Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Review

by Reads (2,605)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 7
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 8
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 6
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 7.57
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Great-looking display
    • Excellent battery life
    • Good keyboard and touchpad
    • Built-in fingerprint reader
    • Ample storage expansion capability
  • Cons

    • Ho-hum looks
    • Cooling fan can be noisy
    • Gets pricey with options

Lenovo pioneered the convertible notebook PC back in 2012 with their original Ideapad Yoga. Since then, the company has produced scores of models with the Ideapad’s iconic 360 degree display hinges. Fast forward to 2017, and the Ideapad Flex 5 15-inch laptop we’re reviewing is one of the largest convertible notebooks you can buy. As with other Yoga models, the display folds around 360 degrees, turning the notebook into a large tablet. The Flex 5 15 starts at $629, while the nearly topped-out model we received for review went for $929. All variants include a good-quality 15.6-inch IPS display, Windows 10, and Intel Core i-series processors. Our review unit also had dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 940MX graphics, which are just good enough for the latest games. Let’s take a closer look at this multimedia powerhouse.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Build & Design

The all-black Flex 5 15 has an unassuming look. Its style may strike a chord with you if you’re trying to maintain a low profile, but there’s no hiding the fact its design doesn’t make much of an effort to grab attention. Up close, the diamond-cut edges around the chassis, touch pad, and fingerprint reader cutouts add a subtle touch of class. Lenovo’s logo is printed in reflective lettering at the top left of the lid, and on the opposite corner under the display itself. Otherwise, the outside of the Flex 5 15 is virtually devoid of design accents.

The bezel around the display is minimal, which translates into trimmer dimensions than are typical for a notebook with this size display. The outside of this notebook is 14.3×9.8 inches, and with the lid closed, it’s 0.8 inches thick. Those aren’t small by any measure, but along with its 4.4-pound weight, the Flex 5 15 is reasonably portable for a notebook touting an expansive 15.6-inch display.

The back of the lid and the bottom of the chassis are relatively thick plastic, while the palm rest and surrounding areas are aluminum. The chassis has average strength; we were able to get it to visibly flex by pressing down on its surfaces with moderate pressure. It wasn’t any more or less flex than we’d expect in a consumer-class notebook like this. The lid fared better; while it also flexed, no distortions appeared in the screen when we did that, indicating the panel has acceptable protection. Durability-wise, the Flex 5 15 felt like a notebook we could carry around without much worry. The plastic wasn’t particularly resistant to scratching, the evidence for that being a couple of scraps the lid of our review unit picked up while being photographed. Ideally you’d want to transport this notebook in a padded sleeve.

The two block-like display hinges are the only giveaways the Flex 5 15 is capable of turning into a tablet. These hinges allow the display to flip around 360 degrees, effectively transforming this notebook into a big tablet. You’ve been warned: It takes some effort to pick up the Flex 5 15 to make this happen. As a tablet, it’s about the size of a small cafeteria tray. It works best when laid flat on a table as opposed to held in your arms, for obvious reasons.

You can also use the Flex 5 15 in a “stand” mode by folding its display back 270 degrees, and laying it on a table with the keyboard side facing down. This mode works well if you’re sitting at a table and want to present something, or just watch a movie. If you get the optional Lenovo Active Pen, which goes for about $27 from Lenovo, stand mode would also make the Flex 5 15 function like an easel.

Taking apart the Flex 5 15 is relatively straightforward. There are 10 Phillips-head screws holding on the bottom of the chassis. Afterwards, you’ll have to use your fingernails to gently pry up the edges of the panel. Underneath, you have access to the M.2 Type-2280 (80mm) slot for solid-state storage and the 2.5-inch bay for SATA drives. The silver piece in the middle is a cover over the single DIMM slot for DDR4-2133 memory. It’s odd that there’s only one as opposed to two memory slots, but at least it’s user-replaceable.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Keyboard & Touchpad

The keyboard in the Flex 5 15 looks shrunken in the expanse of its large palm rest. The island-style keys are all full-size, although there’s no number pad. The keys provide good tactile feedback despite their limited amount of up-and-down travel. The keyboard has two levels of white backlighting, plus off; you can toggle it by pressing the Function (Fn) key and the spacebar.

When it came to the keyboard layout, we expected better use to be made of the large chassis. The keyboard is missing dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys, which have been relegated to Fn-key combos within the arrow keys. These should be made dedicated keys on a notebook as large as this; it certainly looks like there would have been room for them.

The touch pad is oriented slightly left of center so that it lines up with the space bar, keeping it between your wrists while typing. The pad has a smooth anti-glare surface that’s easy to use, and it’s the right size relative to the 15.6-inch display on this notebook. The pad’s surface can be pressed down to perform a click, since it lacks physical buttons. The right-click area is the part precisely to the right of the black line at the bottom of the pad.

Off to the right of the touch pad is the built-in fingerprint reader. This is standard equipment for the Flex 5 15, a feature we’re glad to see. The fingerprint reader allows you to use the Windows Hello biometric login feature in Windows 10.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Input & Output Ports

We expected to see an extra Type-A USB port or two on a notebook this size, but overall the Flex 5 15 offers a satisfactory level of connectivity. The ports on this notebook are concentrated along the left and right edges of the chassis, with nothing along the front or back.

On the left, you’ll find the AC power jack, HDMI video-out, a Type-A USB 3.0 port, a Type-C USB 3.0 port, and the audio combo jack (headphone/microphone).

The right side has the power button, a reset pinhole, the full-size SD card reader, the last Type-A USB 3.0 port, and the Kensington-style cable lock slot. SD cards unfortunately stick halfway out of the reader when inserted, precluding you from carrying this notebook around with a card inserted. The power button is relatively hard to press by accident, though it isn’t completely flush with the side of the chassis.

Internally, the Flex 5 15 has a Qualcomm 802.11ac wireless card, and Bluetooth 4.1 wireless. The wireless range seemed fine, as we were able to pick up networks that were quite some distance away from our testing area.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Screen & Speakers

In the style of Henry Ford, you can have any display you want on the Flex 5 15, provided it has a 15.6-inch diagonal, a 1080p (FHD) resolution, and touch support. This certainly isn’t a bad panel to be stuck with. The in-plane switching (IPS) panel technology means unlimited viewing angles, a requirement on a device that can transform into a tablet. You can look at the display from any angle and not experience color distortion. The IPS panel also provides very good image quality. The high brightness, contrast, and color saturation made anything we put on the screen look good, especially HD movies. The brightness was more than adequate for working outdoors in the shade outdoors on a sunny day. Just be careful of the reflections off the glossy display surface. Indoors, the brightness was usually high enough to overwhelm reflections.


The 1080p (1,920×1,080) resolution remains our preferred resolution for a 15.6-inch display. The text size is legible without using Windows scaling to bump it up, which isn’t something that can be said about a display this size with a 4K (3,840×2,160) resolution. In addition, a 1080p display requires fewer resources to run, translating into better battery life.

The two Harman-branded speakers in this notebook are located under either side of the palm rest, facing downwards. Because they face downwards, it’s important that this notebook sit on a solid surface so that its sound is properly amplified. Although the setup isn’t particularly loud, it has good clarity and projection. Two people should be able to comfortably watch a movie in front of this notebook provided there isn’t a lot of background noise.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Performance

As it was sent to us, our Flex 5 15 offers a solid level of performance for day-to-day tasks. Web browsing, multitasking, 4K video playback, and mild photo editing are well within the capabilities of its Intel Core i7-7500U dual-core processor and 8GB of RAM. The Flex 5 15 strangely isn’t offered with 16GB of RAM, though it should be able to support that much.

The optional Nvidia GeForce GT 940MX graphics card in our review unit is a big step up in performance from the integrated Intel HD 620 graphics typically found in notebooks like this. However, it’s not powerful enough to make the Flex 5 15 a bleeding-edge gaming notebook. Older titles ought to be no problem, but you’ll be looking at a 720p resolution and lower detail settings in newer games like Rise of the Tomb Raider. In short, don’t buy the Flex 5 15 if you’re looking for a dedicated gaming notebook. It’s capable of gaming, but ultimately that’s not what it’s designed for. Lenovo’s Legion Y720 is a better bet if gaming performance is your goal. The dedicated Nvidia graphics aren’t just for games, though; certain video editing programs can use them to speed up rendering.

The Flex 5 15 has one M.2 slot for solid-state-drive (SSD) storage and a 2.5-inch bay for traditional storage. The 256GB M.2 Samsung-brand drive in our review unit was plenty fast in our benchmarks. Lenovo offers up to a 512GB SSD in this notebook, but it’ll cost you; the top-end model with that drive was $1,149 as we wrote this. It’s strange that Lenovo doesn’t offer a configuration with both an M.2 SSD and a hard drive, but there’s nothing stopping you from installing your own storage drives in this model. (See our notes on taking apart this notebook in the Build & Design section.)

We think the best value in the Flex 5 15 lineup is probably the $699 model, with the Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It lacks the dedicated Nvidia graphics of our review unit, but unless you have a need for 3D performance, it’s probably not a necessity.

Our Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) has the following technical specifications:

  • 15.6-inch display (1,920×1,080 resolution, IPS panel, glossy surface, 10-point touch support)
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Intel Core i7-7500U dual-core processor (2.7GHz, up to 3.5GHz Turbo Boost, 4MB cache, 15-watt TDP)
  • Intel HD Graphics 620
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 940MX w/ 2GB memory
  • 8GB DDR4-2133 RAM
  • Samsung 256GB PCI Express SSD
  • Built-in fingerprint reader and 720p webcam
  • 3-cell 52.5 watt-hour li-polymer battery
  • One-year limited warranty
  • Dimensions: 14.3 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Starting price: $629.99
  • Price as tested: $929.99

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Benchmarks

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer DirectX 11 benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Heat & Noise

One fan is all that’s needed to take care of the heat from the Flex 5 15’s internal components. The fan sits close to the Intel processor and Nvidia graphics card towards the center rear of the chassis. The cooling vent is located along the back of the notebook, sending air just underneath the display hinge. The fan could get noisy in our experience, especially while running a game or something that required a good amount of processing power. We could hear the fan’s distinct sound across a living room without much trouble. For normal tasks, such as web surfing, the fan is either off or running at a lower speed, and generally not intrusive.

We tested the cooling performance of this notebook by running through the intense 3DMark FireStrike Extreme benchmark three times. The Core i7-7500U processor hit 70 degrees C in our testing, which is relatively cool. The Nvidia GeForce GT 940MX graphics card reached 75 degrees C, which is also a temperature we’d consider within reason. This notebook shouldn’t run into any thermal problems when running full-tilt for extended periods of time.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Battery Life

We use Futuremark’s Powermark benchmark in Balanced mode to test battery life. This test runs a combination of automated web browsing, office productivity, video playback, videoconferencing, and gaming workloads to give a real-world assessment of battery life. We run the test with approximately 50 percent screen brightness. You can consider the numbers from this test to be a heavy usage scenario; it’s not unreasonable to expect up to one-third better life if you keep usage to a minimum, especially if you further reduce the screen brightness.

The medium-size 3-cell 52 watt-hour battery in the Flex 5 15 powered it for 5 hours and 28 minutes in this demanding benchmark. That’s an outstanding time for a large 15.6-inch notebook like this. The Flex 5 15’s time is on par with that of a small business notebooks like the 12.5-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X270.

Powermark battery life comparison results (listed in minutes – higher scores mean better performance):

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 (15”) Power Adapter

The power adapter for the Flex 5 15 has is a wall plug with a two-prong connection. It provides 65 watts of power (20V x 3.25A) as opposed to the usual 45 watts of power we usually see in notebooks like this, probably due to the fact our review unit has a dedicated Nvidia graphics card. The power adapter weighs just a few ounces. The cord is on the short side, at just 6 feet, 4 inches long; the block itself is 3x3x1.2 inches. The power connection to the Flex 5 15 is proprietary; we wouldn’t mind seeing it switched over to a Type-C USB port.

Our only concern with the design if this power adapter is that the block-style wall plug can block an outlet.

Conclusion

The Lenovo Flex 5 15 is a solid choice if you’re in the market for a large multimedia notebook. Good things about this notebook include its beautiful 15.6-inch touch display, good-feeling backlit keyboard, decent speakers, and storage expansion capability. It also put up outstanding battery life in our testing; it should last close to a full working day under normal non-strenuous usage. On the downside, the design of the Flex 5 15 isn’t particularly exciting, and its fans can be noisy when the system is stressed.

The Flex 5 15 turns into a tablet with a flip of its screen, although it’s hard to look at this device as a tablet replacement. At 4.4 pounds, it will quickly become a burden in your arms. Think of tablet mode as a convenient bonus.

The system performance of our review unit was helped slightly by the inclusion of dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 940MX graphics. Although capable of playing the latest games, they’re good for lower resolution and detail settings only; the Flex 5 15 isn’t designed to be a dedicated gaming notebook.

The $929 asking price of our review unit is about as expensive as this notebook gets. The base model starts at just $629, but the $699 model (as we wrote this) seemed to be the best value for general usage, given it included a 256GB SSD for storage instead of a large but slow 1TB hard drive. In either situation, the Flex 5 15 presents a respectable value proposition.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5

Pros:

  • Great-looking display
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good keyboard and touchpad
  • Built-in fingerprint reader
  • Ample storage expansion capability

Cons:

  • Ho-hum looks
  • Cooling fan can be noisy
  • Gets pricey with options



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