Early in 2020 – at CES, actually – Lenovo took the wraps off of a new Chromebook that became a general mainstay for the past 18 months in the Chrome OS ecosystem. The Chromebook Flex 5 was awesome not just for what it offered, but for the price is commanded, too. At an MSRP of $409, the Flex 5 packed in a solid IPS screen, backlit keyboard, a 10th-gen Core i3 processor, upward-firing speakers, USI pen support, a handsome build quality and aesthetic, and a convertible form factor. With sales pushing it below $400 regularly, it was an easy-to-recommend Chromebook that we had no problem pointing people towards with great regularity.
So, why re-hash all of this? Well, precisely because the new Flex 5i is so similar to the Flex 5 that most of the superlatives remain, the upgrades are notable, and the entire package feels familiar, refined, and upgraded in all the right ways so far. To put it plainly, if you did any research on or owned the original Flex 5, you can feel certain that you know quite a bit about how this Chromebooks looks, feels and generally performs. But there are a few key differences I’ve noticed so far that only make this Chromebook better than its predecessor.
First up, the color is new. It is a similar, dark blue like we see on other Lenovo products and I love the look; even if I don’t love the fingerprints that come with it. The size and shape remains, but the build quality feels a tad bit more refined this time. The top is still aluminum and the bottom half is still all plastic, but when it is closed up the laptop feels premium to the touch.
Crack it open and the similarities continue with what feels like the same display panel that is still 13.3-inches, still 16:9, still FHD, and still nice to look at. Though it is only 250 nits, the colors are great, viewing angles are solid, and I think it will work in most situations. USI pen is included as expected, too, so marking up images or jotting notes can be done here just like on any other pen-equipped Chromebook.
The trackpad is the same size as it was last time around, still mylar (not glass) and still firm, clicky, and satisfying to use. The lower, all-plastic chassis is firm for a non-aluminum housing and the soft-touch texture feels nice under the palms. Though the keyboard looks the same and still has a backlight, the keys feel firmer and less clacky than the original, and that is an upgrade for sure. I haven’t had long typing sessions on it just yet, but my limited time with it has me thinking that it will be an enjoyable typing experience for sure.
Inside, the model we’re testing comes with an 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake i3, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of NVMe storage. Those specs have been fantastic in the ASUS CX5, and I have no doubt they’ll deliver here as well. As a matter of fact, this Core i3 processor is so fast that apart from wanting the better GPU, there’s simply no reason to want the Core i5 or i7 in a Chromebook right now. This thing is clearly fast and will stay that way for a long time.
We have a lot of Chromebook hardware in the office right now and more on the way, but I’ll be putting this one through the paces soon and I fully expect to be very happy with it. The original Flex 5 was great, and there’s nothing but improvements in this version. Though the starting price for this model is $549, I could see it going down a bit over time and Lenovo has also prepped a Pentium 7505 version of this device that, at the time of this unboxing, is discounted to a ridiculous $269. Though the Pentiium 7505 is plenty powerful, that model is saddled with a measly 32GB of internal storage and only 4GB of RAM, so know what you are getting into before jumping on that deal.
With either of these versions, it already looks like Lenovo has shipped a winner in this Flex 5i Chromebook. It’s solidly built, has most of the bells and whistles you look for in a good Chromebook, and the price is right for what you get. I’d imagine we’ll see some deals on the Core i3 model in the coming weeks as the holiday seasons draws nearer, and that should be just in time for our full review. Get subscribed below so you don’t miss it!