Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 and 5 in review: Second Chromebook spring

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 and 5 in review: Second Chromebook spring

Lenovo enriches the Chromebook market with the IdeaPad 3 Flex and IdeaPad 5 Flex. Both mobile devices combine a fully-fledged notebook and tablet in one housing. To do this, you fold the screen up and down to the back. It's called "convertible" in modern German and most recently convinced us with the Asus Flip C436.

Elegant style icons

The convertible duo draws attention to itself. The smooth edges of the aluminum casing, the low overall height and stylishly engraved Chromebook logos exude noble premium flair. Lenovo sets its own design accents to emancipate itself from Microsoft and Apple. Both are eye-catchers.

The IdeaPad Flex 3 (left) and IdeaPad Flex 5 (right) are Lenovo's latest Chromebooks. At an affordable price.

The high production quality continues with the particularly stressed hinges. They are stiffer and don't allow opening the IdeaPad with one hand. To do this, they always hold the screen in position without it wobbling or locking into another position.

The inner workings with a decent QWERTY keyboard, large touchpad and the high-gloss display also make a high-quality impression. Both IdeaPads have a number of USB ports, jack, microSD card reader, physical volume rocker and on/off button.

This is where the similarities end and the differences begin.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 – compact powerhouse

"It's compact!" That was my first impression of the IdeaPad 3 Flex. As big as an A4 sheet of paper, just under 1.9 cm thin and only 1,205 grams light. It brings back memories of the once hyped netbooks.

The heart of the Lenovo Chromebook is Intel's Celeron N4020 from 2017. The dual-core CPU clocks at 1.1 GHz to 2.8 GHz, depending on the performance requirement. The graphics are calculated by the integrated UHD Graphics 600, which shines especially in video playback and masters H.265.

Nice design, decent manufacturing quality. The IdeaPad Flex 3 feels valuable. The little powerhouse doesn't lack ports. Two USB-A and USB-C sockets are integrated in the housing.

Lenovo equips the mainboard with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of eMMC flash memory. This can be expanded via a microSD card. The 42 Wh battery lasts a good 8 hours under normal load before it has to be plugged in. Thanks to fast charging and the included 45 W power adapter, it only takes about an hour before the battery is at 100 percent again.

With a diagonal of 11.6 inches and a resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels, the display is in the good middle field. I was impressed by the high viewing angle stability, the rich colors and the sharp display of visual content. Lenovo relies on a highly reflective cover glass and thick side edges. Both are a matter of taste, matt adhesive foils help against the reflections.

The IdeaPad Flex 3 in everyday life

Does the aging CPU of the IdeaPad Flex 3 bother you? I can only counter this with my practical impressions: The Chromebook ran smoothly in everyday life and completed the usual office tasks with flying colors. Surfing the web, writing letters or video streaming worked without any problems.

Only when playing games did it hiccup more frequently. Motorsport Manager 3 sporadically responded with a frame rate roller coaster. The Football Manager Touch was lame when simulating individual football games. By the way, I enjoyed games, films and music in tablet or tent mode.

What I also noticed were the fairly quiet speakers on the underside, but their sound dynamics were decent.

My personal Flex 3 highlight is clearly the keyboard. Precise keystrokes and reasonable key spacing noticeably increase typing comfort. The only thing I miss is a number block, which I could connect as a USB extension.

The bottom line is that the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 is a nicely compact device that is more than usable for everyday use.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 – more power, more style

At first glance, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 resembles its smaller sibling. It is slightly larger, 100 grams heavier and has the Chromebook logo in white instead of in colour. style issues? Not only.

The IdePad Flex 5 relies on elegant colors and designs. The larger screen is part of it - and of course you can put the Flex 5 in front of you in tent mode.

The engineers placed the speakers next to the keyboard and stretched the 13.3-inch FullHD display a little further towards the edge. The overall appearance is therefore more elegant, although this screen also reflects strongly. Lenovo donated a number of sensible extras. At the forefront is the webcam aperture, which prevents someone from spying on you via video or catching you at the wrong time in a zoom conference. A seamless connection to the OneDrive cloud storage integrated in the Flex 5 doubles the internally soldered flash storage of 128 GB.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 and 5 in review : Chromebook second spring

Inside there is an Intel Core i5 of the 10th generation from 2019. This distributes the tasks to 4 cores and 8 threads and varies the clock rates between 1.6 GHz and a maximum of 4.2 GHz. The integrated Intel UHD Graphics is responsible for the graphic display. It accesses the 8 GB RAM, the resources of which are also available for the apps.

The hardware composition is more potent than the 3 model, without a doubt. You don't notice that much in everyday use. The IdeaPad Flex 5 plays content smoothly and switches seamlessly between apps. The 51 Wh battery is empty after 8 hours and has to be plugged in for an hour and a half to get 100% again.

The sharp edges really look good! Compared to the Flex 3, the buttons are a bit more precise, the controls nestle against the case. What is missing? The second USB-A port.

Power in extreme situations

You will notice performance differences in graphically complex games and computing-intensive apps. In Motorsport Manager 3, the display is fluid, the Football Manager Touch simulates the individual games quickly. Even the performance-hungry racing game Asphalt 8 presents itself in top form.

In short: The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is technically equipped for the future and offers a little more than the IdeaPad Flex 3 in every discipline.

If you buy the better equipped model, it should serve you well for years to come. Again, I particularly emphasize the keyboard. The key drop is short and the spacing between the individual letters is perfect. Each key is backlit, making it easy to type in difficult lighting conditions.

So would I prefer the IdeaPad Flex 5? It depends. The 3-series model is a good addition as a second notebook. If I had to choose which of the two would be my primary mobile computer, the Flex 5 would be the preferred choice.

Convertible features in everyday life: useful or superfluous?

Since both models are designed around the 180-degree hinge, few words were said about the convertible mode. Honestly: I rarely used it in the test. Because the Flex devices gave me a lot of pleasure as a notebook. For film consumption and music enjoyment, I set it up as a tent to fast forward and rewind when needed.

In pure tablet mode, I found surfing and working cumbersome. Of course, if a keyboard is already installed, why work with a touchscreen keyboard? For a presentation, I still folded the device and found it an enrichment at that moment. In my opinion, a lot depends on the situations in which the IdeaPad Flex can support your work as an inconspicuous device or make media playback more comfortable.

Lenovo offers a dedicated pen for its Chromebooks so that you don't have to constantly tap around on the display and can work more precisely. The USI Pen connects to the Chromebook without setup. You can use it to write notes directly on the screen or navigate through browsers, cloud storage and apps using gestures. Sounds unspectacular, but works reliably and precisely thanks to the filigree pen tip.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 with 128 GB of flash memory is available for around 400 euros. The technically better equipped IdeaPad Flex 5 with 128 GB memory costs a good 650 euros. The USI Pen costs just under 50 euros.

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