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Lenovo Flex 5G review: Insane battery life at a cost
I’m a big proponent of equipping as many mobile computers as possible with cellular connectivity. After all, what’s a laptop or tablet without the internet? While a handful of laptops — mostly enterprise-focused machines — do indeed offer LTE, the number isn’t nearly enough.
Lenovo takes things a step further with the Flex 5G, which is a convertible laptop that includes not only 4G LTE, but Verizon Wireless 5G.
Is it worth getting excited about a 5G laptop? Find out in the Android Authority Lenovo Flex 5G review.
What is the Lenovo Flex 5G?
The Lenovo Flex 5G is one of the first laptops to ship with an available 5G connection. Moreover, it’s one of a few to run a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx processor, which is based on Arm cores rather than Intel x86. These components lend an extra dash of mobility to an already-mobile form factor.
The 8cx and 5G modem are able to work together to deliver lightning-quick connectivity and incredible battery life in a truly flexible piece of hardware. But there’s a “gotcha” lurking under the hood that may slow you down.
Design and display: Modern mettle
The Flex 5G is Lenovo modernism at its most minimal. The Flex is a convertible. This means it has a 360-degree hinge that allows for it to be used as a laptop or a tablet, like Lenovo’s Yoga line. It’s made of dark gray aluminum and has a sharp front edge and a rounded rear edge. It’s slim and stylish — as long as you’re into low-key designs. I can’t say that it really stands out, but few business machines do.
While the top half is aluminum, the bottom half has a soft touch material that covers the magnesium and aluminum that frame out the chassis. Two long, rubber rails keep the laptop steadily in place on a table or desk.
The hinge is fairly typical for a convertible. It is strong and sturdy, and holds the lid at any angle. It can swing 360 degrees. This allows the device to sit as a laptop, stand as tent, or rest as a tablet. The form factor is a little awkward as a tablet, but that’s to be expected.
Thanks to the 14-inch display, the Flex 5G splits the difference in size. The Flex 5G weighs 1.3kg (2.9 pounds) and measures 320 x 215 x 14.7mm. It’s definitely larger than a 13-inch laptop would be, though is somewhat smaller than modern 15-inch machines.
Speaking of the display, the 14-inch panel offers up Full HD resolution in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The bezels are slim, but I’ve seen slimmer. The IPS LCD features a glossy touch panel that is quickly marred with fingerprints. The glossy cover really messes with outdoor visibility, too, due to reflections. Still, the 400nit brightness and 72 color gamut ensure that it looks clean, precise, and bright when indoors.
The build quality is absolutely fine, but I’d expect a little more finesse in a laptop at this price point.
More reading: Best laptops you can buy
Keyboard and Ports
Lenovo doesn’t stray too far from its typical keyboard design here, and that’s a good thing. I’ve long appreciated the shape and action of Lenovo’s keys. I found the keyboard punchy and quick. The keys are easy to glide across and find as you compose emails and fire off Slack messages. A slew of useful function keys line the top row.
A fingerprint reader rests just below the keyboard on the far right side. I found it was the best way to secure the laptop. It was easy to train and worked almost instantaneously.
The touchpad is a bit small, but at least it’s covered in glass. This helps it stand out from the soft touch material of the deck. The glass is smooth and responsive, though I found I had to tweak the settings to prevent too many accidental touches.
The ports are likely to disappoint you. I know they disappointed me. There are two USB-C Gen 3.2 ports on the left edge. The ports are positioned almost right next to one another, which is fine for cables but not for dongles. Since you’ll need one of them to charge the laptop, that leaves you with a single port. A USB-A port would have been nice.
The power button and headphone/mic jack are on the right edge, as is a hardware airplane mode switch. I would have liked to see a memory card slot of some type.
Last, Dolby Atmos-tuned stereo speakers frame out the keyboard. These speakers sound very good and offer enough volume to fill a small office or hotel room with sound.
Performance and battery
There’s no Intel inside. The Lenovo Flex 5G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx mobile processor with eight Kryo 495 cores clocked at 2.84GHz. It features an Adreno 680 GPU, 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage. This system felt fast across the board, though its Geekbench 5 scores were only 721 for single-core and 2862 for multi-core.
Battery life is absolutely outstanding. The machine has a four-cell 60Wh lithium-polymer battery inside. Combined with the 8cx, it absolutely kills. Lenovo rates battery life at an astounding 24 hours. I couldn’t kill the battery over a period of several days. It lasts and lasts and lasts. That includes time spent surfing on 5G, which you’d expect to drain the battery right quick. The Lenovo Flex 5G has some of the best battery life we’ve tested.
Flexing that 5G Arm
That battery life comes at a cost and that cost is apps. The Flex 5G cannot run 64-bit x86 apps, which means plenty of apps in the Windows Store are simply unavailable to the laptop. Microsoft filtered its store, so you should only see those apps that are compatible with the machine. This is most likely to impact games, but it does impact productivity apps as well.
For example, Adobe PhotoShop, Lightroom, and Creative Cloud don’t yet support Arm, which means I had to do my photo editing for this review on a separate machine. However, the bulk of apps I typically use (Slack, Chrome, Spotify, Twitter) all ran well. The bottom line here is that app compatibility doesn’t match competing Intel machines, and that may not work for some users.
Then there’s the 5G performance. The laptop supports Verizon Wireless’ mmWave 5G now and will support Verizon’s sub-6GHz 5G when Big Red gets around to launching it. In other words, finding 5G is pretty hard right now. In the New Jersey, only a few municipalities have mmWave coverage from Verizon. We had to take the device to Hoboken, which is across the river from New York, to find some 5G airwaves.
Once connected — which happens in a blink — performance is excellent. The laptop reached download speeds in excess of 600Mbps. That’s not as fast as the 5G phone I had with me, but it’s still faster than most Wi-Fi connections you’ll find. You have to use the Flex 5G outdoors. So you’ll get 5G if you’re working in your car, or sitting at an outdoor cafe, but not necessarily in your office. Thankfully, the laptop falls back to LTE and worked flawlessly on Verizon’s 4G network.
Having cellular connectivity allowed me to use the Flex 5G in spaces where I’d typically need a mobile hotspot. It always connected to LTE 4G instantly and was reliable and quick while I tested the device. Seriously, more laptops need LTE/5G.
See also: The best cheap laptops you can buy
What I like about the Lenovo Flex 5G
- Connectivity switch: The Flex 5G has a dedicated switch on the side for airplane mode. This makes it a breeze to turn off the laptop’s radios in a hurry — like when you’re about to take off. There’s a backup airplane mode button on the keyboard.
- Search: There’s a dedicated Google search button. What’s not to like about that?
- Settings: There’s a dedicated button to access the device settings. What’s not to like about that?
- Fingerprint reader: This should be a mandatory feature on modern laptops. Heck, nearly every phone already has one.
What I don’t like
- Ports: Not enough. Granted, the two USB-C ports support power delivery and USB 3.2, but two isn’t enough. Moreover, they are placed right next to one another, which could complicate the use of docks or dongles.
- Expandable storage: There isn’t any, which means no loading documents or files from a microSD or SD memory card.
- Size: It could be a little trimmer and lighter, considering the portability focus of the machine.
- Price: At $1,499, it feels overpriced, even considering the 5G connectivity.
- App compatibility: The lack of support for 64-bit x86 apps will be a problem for some users
Lenovo Flex 5G review: Specs
|Lenovo Flex 5G|
14-inch IPS LCD
1,920 x 1,080
8 x 2.84GHz Kyo 495
8GB LPDDR4 RAM
256GB UFS 3.0 storage
24-hour battery life
Two USB-C Gen 3.2 ports
mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G
320mm x 215mm x 14.7mm
1.3Kg / 2.9lbs
Lenovo Flex 5G review: Should you buy it?
The Lenovo Flex 5G is a device hindered by compromises. The laptop hardware itself is fine, but not as spiffy or appealing as a $1,499 laptop should be. Lenovo’s display is great inside, but falters outdoors due to the glossy glass. While the keyboard is excellent, and augmented by truly useful shortcut keys, the touchpad is average and the ports are limited. Performance is where the Flex 5G really shines. The Snapdragon 8cx chewed through all my productivity apps with ease, and battery life is absolutely out of this world. 5G speeds were excellent, though Verizon’s signal is hardly ubiquitous. This performance, however, is offset by the lack of support for 64-bit x86 apps.
As much as I like the Lenovo Flex 5G, it feels like you’re paying a steep price for that 5G radio. It’s a solid machine, but only makes sense if the app limitations don’t apply to you and 5G is near by.