While the majority of the Chrome OS world has its gaze set on Lenovo for the looming release of the Duet Chromebook tablet, Lenovo will soon launch another device that I feel could be the Cinderella of 2020. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook may be the poster-child for the next generation but even if Samsung and Intel can correct the issue of poor battery life, the flagship convertible still costs a thousand dollars. For the average consumer, that’s a tough pill to swallow for sure.
At CES 2020, Lenovo brought along the companies first iteration of a Comet Lake Chromebook and the Flex 5 stands poised and ready to be the affordable yet powerful alternative to devices like the Galaxy Chromebook and C436 Flip from ASUS. What makes this unassuming Chromebook so important? Value factor. Yes, the Galaxy and ASUS C436 (along with more devices headed our way) offer up the latest and greatest from the world of Chrome OS and bear the coveted Intel Project Athena badge but again, they carry a hefty price tag. Even the non-Athena version of the Flip C436 will run you $799. That’s not to say it isn’t a formidable Chromebook but $800 is a lot to bite of for many shoppers who just want a good Chromebook at a reasonable price.
That’s where the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 could step in and take the consumer market by storm. Lenovo’s 10th Gen Intel Chromebook won’t technically be available until sometime in June but some early listings gave us some insight on what the pricing structure will be for the Core i3 model which is the sweet spot for most Chrome OS devices. What the Flex 5 may be lacking in “extras” it makes up for in the areas that really matter. My brief hands-on with the Flex 5 revealed a device that feels and looks premium and isn’t clunky to handle. The screen is better than average and the mouse and keyboard inputs don’t feel cheap.
Since Lenovo didn’t go the Project Athena route with the Flex 5, they nixed any biometrics which is a bit disappointing but at the same time, a fingerprint sensor isn’t something you’d expect from a laptop in the $400 price range and that’s exactly where this Chromebook lands. The Core i3, 4GB/64GB model was listed at $409 on Amazon which is only $40 more than the entry-level Celeron version and you get all the goodness of that 10th Gen Comet Lake processor and many of the features you’d want in a near-flagship level Chromebook. The Flex 5’s touchscreen is USI compatible so you’ll be able to use whatever USI stylus you prefer.
We’ve tested the Core i3 ASUS Flip C436 and it has proven to be powerful enough for probably 99% of Chrome OS users. The only fault I would place on the Flex is that Lenovo device to go with 4GB of RAM on the Core i3 model that popped up on Amazon. I would hope that, when it launches, the Flex 5 will offer an 8GB Core i3 variant. The processor is a beast but premium Chromebooks deserve and need that extra 4GB of memory to perform at their best. Even if they don’t, the Core i5 model will offer 8GB of RAM and 128GB of PCIe SSD storage and I can’t fathom that model coming in over $650.
If Lenovo can keep it under $600, the Flex 5 will likely end up my top pick for best Chromebook value of 2020. That’s not taking into consideration the $279 Duet tablet but I’m talking flagship convertibles so I’m omitting the Duet. As popular as the HP Chromebook X360 has become thanks to frequent sub-$400 sales, I feel the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 could dominate this space and other OEMs should take notice. Hopefully, the Flex 5 will hit markets as soon as June rolls around and I can see if my initial impressions remain in place when we review it. Stay tuned.