Lenovo Flex 3 Chromebook review: good price, bad screen
Lenovo’s Ideapad Flex 3 Chromebook is one of the tiniest Chromebooks I’ve ever used. It’s also one of the cheapest, retailing for just $349.99.
Any laptop that costs that little is going to have some serious drawbacks — and the Flex 3 certainly does. On the other hand, if you’re the sort of shopper who’s willing to set those aside, this little IdeaPad also has a number of pleasant surprises up its sleeve. There are even a few areas (in particular, the battery life) where it gives significantly more expensive devices a run for their money.
- Excellent battery life
- Good keyboard
- Modern port selection
- Chassis feels sturdy
- Bad screen
- Ugly and dated design
- Weak processor
$330 at Lenovo
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I’ll start with the pleasant surprises. The Flex 3 offers a more modern port selection than I’d expect at its price point — there are two USB 3. 1 Type-C Gen 1 ports and two USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1 ports (one on each side, which is really handy for charging and connecting accessories), as well as a microSD reader, an audio combo jack, and a lock slot. There’s a 720p webcam that works decently well if you’re not in low light. And the touchpad is surprisingly sturdy — I often find that touchpads in this price range feel plasticky. The Flex even comes with a Google Security h2 chip, which encrypts sensitive on-device data.
There’s a power button on the side, as well as a volume rocker.
There are two features that really impressed me (in addition to the battery life, which I’ll discuss later on). First, I can’t stop talking about the keyboard. It’s great, with tons of travel and a satisfying click. The keys have a slightly rough texture that really grew on me. I got one of the highest scores I’ve ever gotten on my usual typing test, with almost no errors. The only note is that it lacks backlighting, a feature you’ll find on more expensive devices like Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713 (our current top Chromebook pick) and Lenovo’s Flex 5 Chromebook.
God, I love a good keyboard.
Second, audio. The balance and volume that these 2W stereo speakers deliver are on par with those of any number of more expensive Chromebooks. They easily beat the Spin 713, which sounds tinny and thin. There are caveats, of course: There’s very little bass, percussion is weak, I heard a bit of distortion at max volume, and you’ll want an external speaker for any crowded setting. But the Flex is great for video conferences and regular music-listening, and certainly beats what I’ve heard from all kinds of Windows laptops that are over $1,000.
Now, for the major drawbacks. First, this thing is a clunker. It’s not too heavy, at 2.65 pounds, but it’s 0.7 inches thick, and it’s not too far from the size of many modern 13-inch laptops despite having just an 11-inch screen. My main turnoff, though, is the bezels. Good lord, the bezels are enormous. When I’m using the Flex 3, I feel like I’m looking at a small window of screen floating in an abyss of black. It looks like a device you’d have bought in 2014.
I wish Lenovo had sprung for a better screen.
Use the Flex 3 in laptop tent, stand, or tablet modes.
Here it is from the other side.
I do like some things about the chassis, though. It doesn’t feel at all flimsy, with an aluminum cover and a non-plasticky finish. The display and keyboard are free of flex (despite the laptop’s name). And the 360 hinge is sturdy, with very little wobble.
AGREE TO CONTINUE: LENOVO FLEX 3 CHROMEBOOK
Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.
To use the Lenovo Flex 3 Chromebook, you have to agree to:
- Connect to Wi-Fi
- Google universal Terms of Service
- Google Play Terms of Service
The following agreements are optional:
- Send diagnostic and usage data to Google
- Sign into Google account
- Back up to Google Drive
- Allow apps and services with location permission to use your device’s location
- Access Google Assistant voice match
- Let Assistant show you information related to what’s on your screen
- Sign up to receive Chromebook tips, offers, and updates, and to share feedback
That’s three mandatory agreements and seven optional ones.
Speaking of the display, though: That’s the second major drawback here. It’s cramped — I often use two windows side-by-side and I’ve been squinting at tiny text in order to make that work on the Flex 3. Moreover, it’s dim (maxing out at 250 nits), kicks back a ton of glare even indoors, and is quite low-resolution (1366 x 768). I’m gonna be real: It’s pixel-y to look at. I’ve been using the Flex 3 as my primary driver for a week, and while I will miss the keyboard and audio when I send it back, I can’t wait never to have to look at this terrible screen again.
That’s the lowdown on the chassis — let’s look inside. This Ideapad Flex 3 Chromebook configuration is powered by Intel’s dual-core Celeron N4020. That’s the bottom of the barrel as Intel processors go, and it comes with just 4GB of memory (LPDDR4-2400, soldered) and 64GB of eMMC 5.1 storage.
On a Windows machine, these specs would be a hard pass. But Chrome OS is a lighter load, and I can vouch that the Flex 3’s screen is a bigger limit on multitasking than its horsepower is. I was able to use the laptop for a substantial workload, jumping between dozens of Chrome tabs and some apps, but the experience was cramped enough that I wouldn’t recommend it.
The color is called “almond”.
Scrolling got a bit sluggish when I tried to work on top of a Spotify or YouTube stream, and the transitions between laptop and tablet mode were a bit slower than I would’ve liked. The only task where I ran into real trouble, though, was sorting through a batch of shots in Google Photos (with a couple other apps running on the side). The Flex 3 did get the job done, but it was quite slow. The one Zoom meeting I tried (on top of some other tabs I needed) was also a bad experience — audio randomly cut out a couple times, and video was stuttery throughout.
Overall, this device is best if you’re looking to do basic office or school tasks, and don’t think you’ll need to have more than a few things open at a time. (And in case this doesn’t go without saying, you’ll want to stay far away from this thing if you plan on doing anything fancy with Linux. )
The flipside of the weak processor is that the Flex 3 has excellent battery life. I averaged eight hours and 45 minutes to a charge with brightness at 50 percent — and I was pushing the thing harder than most people probably will be, as noted above. You can expect that this thing will last all day, and certainly longer than many more powerful Chromebooks. The 45W charger is acceptably quick, juicing the device up to 60 percent in 52 minutes.
Six rows of keys.
The Flex 3 runs Chrome OS, which means it can run Android apps natively. Some of these have improved since the last time I used this operating system — Messenger is now functional and no longer a complete disaster that bricks the machine, for example. But most of the services I use daily (Slack, Twitter, Gmail, Reddit, etc.) are just better experiences in a browser, so I didn’t use the dedicated app functionality all that often. There’s also still a double-notification problem — every time I got a Slack message, I got a notification both from the Slack Android app and my browser.
The Flex 3 also supports Chrome OS’s tablet mode, which has gotten quite good. It supports Android-esque gesture controls, which should help flatten the learning curve for new Chromebook users (though they were a bit sluggish on this device).
The Flex 3 feels pretty sturdy in tent mode.
Took a hot second to switch to tablet mode, but it got there.
Lenovo Flex 3 Chromebook specs (as reviewed)
- Processor: Intel Celeron N4020
- RAM: 4GB soldered LPDDR4-2400
- Storage: 64GB eMMC 5.1
- Weight: 2.64 lbs (1.2kg)
- Dimensions: 11.41 x 8.18 x 0.70 inches (290 x 207.8 x 17.8 mm)
- Battery: 42W
- Display: 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 WVA
- Camera: HD 720p
- Wi-Fi: 11ac, 2×2
- Bluetooth: 4.2
Deciding whether to buy a $350 Chromebook comes down to understanding what the big drawbacks are. In this case, there are two: The screen is cramped, and the processor is weak. So the question to ask is: Given those caveats, can you get your stuff done?
If you’re just using this device to pay bills, email people, and run some YouTube videos, I would say you can. It’ll be a little cramped, but you can. And if you can stomach that, the Flex 3 does deliver some great benefits in other areas, from the great keyboard and convenient ports to the outstanding battery life and respectable audio. In these categories, it rivals or surpasses our top Chromebook pick (the Spin 713). If you’re okay with its flaws, you’ll find that the Flex 3 offers quite a bit for its budget price.
Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge
Lenovo Flex 3 11-Inch – Full Review & Benchmarks
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Laptop Mag Verdict
The Lenovo Flex 3 11-inch offers multimode functionality in an attractive chassis, as well as strong battery life, but it’s on the slow side.
Sleek, elegant design
Easy to switch between modes
Above-average battery life
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When is a Yoga not a Yoga? When it’s a budget 2-in-1 — then, it’s called a Lenovo Flex 3 11-inch. Identity crisis aside, the Flex 3 11-inch (reviewed at $379, starting at $289) offers one of the best multimode experiences in the budget category, complete with helpful, intuitive software. The Intel Celeron processor allows for light productivity, Web surfing and multimedia activities. Throw in nearly 7 hours of battery life, and you have a great option for students or anyone on a budget.
Design: A Flex in Yoga’s Chassis
It’s a laptop that makes you say, “I can’t believe it’s budget!” With the Flex 3 11-inch, the line between Lenovo’s elegant Yoga series and the no-frills Flex has been significantly blurred. It shows off gently rounded corners and a not-quite-soft-touch black-plastic finish that manages to avoid looking or feeling chintzy.
The brushed-finish interior and chrome-lined touchpad only reinforce the high-end aesthetic. The surface is highly susceptible to oil, so you’ll want to keep a cleaning cloth nearby. For ports, you get USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI and expandable gigabit Ethernet, as well as a power button, on the right side. On the left side, there’s another USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, a headset jack, a secure lock slot and the company’s proprietary charging port.
This 3-pound, 11.8 x 8.2 x 0.86-inch device is one of the chunkier budget hybrids we’ve tested. The Toshiba Satellite Radius is lighter and thinner, at 2.9 pounds and 11.25 x 7.75 x 0.65 inches, while the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is slightly heavier and has a thinner profile, at 3.1 pounds and 11.81 x 7.93 x 0.75 inches.
The compromises Lenovo had to make in the name of saving a few bucks became quickly apparent when I started typing on the island-style keyboard. The smile-shaped keys look like those on the keyboards I’ve come to associate with the brand’s upper-tier products. But when I began typing, the shallow 1-millimeter key travel and weak 50-gram actuation force reared their ugly heads, pushing my typical word count of 60 words per minute down to 50 wpm on the 10FastFingers.com typing test.
The 3.5 x 2.3-inch Elan touchpad provided better performance, with smooth, fluid navigation on websites and documents. Gestures such as pinch-zoom and three-finger swiping were swift and responsive.
Multimode: The Yoga That Wasn’t
Lenovo gave the Flex 3 11-inch four modes: Laptop, Tablet, Tent and Stand. Flip the keyboard onto the lid using the 360-degree hinges for Tablet Mode. To switch to Tent mode, fold the display and keyboard backward, like an upside-down book. Place the keyboard facedown and leave the display exposed to enter Stand mode, which is perfect for watching movies or sharing presentations.
Lenovo continues to represent the gold standard for convertible laptops, thanks to the sturdy hinges that provide seamless transitions among the modes. But the Harmony software is the real star of the show. When you switch between modes, Harmony offers to launch apps optimized for that particular setup. It also shows how much time you spend in each mode compared to other Flex owners.
MORE: Best 2-in-1s (Laptop/Tablet Hybrids)
Display and Audio: How Dull and Low Can You Go?
The quick answer is, very dull and low. Faded colors and fuzzy edges await on the Flex 3 11-inch’s 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 touch panel. Reds and purples in the 1080p trailer for Suicide Squad looked washed out and dull. Supervillain Killer Croc’s greenish-gray visage took on more of a yellowish tinge. There was noticeable fuzziness around the edges between the man-beast’s scales that only served to enhance the washout.
The answer to the screen’s color problem soon became evident on the gamut benchmark, which tests for color reproduction. The Flex 3 11-inch had the lowest score of six 2-in-1 devices tested, with 58.2 percent (100 percent is ideal). That’s well below the 68-percent budget average and nowhere near the Dell Inspiron 11 3000’s 81.4 percent.
The Flex 3 11-inch tied with the HP Pavilion x360 for third place, with 227 nits, when measured for brightness, which is also below the budget average of 234. The Inspiron 11 3000 outshone the competition at a bright 308 nits.
The audio from the Flex 3 11-inch’s bottom-mounted speakers wasn’t great, which is to be expected from a budget device. Even with the preinstalled Dolby Digital Plus software enabled, the laptop failed to fill my small test space.
As I played Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” I noticed a smidgen of bass, which is surprising for a notebook of this caliber. However, there was an aural quivering throughout the highs that reverberated throughout the rest of the track. I eliminated the effect by disabling the Dolby software with the unforeseen circumstance of reducing the volume to slightly above whisper levels.
Performance: The Little Hybrid That Couldn’t
Try as it might, the Flex 3 11-inch’s 2.16-GHz Intel Celeron N2840 processor with 4GB of RAM consistently landed it in the bottom three of the six 2-in-1s we tested. However the notebook did well on my real-world test, in which I streamed an episode of BoJack HorseMan from Netflix while running a system scan with seven open tabs in Google Chrome.
Unfortunately, the Flex 3 11-inch didn’t fare so well on our multitasking stress test, taking a second-to-last 51.7 seconds to open a large Word document chock-full of images. That time is well below the 44.2-second budget 2-in-1 category average.
This convertible also faltered on the synthetic Geekbench 3 test, scoring 1,878 and missing the 2,834 budget 2-in-1 average. That’s worlds away from the winner, the HP Pavilion x360 (1.9-GHz Intel Core M-Y510c CPU), which scored 3,992. Still, it wasn’t the worst; that dubious honor goes to the Toshiba Satellite Radius (2. 16-GHz Intel Celeron N2840), which notched 1,725.
In addition to its poor performance, the Flex 3 11-inch can get hot under the chassis. After the 2-in-1 streamed a video for 15 minutes, the undercarriage hit 102 degrees Fahrenheit, so you might want to be careful when using it in your lap. The touchpad and the space between the G and H keys measured 85 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, which is below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Battery Life: Above Average
Lenovo’s 2-in-1 lasted 6 hours and 41 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits), which is longer than the 6:26 budget average and comparable to the Dell Inspiron 11 3000’s 6:42.
MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life
Software: A Break from Bloat?
Other than McAfee Central, you won’t find too many third-party apps on the Flex 3 11-inch. However, there’s plenty of Lenovo-branded software to wade through. Lenovo Companion monitors system performance, and OneKey Optimizer enhances performance by keeping drivers and firmware up to date. VeriFace Pro lets you log in using facial recognition, delivering an added layer of security.
If you need more storage beyond the 500GB hard drive, there’s REACHit, which provides access to all your files across devices and goes one step further by bringing all your cloud storage accounts together for quick interaction. Motion Control allows you to adjust the volume, scroll through pictures, and zoom in and out by performing certain gestures in front of the webcam, with mixed results.
The Lenovo Flex 3 11-inch is easily the best 2-in-1 of the budget bunch when it comes to multimode use and functionality. The convertible also offers more than 6.5 hours of battery life, which is good for a budget system.
But not so fast — literally. The $379 hybrid has some serious shortcomings when it comes to performance, coming in second to last in our testing. It can also get uncomfortably warm on the bottom during regular use. The $440 Dell Inspiron 11 3000 offers better performance and audio, a brighter screen, comparable battery life and a system that stays cool during use.
Nevertheless, the Lenovo Flex 3 11-inch is a good choice for consumers looking for intuitive multimodal use in a stylish, lightweight chassis with above-average endurance.
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|CPU||2.16-GHz Intel Celeron N2840 processor|
|Card Slots||4-1 card reader|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics|
|Hard Drive Size||500GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Operating System||Windows 8. 1|
|Optical Drive Speed||n/a|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI, Headset, security lock slot, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet|
|Size||11.8 x 8.2 x 0.86 inches|
|Touchpad Size||3.5 x 2.3 inches|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160|
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she’s reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Convertible Laptop 11ADA05 (82G4001MRU)
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 is a convertible device that you want to become a laptop, tablet or anything in between. Choose the best option for each task. IMPRESSIVE AUTONOMY With approximately 8 hours of battery life, it’s great for those who spend a lot of time outside their home or office. In addition, it is enough to connect this model to the outlet for only 15 minutes to increase the duration of work by another couple of hours. BRIGHT AND CLEAR PICTURE 11.6-inch screen with 19 resolution20 x 1080 pixels based on an IPS matrix. This means that the image will be detailed with saturated and at the same time realistic colors. MODERN TECHNOLOGY The touch screen makes interacting with applications especially easy. HDMI and USB ports allow you to connect a variety of external devices and media, from a flash drive and smartphone to a large-format monitor.
|Graphic controller||Radeon Graphics|
|Random access memory (RAM)||4GB|
|Video processor manufacturer||AMD|
|Bluetooth (version)||4. 1|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home S mode|
|WiFi 9 support0011||a/b/g/n/ac|
|Screen size||11.6″(29.4 cm)|
|Number of cores||2|
|Maximum clock frequency||2. 8GHz|
|Processor||AMD Athlon Silver 3050E 1.4GHz|
Note: HTML markup is not supported! Use plain text.
Power Supply for Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 11IGL05, 11ADA05, 82B2, 82G4
|Features||Compatible Notebook Models|
|Features||Input voltage (V)||100-240|
|Output voltage (V)||20|
|Max. current (A)||2.25|
|Maximum power (W)||45|
|Power cord included||Yes|
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