Currently available less than $ 400, The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is a pretty good deal. You get Intel-capable 10th generation processors, a sturdy and good-looking body, a touchscreen that supports a stylus, a comfortable backlit keyboard, and a satisfactory port selection. While there isn’t an inspiringly commendable feature, unfortunately there aren’t too many. That’s enough, of course, to make the Flex 5 one of the best mid-range Chromebooks you can buy – as long as you’re aware of the trade-offs you’re making for the price.
First, good. The Flex 5 has a much more comfortable body than many other Chromebooks in this price range – it’s actually one of the better-built Chromebooks I’ve used this year. Although the base is made of plastic, it is far from the cheap-looking price that is common among budget laptops. (There are also no huge plastic frames around the screen.) The keyboard cover has a soft texture that is fairly smooth and doesn’t pick up a lot of fingerprints despite its dark color.
As a result, the device looks much better than your average Chromebook. It certainly looks more modern than Acer’s $ 699 Chromebook Spin 713, current selection the best Chromebook. And I wasn’t worried at all about butts and vibrations – there was no flexibility on the screen and little on the keyboard. In addition to its robust design, the Flex 5 has a reasonable port range that includes two USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1s, one USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1, a combined audio connector, a microSD reader and a Kensington lock. Bonus Points: There is a USB-C port on both sides for charging.
However, it’s on the slightly big side when 13-inch Chromebooks go, 0.7 inches thick and weighing just under three pounds. (It’s just a little lighter than the Spin 713.) It makes it a little heavy to hold a tablet for long periods of time, and you want something smaller if you’re looking for a device that you won’t notice in a backpack. Still, it’s pretty portable, and far from anything I would describe as pregnant.
For me, the keyboard is the highlight of this device. The keys are backlit (not guaranteed at this price point) and look stylish against a black cover. It’s comfortable, 1.4mm apart, without being too hard. The touchpad is also easy to click and fairly accurate, even though it is on the rough side textured.
The 1920 x 1080 screen is sharp and vibrant. It also has pen support, although the pen is not supplied. However, it is much less clear than the higher resolution panel of the Spin 713. It also doesn’t have the brightest display around, a top speed of 250 rivets, and I saw glare here and there as I worked during the day. And I’m not a fan of its 16: 9 aspect ratio – Chromebooks that use 3: 2 or 16:10 screens are able to penetrate significantly more of the screen’s properties into a smaller platform.
The 720p webcam is surprisingly usable. It produces a grainy but accurate image even in low light. It has a physical shutter, although it is very small and difficult to see. I couldn’t make it unless you leaned very close to the webcam and usually just felt around it.
However, if you make a lot of video calls, remember that the sound is not good. The sound comes from two 2 W front speakers on each side of the keyboard. My songs were hard enough, but everything except the vocals (and especially the percussion) was thin and tinny.
My Flex 5 scan unit has an Intel Core i3-10110U, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. (According to Amazon, its MSRP is $ 429.99, but it is currently listed at $ 341.95.) currently listed at $ 334.99, it has an Intel Celeron 5205U processor (which is probably slow) and 32GB of storage, and the top $ 564.99 model has a Core i3 as well as 128GB of PCIe SSD memory (which should be much faster than the eMMC).
I was surprised at how well my Flex 5 worked. Core i3 flies. I didn’t see any visible slowness or slowdown, even though I used several programs like Adobe Lightroom and Google Photos on top of a heavy load of Chrome tabs and Android apps. The experience wasn’t significantly different from using the Spin 713 with a Core i5 and SSD (though it may affect you if you’re running Linux or running heavier applications).
Chrome OS worked great on this device. Features like signing in to multiple accounts (allowing you to switch between two accounts without signing in and out) and tablet mode (with Android-style gestures that let you easily switch between windows and apps when you use Flex as a tablet) didn’t work don’t give me any problems. Most of the apps I normally use (mainly Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Gmail, Spotify, and Notepad) are usable on Chrome today, although they still don’t offer much of an advantage over their browser versions. Strangely, Slack – the Android app I complain about the most – was not available for this device.
Flex 5 fans were usually running during my normal multitasking job (usually about a dozen Chrome tabs and an app or two). They were quiet enough not to be distracting, but I could hear them (next to the little coil) if I put my ear on the keyboard. Luckily, they managed to keep the pad cool – the bottom was often scorching, but never so hot I couldn’t hold the device in my lap.
However, the battery life was disappointing. On average, over five and a half hours of continuous work with the screen at 50 percent brightness, I did some experiments with a bunch of Android apps and some with Chrome only. It’s the worst result I’ve seen on any of the latest Chromebooks – the Spin 713 averaged seven hours and 29 minutes, and yet it wasn’t a great result in class. It took some time to charge the Flex device. With the 45W adapter, it took an hour to juice the laptop battery to just 54 percent with light Chrome use.
Many sentences in this review end with “but.” This is because almost everything about Flex 5 is acceptable … some caveats. And it’s a fair way to describe my feelings about this Chromebook: acceptable with warnings. At up to $ 429.99, that’s enough to earn it my recommendation for a stable mid-range acquisition – especially when it handles my workload as well as any high-quality Chromebook I’ve recently tested without self-baking.
To see how low the price is: Chromebook Spin 713 Core i3 (8GB RAM and 256GB storage) costs $ 699.99 – $ 270 or more. The cheapest model of the HP Envy x360 13 (the most affordable Windows laptop) with AMD Ryzen 5 circuitry, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, is currently listed in the same number. Of course, both devices have crucial advantages. The Spin 713 has a higher resolution 3: 2 display and Thunderbolt 4 support, as well as extra storage space, while Envy x360 is an amazing processor with decent sound and good battery life.
The most significant benefit most people get from the extra money is the extra battery life and storage space – but better displays (especially Spin’s 3: 2 aspect ratio), better speakers, and better ports are a big help for some users as well. But if you’re going for less than the $ 500 price point, you’re unlikely to find better building quality, better keyboards, and better port selection than Flex 5, on either a Chromebook or Windows. Premium Chromebooks, whose body competes with premium Windows laptops, have been on the rise for a few years, and it’s great to see that the trend extends to cheaper devices as well.
Photographer: Monica Chin / The Verge