Just as we did with the newly-announced Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3, we’ve gone hands-on with the brand new Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook that has been announced at MWC 2022. If you’ve been around the Chromebook scene for any amount of time, you are likely familiar with the Flex 5 and its importance in the larger Chromebook narrative. This year’s iteration is a bit of a departure for Lenovo, and I’d argue the changes are all for the better. Let’s take a look at what sets this year’s Flex 5 apart from its predecessors.
Back in 2020 when Lenovo debuted the first Flex 5 Chromebook, we knew it would be special. With its $409 MSRP and most of the high-end specs you look for in more-expensive devices, the Flex 5 came out of the gate swinging and never looked back. It quickly became a default suggestion to those looking for the best mid-range Chromebook available and I still have family members that are 100% satisfied with their 2020 Flex 5 Chromebook.
Though last year’s model did little to change a working formula, it still came in cheaper than most and provided a far better experience than what you’d expect for the money. For 2022, we expected more of the same with a simple update to the processor and small tweaks to keep the ball rolling. What we have is something quite a bit different.
First and probably most notable is the change to the screen. The size is bigger at 14-inches, but the aspect ratio is a much more productive 16:10, too. The combo of that size and aspect ratio makes this feel far more like a 15.6-inch Chromebook in my opinion. The screen brightness gets a much-needed upgrade, too, as the previous two Flex 5 Chromebooks topped out at 250 nits. The base model gets a 300 nit screen with an optional upgrade to 400 nits this time around, and you can absolutely tell the difference.
The extra screen real estate makes more room for the upward-facing speakers, a much larger trackpad and a fingerprint scanner. I’ve said it a ton of times, but a fingerprint scanner is such a nice addition to the Chromebook experience. Sure, you can get by with entering your PIN on the backlit keyboard, but the quick log in via your fingerprint is just so much nicer.
Like previous years, the Flex 5i gets the latest internals and comes equipped with 12th-gen Intel silicon (Pentium 8505, Core i3 or Core i5), 4GB or 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage. That means Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 6E are both on board and Lenovo also chose to bump up the camera to 1080p, too. It all adds up to a formidable Chromebook for sure, and at the starting price of $499, we could be once again looking at the best bang-for-your-buck Chromebook you can buy when it arrives in June of 2022.
As was the case with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3, this is a pre-production unit we have in the office, so we’ll have to send it back soon and wait on a proper review unit in the coming weeks. What I can tell you so far is this is the best Flex 5 Chromebook we’ve seen and if that $499 isn’t relegated to a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, it will be a hit. The Pentium 8505 will be very fast, so as long as $499 gets you 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the added screen size and fingerprint scanner will make this one sweet deal for sure.