Lenovo doesn’t make many mistakes here. A few things could be better, but not much as only weak speaker volume and mediocre battery life keep it from full marks. This is simply an excellent Chromebook that doesn’t skimp on quality or features.
Price When Reviewed
Best Prices Today: Lenovo Chromebook Plus IdeaPad Flex 5
I really like Google’s new Chromebook Plus concept introduced this spring. Intel Core-class performance, good screens, good webcam, fast connectivity and some other things to tick off, which means that a Chromebook Plus can compete with an affordable mid-range laptop, and then also get a bunch of features, mainly AI for image and sound management.
The Chromebook Pluses I’ve tested so far have all met the minimum requirements, but Lenovo raises the bar with its Chromebook Plus IdeaPad Flex 5.
Design & Build
This is a sturdy little computer in a 14-inch format, with a higher weight than many others of the same size. This is partly due to a sturdy chassis with a brushed metal exterior that gives a high quality feel, and partly due to the 360 degree flip design of the screen and the touchscreen with glossy glass in front. That always adds a few grams to a laptop.
Thin screen edges make it smaller in width and height than many other 14-inch Chromebooks. However, it is undeniably a bit thicker. Not that I mind much, I’d rather take an extra millimeter as long as the chassis is easy to grip. And it is, with rounded edges and cool, smooth metal surfaces everywhere.
The screen is a sleek IPS panel with 1080p resolution. At 14-inches, that makes it not quite pixel-free, but almost. And sharp enough for comfortable viewing of web pages, documents and images. It handles different viewing angles perfectly, except for the fact that glossy surfaces always have clear reflections at sharp angles.
The screen isn’t particularly bright, landing at just under 300 nits, where the best flip screen Chromebooks I’ve tested are close to 400. That’s good enough indoors, but can be a problem if you want to work in the daytime outdoors.
Despite that and also moderate colour gamut, a bit below the full sRGB palette, the movies I stream to the computer generally look good. There’s a crisp sharpness to the image, thanks largely to good blacks and contrast.
At least good for an IPS screen. However, it may be a good idea to sit in a room with controlled light and closed curtains, to get a good immersion and avoid screen reflections. There is minimal risk of buffering, as you get Wi-Fi 6 support and good reception on both frequency bands.
Keyboard, Trackpad, Speakers & Webcam
The sound from the built-in speakers is also of good quality. The maximum volume is fairly low, barely enough to fill a room, but the sound is detailed and well-balanced, from treble to clear bass tones. If you want more, you can connect analogue headphones, USB audio via one USB-A, two USB-C or of course Bluetooth. On the side of the Flex 5 you’ll also find a slot for a microSD port. Just in case the generous storage isn’t enough.
Lenovo offers a well-built keyboard with backlit keys that light up automatically when you put your hands over them. The key travel is on the low side, but there’s good feedback in the keys and a high quality feel. The mouse pad has a bit more of a budget feel, but provides decent control.
You also have touch control on the screen, and you also get a well-built stylus in solid aluminium. You can use it to navigate the screen, scribble notes and draw in drawing apps. The pen has some pressure sensitivity and good precision, but it tends to have too much friction with the screen surface, so it feels almost rough. Response is also noticeably sluggish.
The webcam looks good with pleasant light and little noise, but it lacks detail so the joy of having a 1080p camera is lost. On the other hand, the microphone is excellent. It captures my voice with a pleasant tone and lots of detail, and almost no background noise. I feel no need to turn on the built-in microphone noise reduction in Chrome OS.
Finally, the Chromebook Plus IdeaPad Flex 5 has a fast and flawless in-built fingerprint scanner on one side in front of the keyboard.
Specs & Performance
You get the same processor as in Asus’s and Acer’s Chromebook Plus, the Intel Core i3-1215U with six cores and stable office performance. And even here there is 8GB ram memory. Actually, on paper it’s a bit worse as it’s of the DDR4 type instead of DDR5, but it doesn’t seem to affect the performance very much.
More memory is a boost in most situations, even if the speed is lower. You also get both more and faster storage, 256GB instead of 128GB, and it’s said to be real M.2 SSD instead of UFS-based flash memory.
A 64GB and a 128GB model are said to have eMMC storage, so go for the larger one I’ve tested here if you can. It’s worth it. It’s not hugely faster, but the difference in loading a larger installed game from the Google Play store, for example, is still noticeable. And with the Core processor’s acceptably fast graphics, it might be interesting to be able to do that.
In the UK, you can also get a Core i5 model with a 512GB SSD.
The battery life doesn’t offer any surprises, but seven hours of video streaming at full brightness and 10 hours of browsing at medium brightness is more or less what I expected. Maybe less, but then we have to take into account that touch layers in a screen always draw battery power and it becomes more noticeable in an otherwise power-efficient computer like this one. If I dim the lights completely and only make simple offline notes, the battery lasts all day.
The low-power technology of these computers is also cool, and the computer rarely needs active cooling. When it does start up after continuous processor pressure, the mechanics may whine a bit, but it’s never very loud. Even the weak speakers can drown it out so it’s not noticeable.
Check out our round-up of the best Chromebooks for more options.
Should you buy the Lenovo Chromebook Plus IdeaPad Flex 5?
In 2021, I named that year’s edition of the Idepad Flex 5 the best Chromebook of the year. And now its once again holding that title at the end of 2023. It’s not 100% flawless, but not laptop is for this price.
In short, this is a well-built, modern and complete Chromebook that delivers a lot of functionality for the money. With the right hardware, it lets you take advantage of all the possibilities of the platform in an excellent way.
Processor: Intel Core i3-1215U, 2pcs P-core 1.2-4.4 GHz + 4pcs E-core 0.9 GHz Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 64 EU Memory: 8 GB DDR4 Storage: 256 GB m.2 ssd, space for micro-sd Display: 14 inch glossy ips, 1920×1200 pixels, multitouch Webcam: 1080p Connections: 2 pcs usb 3 gen 2 type c with displayport, usb 3 gen 1 type a, headset Wireless: Wifi 6, bluetooth 4.2 Operating system: Chrome OS Other: 360-degree screen, stylus, fingerprint reader Noise level: 0-36 dBa Battery life: 7h 30 min online video (max brightness), approx 10h mixed use (low brightness) Size: 31.55 x 22.9 x 1.98cm Weight: 1,58kg Warranty: 2 years
Speedometer, web performance: 286.6 points Geekbench6, cpu single core: 1,795 points Geekbench 6, cpu all cores: 4,903 points Geekbench 6, gpu compute: 7,666 points GFX Bench Manhattan 1080p: 84 fps Disk, read: 1,608 MB/s Disk, write: 516 MB/s