Lenovo is one of the world’s leading technology companies. It’s the world’s largest PC seller and fourth-largest smartphone company, so they know a little something about creating devices that are both powerful and portable.
The ideapad flex 5 isn’t the first 2-in-1 laptop that Lenovo has produced. The brand first launched a range of 2-in-1 laptops back in 2011 but have since created some of the thinnest, lightest and most powerful laptops on the market today, notably the Lenovo yoga range.
However, unlike its cousin, the Lenovo yoga 9i (£999.99, Lenovo.com), the ideapad flex 5 does seem to have a slight identity crisis as it doesn’t quite fit into the ultra-thin lineup that Lenovo is so well known for. It makes us question just how big is too big for a hybrid?
Two-in-one laptops are ideal for those who want different ways to get things done. They have a regular laptop function for improved productivity but can split or fold into a tablet for entertainment when on the move.
The 2-in-1 laptop market has exploded in recent years, with Dell, HP, Samsung and Asus all bringing out hybrid models. So if you’re in the market for a new 2-in-1 device, read our review to see what we make of Lenovo’s convertible offering.
We tested the ideapad flex 5 by using it exclusively for a week to work on and enjoy some leisure time with. We looked at how well it coped with basic work tasks such as Microsoft Office and Google documents. We opened several apps and web applications to see how well it performed when we were multitasking and whether it slowed down, potentially leaving us frustrated. We also tested its portability to see how comfortable it was to carry around and use on the move.
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The Lenovo flex is available in both 14in and 15.6in models with various RAM options and the choice of either an Intel or AMD processor.
The model we are reviewing for this piece is the 15.6in screen with Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, integrated Intel Iris graphics and a 256 solid state disk.
There is no question that this is a well-built and good looking machine. The frame is a combination of metal and plastic, which feels great to use and it doesn’t feel at all cheap or flimsy. The 360-degree hinge is solid and robust – if anything it’s a little too stiff when converting from laptop to tablet mode.
The keyboard is an absolute joy to type on. It has curved keycaps, which are slightly textured, and the separate number pad is a welcome addition. It is a shame that the keyboard isn’t backlit, as it does make a big difference when working in poorly lit areas. The trackpad is small for the size of the laptop, and it’s pushed slightly to the left, which is an odd placement. That being said, it doesn’t get in the way when typing, and it is very responsive.
The one thing that we have a real issue with is the weight of this machine. Weighing in at around 2kg, it is quite heavy for a modern laptop and certainly on the larger range compared to other Lenovo machines. This works like a dream as a laptop, but it feels heavy and clunky as a tablet.
That said, the 15.6in screen, when used in tablet mode, was fantastic for watching movies and streaming other video content without the distraction of the keyboard in front.
When it comes to ports, this Lenovo has it all. There is a full-sized HDMI, headphone jack and a USB-C port on the left side. The right side has two USB-A ports and a 4-in-1 card reader. The charging point uses a barrel-type power connector which adds to the bulkiness of this machine. It would benefit from a USB-C charging point so you could at least have one charging cable for all your devices when you’re on the move.
The webcam is located on the top bezel and is 720p. It’s not the worst quality we’ve seen, but the colours are washed out and lacking fine detail. But we think for the occasional zoom call or catch up with family, it’s fine. The webcam does come with an extra privacy feature which we love – a built-in shutter can pull down to block the camera and avoid any accidental images being captured.
The Lenovo IdeaPad flex 5 has a large 15.6in, Full HD touchscreen display. Despite the maximum brightness level being just 250 nits, we found this bright enough for most situations, and we didn’t experience much glare even when working on this machine outdoors.
The narrow bezels of this laptop offer a fantastic field of view, so you will get a more immersive experience. The colours are bright and vibrant, and this really shows up when watching movies.
The 2-watt dual speakers are situated just above the keyboard. These have built-in Dolby audio technology and sounded very sharp and clear, not the tinny sound we’re used to from laptop speakers. There was a slight loss in sound when we transformed it to tent mode but still, for a laptop, pretty impressive.
The Lenovo IdeaPad flex 5 is a great all-around performer. The 10th generation Intel Core i5, 256GB SSD combined with 8GB of RAM provides a responsive and speedy experience.
It worked perfectly well handling everyday tasks such as emails, word-processing, web browsing and streaming movies. It even did well when multitasking. We managed to have a few documents open, several tabs on the go in the web browser, while also flicking between applications, and it didn’t skip a beat. Although, by upping the file size and throwing in some 4K editing, this machine did start to labour under pressure.
The integrated Intel Iris XE graphics did allow for some low-level gaming, but anything requiring high-end graphics is a no go. The fans also get very loud when this machine is under pressure, certainly loud enough to distract you from what you’re working on. Connectivity is no issue though, as it comes with the latest WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Lenovo promised up to 10-hour battery life, and we got pretty close with it lasting around nine hours before it needed a charge. This was just doing general work tasks and browsing the web. We even had the brightness up to the max when we achieved these numbers, so it’s certainly a good choice if you need all-day power.
But if you run out of juice, you don’t have to worry as it has rapid charging. Just 15 minutes of charging time will give you around 2 hours of power.
The flex 5 ships with Windows 10 home and a free upgrade to Windows 11 is included. Windows 10, however, is in S mode, which is supposed to boost performance and improve security. This means that only software from the Microsoft app store can be downloaded, so that means no Adobe, no Apple apps and no video apps that aren’t Microsoft. S mode also is designed to reduce memory and CPU usage.
We found this way too restrictive, so we took it out of S mode as soon as possible and didn’t find any slowing of the machine. Businesses and education settings may find it useful for restricting what goes on their machines, but it doesn’t need to be on for general use.
The IPS touch screen supports input from the digital pen (£31.99, Lenovo.com). Unfortunately, this doesn’t ship with the machine, and unlike the yoga, there’s no built-in dock to store it. However, the pen is a fully-fledged digital stylus and offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, so if you like taking notes or want a machine to create digital art, it’s worth buying.
If you’re a fan of digital assistants, this machine also has built-in Alexa, ideal if you want to control your smart home and keep yourself organised.
The Lenovo ideapad flex 5 makes an excellent alternative to a mainstream laptop at an affordable price point. It has a dazzling 15.6in display with exceptional audio, so it is the perfect choice if you want a machine to get your work done in the day and then turn it into a tablet for entertainment in the evening. It also has a good, solid battery life, so you’ll rarely find yourself desperately looking for a charger.
It’s powerful enough to tackle some serious multitasking, but it has never been marketed as a high-performance machine. Instead, it’s for users who want the reliability of a laptop but the portability of a tablet.
The problem is the size of this machine. As a laptop, it gives plenty of space to work with a comfortable keyboard and responsive trackpad. But as a tablet, when folded 360 degrees, it feels heavy and uncomfortable to use.
Still, this is a good value machine that will provide you with a solid and reliable performance.
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