Ever since Qualcomm and partners such as Lenovo started to show always-on, always-connected PCs running Windows on Snapdragon processors, we pointed out that what a lot of people really want is an ultralight clamshell PC with extreme battery life and decent performance.
The Lenovo Yoga C630 WoS (official page) and its Snapdragon 850 processor improve a lot over the first generation always-connected PCs powered by Snapdragon 835. Is the C630 WoS good enough, and what can you expect from this impressive ultralight? Let’s find out.
To get our bearings, let’s take a quick look at the specs to shape your expectations. The Lenovo Yoga C630 has one processor option but comes with 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128 or 256GB of flash storage. We have tested the 8GB/128GB version. The Yoga C630 WoS configuration options is as simple as buying a tablet-like device.
Users have been asking for ultralight designs with long battery life, and these two requirements are usually mutually exclusive, but things are changing. Let’s look at the chassis design first. As you can see in the photos, the clamshell nature of the Yoga C630 WoS (not to be confused with the Lenovo C630 Chromebook) makes it a classic productivity laptop form-factor that people love and want.
That is in stark contrast with the first generation always-on, always-connected PCs that came with tablet-first designs and folio keyboards. In general, folio-keyboards work best on a table, are less stable on your lap but might slightly reduce the overall product volume, perhaps at the price of a smaller battery."A CLASSIC PRODUCTIVITY LAPTOP FORM-FACTOR THAT PEOPLE LOVE AND WANT"
This Yoga C630 clamshell form-factor is much more stable on your lap, packs an excellent battery capacity (for its size) and provides a normal laptop experience (important: read our software section), from a design standpoint. The aluminum chassis make the computer feel very rigid and durable, that is unlike some of the ultralights we may have looked at in the past.
There’s some magnesium at the bottom, but that’s it. Magnesium is ~30% lighter than aluminum, which is why it has become popular in laptop designs. Although some OEMs do build all-magnesium chassis, most models have a mix of materials, to lower the cost
That said, the Yoga C630 WoS chassis isn’t that small. While it is true that the ThinkPad Carbon X1 (2018) has a ~35% larger volume, the Dell XPS 13 (9370) is actually smaller than the C630 WoS, so it’s possible to build a Core i5 laptop that is more compact, but with much different battery life characteristics. The laptop is not sealed, and the user or technician can quickly open it to access/repair/upgrade internal components.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The backlit keyboard (2-levels of brightness, monochrome light) keyboard keys have a standard 0.4 sq-inch size, which makes them as large as the X1 Carbon keys. The X1 Carbon key-travel is shorter on the X1 Carbon at 1.8mm, while the suspect that the C630 WoS has a key travel closer to 1.0-1.1mm.
Typically the sweet spot is somewhere between 1.3mm and 1.7mm, but it is mostly a matter of personal preferences, so just refer to a laptop that you previously liked. This keyboard has flat keys, while other Lenovo keyboard may have curved keys that slightly reduce typos by centering the key-press actuation force towards the center.
The ~11.5 square-inches trackpad is large and comfortable. It adheres to the Windows Precision standard and feels good in general. It is made of Mylar, an incredibly smooth plastic surface which almost feels like Glass.
Like any other touch-interface, the size of the trackpad in relation to the gestures matters. On laptops, most people use scroll and pinch & zoom motions. More advanced usages require up to four fingers, and circular gestures tend to be more comfortable with a larger surface. Check the Windows 10 gestures
- 1x USB Type C, 3.1 Gen1
- 1x USB Type C, 3.1 Gen1
- 1x 3.5mm audio
The ports configuration is straightforward, with two USB-C connectors, running on the USB 3.1 Gen1 protocol. Both can be used to recharge the laptop. There’s also a 3.5mm audio connector for headphones. It would have been nice to have one full-size USB port, but ultralights tend to get rid of those unfortunately.
There is no support for Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) because the Snapdragon 850 platform does not have support for it, but the Next-generation line of product called Snapdragon C8x will definitely support TB3.
Connectivity: 4G LTE support on-par with the best phones
It’s well-known that PC LTE connectivity if often optional, and even when it’s integrated into the design, the implementation lags behind the latest smartphones.
Since the Qualcomm Snapdragon Platform is derived from the smartphone world (Qualcomm powers the vast majority of high-performing phone designs), laptop users can finally get the best quality in terms of LTE broadband access, and even WIFI / Bluetooth support.
With support for up to 4G LTE CAT18, the hardware is capable of a theoretical 1.2 Gbps, in ideal network conditions. Obviously, although we have witnessed things close to this feat on commercial networks, it is the superior average LTE speed that is important.
Our unit seems to be locked to the Verizon network, and on it, we’ve routinely experienced LTE download speeds of 50 Mbps with uploads of 6.7 Mbps, which is on par with many people’s home internet speed. Keep in mind that this can vary depending on network conditions.
Overall, the LTE experience was smooth and worry-free just like a phone experience : LTE “just works,” and there was never any connectivity issues. It’s incredible that in 2018, some PCs still have WiFi, Bluetooth or LTE issues.
Software: don’t skip this paragraph
Windows 10 S mode
Since this laptop doesn’t run on the traditional Intel / Microsoft combo, it’s worth pointing out that the Lenovo Yoga C630 WoS runs on Windows 10 S also known as Windows 10 in S mode (official page) by default.
S mode is available for both Intel and ARM processors such as the Snapdragon 850 in this laptop. In S mode, only apps from the Microsoft stores can be installed, and that ensures that binary-compatible apps are prioritized, thus avoiding an expensive Intel instruction emulation on ARM-based processors. It is really important to look at potential caveats of using the ARM architecture and Windows 10 S."POTENTIAL CAVEATS OF USING THE ARM ARCHITECTURE AND WINDOWS 10 S"
64-bit X86 (Intel-based) apps will not work on this version of Snapdragon. Only the next-generation Qualcomm processors for PC will support 64-bit, among many other things. Check our Snapdragon 8cX overview from the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit where Snapdragon 855 was unveiled. 855 is the technological foundation for the 8cX.
Drivers written for Intel processors won’t work, and that could limit which peripherals you can use with this laptop. Also, some games that require OpenGL above v1.1 will not work. These are the main points, but there are also restrictions on which antivirus you can use or accessibility features. Check the official page link above if needed.
Basic productivity apps
Out of the box, Microsoft has made sure that MS Office, Windows Mail and Microsoft Edge (the new Internet Explorer) are working well and running on native code. If you want Chrome or Firefox, you can run them on X86 emulation, at the price of a performance hit.
If you require applications that are not available from the store, you might want to check if they are available in 32-bit for Windows. If not, you may not be able to use them, even in emulation mode.
Many apps such as Netflix or Hulu are available in the Microsoft Store, and we didn’t have any particular issues during the review. It really depends on your use case. Check, check, check.
Since the Windows for ARM ecosystem is still in its early days, you shouldn’t assume that any Windows software will just work. That’s one of the pillars of Windows, but this a huge transition to ARM that’s happening here, and things are a bit bumpy. If you stick to basic activities, things work great, and definitely so much better than just 18 months ago, when the Always-On, Always-Connected PC initiative was launched by Qualcomm and Microsoft.
The (1920×1080) 1080p display is adequately good given the size (13.3”) and performance level of the laptop. The quality is very decent, but displays on more expensive laptops can look better for their black levels and color reproduction – no surprise here. We expected as much from an office+web+movie system, which is not designed for Creative work.
The bezels on this laptop are 2mm thinner than the X1 Carbon 2018 at the top, and that’s great but if you’re really into thin bezels, also check the Huawei Matebook X Pro which we previously reviewed.
The display brightness of is 283 NITs is good, and this brightness level is nearly on-par with the X1 Carbon series. In general, a brighter display is great to read the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness leads directly to better image quality in general situations. In Battery Saving mode, the maximum brightness is 197 NITs.
The display can fold all the way to 360-degrees, which makes it a Multimode, or 2-in-1 laptop/tablet computer. Multimode (a term introduced by Lenovo) means that a computer can be used in four positions: Laptop, Tablet, Tent and Stand.
Lenovo has managed to place a webcam at the top, despite the thin bezel. Other OEMs such as Huawei make the argument that only 10% of laptop users care about the webcam. Given how convenient and high-quality video calls on phones have become, it could be true. However, we also know that among those who care, the top position is the most desired because it looks more natural.
The webcam quality is “okay” and will look like the typical laptop webcam. As of late, no OEM has decided to make a stand on the webcam quality, which seems to confirm that it is not a make-or-break feature.
Measuring the performance on an ARM-based PC is a difficult exercise, partly because there aren’t a lot of comprehensive multi-platform tests for it (using native code). Of course, you could run some apps in emulation, but it wouldn’t achieve a reasonably good proxy for end-user performance, which is the goal of the benchmarks to start with.
So we’ll focus on perceived user performance. Since we see and use a lot of different laptops at different price points, we can provide a good estimation of what to expect.
The bottom line is that perceived performance is comparable to laptops using Intel’s Y-series of processors that are designed for a 4.5W TDP (thermal design point). A perceptive comparison between Snapdragon 850 and the Intel Core i5-7Y57 Google Pixel Book (2017) is reasonable. However, this C630 WoS feels slower than a typical 15W Core i5 Gen8 laptop, let alone the Core i7 version.
What this means in real terms is that the C630 WoS works fine for specific use cases such as web browsing (until you pile up tabs, stick to ~10), text editing, email, video playback/streaming — and other computationally light applications."IT FEELS LIKE A Y-SERIES CORE I5 COMPUTER"
By PC standards, this is not a Gaming PC, but if you want to play Minecraft and games at that level of graphics, it’s pretty fast (60 FPS for Minecraft). We don’t expect Snapdragon 835 to beat an Intel Core i5 with Intel graphics, so it’s better to stick to simple games for now. Things will get better in the future on that front.
We ran the Geekbench 4 CPU benchmark in Intel Emulation mode which is not the most favorable scenario to the Snapdragon platform. The result is that the single core performance is much lower as Snapdragon is designed on an entirely different premise than Intel processors. However, the multi-core performance was close to Intel’s Core i5-7Y57 native performance, so that might explain why the perceived speed is comparable.
Temperature and noise
Since the C630 WoS has a fanless design, it is entirely silent, which can be a strong point for some users. Also, this means that the heat is very mild, and very much under control. It is somewhat due to the level of performance, but not only. Because it is based on a more power-efficient mobile architecture, Snapdragon 850 delivers more performance per Watt than its Intel competitors.
In turn, this leads to less heat dissipation and better battery life for a similar workload. Although the laptop can get mildly warm, it never goes anywhere near the 44C (112F) temperature that would lead to a burn. In fact, it probably never goes higher than 37C, which is the human body temperature.
Sleep and wake-up
Unlike regular Windows laptops, the Yoga C630 WoS never really goes into deep sleep. Instead, it is always connected and can sync with emails and other things in the background, just like your phone would. Not only this isn’t as detrimental to battery life as it would be on a regular Windows laptop, but it also enables this computer to wake up quicker when compared to others that may save a bunch of data on disk before going into deep sleep.
The Lenovo Yoga C630 WoS and its Snapdragon 850 processor perform much better than the previous generation Snapdragon laptops. Perceptibly, it feels like a Y-Series Core i5 computer, and that’s really decent. However, if you need 15W-level performance with either Core i5 or Core i7, hold on for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cX which we speculate will show up in computers around the Computex time frame.
Battery Life : excellent
Battery life is one of the two pillars for this computer (the second being the always-on, always connected feature). I took the laptop on a recent trip to HK and a number of other Asian countries. That’s a 15 hours flight which was an excellent opportunity to use the Lenovo C630 WoS in a real-world situation.
During the flight, the cabin lights are OFF, so you can work or watch movies at ~70 NITs very comfortably. That’s about 23% of brightness in the Windows Mobility slider (it’s not really linear btw). Watching preloaded Netflix content for 60mn used up about 9% of the battery, which means that I could in theory watch 10 hours of video, out of the box."MAKES THE BATTERY ANXIETY GO AWAY"
However, I realized that I was not using the battery saver mode. After switching to it, the next 60mn of video only consumed ~7% of the battery without inducing any stuttering or performance hit in Netflix. That would translate to potentially 14 hours of video playback, which is excellent for a laptop this size.
When it comes to text editing, for things like this review, I tend to work offline during the flights because the in-plane WiFi can be so unreliable. Using Wordpad, the battery depletion is something like 1% every 10 mn. This translates to potentially more than 16 hours of writing — more than anyone would bargain for. In practice, it makes the battery anxiety go away in a lot of everyday situations.
Battery Charge Speed: surprisingly slow
Unfortunately, the charge speed of the Lenovo C630 WoS didn’t impress us at all. Despite having a 45W charger, the charge speed only reached 0.3Wh per minute, which is much less than the Carbon X1 (166% faster) or the Pixelbook 2017 (100% faster).
The 45 power supply is relatively bulky for what it does, and we hope that more OEMs will be inspired by power adapters such as the Huawei Matebook X Pro, which looks a phone charger, despite being even more powerful.
Conclusion: fascinating, but not for everyone
The Lenovo Yoga C630 WoS is probably the best Snapdragon-based PC in terms of productivity. Although its competition may boast a smaller form-factor (Samsung Galaxy Book 2), the thin clamshell design has been in demand in this category since Day 1, and Lenovo has answered beautifully.
The Snapdragon 850 performance has improved noticeably since the Snapdragon 835 days, There are a couple of things to keep in mind: Snapdragon 850 is just fast enough that many people would consider using this laptop to be an acceptable thin & light Windows laptop experience, under the condition that they keep the number of running apps and open browser tabs relatively low (~2-3 apps, ~4-5 tabs). It’s also true for Intel 4.5W TDP systems.
Secondly, and that’s the bad news, the software compatibility still requires potential buyers to understand the limitations of running Windows 10 S mode on an ARM-based CPU cluster, or do some homework to see if their apps are all available, or if there are viable replacements."A FANTASTIC BATTERY LIFE AND ALWAYS-ON CONNECTIVITY"
But -if- this laptop can fulfill your needs, you will enjoy a fantastic battery life and always-on connectivity which is much better and secure than using free (or paid) Wi-Fi hotspots. Always-connected PCs introduce a level of connectivity which is similar to smartphones, and it’s hard to go back once you get a taste.
Starting at ~$850 (4GB/128GB), the Lenovo Yoga C630 WoS isn’t an obvious value choice and it has many competitors equipped with a full-on 15W CPU priced within striking distance. As such, we’ll guess that people reading this review have a specific use case in mind, probably one with extreme connectivity and battery endurance in mind. We would recommend the 8GB of RAM version if you want to have more browser tabs open.
If you are unsure whether or not your workflow would work with this computer, it may be safer to get something like the Lenovo ThinkPad L380.