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Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook review: Lenovo's dead-serious ThinkPad goes Chromebook casual

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I've seen sleeker Chromebooks.

Josh Miller/CNET

It's not a hybrid, meaning its screen isn't designed to flip 360-degrees into a tablet-like device, but it can fold to a flat 180-degrees. The strong and sturdy hinges steadily keep the screen at your angle of choice. I never needed to fold it flat during my time with it, but its flexible hinges allowed me to adjust the screen for a perfect viewing angle no matter how or where I was sitting.

Performance is king

The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is one of the best performing Chromebook models we've tested. However, it's important to note that our review unit had all of the high-end specs (sixth-gen Intel Core i5-6300U CPU, 8GB of memory and 32GB of storage) that make the laptop's price balloon up to $845. For not much more, you could get a very nice laptop with Windows 10, such as the entry level Dell XPS 13.

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If you can upgrade the processor on the base model, you'll get smoother performance.

Josh Miller/CNET

While using the ThinkPad 13, I experienced no lagging or slower performance when multitasking. I surfed the web and had multiple tabs open at once, while streaming music or YouTube videos, without any noticeable lagging when switching between tabs. The laptop never got too warm for comfort, either, and the fans weren't loud enough for me to notice.

The ThinkPad 13 Chromebook can charge via USB-C, and while that gives you some flexibility, using the AC adapter that it comes with is the best practice, since USB-C standards are still being sorted out. (The wrong charger could do serious damage to your laptop.)

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It has a total of four USB ports.

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Lenovo claims that it can last 10 hours of battery life. In our battery tests, it lasted 8.25 hours. Though it doesn't last as long at the X, which lasted 13 hours in our testing, that's enough battery life to power you through the work day.

Specs

  • Two USB Type-C ports
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (four USB ports total)
  • Intel Integrated Graphics
  • 720p front-facing camera
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • SD card reader

A solid choice for work or school

Chromebooks like the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 run Chrome OS, a free but simplified operating system that can't run heavy-duty programs like Photoshop or Final Cut, or download apps like an Android device --yet.

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Simple and affordable, just like every Chromebook should be.

Josh Miller/CNET

This lack of OS functionality is why Chromebooks are cheaper than a Windows or Apple laptop, but this shouldn't be a deal-breaker if your computer activity is cloud-based and revolves around using a browser.

While it's not the best for watching movies and TV, the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook is a great pick for simple work or school tasks. Admittedly, the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook is expensive compared to the dirt-cheap Lenovo IdeaPad 100s (only $160 at Walmart right now), but the it's bigger, faster and an overall better performer than most Chromebooks or budget Windows laptops.

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