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So close to the perfect 13-inch Chromebook

So close to the perfect 13-inch Chromebook

Lenovo may not have the best observe report with its Home windows-based laptops, however the firm’s Chromebooks have normally been glorious. The Lenovo C330 from 2018 was our prime decide for a price range Chromebook, and extra lately, we gave the Lenovo Chromebook Duet an 8/10.

This time round, we’re looking on the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5, a price range 13-inch Chromebook that ranges in worth from $360-410. There’s so much to love concerning the Flex 5, however one or two flaws preserve me from whole-hardheartedly recommending it to everybody.

Design and {hardware}

I have not had the most effective experiences with Lenovo’s {hardware} up to now, however the Flex 5 appears very well-designed. It has an aluminum construct that offers it little or no flex (ironic, given the title), which provides to the laptop computer’s premium really feel. No plastic to be seen.

The left aspect of the Chromebook has a USB Sort-C port, an older USB Sort-A connector, a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack, and a microSD card slot. Though the PC business is transferring away from USB Sort-A, I nonetheless want laptops to incorporate at the very least one port — you by no means know while you’ll have to plug in an older accent. On the best aspect, you get an influence button, quantity controls, one other Sort-C port, and a Kensington lock. You need to use both Sort-C connector for charging the Chromebook.

The Lenovo Flex 5 has two options which might be uncommon on Chromebooks, particularly fashions on this worth vary. First, the audio system are positioned on each side of the keyboard (like on MacBooks), as an alternative of beneath the body. The audio high quality is not mind-blowing, however the audio system sound extra clear than the bottom-firing audio system on most Chromebooks and different laptops.

The opposite distinctive characteristic is the bodily webcam privateness shutter, which blocks entry to the front-facing digital camera. Chrome (and by extension, Chrome OS) already tells you which of them internet apps and tabs are utilizing your webcam/microphone with easily-visible alerts, so a privateness shutter is not as helpful right here as it could be on a Home windows laptop computer, however I nonetheless recognize Lenovo including it to the Flex 5.

Webcam demo

Talking of the webcam, it has an f/2.Zero lens with a most decision of simply 1280×720. The standard is fairly commonplace for laptop computer webcams — it is not nice, nevertheless it’s sufficient for calls on Duo or Zoom. When you ever want one thing higher, Chrome OS works with most PC webcams with none further setup.

Mild bleed on the show. That is at full brightness in a totally darkish room.

Transferring onto the Flex 5’s show, the IPS 1080p panel usually seems to be good, with crisp textual content (besides with Android apps, which appears to be a Chrome OS downside) and vivid colours. Nevertheless, mild bleed on the corners is unquestionably seen while you’re watching darkish content material. There additionally would not look like an oleophobic coating on the shiny display screen, so it is a fingerprint/smudge magnet.

Since this can be a convertible laptop computer, you may flip across the display screen and use the Chromebook like a large pill. The hinge feels sturdy sufficient, however the corners of the show are considerably sharp, so holding it in pill mode is pretty uncomfortable. The show additionally helps stylus enter, however annoyingly, Lenovo would not embrace a pen within the field.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard on the Flex 5 is nice, and I even want it to the keyboard on the brand new $800 Asus Chromebook Flip C436. The keys are clicky, with a journey distance of 1.4mm. There’s additionally a backlight, although that is pretty widespread on Chromebooks on this worth vary.

I haven’t got any robust emotions concerning the touchpad. It is giant sufficient for gestures to work effectively, and although clicks really feel a bit bit shallow, I do not suppose anybody would have a motive to complain about it.

Efficiency and battery life

Whereas the outside design of the Flex 5 might give the impression that is an $800 laptop computer, the {hardware} inside does the alternative. I reviewed the highest-end configuration, which has an Intel Core i3-10110U processor. Though it is only a slightly-refined model of the 14nm Skylake cellular chips that Intel has been producing for the previous 5 years, efficiency remains to be greater than sufficient for Chrome OS.

What is not sufficient is the 4GB RAM that Lenovo consists of on all configurations of the Flex 5. Chrome itself is memory-hungry sufficient by itself, however while you mix that with an always-running container for Android purposes (and a Linux container, if you wish to use that), the Flex 5 rapidly runs out of RAM and has to dig into the disk’s swap house. As soon as I handed 5 tabs, the Chromebook visibly began to decelerate.

I additionally ran a number of benchmarks on the Core i3 Flex 5. Geekbench 5 gave the Chromebook a single-core rating of 973 and a multi-core ranking of 1662 (full outcomes). The older Geekbench Four check supplied a single-core rating of 4459 and 7095 for multi-core efficiency (full outcomes). Lastly, the web-based Speedometer 2.Zero check ended with a rating of 105.

From left to proper: Geekbench 5, Geekbench 4, Speedometer 2.0. Click on to broaden.

Each of the lower-tier fashions use an Intel Celeron 5205U processor, which has similarities to the Core i3 on paper, however with out hyper-threading — solely providing you with two threads of CPU efficiency. I can not communicate to real-world efficiency on these fashions, since Lenovo solely despatched me the Core i3 mannequin.

Lenovo claims the Flex 5 has a 10-hour battery life, however identical to with most laptop computer battery life estimates, that’s wildly optimistic. In my standard workload of 5-10 Chrome tabs and some Android purposes, I normally reached 0% after about six hours of use. Battery life is extremely depending on the way you’re utilizing the Chromebook, so that you may get totally different outcomes.

Software program

The Chrome OS expertise not often differs from mannequin to mannequin, so when you’ve used any Chromebook up to now few years, you may really feel proper at house on the Flex 5. You get the total desktop Chrome browser, the Google Play Retailer for putting in Android apps (even when they do not work effectively on Chrome OS), and Linux software help.

There’s additionally GPU acceleration for Linux apps, however as I highlighted in my evaluation of the Asus Chromebook Flip C436, that is nonetheless not sufficient to play most Linux-compatible video games. Productiveness purposes like LibreOffice and GIMP run advantageous, although.

That is additionally among the many first Chromebooks to obtain eight years of software program updates, so its help will not run out till June 2028. I nonetheless do not like that Chrome OS ties software program help on to the {hardware} platform, however with solely 4GB RAM, the Flex 5 is not enormously future-proof to start with.

Must you purchase it?

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook (Core i3)

7.5/10

Possibly. If the IdeaPad Flex 5 was obtainable in a configuration with the Core i3 CPU and 8GB RAM, I’d don’t have any hesitation recommending it because the 13-inch Chromebook most individuals should purchase. The Flex 5 is constructed very effectively, and even the most costly Core i3 mannequin is half the value of the Asus Chromebook Flip C436 and $240 under the bottom mannequin Pixelbook Go.

Nevertheless, 4GB RAM is clearly the efficiency bottleneck (at the very least on the Core i3 mannequin), and it turns into apparent when you open greater than a handful of tabs. It is a disgrace that Lenovo handicapped the Flex 5 by not offering sufficient reminiscence for Chrome OS expertise, although in equity, there do not look like any Chromebooks with a comparable processor and 8GB RAM anyplace close to this worth vary. Lenovo’s personal Chromebook 14e prices $356 and has 8GB RAM, nevertheless it makes use of a low-power AMD A4 CPU.

The less-powerful fashions of the Flex 5 appear to be higher offers on paper, particularly the 32GB mannequin for $359.99. 4GB RAM remains to be going to be a sore level, however at the very least it will not be as a lot of a bottleneck on system efficiency, and it can save you some cash. Nevertheless, Lenovo did not ship me these fashions, so I can not say for certain if they’re price shopping for.

Purchase it if:

  • You desire a well-built Chromebook.
  • You may’t spend an additional $100 or $200 — if that’s the case, there are alternatives with extra RAM.

Do not buy it if:

  • You want a Chromebook that may deal with intensive productiveness work.
  • You are choosy about display screen high quality.

The place to purchase

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