It’s been a full 5 months since I had any time to spend with the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook in Las Vegas at CES 2020, and in that time, I’d honestly almost completely forgotten what this Chromebook felt like in the flesh. I wrote a piece last week about my realization that I under-valued the Flex 5 in many ways since our time together at CES and that I’ve since changed my tune a bit. Today, I get to begin the journey of rediscovery with the Flex 5 Chromebook and reassess the true value of this device in the context of 2020’s offerings.
What you’ll notice first and foremost with this Chromebook is the decidedly understated nature of it. With this one, we’re back to a plain, brown box with nothing inside except the device, a charger, and packing materials. Getting it out of the box doesn’t make you think ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘futuristic’. It isn’t the thinnest, lightest or sleekest Chromebook around. It looks good and is reasonably attractive, but it really isn’t trying for anything more. The lid and base are a dark gray aluminum and the overall weight of the device is a reasonable 2.97 pounds and the thickness comes in at a standard-looking 17mm.
Opening it up, you are met with a good-looking screen that is better than many devices out there while not trying to tout itself as the best-in-class. It gets reasonably bright at 300 nits and viewing angles look good, too. Bezels are under control: not the thinnest available but also not ridiculously chunky, either. The keyboard keys feel fantastic and have backlighting while the trackpad is well-sized, not glass, and has a solid click mechanism.
With the two upward firing speakers that get loud but are pretty thin in sound quality, you also get a USB Type-C port on either side, a USB Type-A port, microSD card slot, headphone/mic jack, and a Kensington lock. The device transforms into all the modes a convertible should and feels too thick/heavy to be taken seriously as a tablet. Having those modes are great for certain situations, though, and I’m sure during my review time I’ll leverage the display or tent modes often. The hinges are sturdy and solid feeling, too.
Inside, our review unit comes equipped with the 10th-gen Intel Core i3 U-series processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. Yes there are fans and fan ports along with them, but on a utilitarian type device like this, the fans and their necessary ports don’t really bother me at all. Along for the ride are also Bluetooth 5 and WiFi 6, so connections should be far better here that on on older Chromebooks. Finally, there’s a little slider over the web cam for true, analog privacy control and it just feels like a nice touch.
Overall, as I get this Chromebook under my palms again, I’m left feeling much like I do about the Chromebook Duet: this device has no business being this affordable. This version is $409 right now on Amazon, and that means some really significant things for the Chrome OS world. In a market where Chromebooks with slower processors and below-average screens/build quality are routinely hitting $400+ when all their features are included, the Flex 5 comes in trampling the existing competition with its power and sturdy build quality at this price. The solid-performing Celeron version will only be about $50 cheaper, so there’s little reason to get that one, but it does bring the pricing down to an even more ludicrous $359. And this is all before we see sales on this one. It could go really low!
I’ll hold any further thoughts about this Chromebook for my full review, but I can already tell you that my earlier predictions about how important this Chromebook will be in 2020 are already being confirmed as I type this post on it. This thing is solid, nice to use, and the price changes what other manufacturers can charge for their lower end devices. This is going to be a fun review for sure.