responsive fingerprint scanner on the keyboard deck to the right of the touchpad.
A visual and audio experience that’s just good enough
The Yoga C630 ships with the only option, a 13.3-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display that’s plenty sharp for everyone but the most devoted pixel-peeper. It’s a good resolution for the panel size and didn’t leave us wanting a sharper image.
While performance was disappointing, there’s hope for the next Qualcomm generation.
As is usual with Windows 10 on ARM laptops, we couldn’t subject the display to our usual colorimeter tests. The supporting application wouldn’t run on the platform, even in Windows 10 Home, and so we relied on our usual extensive real-life testing to see how well it displays text, plays video, and shows off the color and vibrancy of images.
In a word, we’re going to call this an average display. Brightness, contrast, and colors all combined to provide roughly the same experience as with other 2-in-1s like the Spectre x360 and the Yoga C930. That makes it a good but not great display for productivity work, and you’ll likely find it insufficient if your workflow requires highly accurate colors and a wide color gamut. If you want a Windows 10 on Arm laptop with the best display, then the AMOLED-equipped Samsung Galaxy Book 2 is a far better choice.
Watching video, a common 2-in-1 task, was pleasant enough. We didn’t perceive the gamma being off, and so shows were neither too light nor too dark to our eyes. Sound was the audio equivalent of the display quality – it was good enough for short YouTube videos and the like, and it provided plenty of volume. But for the best binging or music experience, we’ll recommend you pull out your headphones.
Faster, but not fast enough
The first wave of Windows on ARM laptops used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 SoC, which simply couldn’t compete with even entry-level Intel CPUs. The Yoga C630 is built around the Snapdragon 850, which promises up to 30 percent more performance. Does it live up to its claims?
Thanks to the limits of Windows on ARM, we can’t run our full suite of benchmarks on the Yoga C630. Specifically, although we switched from Windows 10 S Mode to Windows 10 Home pretty quickly, even that’s limited to 32-bit Windows applications. And the 32-bit version of Handbrake, which we use to test real-life CPU performance, crashes on the laptop.
Geekbench 4 runs without problems, though, and the Snapdragon 850 scored 2,292 on the single-core test and 6,710 on the multi-core test. That’s a massive improvement from the Asus NovaGo with its Snapdragon 835, and it’s much closer to 7th-generation Intel Core i5 performance as in the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. Perhaps most important, it matches the low-power Intel Y-series in the HP Envy x2 in the multi-core test, which is maybe the most relevant comparison given that both processors aim at decent performance with superior battery life.
Our subjective experience almost backs up the synthetic benchmark scores. The Yoga C630 felt most like a laptop running Intel’s 7th-generation Y-series CPU, meaning it was fast enough for basic productivity and media consumption tasks. But it exhibited hesitation and lag when opening new browser taps, scrolling through complex web pages, and opening and switch apps that Y-series Intel processors manage to avoid.
Although we couldn’t test its ability to encode video using Handbrake, we suspect it would have fallen far behind similarly priced laptops running the latest quad-core Intel U-series CPUs. We’ll note that our review Yoga C630 benefitted from having a full 8GB of RAM when we opened multiple Chrome tabs. At the same time, the eUFS storage was much slower than the solid-state drives (SSDs) you’ll typically find on Intel-based laptops.
In the end, performance was disappointing overall. It was just not good enough for a modern laptop at this price point. At the same time, there’s still hope for Qualcomm PCs. Windows 10 on ARM is too slow for most users with the Snapdragon 850 SoC, but there’s reason to believe the next wave of laptops running the next generation Snapdragon 8cx CPU will be legitimately competitive. We can’t wait to see it, but for now, the 850 is all we have.
Good enough for Candy Crush, but not much else
The Yoga C630 uses the Qualcomm Adreno 630 GPU, which as you’ll remember is part of the same family that powers smartphone graphics. What works on Android phones, though, doesn’t carry over well to Windows gaming.
We tried to test using our normal suite of gaming benchmarks, but 3DMark simply wouldn’t run. That left us to give Rocket League a try, which is lightweight enough that perhaps the Adreno could keep up. Our experience was pretty much as we expected: The Yoga C630 just isn’t a great Windows gaming laptop.
Sure, it ran Rocket League at 30 frames per second (FPS) at 1080p and Performance settings, although that dropped to just 17 FPS when we switched to High Quality. That’s better than the Galaxy Book 2, the other Adreno 630 laptop on the market, which couldn’t break 20 FPS.
But other 2-in-1s are faster, even those with integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics like the LG Gram 14. Interestingly, the Yoga C630 did manage to perform as well as the HP Spectre Folio in this test, a 2-in-1 that uses Intel’s low-powered Y-series CPU and its Intel UHD 615 graphics.
You’ll be okay playing casual Windows 10 games, but that’s it. Stick to your smartphone if you want to do some Qualcomm-based gaming.
Lives up to the Windows 10 on ARM battery promise
So, did the Yoga C630 live up to any of the Windows 10 on ARM hype? Performance didn’t cut it, and so we were left with battery life, which the Snapdragon 850 was supposed to optimize on the platform. Here, the Yoga C630 represented.
Battery life was indeed very good across our suite of tests. We’ll note that we’re reporting all our tests as run in Windows 10 Home rather than Windows 10 S, which is supposed to provide more longevity. We did run our video loop test, that runs through a local Avengers trailer, in Windows 10 S and saw 30 minutes more battery life.
The Yoga C630 did the best, relatively speaking, running our most CPU-intensive test using the Basemark web benchmark tool. Here, it managed almost nine hours, which is among the best we’ve seen and bested only by the Asus NovaGo. Note that the benchmarks ran very slowly on the Qualcomm-based laptops — the Intel-based LG Gram 14 and Spectre Folio lasted for respectable times as well, but they were significantly faster.
The Yoga C630 actually has the spectacular battery life that Qualcomm promises.
When browsing the web, the Yoga C630 was also near the top of all the laptops we’ve reviewed, at well over 11 hours. Only the LG Gram 14 lasted longer among our comparison group, and we’ll note that the other Snapdragon 850-based laptop, the Galaxy Book 2, fell far short. The results were similar for our video looping test, where only the Spectre Folio bested the Yoga C630.
Simply put, the Yoga C630 really does have spectacular battery life. And, it supports Windows 10 on ARM’s instant-on feature and long standby times. It’s much more like an ARM-based tablet in this respect — it not only lasts a long time while it’s working, but it also lasts a long time while it’s idle.
That brings us to decision time. What do we think of the Yoga C630? It feels great in hand and it looks just fine. It has solid input options and a good (but not great) display. And it lasts a long, long time on a single charge of the battery.
But it’s still just too darn slow. It’s a fair step behind even laptops powered by Intel’s low-power Y-series CPUs. Those are just fast enough for general productivity use, but too slow for demanding tasks. The Yoga C630 is sometimes fast enough for productivity, but it hitches and lags far too often. It’s enough to make you wish there was Intel inside, but it’s also enough to hint that the next generation might push the platform over the hump.
Is there a better alternative?
The HP Spectre Folio is an incredibly elegant leather-clad alternative to the Yoga C630, and its battery life is just as impressive while it offers better overall performance. With a Core i5-8200Y CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD, you’ll spend $1,300. Add $170 if you need always-connected LTE support. Sure, it’s more expensive, but you’re getting a far better experience for your money.
You could also consider the Microsoft Surface Pro 6. It won’t offer the same battery life, but it’s just as well-built, and it offers a far better tablet experience. You’ll spend $900 for a full-speed Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB PCIe SSD, making for a much faster laptop. You’ll want to add in the Microsoft Type Cover for another $130, making the Surface Pro 6 just slightly more expensive. Battery life won’t be as good, though, and you’d have to opt for the older Surface Pro generation for LTE support.
How long will it last?
The Yoga C630 is built like a tank, so it’ll physically last as long as you’re likely to need and well beyond the standard one-year warranty. But its performance is already behind the curve, and that limits its useful life.
Should you buy it?
No. Windows 10 on ARM is so much closer this time around, but it’s still not quite there. If your productivity tasks are light enough and battery life is your priority, then the Yoga C630 just might fit the bill. For everyone else, there are better options.
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