Cheap, fast and well balanced, this 2-in-1 is the total Chromebook package
- Good performance
- Excellent screen
- Great value
- Business-like looks
- Treble-heavy audio
If the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook has a problem – apart from the fact its name is a bit of a mouthful – it’s that it struggles to stand out in a market where there are now so many stylish and elegant convertible Chromebooks. Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713 has more distinctive looks and an unusual 3:2 aspect-ratio screen, and the Asus Chromebook Flip C436F has a slimmer and even lighter design, not to mention one of Asus’ space-saving NanoEdge displays and an iridescent white finish. But the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 looks more like a slick clamshell laptop that just happens to have a 360-degree hinge. Yet if the design is more good than breathtaking, this brilliant Chromebook makes up for it in a range of other ways.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review: What you need to know
This isn’t Lenovo’s first 2-in-1 Chromebook. It’s produced great educational models such as the Chromebook 500e, along with strong, more business-focused efforts such as the old Yoga Chromebook C630. This one sits inside its more mainstream IdeaPad range, where the “Flex” identifies a 360-degree hinge that allows you to fold the lid against the back of the chassis. This means you can use the laptop as a tablet, or leave it more open in a tent configuration that’s perfect for playing games or watching video. It comes with a 13.3in Full HD screen and a choice of Core i3 or i5 processors, with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM.
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Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review: Price and competition
As we mentioned, there’s some tight competition, not only from the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (RRP £599) and Asus Chromebook Flip C436F (RRP £999) but also from the HP Chromebook x360 range that starts at £349. However, the Lenovo undercuts the Acer and the Asus Chromebooks, and you have to pay more to get the equivalent Chromebook x360. Plus, in some key respects, Lenovo offers a better all-round package.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review: Design
The Flex 5 doesn’t look quite as sleek as Acer’s Spin 713, but appearances are deceiving: at 17mm thick and 1.35kg in weight, it’s actually slimmer and lighter. There’s just something about the balance and 16:9 aspect ratio that makes it less satisfying to use in tablet form. The Asus Flip C436F wins in the thin and light stakes, though, and has a larger 14in display to boot.
The physical design might be business-like, but it’s also very functional, with the 13.3in screen folding back on Lenovo’s ingenious hinge to work in either tent or tablet modes. Only the lid is metal, with the body made of plastic, but Lenovo has done a great job of matching the colours and making it all feel coherent. The bezels around the screen are narrow, bar the chunky one below the display, and the dark grey keys complete the styling. This Chromebook looks more expensive than it is.
And while the Flex 5 might not be as svelte as the Asus Flip C436F, it makes up for it with connectivity, fitting in a USB 3.1 Type-A port as well as the USB 3.1 gen 1 Type-C ports you’ll find on either side. Lenovo has even placed a volume rocker and an on/off button on the right-hand side, which definitely helps when you’re watching films in tablet mode and want to quickly turn the volume up or down. It’s also one of the cheaper Chromebooks we’ve seen with 802.11ax Wi-Fi in a 2×2 MIMO configuration, not to mention Bluetooth 5.
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Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review: Keyboard and touchpad
Lenovo laptops – including its Chromebooks – tend to have good keyboards and, while the Flex 5 doesn’t have a ThinkPad-level effort, its 1.4mm travel and positive action mean it’s a treat to type on. The keys are nicely spaced, with no nasty surprises in the layout, and the body holds firm as you type, even in the centre. You could comfortably use it as your main work device, which isn’t something you can say about every convertible.
The touchpad is nothing special in terms of size or materials, but it works flawlessly when recognising swipes and taps, multi-finger gestures or left- and right-clicks. And you can always tap the touchscreen, whether or not you’re in tablet mode.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review: Display and sound
The screen is another sure sign of a Chromebook that punches above its price tag, with a 300cd/m² maximum brightness, 99.1% sRGB coverage and a low Delta E of 1.96. Its gloss coating isn’t quite as reflective as the Acer’s, making it a better bet in bright sunlight, and with a Full HD resolution stretched across the 13.3in display, it’s impressively crisp and clear. Games and movies look great, and there’s enough space for multitasking or working with more complex productivity apps.
The same can’t be said about the audio, which suffers from little bass, a harsh treble and a boxy, congested mid-range. You might want to connect some headphones if you’re planning to watch movies or play Stadia games.
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Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review: Performance and battery life
Still, there’s nothing second-rate about the Flex 5’s performance. With a Core i5-10210U processor and 8GB of DDR4 RAM, it matches substantially more expensive Chromebooks in our benchmarks. It came within touching distance of the fastest Chromebooks from HP and Dell in the CRXprt benchmark and beat all but the HP in our multitasking tests. It’s only just behind the Acer Chromebook Flip C436F in the Geekbench 5 multithreaded performance tests. What’s more, with a 128GB M.2 SSD rather than the usual eMMC flash storage, it’s well equipped to handle Android apps and Linux applications at decent speeds.
Here’s more good news: you won’t find yourself reaching for the charger too often, as the Flex 5 also has some serious stamina. We didn’t quite make 12 hours before it ran out of power, but 11hrs 9mins should see you through the working day.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review: Verdict
This isn’t the fastest or the flashiest Chromebook, but it’s speedy, well built and feature-packed, with a great screen and a very practical design. It’s a great, hard-working Chromebook at a very affordable price. If you’re looking for a workhorse that can handle a little entertainment on the side, you won’t find much better for the money.