The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 flexible 2-in-1 laptop, which I reviewed last year, offers a ton of horsepower for a very appealing $600 price. Although it came close, it didn’t quite make our list of the top cheap laptops. This year, I was given the opportunity to study the 2021 upgrade, which is largely unchanged save for the addition of Intel. I was eager to compare this version to the previous one.
The IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 with a Core i5-1135G7 processor, which costs $735, is the appropriate Intel processor to compare against the Ryzen 5 4500U in the prior review unit. Although the storage is double that of the AMD machine, that is hardly a cheap laptop price, and I believe the Intel version is less valuable than the model from the previous year. For a more appealing $570, you can get a Core i3, but you only get half the RAM and storage. In the end, it demonstrates why AMD still dominates the market for low-cost laptops.
The IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 has the same layout as the previous version, but glass fiber has been added to the plastic cover to make it feel more sturdy. Even though the rest of the chassis is made entirely of plastic rather than using magnesium alloy like some high-end laptops do, it nevertheless feels sturdy. The IdeaPad Flex 5i feels luxurious in comparison to the reasonably priced and reasonably bendable Asus VivoBook Flip 14, which has an aluminum alloy cover and a plastic chassis.
The IdeaPad’s hinge is surprisingly strong; it is supple enough to open with one hand but becomes stiffer when it is upright, keeping the device in place in tablet, clamshell, tent, and media modes. Overall, the build quality of the IdeaPad Flex 5i is superior to its pricing.
The IdeaPad’s hinge is surprisingly strong; it is supple enough to open with one hand but becomes stiffer when it is upright, keeping the device in place in tablet, clamshell, tent, and media modes. Overall, the build quality of the IdeaPad Flex 5i is superior to its pricing. The Lenovo logo on the lid and the keyboard deck add a subtle touch of chrome while still maintaining the 2-in-1’s dark grey appearance. It has a fairly subtle appearance and a few angles to give it a streamlined appearance, according to the minimalist design aesthetic that Lenovo has included into its midrange and low-priced models. Although it has a little more dynamic design than the Asus VivoBook Flip 14, the lime green lining around the Enter key detracts from its otherwise attractive color palette. The IdeaPad Flex 5i, in my opinion, looks nicer than it costs and won’t make you feel cheap when you bring it to an upscale coffee shop.
Yet, the IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 is bigger than it needs to be, much like the one from a year ago. The chin is enormous, and the display bezels are narrow on the sides but thick on top. That enlarges it beyond what is required. Also, it is fairly heavy at 3.3 pounds and quite thick at 0.82 inches. The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 weighs 3.31 pounds and is 0.72 inches thick, while the Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 costs around $200 more than the IdeaPad. The IdeaPad Flex 5i’s large chassis is the one place where its affordable price really shines through.
The review device arrived with a USB-C charger, a proprietary power connector, a USB-C 3.2 port, a full-sized HDMI 1.4b port, and a 3.5mm audio input on the left side. On the right side are two USB-A 3.2 ports and a full-size SD card reader. Sadly, Thunderbolt 4 support is not available, which is frustrating even at the $735 price range. Wireless communication is provided by Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6.
The IdeaPad Flex 5i didn’t stand out in any way, save for when compared to the Acer Aspire 5 with its core i3-1115G4 that was added for some contrast. It performed worse than the previous AMD model in all tests save the 3DMark Time Spy test, and it was significantly slower in our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265. It performed slower than the other Core i5 laptops on our list in every benchmark, especially the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2. The IdeaPad Flex 5i is placed near the bottom of our comparison group despite the fact that the difference isn’t particularly large.
The IdeaPad Flex 5i isn’t a slow laptop in my experience using it. Nonetheless, almost all current laptops are quick enough to operate Windows 10 and simple productivity tasks like web browsing, Office programs, and similar chores without stuttering. You might experience a hiccup or two when you require an extra boost of performance for demanding multitasking or more demanding chores. Performance was adequate for the price, but not particularly noteworthy.
|Cinebench R23 (single/multi)||PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i 14
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 2020
(Ryzen 5 4500U)
|Asus VivoBook Flip 14 (Ryzen 5 5500U)||1102/5432||131||1180/7579||5191||1099|
|Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2
|HP Envy 14 (Core i5-1135G7)||1549 / 5431||204||1399 / 4585||n/a||1380|
|Acer Aspire 5 2021 (Core i3-1115G4)||1215/2544||300||1274/3128||3752||652|
The IdeaPad Flex 5i 14’s 14-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display was immediately apparent to me as the device’s main flaw the moment I turned it on. The contrast wasn’t amazing, the colors felt odd, and the screen had an awful yellow-green hue. I don’t typically react to a show in such a negative way, but this one disappointed me. Because larger displays haven’t yet gained much traction in low-cost laptops, the display has the dated 16:9 aspect ratio.
My colorimeter largely supported that own impression. With just 231 nits initially, brightness was low and considerably below our desired 300-nit threshold. With strong overhead illumination, the display could be challenging to read. At 800:1, the contrast was better than I had anticipated (but again below our preferred level, 1,000:1). Colors were very narrow at just 49% of AdobeRGB and 65% of sRGB — midrange and premium laptops are around 72% and 95% or better — and color accuracy was just OK at a DeltaE of 2.37 (1.0 or less is excellent).
True, cheap computers frequently cut corners on the display. For instance, the 230 nits of brightness, 720:1 contrast ratio, 50% of AdobeRGB and 66% of sRGB, and 2.62 color accuracy of the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 were strikingly similar. Nevertheless, even for basic productivity tasks, these screens are unpleasant to use, and they fall well short of what creative types are searching for.
With upward-firing speakers on either side of the keyboard, the audio was better. While the bass was lacking, the volume was more than satisfactory, there was no distortion, and the mids and highs were audible. These speakers are superior to other low-cost devices in that they let you watch Netflix and listen to music.
Keyboard and touchpad
The IdeaPad Flex 5i features the standard Lenovo keyboard that is present on all models other than those in the ThinkPad lineup. Although it is shallower than I prefer, there is enough click and comfort in the bottoming action to support accurate touch typing. This is a fantastic cheap keyboard that is only a few steps behind outstanding keyboards like HP’s Spectre range and the Apple Magic Keyboard thanks to the ample key spacing and key size. Typists that type swiftly should be able to get used to this keyboard and become proficient in no time.
The touchpad is likewise good, having a respectable size and a pleasant, smooth surface. All of the Windows 10 multitouch gestures are made possible by the Microsoft Precision Touchpad drivers, and they all functioned flawlessly. I have no issues.
The Lenovo active pen has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and the touch display was responsive. I found it quite good for sketching (not that I’m an artist) and handwriting on the display, although the 14-inch display and overall bulk of the 2-in-1 made it uncomfortable in tablet mode. Yet, the pen being included in the box is a benefit that few low-cost computers can match. A small pen holder that fits into a USB-A port and keeps the pen nearby can be found in the in-box documents as an added bonus. Naturally, that blocks both ports, so if you want to plug in a peripheral, you’ll have to take the pen out.
The upper-right corner of the keyboard deck houses a fingerprint reader that supports Windows 10 Hello. It was dependable and quick. The webcam on the IdeaPad Flex 5i is also covered by Lenovo’s ThinkShutter privacy screen, which you can pull over to add a little bit of privacy.
With the Core i5 processor and the 14-inch Full HD display mixed with the IdeaPad Flex 5i’s 52.5 watt-hour battery, I was unsure of how long the device would last. The AMD model’s battery life was merely adequate; if you didn’t put it through too much stress, it might manage to work for a full day.
Our tests revealed that the Intel version’s all-day battery life fell barely short of that level. It lasted just 7.25 hours in our web-browsing test, compared to the AMD version’s eight hours, and 11.5 hours in looping our local Avengers test video, where the AMD version lasted for 11 hours. It’s a tie, even though the web test provides a more accurate picture of production levels. Nine hours of web browsing and twelve hours of watching videos were completed by the Asus VivoBook Flip 14; these are unquestionably stronger results.
The IdeaPad Flex 5i managed nine hours in the PCMark 10 Apps battery test, which I also conducted. It only lasts seven minutes shorter than the AMD version, but it falls short of the 10 or more hours that the majority of the other laptops we’ve tested have as a minimum battery life. The IdeaPad Flex 5i did not perform particularly well in this test, which is the best measure of productivity battery life. It lasted for little under two minutes on the PCMark 10 Gaming battery test, which is about average for this test.
The battery life of the IdeaPad Flex 5i is dismal all over. Similar to the AMD version, it might get you through a day of work if your workload is minimal, but it might be difficult to complete substantial work without a power source.
The IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 offers solid construction that should evoke confidence in years of service. Its components are up to date, if not the fastest, so it should keep you productive for just as long. You won’t like the industry-standard one-year warranty.