Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus review: You can't beat this Chromebook Plus for value

While not the strongest screen quality or performance, the Flex 5i Chromebook Plus gets most of the way there on a lower budget

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus on the ITPro background
(Image: © Future)

IT Pro Verdict


  • +

    Versatile design

  • +

    Solid performance

  • +

    Speedy keyboard and plus-sized trackpad

  • +

    Very affordable


  • -

    Lags behind the top Chromebooks on battery life and performance

  • -

    Screen brightness and color depth could be improved

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i has spent a few years as a go-to Chromebook, hitting a sweet spot in terms of price and performance from within a versatile 2-in-1 form factor with solid usability and a decent screen. It's never quite wowed in the same way as the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 and 714 or Google's late, lamented Pixelbook Go. However, it's always been significantly cheaper, which counts for a lot in the value-oriented Chromebook world. 

On first impressions, the latest version isn't a huge departure from what came before, but it's one of two Lenovo Chromebooks to be awarded Google's new Chromebook Plus designation. This tells you in an instant that you're getting a higher-end device with a capable core spec, but the IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus goes even further to make it a tempting proposition for small businesses.  

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Design

Like the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 and the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip, the IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is a 2-in-1 convertible with a 14in screen in a squarer 16:10 aspect ratio, giving you a little more vertical space to play with at the cost of some horizontal space. Don't get too excited by the aluminum lid – it's the only part of the shell that's actual metal, rather than a metallic finish plastic – but the build feels good and sturdy and there's barely any flex in the base or in the lid. 

In fact, the Flex in the name refers to the flexibility of the design. This enables you to use this Chromebook not just in the standard clamshell laptop mode, but with the lid folded back against the bottom of the keyboard as a kind of oversized tablet, or with the lid acting as a prop for the screen in a tent mode which works well for ad-hoc presentations or simply watching rather than doing. 

With a desktop footprint of just 316 x 229mmm, it's an easy laptop to cram into a case or bag, and the 1.58kg weight won't be much of a burden if you're on the go all day. And where its stablemate, the IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook, struggled with a lack of connectivity, the IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus has the basics covered. You get two USB 3.2 Type-C ports, with one supporting the 10Gbits/sec USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. You also get a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, plus a micro SD card reader. The only serious omission is an HDMI output – you'll need to rely on DisplayPort over USB-C if you want to hook up an external screen. You'll also need an external dock for any kind of Ethernet support, though the built-in Wi-Fi 6E should cover most people's networking needs.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

There's a 1080p webcam at the top of the screen, with a miniscule privacy slider, and it's capable of capturing natural-looking, detailed images with good exposure in most lighting conditions. Audio is also above the Chromebook norm, with better clarity, more body, and some clever positioning of stereo effects if you stop to watch video or have some music playing in the background. You won't have any problems understanding or being understood in video meetings, at least none caused by the hardware here. What's more, the audio and video enhancements that come in play with Chromebook Plus can be used to improve quality, giving you clearer sound and better-exposed images.

Keyboards tend to be a Lenovo strength, and the Flex 5i Chromebook Plus has one of the best you'll find on an affordable Chromebook, with a speedy, lightweight action and a layout that puts everything where you'd normally expect it, at least by Chromebook standards. The touchpad doesn't let the side down either. At 12 x 7.5cm it's larger than the average for a 14in laptop, and as smooth and responsive as you're going to find outside of much more expensive, high-end models.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Display

The screen is arguably the one area where the cheaper IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook pulls ahead. Most of us would rather have the Flex 5i Chromebook Plus's higher 1920 x 1200 resolution and squarer aspect ratio; it makes the screen look bigger than it is and a little crisper. However, the Slim 3i's screen goes brighter, reaching nearly 330 nits whereas the Flex 5i can only hit just under 300 nits. What's more, its colors are ever so slightly richer. Where the Flex 5i covers 57.7% of the sRGB color gamut, the Slim 3i can cover 61%.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

These are fairly modest results, and contrast levels and color accuracy are similarly underwhelming. Yet in practice, streaming video through YouTube and Netflix or spending the day running productivity apps, the screen looks good. Text is crisp, there's a decent level of contrast and image quality is more than watchable. It's perfectly usable as long as you're not involved in color-critical design work or something of that ilk. Word processing? Spreadsheets? Business collaboration apps and email? You'll be fine.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Performance


Where the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 we tested packed in a 13th-generation Core i5-1335U CPU and the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip had the Core i5-1235U, the IdeaPad Flex 5i has to make do with a 12th-generation Core i3-1215U. It's partnered with the Chromebook Plus standard 8GB of RAM plus a 256GB SSD. In theory, the Core i3 CPU should make it significantly slower than the Acer and Asus competition. After all, it just has 2 performance cores and 4 efficient cores running at a maximum 4.4GHz and 3.3GHz respectively, whereas the i5-1335U has two P cores, eight E cores, and higher max clock speeds of 3.4GHz and 4.6GHz.

Yet the difference isn't as massive as you might expect. The Flex 5i scores 1809 in the Geekbench single-core benchmark and 5020 in the multi-core, which puts it behind the 1882 and 6568 of the Acer and the 1815 and 6292 of the Asus, but in the Basemark 3.0 Web applications benchmark it's pretty close, with 1237.88 to the Acer's 1244.59 and the Asus's 1360.24. The difference is more pronounced in the 3DMark Wild Life benchmark, with 7041 to 8826 and 7889, but that's not a massive deal on Chrome OS. In actual everyday use, the Flex 5i Chromebook Plus feels responsive and snappy, even when you've got a dozen Chrome browser tabs open or you're running Android apps. It's no speed champion, but it's fast enough.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

As for battery life, the Flex 5i Chromebook Plus managed just under ten hours in our video playback rundown test; over three hours less than the Spin 713 and nearly an hour less than the Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip, but still not a bad result. You can get through a working day without a recharge unless you have the screen brightness turned up to the maximum, and that's going to be enough for most users.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus: Is it worth it?

There are areas where the IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus falls short of the standard set by the Asus and Acer competition. The screen doesn't go as bright, colours aren't as vibrant, the overall feel isn't quite as premium and the performance and battery life don't quite match up. Lenovo sells a slightly more expensive version with a Core i5 1235U and a larger 512GB SSD, but that won't change the design, materials, battery life, or screen. 

Yet the key thing here is the pricing. The Core i3 version tested has an RRP of £499 but can regularly be found for £399 or less. The equivalent version of the Asus Chromebook Spin 714 costs £699, and while we have seen it selling for £100 less, that's still a substantial price difference. When you're operating on a tight budget, £200 per laptop is worth thinking about. It also makes the Lenovo fantastic value. You're still getting a great, business-ready Chromebook at that price. 

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ProcessorIntel Core i3 1215U or Intel Core i5 1235U
DisplayFHD 14in, 16:10 IPS
Ports1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, micro SD card
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
Dimensions316 x 229 x 19.8
Stuart Andrews

Stuart has been writing about technology for over 25 years, focusing on PC hardware, enterprise technology, education tech, cloud services and video games. Along the way he’s worked extensively with Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and Chrome OS devices, and tested everything from laptops to laser printers, graphics cards to gaming headsets.

He’s then written about all this stuff – and more – for outlets, including PC Pro, IT Pro, Expert Reviews and The Sunday Times. He’s also written and edited books on Windows, video games and Scratch programming for younger coders. When he’s not fiddling with tech or playing games, you’ll find him working in the garden, walking, reading or watching films.

You can follow Stuart on Twitter at @SATAndrews