As I’m nearing the end of my review process with the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook, I honestly don’t care if I spoil it just a little bit. As I alluded to yesterday when I declared this Chromebook a disruption to the Chromebook status quo, the Flex 5 is quite excellent at many things and I think as availability expands and more versions hit the market, we are going to see better Chromebooks coming down in price and lower-priced Chromebooks getting better in quality. I’ll hold the rest of my thoughts for the full review coming soon, but today it seems that the broader offerings of the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook may be just around the corner.
Two new listings for the Celeron versions of the Flex 5 have shown up on the Best Buy website with the prices adjusted accordingly. The most entry-level option is the Flex 5 with a Celeron 5205U, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage for $359. The other model keeps things the same and bumps up the internal storage to 64GB and the price to $379. Of course, the Core i3 model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage that we’re testing comes in at $409. At the moment, we know a Core i5 version exists with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal NVMe storage, but we’ve not seen it actually up for sale just yet. And, technically, these Celeron versions aren’t up for sale just yet either as both show up on the Best Buy website as ‘sold out.’
From what we can tell, the only downgrade in the Celeron versions (apart from the processor) is the loss of keyboard backlighting. Users who choose these models will still get the same build, great keyboard, mylar trackpad, 300 nit IPS screen, upward-firing speakers, Bluetooth 5 and WiFi 6 inside. It’s a stellar package for under $400 to be sure, but just as I submitted yesterday that the $409 Core i3-powered Flex 5 would disrupt the Chrome OS world, I think Lenovo may have gone and disrupted itself in the process.
With the pricing so low on this well-rounded Chromebook, it becomes an odd choice for many to save very little money to make some rather large compromises. First up, I wouldn’t tell anyone to buy a Chromebook with only 32GB of storage these days. Sure, there are insane deals here and there and when you can get a Chromebook for less than $200, 32GB of storage is fine. But when you aren’t chasing a crazy deal, there’s almost no reason to skip the upgraded storage. In the case of these new Flex 5 listings, we’re only talking $20 to double that storage, so I’d firmly recommend going that route.
That being said, now we’re talking $379 for a device that will be slower and less-equipped than the version that only costs $30 more. Upgrading to the Core i3 is a big step up in performance and having a backlit keyboard comes in more handy than you may realize. Even comparing the cheapest model to the Core i3 version, you’re only saving $50. Over the course of the 8 years you may own this Chromebook, you’ll wish many times over that you just found that extra $50 at the time of purchase. Trust me.
We usually see upgrades in storage and processors tip the scales at $100+, so the decision to accept trade-offs in those scenarios makes more sense. With only $50 of separation, however, I think most users should just go and buy the $409 version over at Amazon or wherever it ends up becoming available in the future. The price gap is too low and the performance gap too high not to recommend that you hold off on a few coffees and dinners at your favorite restaurant in order to scrape up the extra $50 to get the machine I think you’ll be far happier with over time.
Again, I come back to disruption. This is what Lenovo has created for others and, as it turns out, for itself. I’d be surprised if these Celeron models don’t dip in price almost immediately upon their full availability. If the entry-level version could be had for less than $300, I suppose we’d be in for a much different conversation. As it stands these days, however, MSRP is where things tend to stay, so we can only guess at when we’ll start seeing big discounts again. While we’re in this reality, then, I’d highly recommend giving the Core i3 Flex 5 a very hard look.