I don’t do this very often, but I’m so happy with this little Chromebook that I feel like I can’t wait until the full review is ready to share a bit about it. We have a few other videos in the queue ahead of the Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Flex 3i, so that more-formal review won’t come until later. For now, however, I want to share a bit of my early experience of using this affordable Chromebook at the house on a regular basis and why it is impressing me so much.
First off, let’s clear up availability. Lenovo says this device should become available this month (May 2023), so I’d fully expect to see it land at Best Buy in the very near future. Additionally, pricing is supposed to stay around $349, and I’d expect the configuration I’ve been using (Intel N100, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of strorage) will cost exactly that.
And that is great news! For this price, I’m a bit astounded by how solid this Chromebook is. Sometimes we get review units that are higher-spec than the ones actually available at retailers, and it makes it tough to get a good feel for what the lower-spec machines will be like to use. For this one, my impressions are for the entry-level model, and those impressions are very good.
The screen is a winner
I’m going to stick to three main qualities of this Chromebook to focus on today that make it punch above its weight class; and the first up is the screen. At 12.2-inches, this 16:10 1920×1200 IPS display hits a peak brightness of 300 nits, and it makes a huge difference when you compare this Chromebook to other affordable devices.
Having a display that doesn’t crumble in more difficult lighting situations and looks fantastic in most normal rooms is such a pleasure on a $349 Chromebook. I can’t begin to count the number of less-expensive Chromebooks over the years that fail miserably in this category, so seeing Lenovo pay attention and not skimp in this area is a breath of fresh air.
The performance is extremely solid
But a great display can easily be undone by a lagging processor. Thankfully, these new small-core processors from Intel in the Alder Lake family (N100 and N200) are the real deal, and they are delivering surprising usability and rock-solid battery life, too.
I’ve been using this Chrombook at home in the evenings and over the weekends and there’s not been a single situation where my standard workflow is compromised by the processor. The 4GB of RAM in our review unit causes small bottleneck issues from time to time, but the processor never really feels taxed. With Octane scores of 40,000+, I’m not surprised; but I sure am happy about it.
The chassis is firm and reassuring
Finally, most cheap Chromebooks fall apart when we get to the chassis. Obviously, when it comes time to cut corners, all-aluminum unibuild bodies are first on the chopping block. This usually leaves us with all-plastic Chromebooks that feel as if they could bend and break under their own weight. OK, maybe that’s a tad bit hyperbolic, but you know the feeling of picking up a cheaply-built laptop and feeling the entire keyboard surround bow like a piece of rubber. It’s unsettling.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and the Lenovo IdeaPad Chrombook Flex 3i proves it. While not on the level of the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook (obviously), this little plastic laptop feels confident and firm, and there are no real concerns around bending and creaking when I’m using it. I’m not completely sure how Lenovo achieved this, but it is a characteristic other manufacturers need to replicate.
More coming soon
Combining the screen, the performance, and the build quality on this one, you can see why I’m elated to see a Chromebook ready to hit the market at $349 that gets so much right. I’ve talked before about the shift we’re getting ready to likely see in the lower end of the Chromebook market, and after using what I feel like is the flagship device for this movement for a bit, I’ve only confirmed my suspicions. Affordable Chromebooks are getting good.
I need a bit of time to replace the other devices I’m reviewing at the desk and really push this little guy, but I’m already confident it will do the job well. And if Lenovo offers the upgraded version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for around $50 more, we’ll be looking at one of the easiest Chromebooks to recommend of all time. I’m looking forward to sharing more soon!