At present out there for less than $400, the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is a reasonably dang whole lot. You get Intel’s succesful tenth Gen processors, a sturdy and nice-looking chassis, a touchscreen with stylus help, a cushty backlit keyboard, and a passable port choice. Whereas there’s no standout function to enthusiastically reward, there’s not an excessive amount of to complain about. That’s sufficient, in fact, to make the Flex 5 probably the greatest midrange Chromebooks you should purchase — so long as you’re conscious of the tradeoffs you’re making for the worth.
First, the nice. The Flex 5 has a a lot nicer chassis than many different Chromebooks you’ll see on this worth vary — it’s really one of many better-built Chromebooks I’ve used this 12 months. Although the underside is manufactured from plastic, it’s removed from the cheap-looking fare that’s commonplace amongst price range laptops. (No large plastic bezels across the display screen both.) The keyboard deck has a soft-touch texture that’s fairly easy and doesn’t choose up a ton of fingerprints regardless of its darkish shade.
As a consequence, the gadget appears lots higher than your common laptop-cart Chromebook. It actually appears extra fashionable than Acer’s $699 Chromebook Spin 713, our present choose for the best Chromebook. And I wasn’t in any respect apprehensive about jostles and jolts — there was no flex within the display screen and little or no within the keyboard. Along with the stable construct, the Flex 5 has an inexpensive port choice together with two USB 3.1 Kind-C Gen 1, one USB 3.1 Kind-A Gen 1, a combo audio jack, a microSD reader, and a Kensington lock. Bonus factors: there’s a USB-C port on all sides for handy charging.
It’s, nevertheless, a bit on the big aspect as 13-inch Chromebooks go, at 0.7 inches thick and a weight slightly below three kilos. (It’s simply barely lighter than the Spin 713.) That makes it a bit heavy to carry as a pill for lengthy durations of time, and also you’ll need one thing smaller should you’re searching for a tool you gained’t discover in your backpack. Nonetheless, it’s fairly moveable, and much from something I’d describe as heavy.
The keyboard is a spotlight of this gadget for me. The keys are backlit (not a assure at this worth level) and look modern towards the black deck. It’s snug, with 1.4mm of journey, with out being too loud. The touchpad can be a simple click on and fairly correct, although it’s on the tough aspect texture-wise.
The 1920 x 1080 show is crisp and vivid. It additionally has stylus help, although a pen isn’t included. It’s noticeably blurrier than the Spin 713’s higher-resolution panel, nevertheless. It’s additionally not the brightest display screen round, maxing out at 250 nits, and I did see glare right here and there whereas I used to be working throughout the day. And I’m not a fan of its 16:9 facet ratio — Chromebooks that use 3:2 or 16:10 shows are capable of cram noticeably extra display screen actual property right into a smaller chassis.
The 720p webcam is surprisingly usable. It delivers an image that’s grainy however correct, even in low-light settings. There’s a bodily shutter, although it’s very tiny and laborious to see. I couldn’t make it out until I leaned very near the webcam, and customarily simply felt round for it.
In case you’ll be making a whole lot of video calls, although, it is best to word that the audio isn’t nice. Sound comes from two 2W front-facing audio system on both aspect of the keyboard. My songs acquired loud sufficient, however all the pieces except for vocals (and particularly the percussion) was skinny and tinny.
My Flex 5 overview unit has an Intel Core i3-10110U, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. (Per Amazon, its MSRP is $429.99, nevertheless it’s at the moment listed at $341.95.) The bottom mannequin, (*5*), has an Intel Celeron 5205U processor (which is more likely to be sluggish) and 32GB of storage, and the highest $564.99 mannequin has the Core i3 in addition to 128GB of PCIe SSD storage (which ought to be a lot quicker than eMMC).
I used to be stunned by how effectively my Flex 5 unit carried out. The Core i3 flies. I noticed no seen sluggishness or slowdown, even once I was operating a number of packages like Adobe Lightroom and Google Pictures on high of a heavy load of Chrome tabs and Android apps. The expertise wasn’t noticeably completely different from that of utilizing the Spin 713 with a Core i5 and an SSD (although it might make a distinction for you should you’re operating Linux or utilizing heavier apps).
Chrome OS ran simply high quality on this gadget. Options like a number of sign-in (which lets you swap between two accounts with out signing out and in) and pill mode (which has Android-esque gestures for simply switching between home windows and apps when you’re utilizing the Flex as a pill) didn’t give me any bother. Many of the apps I normally use (primarily Fb Messenger, Twitter, Gmail, Spotify, and Notepad) are serviceable as of late on Chrome OS, although they nonetheless don’t provide a ton of profit over their browser counterparts. Surprisingly, Slack — the Android app I complain about probably the most — was not out there for this gadget.
The Flex 5’s followers had been normally operating throughout my ordinary multitasking work (typically using round a dozen Chrome tabs and an app or two). They had been quiet sufficient that it wasn’t bothersome, however I did hear them (alongside some tiny coil whine) if I put my ear to the keyboard. Happily, they succeeded in holding the chassis cool — the underside was typically toasty, however by no means so scorching that I couldn’t maintain the gadget on my lap.
Battery life, nevertheless, was a disappointment. I averaged simply over 5 and a half hours of constant work with the display screen at 50 p.c brightness, operating some trials with a bunch of Android apps and a few simply with Chrome. That’s the worst outcome I’ve seen from any current Chromebook — the Spin 713 averaged seven hours and 29 minutes, and that also wasn’t an awesome outcome for the class. The Flex additionally took some time to cost. The 45W adapter took an hour to juice the laptop computer’s battery as much as simply 54 p.c with mild Chrome use.
Most of the sentences on this overview have had “however” on the finish. That’s as a result of nearly all the pieces concerning the Flex 5 is suitable… with some caveats. And that’s a good strategy to describe my emotions about this Chromebook: acceptable with caveats. For a most of $429.99, that’s sufficient to earn it my suggestion as a stable midrange buy — particularly because it handles my workload in addition to any premium Chromebook I’ve examined just lately with out frying itself.
To place into perspective how low that worth is: the Core i3 mannequin of the Chromebook Spin 713 (with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage) costs $699.99 — a minimal of $270 extra. The most cost effective mannequin of the HP Envy x360 13 (our high price range Home windows laptop computer), with an AMD Ryzen 5 chip in addition to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, is currently listed for the same amount. Each of those gadgets have decisive benefits, in fact. The Spin 713 has a higher-resolution 3:2 show and Thunderbolt 4 help in addition to the additional storage, whereas the Envy x360 has an unbelievable processor with respectable audio and good battery life.
Essentially the most vital profit most individuals will get from the additional cash is additional battery life and storage — however higher shows (particularly the Spin’s 3:2 facet ratio), higher audio system, and higher ports might be a giant assist to some customers as effectively. However should you’re wed to the sub-$500 worth level, you’re unlikely to seek out higher construct high quality, with a greater keyboard and a greater port choice, than the Flex 5, in both the Chromebook or Home windows spheres. Premium Chromebooks with chassis to rival these of premium Home windows laptops have been on the rise for just a few years now, and it’s good to see that development extending to lower-priced gadgets as effectively.
Pictures by Monica Chin / The Verge