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Chromebooks have really gone through an evolution. They’ve broken through the education market and gone straight into the mainstream. The Plus models, which promise better performance as well as new AI capabilities, have really raised the bar for Chromebook devices this year. Among those models, there’s one that stands out from the rest. With its the zippy performance, versatile 2-in-1 design, and lovely display, the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus left quite the impression on me. Let’s get right into it.
Looking for more options? Check out PCWorld’s roundup of the best Chromebooks today.
Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Specifications
Our review unit came with an Intel Core i3-1315U CPU, Intel UHD graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of SSD. It’s the only configuration as far as I’m aware of. Aside from the touchscreen and convertible design, it has the exact same specs as the other Plus models I’ve reviewed.
CPU: Intel Core i3-1315U
GPU: Intel UHD graphics
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display: 14-inches, 1920×1080, touch-enabled
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Weight: 3.52 lbs
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6E
Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Design and build quality
IDG / Ashley Biancuzzo
When I lifted the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus out of the box, I couldn’t help but let out a low whistle. This thing looks and feels fancy, real fancy. The storm gray colored lid has an aluminum finish, which feels as smooth as glass when you brush your fingers across it. While I really dig this subtle yet sophisticated design, it’s nothing eye-catching, which may bore the folks who prefer more flair. If you’re one of those people, you should check out the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34, which has a lovely stark white color scheme.
As for construction, the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is pretty darn sturdy if I do say so myself. When you flip open the lid, the 360-degree hinge is firm and relatively unyielding, which is exactly what you want in a laptop hinge. It also feels strong in both tent and tablet modes. It definitely has some heft to it, but it’s not backbreaking by any means. It’s just heavier than I expected. According to the manufacturer, it weighs just over three pounds, which is still considered lightweight as far as laptops go. In fact, three pounds is the sweet spot when it comes to ultraportables. You can easily tuck this thing in a messenger bag or backpack and be on your merry way.
The Flex 5i’s 1200p touch display is very crisp and vibrant. When I watched an episode of the original Dragon Ball, Goku’s orange Turtle School uniform really popped. It also has an aspect ratio of 16:10, which is taller than the standard 16:9 fare. The taller screen makes it easier to scroll through documents and websites, particularly in tablet mode. This machine even has USI pen support, although it doesn’t come with the compatible stylus. That’s a bummer, but not unexpected, especially for a $500 Chromebook. Still, it’s something I would’ve liked to have seen.
The 1080p webcam is a welcome addition. As someone who works from home and video conferences every now and then, a 1080p webcam is a must-have in my book. This is the new standard across all Chromebook Plus devices, which pleases me because 720p webcams are absolute garbage. There’s also a physical camera shutter on the webcam itself, ensuring that your privacy will be protected. Nowadays, you can’t be too careful. As for how I looked on video, I looked like an actual living human being with pinkish cheeks and not some sun-starved creature from the deep. In other words, I didn’t appear washed out or grainy.
The upwards-firing speakers flank the keyboard, which is the exact same setup as the Acer Chromebook Plus 515. The audio quality is quite good for a laptop. You’re not going to get cinema-level audio (obviously), but I was able to clearly hear the Home Alone movie soundtrack from across my kitchen and dining room. That soundtrack still slaps, by the way. Mid-range sounds are more prominent than bass sounds, but again that’s typical for laptop audio.
Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Connectivity
IDG / Ashley Biancuzzo
The port selection is decent on the Flex 5i. On the right side, you’ll find one USB-C and one Kensington lock as well as the power button and volume control. On the left there’s one microSD card reader, one 3.5mm audio jack, one USB-A, and one USB-C. Only one USB-C port can be used for charging. While I would’ve preferred an HDMI port instead of a microSD card reader, it’s really not the worst thing in the world. Hooking up to an external monitor will just require the right adapter.
The Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus has a backlit chiclet-style keyboard, which means the keys are flat and have only a little space between them. Personally, I like using chiclet keyboards, so I found typing on this one enjoyable. The keys are responsive and have a fun springiness to them. It didn’t take me too long to get accustomed to the keys, either. Sure, there were a few typos, but that’s to be expected with any new keyboard regardless of style.
The trackpad is a joy to use as well. It measures 4.8-inches and it sits in the middle of the keyboard deck. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you’re probably aware of my personal vendetta against off-center trackpads. As for the Flex 5i’s trackpad, I found it both responsive and accurate, especially when scrolling through social media feeds and navigating various websites.
Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Performance
The Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is quite fast. It booted up within seconds and I was able to jump from tab to tab without any noticeable lag. When I ran CrXPRT’s performance benchmark, which measures how quickly a machine can run everyday tasks, it finished strong with a score of 177. It actually scored higher than the Acer Chromebook Plus 515, which has an Intel Core i3-1215U processor, a generation behind the Flex 5i’s Intel Core i3-1315U processor.
The Plus models have the edge over some older (non-Plus) Chromebooks, as well, like the Acer Chromebook Vero 514. The Flex 5i’s 177 score CrXPRT bested the Vero 514’s 150 score. There’s definitely a boost in processing performance going on here. It should be noted that every Plus model I’ve tested is fast and responsive, so I didn’t notice much difference between them performance-wise. One machine didn’t feel any faster than the other, especially in real-world use. That said, the Flex 5i is still snappy for a Chromebook and is more favorable in my eyes because it includes a touchscreen and a 2-in-1 design.
Although the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus outperforms some non-Plus models, it can’t beat them all. The Acer Chromebook Spin 514, which earned the top spot in our best Chromebooks roundup, scored 199 in CrXPRT’s performance benchmark. The Spin 514 is more expensive and has an Intel Core i5 processor, which is designed for gaming, multitasking, and other more complex tasks. That’s not to say the Flex 5i under-performs. The Flex 5i’s Intel Core i3 processor is designed for day-to-day use and that’s exactly what it does and it does it well.
Here’s how the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus fared in the five browser-based benchmarks:
CrXPRT 2: 177
Basemark Web 3.0: 1371.95
Jetstream 2: 279.276
Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Battery life
The Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus lasted a little over nine hours on a single charge, which is a great all-day result. However, for a Chromebook, it’s a little short. The Asus Chromebook CM34 Flip, for example, lasted a whopping 19 hours on a single charge. Chromebooks tend to have ridiculously long battery lives. That said, with the Flex 5i, you won’t have to go looking for an outlet very often. You may be able to squeeze out another hour or two if you lower the brightness.
Should you buy the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus?
Heck yeah! The Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is a step above the rest with its sturdy construction, speedy performance, convertible design, and vibrant touchscreen. While the battery life is about average for a Chromebook, it’s still a fantastic all-day result. The touchscreen and 2-in-1 design really give it the edge over the other Chromebook Plus models, especially for just $500. Those additional features really do make a difference. The only real downside is that the stylus isn’t included, so you’d need to pay extra for it. That’s not really a deal-breaker for me, though. It’s just a general bummer. If you can live with those minor compromises, then the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is a phenomenal laptop for just about anybody.