Nathan Landale

The Technology for The Next Generation

This $499 Lenovo Chromebook Plus will make you reconsider spending so much on laptops
Computer, Gadget & Technology

This $499 Lenovo Chromebook Plus will make you reconsider spending so much on laptops


Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i is one of several new Chromebook Plus models, priced at just under $500.
  • Thanks to its flexible hinge design and sharp-looking display, it’s a fantastic machine for digital content creators.
  • Just don’t expect the most immersive-sounding speakers and well-ventilated design with this mid-range system.

Back in early October, Google announced its Chromebook Plus line – a new generation of laptops sporting more powerful hardware and better displays compared to older models. Each entry is great at being an everyday device. However, I want to bring attention to one of the more niche options of the bunch, one that I would argue is better than the generic models when put into the hands of the correct user. And that laptop is the IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus from Lenovo. 

Also: I tested Google’s new Chromebook Plus and the generative AI features blew me away

Lenovo’s laptop is best suited for photographers and content creators because of several features. First, you have the 14-inch touchscreen display that can be flipped a full 180 degrees, turning the Chromebook into a tablet. Images look great on the screen as it can output a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. 

In fact, among this new Chromebook Plus standard, the IdeaPad Flex 5i has one of the better displays. And secondly, Google has equipped this machine with the new Magic Eraser editing tool. I break down everything below.



Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus stands out amongst its generation by being an inexpensive, 2-in-1 Chromebook sporting good performance.

Magic Eraser is very handy because it can intelligently remove objects (including photobombers) in an image, and then replace them with the surrounding environment. It allows for quick, on-the-fly editing. This is exactly what I did testing out the IdeaPad Flex 5i

I found old pictures from my amateur photography days and decided to edit them. I was surprised by just how effective Magic Eraser was at cleaning up images; All I had to do was draw a circle around an object to get rid of it. The process is made easier thanks to the gorgeous, 14-inch touchscreen of the IdeaPad. 

Also: Lenovo’s new ThinkBook Plus is the most interesting 2-in-1 laptop I’ve used all year

It’s a more tedious task on Google Pixel phones because of the smaller real estate. What’s more, you will find an SD card reader port among the inputs on the side so you can directly upload pictures from a DSLR camera to the computer. 

Even if you’re not a photographer, I would still highly recommend the IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus because it’s great at being both a work and entertainment laptop. I just wanted to mention the photography angle as it’s something this device can do better than the other systems I’ve tested — especially for less than $500.

Typing on the laptop is quite comfortable because the keyboard and touchpad proportions are near ideal for me; One doesn’t take up more space than it needs to. If you read my review of the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34, you’ll learn that I wasn’t a fan of the smaller keyboard. The empty space could’ve been used more effectively for a comfortable experience. With Lenovo’s Chromebook, I’m happy to say this problem doesn’t exist. The backlit keyboard stretches nearly end to end, only leaving a little bit of room for the speakers.

Also: This Chromebook has the longest-lasting battery life I’ve tested, and it’s not even close

While we’re on the topic, I noticed that the audio coming from the IdeaPad’s speakers sounds great when voices are the primary focus. I was genuinely surprised by how wonderful a singer’s voice sounded coming out of them. It certainly helps that the Chromebook Plus series features AI enhancements to video calls for greater clarity. That said, the full entertainment experience was not perfect — the speakers did lack bass, resulting in shallow-sounding music.  

Design-wise, I find the plastic construction of Lenovo’s 2-in-1 Chromebook to be a tad flimsy. You definitely feel it when typing on the keyboard or pushing into the wristrest; there’s some give there. Do note the computer isn’t totally fragile as the back of the touchscreen is protected by aluminum. And despite being made out of mostly plastic, the IdeaPad Flex 5i is relatively heavy, clocking in at around 3.5 pounds. This is still fairly lightweight by today’s standards, but when compared to other Chromebook Plus models, it is one of the chunkier options. 


Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

I tested the IdeaPad Flex 5i’s battery life by playing a continuously running 720p video at 50 percent brightness to simulate a full day’s work. The laptop lasted about eight hours, lower than Google’s reported run time of 10 hours straight. It is disappointing the device didn’t last that long, but eight hours is a decent amount, especially if you use the computer for more moderate workloads.

Also: This Acer laptop may be the most affordable way to have an Nvidia 40 Series GPU

I should warn you that this laptop can run a little warm. The IdeaPad Flex 5i comes equipped with a 13th Gen Intel Core i3-1315U processor. Its performance won’t make the hardware run hot by itself. Instead, the bottom-firing ventilation port likely restricts proper airflow, making things toastier than they should be.

ZDNET’s buying advice

I highly recommend picking up the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus because I see it as one of the better models of its generation. It comes with a great-looking screen, decent performance, and multiple features that make it a good choice for a work machine. Within the coming months, the laptop will become even better when Google releases new AI-powered tools. One of which even can help improve short-form written content.

You can purchase the IdeaPad Flex 5i on Best Buy for $500. If you’re open to alternatives, I would argue that the Chromebook Plus CM34 Flip from ASUS can be considered a fantastic second option as it shares some of the same features, but sports a better processor.

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