Lenovo Flex 14 2-in-1 Review

Lenovo Flex 14 2-in-1 Review

Lenovo Flex 14 2-in-1 Review

 

Lenovo has been crafting some of the lightest business laptops around. In its executive range, the company has the light – ThinkPad T480 (3.6 pounds), lighter – Lenovo ThinkPad T480s (3 pounds), and lightest – ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2.4 pounds). The Lenovo Flex 14 (81SS0005US) continues the company’s tradition and efforts at moving beyond light laptops into the convertibles space.

We review the newest configuration that Lenovo is selling, equipped with an AMD Ryzen R5-3500U, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB sold-state drive (SSD), and a 14-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 or 157 PPI) display. For the price, the Flex 14 2-in-1 is solidly in the midrange laptop territory. The Lenovo Flex 14 AMD version has a focus on portability, and that carries over to its 2-in-1 convertible.

 

 

Summary of Key Specifications:

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700U Processor 2.20GHz (up to 3.80GHz with Max Boost, 4MB)
  • GPU: Integrated AMD Graphics
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4 2400 MHz
  • Storage: 256 GB M.2 SSD
  • Display: 14″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS Glossy Multi-touch
  • Dimensions: 12.9″ x 9.01″ x .69″ / 328 x 229 x 17.6 (mm)
  • Weight: 1.67 kg
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Webcam: 720p HD with dual array microphone
  • Wifi: 802.11 AC (2 x 2)
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 4.1
  • Audio: Harman speakers with Dolby Audio Premium
  • Battery: 65W
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.0** Type-C, 2 x USB 3.0** (one always on), HDMI, 4-in-1 card reader

 

Build and Design:

Overall Score: 8/10

 

Once you get hold of the Lenovo Flex 14, the first ting you notice is how light it is. Not surprising, though. That’s what we expected. At 3.5 pounds, this 2-in-1 isn’t as flashy as the company’s clamshell laptops like the Carbon X1 that’s just 2.4 pounds with a 14-inch display.

It’s nevertheless noticeably heavier than the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 (3.3 pounds) and the LG Gram (2.5 pounds). That matters most for a 2-in-1 that’s to be carried on daily commute – you’re more likely to use the Gram 14 than any other convertible around.

Unlike some of Lenovo’s more expensive products, which come in colors such as Clementine Orange and Silver Gray, the budget Flex 14 can only be had in black. This model has simple gray plastic, which only makes for an underwhelming first impression. That doesn’t make it unattractive, but there is nothing to visually distinguish this laptop from Lenovo’s other models, never mind competitors. Last year, we did a Lenovo Flex 6 14 review, little did we know an upgraded version would drop early in the year with an even better build.

Being a 2-in-1 convertible system, it boasts a pair of 300-degree hinges, allowing you to use the laptop in clamshell mode, tablet mode, or tent mode in between. The pair of hinges feel reassuringly sturdy, and does a good job holding the display in place with minimum wobble.

 

Features:

Overall Score: 7.5/10

Featuring polished aluminum surfaces and a 360° hinge that effortlessly transitions from tablet to laptop mode and back, the Lenovo Flex 14 is as stylish as it is adaptable. Flex 14 also sports an ultra-thin bezel on three sides of its high definition display. This bezel creates a theatre-like viewing experience when streaming video or movies.

The optional Lenovo Active Pen features pinpoint accuracy and palm-rejection technology, providing the natural feel of a pen-on-paper writing experience. Use it with Windows Ink, found on the Flex 14 taskbar, to turn thoughts into action. Draw on a map and get turn-by-turn instructions, employ some smart editing, get creative with extra detail, and more.

With up to 2 x 2 AC WiFi you’ll stay connected to the internet even further away from the router.  You’ll enjoy faster downloads and streaming movies with reduced choppiness or buffering. The Lenovo Flex 14 packs a lot of features for a convertible and offers a lot of value for its cost. Starting at $559.99 at Amazon, it’s one of the most cost-effective options in the market right now. The 14-inch version should be enough if you’re looking at the cost, and it’s frankly the better option compared to the 15-inch one. The Lenovo Flex 14 has all the bells and whistles of a 2-in-1 hybrid laptop, and it’s the perfect choice for those who want to work seamlessly on the go.

 

Keyboard and Trackpad:

Overall Score: 7.5/10

 

The Lenovo Flex’s backlit keyboard feels comfortable, with slight concave keys with tactile bump about half way of each keystroke. It doesn’t include a number pad, but remains reasonably roomy, with very little signs of bending in the middle.

Beneath the keyboard’s bottom-right corner sits a fingerprint reader, which you can use to unlock your Windows profile and open Windows Hello supported apps with a single touch.

A midsize trackpad lets you interact with the Flex, giving a smooth and responsive experience. It delivers accurate swipes, but requires a fair amount of pressure before it can click. To that, there’s a 720p webcam on the screen’s top bezel, which is a little grainy and nosy, but as usual manages to capture relatively clear and sharp video, pretty perfect for Skype chatting.

 

Display:

Overall Score: 8/10

 

Settle in for a movie—with up to a full high definition wide-angle display, you’ll see every frame in crisp detail.  The Flex 14 is edged with narrow bezels and features up to 250 nits brightness. Your sound will pop, too, with the virtual surround sound experience of Harmon Speakers optimized with Dolby® Audio™ Premium.

On the Flex 81SS0005US, you get a Full HD display that looks sharp and vivid, but loses its glitter when stacked up against more expensive, brighter screen. Its 224 nits are slightly below the class-standard of 250-nits for comfortable indoor viewing. Still, the screen is very usable in an office setting, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself squinting the screen when using the convertible outdoors.

On the plus side, viewing angles on the Lenovo Flex’s IPS-technology display are quite good. Although the screen dims when viewed from extreme angles, it doesn’t show signs of inverse colors, as you’ll see on cheaper displays.

The Flex’s touch display responds well to taps and swipes, and it also boasts pen support. There’s an included Lenovo Active pen, that comes complete with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. You can also snag a plastic USB pen holder for your Lenovo Flex 14 pen, something most business executives need.

 

Performance:

Overall Score: 8/10

 

The Flex 14 is packed with speed and power to boost your productivity and creativity. The latest generation of AMD Ryzen processing provides great touchscreen and pen responsiveness, fast bootups, and seamless multitasking. Get your work done, then take a break, watch a movie, play a game, and relax.

AMD’s Ryzen R5 processors are very good performers with a remarkable balance between efficiency and pure speed. Our review unit comes with the AMD Ryzen R5-3500U with four Zen+ cores (8 threads) clocked at between 2.2 – 3.8 GHz, a Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics card, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive.

This Picasso SoC uses the Zen+ microarchitecture that promises an increase of up to 3 percent over its predecessor. Furthermore, the 12nm process focuses on higher clock rates while maintaining power consumption at the very minimal.

The processor used here is AMD’s latest release for budget notebooks. So far, it makes short work of the usual productivity tasks and can even tackle some demanding tasks like video editing. For the business executive who needs to take notes on the go or edit a few spreadsheets on the flip, the Lenovo Flex has the muscle to handle that and some more.

Compared: The The Lenovo Flex 6-14IKB boasts a 1.8GHz Intel Core  i7-8550U processor that delivers better performance, but costs almost double the Flex 14. Again, the  Lenovo Flex 6 14 i7 also gets a better chip, but for those on a budget, the AMD chip used on our review unit keeps the price affordable, but is well tuned for daily productivity.

Where the Flex doesn’t excel more is in graphics. It uses a Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics card that limits you to casual gaming. If your needs include some casual gaming, you’ll want to consider a 2-in-1 like the Asus ZenBook 14 that sports a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, that can handle a few demanding games.

 

Security:

Overall Score: 7/10

The Lenovo Flex 14 comes equipped with Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11 Wi-Fi, which just means you could connect to most devices out there. It also has one USB-C port and two USB-A ports, an SD Card reader slot, an HDMI port, and an AUX jack that functions for both headphones and microphones at the same time. Sadly, the laptop doesn’t have an ethernet port for the rare occasions that you find yourself holed up in one place, but it’s hardly a feature you’d be looking for in a convertible.

In terms of security, the Flex 14 has a fingerprint sensor and a webcam privacy scanner, offering extra protection for you and other people who use your device. The Flex 5 continues Lenovo’s tradition of including minimal software, which is mostly useful. It includes the Companion app for keeping your system updated and running diagnostics, as well as the settings app with options for the webcam and networking.

 

Durability:

Overall Score: 7/10

Windows 10 Home test unit had a 1.6GHz (3.9GHz turbo) Core i5-8265U processor, 16GB of memory, a 256GB Samsung NVMe solid-state drive, Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics, and a 1,920-by-1,080-pixel IPS touch screen. At this writing, slight variants were being sold from other e-tailers and retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy. Lenovo backs this configuration with a one-year return-to-depot warranty.

The $449.99 (Pentium Gold) and $539.99 (Core i3) models at Lenovo.com have much weaker configurations, with 4GB of RAM, 128GB solid-state drives, lowly 1,366-by-768-pixel displays, and installations of Windows 10 Home in S mode, which only lets you install apps from the Windows Store. At a pricing midpoint between these and our Intel Core tester, Lenovo also offers variants based on AMD’s Ryzen Mobile processors.

If you’re the kind of user who needs a flexible and versatile laptop for work and gaming, but also needs a tablet for certain features, then you’re definitely on the market for hybrid laptops. The Lenovo Flex, which comes in 14-inch and 15-inch models, fits right into this category. How does the Lenovo Flex 14 measure up against the competition? Read this review to find out if this convertible is the one for you.

 

Webcam:

Overall Score: 7/10

The 720p HD webcam on the Flex 14 is color accurate and quite detailed. My bright red shirt appeared on screen as it does in real life, and I could even make out some individual hairs. The lights behind me were a bit blown out, though, creating distracting lines around my headphones.

 

Audio:

Overall Score: 7/10

The Flex’s speakers are a mixed bag. The laptop was just loud enough to fill the room with sound and get my toes tapping during Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun,” and the vocals were very clear. The guitars and drums were easy to make out but didn’t have the same level of prominence. The bass, however, was nowhere to be found.

The Dolby Audio app offers presets for different media, like movies, music and games. I found the default (music) to be the most balanced. The speakers are a high point. While the lack of bass is noticeable, mids and highs remain crisp and clear at all volume levels. Sound is balanced throughout, and there is no chassis rattle or distortion at any volume. They certainly won’t win any audio awards, but the Flex 14’s speakers are capable of producing an enjoyable media experience.

Graphics:

Overall Score: 7.5/10

 

The 940MX GPU isn’t the most powerful graphics card, and you won’t be playing games like Rise of the Tomb Raider or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds with it, but you might get some faster performance in Photoshop.

Intel’s UHD Graphics 620 integrated GPU needs no introduction. As the default GPU on hundreds of systems, we know what to expect from the integrated solution. The Flex 14 is in line with similar laptops lacking a dedicated GPU. The UHD Graphics 620 chip is capable of streaming 4K content and supporting up to 3 separate displays but lacks the power to process heavy graphical data. As such, complex photo work or video editing is out of the question.

Comparatively, AMD’s onboard Vega GPUs found in their latest Ryzen APUs doubles the Intel UHD Graphics 620’s performance. Even low-powered dedicated solutions, such as Nvidia’s GeForce MX230 and MX250, are vastly better options for not much more money. More power options, like the Acer Spin 5’s GeForce GTX 1050, far outclass the Flex 14’s integrated GPU but consumer more power and generate substantially more heat.

Color accuracy out of the box is average. With a DeltaE2000 score of 4.59, the Flex 14 isn’t suitable for professional work (DeltaE2000 of 3 or lower) but is more than adequate for general use and media consumption. It should be noted that calibration hardly changes the DeltaE2000 for color, which may be caused by the narrow color space coverage. In regards to color, the display is in line with other mid-range 2-in-1s.

 

Ports:

Overall Score: 8/10

 

With a full array of ports—including USB-C 3.0, two USB 3.0, and HDMI—the Flex 14 lets you direct connect to a wide of external devices including monitors, keyboards, mice, external storage and printers. All without the need for extra dongles and adapters.

Connectivity on the Lenovo Flex 14 2 in 1 is excellent, better than most convertibles in the same price range. On the left, there’s a USB-C port, an HDMI port, power adapter input and an audio jack. On the opposite side, there’s a Novo button, a power button, a card reader and a pair of USB 3.1 ports.

Unfortunately, there’s no Thunderbolt 3 support, meaning you won’t be able to plug an external GPU enclosure – but its something we didn’t expect to have at this price point.

 

Battery:

Overall Score: 7.5/10

Measuring 3.68 lbs / 1.67 kg and .69” / 17.6 mm, the Flex 14 is portable enough to take anywhere, with up to 8 hours* of battery life. If you do need a little extra juice, 15 minutes of charging* will give two additional hours of use when your battery is dwindling.

Like most modern notebooks, the Flex has a non-removable battery that works for portability. The battery manages just over 8 hours 36 minutes of endurance on daily productivity. For a portable 2-in-1, this is a good feat thanks to a Full HD display and efficient CPU that offer hopes for longevity. Sure, this is a laptop that will last you well into the evening of a long working day.

The Flex 14 doesn’t pull much power, even under load. Due to its efficient internals, the machine draws about 40 Watts under load, which is slightly above average for an Ultrabook but within reason.

 

 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Relatively Thin
  • Budget Price Tag
  • Peppy Productivity Performance
  • 300-Degree Hinge Make Touch Use Convenient
  • Good battery life.
  • Webcam slider shutter.

Cons
  • No Thunderbolt 3 Limits Expansion Options
  • Lacks A Discrete Graphics Option
  • A few ounces overweight.

 

Conclusion:

The Lenovo Flex 14 2-in-1 is light, it’s well-built, it performs well, and it’s one of the most affordable laptops we’ve reviewed. There’s a lot to like here. In fact, the Flex 14 kind of grows on you the more you use it, especially if you’re an executive who needs a durable system for business meetings and cross-country flights.

One area of disappointment is how Lenovo cut some corners with the lack of an optional discrete graphics card. Some buyers might love the battery life and be fine with less RAM and a smaller SSD. Lenovo should offer configurable choices. The Lenovo Flex 14 is a mixed bag. Its strongest areas lie in battery life and storage speed. It is difficult to find a laptop with an NVMe drive at the $800 price point, and the fact that the Flex 14 lasts all day on a charge is the icing on the cake. However, the Flex 14 compromises on the keyboard, a plastic body, and a mediocre screen.

 

Author’s Personal Verdict:

If you won’t be playing games, the Lenovo Flex 14 (81SS0005US) 2-in-1 feels good in hand, provides all the performance you’ll need to be productive and it lasts a very long in doing both. The Flex 14 lasts a fair bit longer than competitors; the Dell Inspiron 14 5000 died three hours sooner in our WiFi battery test, and the Acer Spin 5 fell four hours short.

The Flex 14 is perhaps best suited for students in search of a low-cost convertible that won’t mind sacrificing on the keyboard, build quality, and display brightness. There are similar options available at a cheaper price

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