"The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is the best Chromebook you can buy for under $ 500."
Great value for money
Under three pounds
Chromebooks are getting more expensive every year. They also grow in quality. Display, performance and design improve. They're far from yesterday's cheap Chromebooks.
The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook tries to be the best of both worlds. At $ 410, it captures the original spirit of highly affordable laptops, yet offers an Intel Core processor, a 1080p screen, and a solid appearance.
Lenovo has struck the balance carefully, but not without a few hiccups on the way.
I'm not looking for anything special in a laptop under $ 500. I want modern. I want thin and light. I want a solid build quality. And bonus points if it doesn't look gaudy or plastic.
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 performs better than most Chromebooks at this price. The color "graphite gray" is initially subtle. Although each surface is made of plastic, it feels firm and well built. The hinge is firm and resists shaking, even when you tap and swipe on the touchscreen.
I have a few minor complaints. The bezels are large – especially the chin. The 360 degree hinge provides additional space under the screen. It is hard to miss on such a small laptop. Premium Chromebooks like the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook or the Asus Chromebook Flip C436 have the thin frames we see on Windows laptops, but they're about twice as expensive. It's a problem that the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 solves with a slightly larger 16:10 aspect ratio.
Despite the frames, the Chromebook Flex 5 comes in a portable package. It's less than 3 pounds and 0.7 inches thick and just a bit bigger than a MacBook Air. Options like the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook or Google Pixelbook Go are much smaller – but price tags aren't.
Most Chromebooks under $ 500 are bulky 15-inch laptops, which is a shame. The Chromebook Flex 5 fills this gap.
The Chromebook Flex 5 offers a standard selection of ports, at least for a modern Chromebook. On the right side there is a USB-C 3.1, a USB-A 3.1, a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. The other side contains another USB-C port and a Kensington lock. Unfortunately, only the right side can be used to charge the device.
As it is a 2-in-1 device, the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 has a volume rocker and a power switch in addition to the connections. The volume rocker is mushy and difficult to distinguish, which is a little frustrating. You'll use the volume control on the keyboard a lot more often, but that's no excuse for lousy keys.
Display and speakers
The Flex 5 Chromebook doesn't have the best display in the world. It is a 13.3-inch IPS LED display with a standard resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. It has a slight shade of green, which makes pale skin tones look sick.
It only brightens up to 250 nits. This is bright enough for home use, but if you stand under strong office light or sit next to a window, the glossy screen can cause strong reflections. A matte screen may have made the screen look cheap, but avoided this problem.
I've seen a lot worse on Chromebooks, but options like the Google Pixelbook Go or the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook do much better. The software on my colorimeter doesn't work in Chrome OS to measure color accuracy, but the Flex 5 Chromebook is probably not accurate enough for creative people. For what a Chromebook is made for $ 410, the screen does the trick.
The Flex 5 Chromebook has a set of upward-facing speakers that flank the keyboard on both sides. The placement is good, but they are as thin as laptop speakers. The Pixelbook Go is far superior in this category.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 offers a pleasant typing experience. This is the typical Chrome OS layout outside of the oddly shortened left and right arrow keys. But the keycaps are big, the journey is long and the keystrokes respond. Lenovo has even installed a backlight with five brightness levels. I felt at home.
The touchpad is a different story. It's big enough, but of below average quality. The plastic, structured surface leads to skipping and sloppy tracking. Inexpensive touchpads like this slow down my workflow and make detailed tasks such as text selection cumbersome. The click mechanism is also quite stiff and loud. As my daily driver, the touchpad was the only hurdle to usability that I kept tripping over. I'm not shocked by the price, but I was hoping to be surprised. The switch back to a Google Pixelbook Go felt heavenly in comparison.
The Flex 5 Chromebook has a 720p on-screen webcam that can be serviced for occasional zoom calls.
Many cheap Chromebooks use slow MediaTek or Intel Celeron processors. Not the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5. It offers an Intel Core i3-10110U processor of the latest generation of Intel chips. This is a full 15-watt processor, while many other Chromebooks use an 8-watt processor. More performance means more potential performance, and the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 offers.
Other Chromebooks that use this 10th generation Core i3 are usually much more expensive, such as the Asus Chromebook Flip C436 for $ 800. The Flex 5 corresponds to this processor in multi-core scores in Geekbench 5 and is 18% faster than the Google Pixelbook Go.
You can of course run Android apps on the Flex 5. 3D games like the mobile racing driver Asphalt 9 Legends were played smoothly. However, the integrated graphics cannot even start a match from PUBG Mobile. As strange as it may sound, your phone will perform better. Many of these Android apps are still not well optimized for the 16: 9 aspect ratio and a cursor. However, this is a problem with Android app emulation in Chrome OS in general, not the fault of the Flex 5.
A processor with higher performance has one disadvantage. Heat. The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is not a fanless device like the Pixelbook Go. Open a few YouTube videos, Slack, Spotify, and about a dozen websites – that's enough to hear the fans spinning and the keyboard warming up. I never had the feeling that the fans were turning prematurely or too often.
The laptop also has 64 GB of eMMC storage. It's not a ton of capacity – and not as fast as a solid-state drive. Unfortunately, both have become the standard for Chromebooks. As long as you do most of the things in the cloud, 64 GB shouldn't be too much of a problem.
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 offers decent battery life. It has always been a Chromebook strength and budget laptop deficit. These two properties meet in the Flex 5, a laptop has a better battery life than most at this price.
On average, it took me about six to seven hours of my daily workload. Not quite enough to get through a full day's work, but close.
It's not a Pixelbook Go – or even the current Lenovo Yoga C640 – but it should take you most of a working day. In our browsing test, I zeroed the battery through a selection of websites. The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 lasted almost eight hours. Playing videos took a few hours longer, and I looped a video clip until it died.
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is one of the cheaper Chromebooks you can buy. It is characterized by excellent performance, excellent battery life and solid build quality. The touchpad is not great, and neither is the screen. It's not a no-compromise laptop, but this $ 410 Chromebook is still one of the best laptops you can buy under $ 500.
Are there alternatives?
The 14-inch Asus Chromebook C425 is worth considering. It doesn't have such a powerful processor, but it looks impressive and only costs $ 443. The Google Pixelbook Go costs a little more, but it remains my choice for the best Chromebook you can buy.
If you're looking for a Windows laptop with a similar price tag, the Acer Swift 3 is a good choice. The $ 399 model is equipped with an 8th generation Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB RAM and a 128 GB SSD.
How long it will take?
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 should last four or five years. Google extends software updates to older Chromebooks for many years. The warranty is a one-year limited warranty.
Should you buy it
Yes. If you are looking for a laptop under $ 500, the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is one of the best you can buy.