Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook review: midrange done right

Currently priced under $400, the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is a pretty decent deal. You get Intel’s 10th Gen processors, a rugged and stylish chassis, a touchscreen with stylus support, a comfortable backlit keyboard, and a satisfying selection of ports. There are no standout features to rave about, but there isn’t much to complain about. Of course, that’s enough to make the Flex 5 one of the best mid-range Chromebooks out there.

First, good. The Flex 5 has a much nicer chassis than many other Chromebooks in this price range. It’s actually one of the better made Chromebooks I’ve used this year. The bottom is plastic, but it’s far from the cheap feel commonly found in low-end laptops. (There’s also no huge plastic bezel around the screen.) The keyboard deck has a soft-touch texture and, despite its dark color, doesn’t smudge a lot of fingerprints.

As a result, the device looks much better than a regular laptop cart Chromebook. It definitely looks more modern than Acer’s $699 Chromebook Spin 713, which is currently voted the best Chromebook. And I didn’t worry about shaking and shocks at all. In addition to its rugged build, the Flex 5 has a reasonable selection of ports, including two USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1s, one USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1, combo audio jack, microSD reader, and a Kensington lock. Bonus point: There are USB-C ports on both sides for convenient charging.

However, it’s rather bulky compared to a 13-inch Chromebook that’s only 0.7 inches thick and weighs just 3 pounds. (It’s slightly lighter than the Spin 713.) So it’s a bit heavy to carry around as a tablet for a long time. backpack. Still, it’s far from being described as portable and heavy.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is open and tilted to the left.  You will see a blue wavy background on your screen.

Use in laptop, tent, stand or tablet mode.

The keyboard is the highlight of this device for me. The keys are backlit (not guaranteed at this price point) and look sleek against the black deck. With 1.4mm of travel, it’s comfortable without being too noisy. The touchpad is also easy to click and very accurate, but has a rough side in terms of texture.

The 1920 x 1080 display is clear and vivid. Pen is not included, but stylus support is also included. However, it is noticeably blurrier than the Spin 713’s high-resolution panel. It’s also not the brightest screen around, at up to 250 nits, and I’ve seen glare here and there while working during the day. And I’m not a fan of the 16:9 aspect ratio. Chromebooks with 3:2 or 16:10 displays can pack noticeably more screen space in a smaller chassis.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook in tent mode tilted to the left.  The screen displays a grid of Chrome OS icons on a blue wavy background.

Glossy IPS finish.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook half open as seen from the left.

USB-C, USB-A, audio jack, microSD on the left.

A half-opened Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook viewed from the right.

Lock slot, USB-C on the right.

A 720p webcam is surprisingly usable. It provides harsh but accurate pictures even in low light settings. There is a physical shutter, but it is very small and hard to see. I couldn’t check it without leaning very close to the webcam and generally felt it around.

However, it is important to note that the audio is not good if you make a lot of video calls. Sound comes from two 2W front speakers on either side of the keyboard. My songs were big enough, but everything except the vocals (especially percussion) was thin and small.

My Flex 5 review unit has an Intel Core i3-10110U, 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC storage. (MSRP per Amazon is $429.99, but the current price is $341.95.) The base model currently listed at $334.99 has an Intel Celeron 5205U processor (which may be slower) and 32GB of storage, with the top $564.99 model Core i3 and 128GB PCIe SSD storage (much faster than eMMC). )There is.

I was amazed at the performance of my Flex 5 device. The Core i3 is flying. I haven’t seen any noticeable sluggishness or slowdowns, even when running multiple programs like Adobe Lightroom and Google Photos with a lot of Chrome tabs and Android apps loaded. The experience wasn’t noticeably different from using the Spin 713 with a Core i5 and SSD (may be different if you’re running Linux or using heavier apps).

Lenovo Flex 5 viewed from the rear, open and tilted to the left.

The lid picked up a few more fingerprints than the deck, but overall it prevented fingerprints.

Chrome OS ran fine on this device. Features like multi-sign-in (which allows you to switch between two accounts without logging in and out) and tablet mode (with Android-style gestures that allow you to easily switch between windows and apps while using Flex as a tablet) didn’t cause any problems for me. do not give Most of the apps I normally use (mainly Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Gmail, Spotify and Notepad) are available on Chrome OS these days, but still don’t offer many advantages over browsers. Oddly enough, Slack (the most disgruntled Android app) was not available on this device.

Fans of the Flex 5 typically ran during typical multitasking tasks (typically around a dozen Chrome tabs and an app or two). They were quiet enough to be out of the way, but when I put my ear to the keyboard I could hear them (with a small coil whine). Fortunately, they managed to keep the chassis cool. The floor was toasted often, but it was never so hot that I couldn’t put the device on my lap.

However, the battery life was disappointing. I’ve run tests with multiple Android apps, some only with Chrome, on screens at 50% brightness, with an average of over 5 hours and 30 minutes of consistent work. This is the worst result I’ve seen on a Chromebook recently. The Spin 713 averaged 7 hours and 29 minutes of use and it still wasn’t a good result in the category. The Flex also took a while to charge. The 45W adapter took 1 hour to charge my laptop battery up to 54% with light Chrome usage.

Intel Core i3 sticker on Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook.

I wish the Core i3 was a bit more efficient here.

Many sentences in this review have “but” at the end. Because almost anything is allowed for Flex 5… There are a few caveats. And this is a fair way to describe my feelings for this Chromebook. Cautions are acceptable. Prices up to $429.99 are good enough to recommend as a solid midrange purchase. Especially since this one doesn’t handle my workload and all the premium Chromebooks I’ve recently tested.

Let’s see how cheap it is. The Core i3 model of the Chromebook Spin 713 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage costs $699.99 ($270 minimum). The cheapest model of the HP Envy x360 13 (top budget Windows laptop) with an AMD Ryzen 5 chip and 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is currently listed for the same price. Of course, both devices have decisive advantages. The Spin 713 has a high-resolution 3:2 display, Thunderbolt 4 support, and additional storage, while the Envy x360 has an incredible processor with great audio and great battery life.

The bottom right corner of the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is tilted to the left.

A good mid-range Chromebook, but not great.

The most important benefits most people will get at the extra cost are extra battery life and storage space. But a better display (especially the Spin’s 3:2 aspect ratio), better speakers, and better ports will be a huge boon for some users as well. But if you stick to the sub-$500 price point, you won’t find better build quality with a better keyboard and better port choice than the Flex 5 in the Chromebook or Windows arena. Premium Chromebooks with chassis comparable to premium Windows laptops have been on the rise for a few years now, and it’s nice to see this trend extending to low-end devices as well.

Photo: Monica Chin / The Verge


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