- Clean design
- 300+ nits 16:10 screen
- Solid speakers
- Fast internals
- Chromebook Plus features
- Bottom is flimsy
- Keyboard is a bit loose
- Plastic trackpad
- No HDMI port
The promise of Chromebook Plus is simple: make devices that have the hardware to deliver a great all-around ChromeOS experience at a price that doesn’t hurt too bad. So far, every Chromebook Plus model I’ve used for any amount of time has delivered on this promise, so it should come as no surprise when I tell you that the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is a fantastic, imperfect, very enjoyable Chromebook experience.
Early on, just before Chromebook Plus was unveiled, I was under the impression that the Slim 3i Chromebook from Lenovo wasn’t just a soon-to-be Chromebook Plus model itself, but also an example of what Chromebook Plus would mean from a build quality standpoint. That device’s ultra-rigid frame is so impressive feeling and I really thought that was going to be a marker of Chromebook Plus quality.
Unfortunately, the Slim 3i is a bit of a unicorn in that regard, and overall build quality on Chromebook Plus devices is – well – fine. For the most part with these devices, it’s not bad, but it’s not standout, either, and that definitely applies to the Flex 5i as well. Like many other Chromebooks, the all-aluminum and glass lid feels great, making the all-plastic keyboard deck feel just average by comparison. There’s only moderate flex in the bottom half of the chassis and all the seams come together very nicely, so overall I’d say the build quality is good. Not great. Not exceptional, but also not a deal breaker, either.
But a big upgrade Lenovo included in this version of the Flex 5i is in the display department. Versus the older models, this new 16:10 14-inch 1080p screen looks great, is bright at over 300 nits, and with reasonable bezels all around, becomes one of the real highlights of the Flex 5i. I always want to see 400 nits to really fawn over a screen, but this one is very good and an important step up from the older, 250-nit 16:9 screens Lenovo used to use on the Flex 5 series.
Above the screen, you get the Chromebook Plus-certified 1080p webcam with temporal noise reduction. With the additional camera tricks provided by Chromebook Plus like background blur and enhanced lighting correction, you can get decent images and video from this camera. Like most Chromebooks, it’s a small sensor, so don’t expect cinema-quality, here. But it does look good with decent lighting.
Keyboard, trackpad and speakers
And though the keyboard deck isn’t as rigid as I’d prefer, the typing experience is still very good and the spacious, smooth trackpad performs just as you’d expect. If I’m picking nits a little, I’d like the keys to be a bit firmer. There’s a bit of wobble to them that makes the keyboard feel a little loose, but I’ve still been fast and accurate on this keyframe and as always, the backlighting is great to have, too.
Flanking the keyboard is a set of upward-facing speakers that are quite good. The speakers in devices like the HP x360 14c outclass them a bit, but the sound from these speakers is full and loud: good enough for some YouTube content or light gaming here and there.
Ports and Internals
Around the sides of the device, we also get a very solid port selection, including 2 USB Type C, USB Type A, headphone/mic jack, microSD card slot, and a Kensington lock. If I’m griping a bit, I’d love to see a full-sized HDMI port on here so a dongle wouldn’t be necessary on the desk, but a USB Type C on each side and a good docking station takes care of that.
We almost don’t have to talk about the internals, do we? With Chromebook Plus, you know it’s fast, but I’ll go over them anyway. The Flex 5i has the Intel Core i3-1315U, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, and that means things are very fast and very efficient. At no point in any of my work did I ever run into performance issues on this device, and I’d imagine you won’t either. From general Chromebook stuff to cloud gaming, this Chromebook not surprisingly handled it all with ease. And it can do all that while maintaining an 8-10 hour battery life. There’s just nothing to complain about, here.
Chromebook Plus delivers
And I think that’s the takeaway. Yes, some Chromebook Plus models are better than others, and this one is one of the best I think. But all of them are great at the main Chromebook stuff, and that’s where Google has done something quite good with this entire Chromebook Plus thing. We still have other models to review, but I feel like I’ll be saying a lot of the same stuff, and that’s a good thing. Now, you just have to decide what size or form factor you want, and you can know if it is Chromebook Plus, it’s probably pretty good.