Chromebooks tend to fall on one of two extremes: on one side, we have budget laptops that sacrifice the wrong things in the name of bargain prices; and on the other side we have Chromebooks that go overboard with specs and features in order to justify their exorbitant prices. Neither is good for potential customers. And while I, too, have fallen prey to the siren song of the ultrabook in the past, I much prefer to look for laptops that fall between these two categories, offering up superior performance without asking you to drop half a rent check on them.
It's all about finding a Chromebook that's flexible enough to handle your work — wherever your work takes you in these uncertain days — and pleasant enough to use when all you need to do is check your email or fall down a Reddit hole for a few hours. Lenovo is no stranger to finding this balance, but few of its laptops so far have struck quite the sublime synthesis of features to function, of price to performance, as the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook.
The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook appears quite average on the surface, but once you open up this laptop and start to use it, its magic becomes clear. So, let's dive into one of my new favorite Chromebooks and see why I think it should be your next laptop.
At a glance
Bottom line: This laptop has everything I want in a Chromebook — compact, capable, and comfortable — while keeping the price reasonable and the build quality high.
- Quite compact for its size
- Amazing value
- Loud front-facing speakers
- Backlit keyboard
- No 8GB RAM option
About this review
I have been using an i3/4GB/64GB Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook for the last six weeks that was provided for review by Lenovo. I've mostly used it in my lap while sitting on the couch/bed because I am a creature of comfort.
Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook Design
If you're familiar with my favorite Chromebook, the Lenovo Chromebook C340-11, then you will already be pretty familiar with the Flex 5, which shares the same design stylings. The Flex 5 is the same thickness and depth, but the Flex 5 squeezes a 13.3-inch touchscreen into a footprint that's less than an inch wider than the C340-11. This means the bezels around the screen are much slimmer, just enough to adjust or hold the screen without accidental touches.
The keyboard is the same size and design as Lenovo's 11.6-inch Chromebooks, but the difference here is that it's a backlit keyboard so it's easier to use when you're working late into the night. Flanking the keyboard on either side are a pair of stereo speakers that can get tinny or distorted at the highest volumes, but considering how loud they get, it's a worthy trade-off.
Loud front-facing speakers on a $400 Chromebook? Yes, please!
If you're the type to watch a lot of videos on your laptop without headphones, the Lenovo Flex 5 is the best Chromebook under $600 to get. Between the bright 13.3-inch 1080p touchscreen and the loud front-facing speakers, this laptop is great for YouTube binges and watching hours and hours of Twitch streams. The bottom of the laptop has the vents for a fan, which doesn't kick on often, but the Flex 5 is more than comfy enough for me to plop down in my lap and bang out a few hours of web browsing from the couch.
The chassis is matte plastic and the lid is color-matched aluminum; both feel excellent in the hand when carrying the laptop around or feeling along the side for the power and volume buttons, which sit flush with the right side of the laptop. There's a USB-C port on both sides, with a USB-A and microSD card slot on the left side flanking the headphone jack. A note about the microSD card slot: a card will stick out a tiny bit, so you'll need to be mindful of it if you plan to keep a card inserted at all times.
Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook Specs and Internals
|Category||Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook|
1080p • 16:9 • 300 nits
|Processor||Intel Celeron 5205U
10th Gen Intel Core i3-10110U
or 128GB SSD
3.5mm Audio jack
|Peripheral features||Backlit keyboard
USI stylus support
|Audio||2 x 2W stereo speakers|
|Battery||Up to 10 hours|
|Dimensions||310 x 214 x 17mm
12.2" x 8.4" x 0.67"
|Weight||1.35kg / 2.97lbs|
|Auto Update Expiration Date||June 2028|
That bit about the microSD card is all the more important when you see that the Flex 5 is available with a maximum of 128GB storage, a configuration I have yet to see at any retailer. While 64GB is enough to get by — you won't be downloading a lot of movies for offline playback with it — I wish the 128GB SSD option was more widely available. Four gigabytes of RAM has been more than enough for me so long as I don't go tab-crazy — and thank goodness, because there's no 8GB option.
What you do get is a choice between an Intel Celeron processor and a Intel Core i3, and given that the i3 model launched at $410, I would highly recommend getting that one. I've only crashed this Chromebook once in six weeks, and when I did, I had about 40 tabs open including some bandwidth hogs. Most of the time, the Flex 5 takes everything I throw at it in stride: multiple Chrome window and Android apps.
The Flex 5 has Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6, and it makes and keeps connections easily. When I was crisscrossing Epcot with the Flex 5, it always reconnected to the spotty Disney Wi-Fi before I'd finished putting in my password. Bluetooth keeps a stable connection as well, even while walking around the apartment on a Google Meet call.
For the privacy-conscious, the Flex 5 comes with a privacy shutter you can slide over the 720p webcam to black it out without resorting to unsightly stickers or tape.
Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook Performance
The Flex 5 is, well, flexible, perfectly suited to being used while curled up on the couch or perched on the riser at my standing desk. I have typed on the keyboard for hours without feeling fatigued, and the backlighting on the Flex 5 is more even than the more expensive ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 and C436. It's easy to adjust the screen or flip from laptop to tablet mode, but I wish the hinge was a bit firmer so that if I set the laptop with any force the screen doesn't droop backward.
I didn't use the Flex 5 as much in tablet mode that much — 13.3 inches is a bit big to hold up as a tablet — but stand mode is nice and stable at my standing desk or when I'm playing Freecell in bed. The screen quality here is a definite step-up from what we saw on the Lenovo C340-11. In fact, it makes we wish we could shrink those big bezels and stick a 12-inch version in the C340's successor.
Battery life has been better than projected as well. I consistently average nine to 10 hours of use, and I've even eked out 12 hours a few times when I have the brightness at lower levels. The charging here is the same 45W charging we've seen on basically every USB C-charged Chromebook. As mentioned earlier, the fan doesn't kick on often, and even after having the Flex 5 on and in use for five continuous hours, it hasn't warmed up enough to feel uncomfortable in my lap.
When I was first offered the Flex 5 for review, it didn't seem all that amazing on paper, especially compared to the Project Athena Chromebooks that have been coming out throughout the spring and summer, but once I'd spent a few days with it, the Flex 5 had completely won me over. It's more than the sum of its parts — and way more than its modest price tag would have you believe. In fact, this may be my favorite Chromebook to cross my desk so far this year, because it's a great experience that won't cost you an arm and a leg the way Acer, Samsung, and ASUS do.
About the only disappointment to be found with the Flex 5 is that it's not widely available yet, and that especially 128GB models aren't available yet. Everything else for the Flex 5 Chromebook either punches at or above its weight class, which is why it now holds the top spot in Best Chromebooks for Business.
Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook Competition
Great Chromebooks are getting more plentiful with each passing year — we love to see it — and the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook stacks up quite well against its competitors. The most obvious alternative to the Flex 5 is the ASUS Chromebook Flip C434, which is now a year old and getting harder to find. The C434 does have an 8GB option and a bigger screen, not to mention a more eye-catching "Spangle Silver" design, but I like the Flex 5's keyboard more, not to mention the C434 costs at least $150 more.
There are arguments to be made for putting the Lenovo Flex 5 up against the HP Chromebook 14 G5 or G6, but good luck finding the G6 and the G5 gets far more expensive than the Flex 5 even while having a sub-HD screen. If you like what the Flex 5 offers but need more than a 13-inch screen, consider jumping up to the Lenovo Chromebook C340-15, though like the Flex 5 I highly recommend sticking with the i3 model over the starter-level Pentium Gold.
Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook Should you buy it?
Who it's for
- Someone who wants a single laptop for school, work, and play
- Those who travel frequently (or at least jump from room to room looking for quiet while everyone's working from home)
- Media hogs that watch a lot of videos on their laptop
- People who need the convenience of a touchscreen 2-in-1
Who it isn't for
- Those needing huge screens
- Someone who needs tons of storage
- Tab hoarders
When it comes to Chromebooks, we usually talk about where compromises were made, especially for Chromebooks under $500, but in the case of the Flex 5, it's amazing how well-rounded an experience is offered up. The Flex 5 belies its price tag and feels like a more put-together laptop than some $600-$800 models I've encountered, and it makes me believe that maybe, just maybe, you really can have it all without emptying your wallet.
Between the backlit keyboard and the fact that this is barely any bigger than my beloved C340-11, the Lenovo Flex 5 might be my new daily driver going forward. Equally suited to banging out articles while I'm huddled up on the couch or doing some light research while I sit in the shade and people watch, the Lenovo Flex 5 is a great fit for my life and will more than likely be a great fit for yours, too.
Great for work and play
An almost perfect Chromebook at the perfect price
This laptop has everything I want in a Chromebook — compact, capable, and comfortable — while keeping the price reasonable and the build quality high. I especially love the backlit keyboard and the loud speakers sitting on either side of it.
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