Lenovo announced one of its newest notebooks just last month, the Lenovo Flex 14 and Flex 15, which is yet another portable computer in their stable of devices that is able to offer a not-so traditional experience. We’ve seen the ThinkPad Twist and the Lenovo Yoga, but this time, the Flex series of notebooks only has the capability to extending its display up to 300 degrees. This means its keyboard can be flipped upside down to only allow for the Flex’s screen take center stage, which just so happens to be a touchscreen display.
Lenovo is releasing 14- and 15-inch models of the Flex, and for this review, we’re checking out the Flex 14. The Lenovo Flex 14 weighs in at 4.3 lbs, features a 14-inch 1366 x 768 touch display, a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 Haswell CPU and 8GB of RAM in addition to its unique way it can be used. With that said, let’s take a closer look at how much of unique experience the Lenovo Flex 14 offers in our review.
I’ve reviewed a number of laptops that can be twisted and turned to offer a new perspective on your content. I reviewed the ThinkPad Twist, and just recently, the Dell XPS 12 2013 Edition. I certainly enjoy how laptop manufacturers are rethinking how their users can interact with their Windows 8 machines in a number of ways, but this isn’t something that I personally look for in a computer.
Since I spend a lot of time writing, one of the most important factors of any laptop I review is its keyboard. My personal preference is a keyboard that is more clicky than it is spongy. I also look for a light machine as when I travel to various press events, I would prefer not feeling completely drained at the end of the day. Nowadays, I don’t need a really powerful machine, but it should be able to keep up with being able to have several web browsing windows open as well as photo editing tools.
Lenovo Flex 14 Specs
- 14-inch HD 1366 x 768 display with 10 point multi-touch support
- 1.60GHz Intel Core i5-4200U Processor + Intel HD Graphics 4400
- 8GB DDR3L, 1600MHz RAM
- Windows 8 (32-bit)
- 128GB SSD
- 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 10/100Mbps LAN
- 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, HDMI port, 2-in-1 SD/MMC card reader, ⅛” stereo headphones, RJ45
- 343.15mm x 250.69mm x 5.84mm – 21.33mm
- 1.95kg (4.3lbs)
- 48 Watt-hours
Industrial Design (good)
One of the main selling points for the Lenovo Flex 14 is the fact that you can move its screen far past what you normally could in most notebooks all the way back to a 300 degrees. As a result, the Flex 14 can be used as a traditional notebook, but when you flip its screen, its keyboard and touchpad both face downward, resulting in the ultrabook being used in its stand mode. It’s certainly a neat concept, although we didn’t get much use out of this feature as we’re sure Lenovo expects its customers to as we really found no good enough reason to completely hide the keyboard and trackpad from being used. If you’re looking for that specific of a feature from your ultrabooks, then the Flex 14 may just be what you’ve always been looking for.
When you first feast eyes on the Flex 14, you’ll be met with the ultrabook’s 14-inch display, which features a resolution of 1366 x 768, which seems a bit on the low side considering the size of the screen. We’ll get more into that in our display portion of our review, so let’s continue taking a look at the Flex 14’s industrial design. The display has a small area of the screen that is blacked out prior to getting to the notebook’s bezel, which seems a bit strange as Lenovo could easily make the screen larger instead of blacking out a portion of the LCD.
Once you make it past the blacked-out areas of the screen, you’ll be met with a black bezel which measures in around ¼ of an inch on its sides, 1 inch on top and nearly 2 inches at the bottom. The top bezel is where you’ll find the Flex 14’s webcam in the middle and the Lenovo logo at the top-left area. The bottom has two thin rubber stumps that are found on either side of the display’s Windows button. There’s a portion of the display that is hinged into the Flex 14’s base, which is how it’s able to flip itself around to extreme angles. Flipping the screen is relatively easy, although you have to put a bit of force in order to move the display to the angle you want it to sit at. The rear of the display is covered in a black, rubberish material and is completely smooth. At the top left portion of the display’s rear, you can see a Lenovo logo displayed in a reflective material.
The underside of the Flex 14 has a number of vents available at different portions of the area. There’s a long vent in the middle of the underside, two vents close to the front corners and another vent located at the left side that wraps around the side of the ultrabook. Two thick rubber stumps sit just above where the corner vents are located while two elevated rubber stumps are located closer to where its battery is located. There are two switches that need to be activated in order to remove the battery of the Flex 14, which is located at the edge of the underside of the base and can easily be slid in and out.
The keyboard on the Flex 14 feels a bit plasticky, although it gives a nice clicky feeling when typing on it. When typing, we detected a very slight sponginess at the end of each key press, which means those of you who enjoy a clicky keyboard will enjoy the keyboard the Flex 14 offers. The keys on the keyboard seem to be rounded out a bit, which we needed to get used to while using the ultrabook, although the arrow keys were in an area where our fingers never landed on them correctly as we ended up pressing the CTRL key more often than not when attempting to access the arrow keys. It doesn’t help the arrow keys are pretty small when compared to the other keys, and some additional keys, like Home, End, PgUp and PgDn are just thrown in at the end of the keyboard on the right side. We’re not sure who came up with the keyboard layout of the Flex 14, but it isn’t one of our favorites.
The palm rests are smooth as the base of the Flex 14 is made of a magnesium material, making moving your palms around while you type or use the trackpad easy. There are two rubber triangles at the edges of the base that your wrists may come in contact with, depending on how far on the palm rests you go. The purpose of these triangles is to give the base a slight lift when the screen has been flipped, resulting in the keyboard facing downward. If you have larger hands, you might come in contact with these rubber triangles more often than not, so keep that in mind if you’re considering buying the Flex 14.
The trackpad offers a completely opposite experience than what we had with its keyboard as it’s extremely smooth and we found it easy to navigate with it. As with most trackpad, you’re able to lightly tap it to input a mouse click, while you can also perform a hard click on the bottom left portion for a left-mouse click, and the right portion performs a right-mouse click. A thin strip of reflective material also surrounds the trackpad, which helps in finding it among the overall dark black and grey colors of the Flex 14. It also adds a nice touch to its overall look.
Ports: Lenovo pulled out all the stops when it put together what ports would be available on the Flex 14 as it has quite a few available on the sides of the ultrabook. Starting with the left side, you’ll find the Flex 14’s power adapter, a row of vents, an RJ45 port, HDMI port and a USB 3.0 port. The right side is where you’ll find the ultrabook’s power button, a button for Lenovo’s OneKey Recovery program, two USB 2.0 ports, a 2-in-1 SD/MMC card reader, a headphone / microphone combo jack and a volume rocker.
For the Lenovo Flex 14 having a 14-inch display, the resolution on it is only 1366 x 768. We expect these days an ultrabook this size to have a resolution a little bit larger than that, considering we’re now entering the age of notebooks that have ultra-high resolution displays.
The Flex 14 features a touchscreen display, which makes sense considering the notebook would be completely useless when the screen is flipped around the keyboard, resulting in both the keyboard and touchpad facing downwards.
Images on the Flex 14’s display looked as good as you’d expect a display with a 1366 x 768 to do, which when you consider we have Full HD and ultra-high resolution notebooks on the market, isn’t very good. High resolution images and videos don’t pop out as well as they should, and the display also seems to have a slight bluish tint to it giving everything viewed on it an unnatural bluish look.
Lenovo didn’t say what the nit brightness of the Flex 14 was, but if we had to guess, we’d say the display has 300 nit brightness considering we felt comfortable using the ultrabook when its brightness was turned up 100% of its full potential. This means using the Flex 14 outdoors would probably make it extremely difficult to see what exactly is being displayed, especially on a sunny day.
The Lenovo Flex 14 comes with a 720p HD camera, which will certainly come in handy if you decide to use the ultrabook in its stand mode. For the purpose of our review, we put the Flex 14’s webcam up against the webcam on the recently reviewed Dell XPS 12 2013 Edition, which features a 1.3MP webcam capable of capturing images at 1280 x 1024 pixels.
The Flex 14’s webcam performed pretty well as the colors, contrast and brightness of the image didn’t seem to look strange in any way. Some of the darker portions of our test image look slightly pixelated, but most people won’t notice it through regular use. There’s also an extremely slight glow to the photo if you look closely. When compared to the XPS 12’s webcam, the Flex 14 certainly offers a better experience based on just much more real to life the image is, considering the XPS 12’s image looks too bright.
Performance (very good)
The Lenovo Flex 14 features some nice internals as the demo unit we were lent for our review runs on a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4th-generation Haswell processor, the improved Intel HD Graphics 4400 and 8GB of RAM. Lenovo may have skimped on the Flex 14’s display, but it looks like they’re making up for it with the specs they have thrown into the notebook. With that said, let’s see just how powerful the Flex 14 is by running some benchmarks on it.
One of the first benchmarks we like to run for PCs is PCMark 7, which is a benchmark used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.
The Lenovo Flex 14 performed well on our PCMark 7 test as it scored a 4518. This is slightly less powerful than another Haswell-equipped machine we recently reviewed, the Dell XPS 12, but its score is still good enough where you shouldn’t notice much of a slowdown when you’re multitasking. We’ve actually seen better scores from some notebooks we reviewed previously that have last-generation processors, so we’re sure Lenovo can improve how the Flex 14 performs if they decide it needs to be refreshed.
The second benchmark we like to run on our test machines is 3D Mark 11, which is a benchmark that is more demanding as its primary focus is how well it’ll perform as a gaming machine. This, of course, doesn’t mean Facebook or Flash-based games as most computers can run those. Instead, we mean games like the latest Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other graphic-intensive game.
The majority of ultrabooks that have been released over the years have never performed well in our 3D Mark 11 benchmarks as these machines weren’t built to be considered gaming machines. The Intel HD Graphics 4400 is a step up from the widely used Intel HD Graphics 4000, but Lenovo Flex 14 scores a low P719. You may get away with playing some flash-based games or games that don’t push the system very hard, but don’t go expecting to play Battlefield 4 or Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag on this ultrabook.
The final benchmark we like to run on our test machines is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the laptop with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it. In other words, this test simply tests out the machine’s processor and nothing else.
Our Geekbench benchmark found the Intel core i5-4200U processor to be pretty powerful as the Flex 14 scored a 5085. This is a good score when you consider the processor will most likely be used for ultrabooks, hybrids or some AIO PCs, but the king of the Geekbench still seems to be the Razer Blade Pro, which is a gaming laptop that has some seriously powerful specs.
Value for weight, price (average)
As important as it is to see just how powerful a portable computer is, we also like to take into considering its weight versus its power. The Lenovo Flex 14 is a pretty heavy ultrabook as it weighs in at 4.3lbs making it one of the heaviest ultrabooks we’ve reviewed, and the heaviest ultrabook we’ve seen featuring Intel’s new Haswell processor. Let’s just hope the Flex 14 performs well enough to warrant lugging around that kind of weight around.
The results of our performance relative to weight equation, the Lenovo Flex 14 seems to be leaning more on the side of it’s weight not being worth the impact you’ll get out of the ultrabook. Sure – the monitor on the Flex 14 can be moved around at extreme angles, but if you want to travel light, that feature may leave you feeling achy at the end a long work day.
Battery Life (very good)
Battery life is one of the most important factors to consider when you’re looking to purchase a new notebook. We know having a portable computer that can keep up with the amount of work or pleasure you plan on using it for is important, but what’s the point of buying a notebook when its battery only lasts 15 minutes on a full charge? The Lenovo Flex 14 has a removable 48Whr battery that can slide in and out underneath the base of the monitor.
We’re sure if you are considering purchasing a notebook, you’re probably going to want to use it at some point. That’s why we perform a number of tests to see how much the battery will drain in real-world situations. One of the first tests we perform is a local video test, which we play a 1080p video for an hour while the screen’s brightness is set to 50%, keeping the notebook’s Wi-Fi on. Once we reached an hour of play time, we noticed a drop of 16% in the battery life of the Flex 14. This means you should expect a little over 6 hours of playback when watching local videos.
The second test we perform on our notebooks is a streaming video test. For this test, we stream a YouTube video set at 1080p for an hour, once again keeping the screen’s brightness to 50% and the Wi-Fi on. At the end of the hour, we noticed a drop of 16% in the Flex 14’s battery, which means if you’re watching streaming 1080p video, you should expect a little over 6 hours of playback before your battery is drained.
Battery Charge (good)
Now that we’ve reported on how long the battery of the Lenovo Flex 14 will last, we also like to take note of how long notebook’s we review will take to fully recharge themselves. For this test, we had the Lenovo Flex 14 recharging for an hour with its lid closed, forcing it into standby mode. After an hour of charging, we noticed an increase of 38% in the battery of the Flex 14, which means it’ll take you a little over 2 ½ hours to fully charge the ultrabook.
Lenovo certainly put some thought into its Flex series of ultrabooks, although we still can’t see why anyone would want to own something this specific. We’ve seen hybrid notebooks that allow you to either shift and chance the computer to offer multiple uses, as well as come apart to become a more portable tablet. But the Flex 14 is unique in that it’s a laptop that can only double as an LCD stand with touchscreen controls.
The Flex 14 has some nice specs, battery life and webcam, but considering its weight and how limited its use outside of being just an ultrabook is, we think Lenovo provided a good notebook with a less interesting secondary use. We think you’ll only get full use out of the Flex 14 if you happen to require something as specific as an ultrabook that can have its display extend to an extreme length.