Lenovo’s Flex 5 catches up to other convertibles, adding Kaby Lake and USB-C

Lenovo’s Flex 5 convertibles are the latest arrivals in a busy, popular segment: laptops with 360-degree hinges and a full feature set for mainstream computing.

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These new models aren’t cheap—the starting prices are $720 for the 14-inch model and $830 for the 15-incher—and in some ways they’re just catching up to similar competitors from Dell and HP. But the major PC vendors are constantly one-upping each other, and when they ship in May, the Flex 5 products will have an edge in a few areas everyone cares about.

Weight is the first one. When you’re schlepping a PC or even balancing it on your lap, every ounce matters. As I compared the specs for the Flex 5 15-inch to those of similarly priced models, namely Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 and HP’s Pavilion x360 (15-bk151nr), I noticed the Flex 5 had managed to slim down to 4.4 pounds, while the Dell and HP are both closer to 5 pounds.

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Lenovo

You can use Lenovo’s Active Pen and Windows Ink features on the Flex 5 convertible laptop.

 Battery’s the second. The Flex 5 laptops boast a 3-cell, 52.5 Wh power pack, compared to 42 Wh for the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 and 48 Wh for the HP Pavilion x360. Lenovo didn’t provide further battery specs, but at least on paper, this battery should last longer.

After these highlights, what you’ll find with the Flex 5s are well-equipped choices at the high end of mainstream laptops. Most notably, both sizes of the Flex 5 will be available with CPUs up to Intel’s 7th-generation (Kaby Lake) Core i7, whereas the predecessor Flex 4, had 6th-generation Skylake parts. Models will be available with up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM and up to 512GB of PCIe SSD storage, or 1TB of traditional hard-drive capacity.

lenovo flex 5 15 inch overhead

Lenovo

The Lenovo Flex 5 has a full-size keyboard and a buttonless clickpad.

 The touch displays will start with Full HD (1920×1080) for the 14-inch model and Ultra HD (3840×2160) for the 15-inch model. Integrated graphics will be the default, but you can opt for Nvidia’s GeForce 940MX mobile chip for more oomph. Neither the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 nor the HP Pavilion x360 offer such an option.

The Flex 5 convertibles will also add one USB-C port, along with two traditional USB-A. It can’t charge—Lenovo’s proprietary AC adapter has a lock on that role—but it’s good to see a little future-proofing in the connectivity.

lenovo flex 5 15 inch right side

Lenovo

The ports on the right side of the Lenovo Flex 5 (15-inch model shown) include non-charging USB-C.

 The thing we don’t know is detailed pricing per configuration. From the information we have, the Flex 5 product line might actually be a little more expensive than its peers, though it’s impossible to know for sure. On the other hand, a lighter device with longer battery life could be worth a little extra cash.

Why this matters: The Flex 5 and its ilk are a good barometer for where mainstream laptops are going. The 360-degree hinge and do-it-all features make it easy to use your computer however you wish, which is what everyone wants, if they can afford it. Shaving off a little weight and packing in a little more battery are good advantages, and the higher-end graphics option means you could game a little on this laptop, too.

Lenovo’s Flex 11 joins the ranks of Android app-loving Chromebooks

Lenovo’s Flex 11 Chromebook is one of the new generation of Android-app-loving Chromebooks hitting the market this year. Announced Wednesday with a starting price of $279 and due to ship sometime in April, it also boasts a 360-degree hinge and extra-sturdy construction.

lenovo flex 11 chromebook two positions

The Flex 11’s ability to change from clamshell to tablet and any position in between is even more appealing now that Android apps will be part of the Chromebook’s bag of tricks. Chrome isn’t really designed for tablets, but Android is. At the same time, Android may sometimes be easier to deal with using a real keyboard. The Flex 11 lets you have it your way.

As you carry the Flex 11 hither and yon, you can feel good about its extra-durable construction. We used to see this mostly in Chromebooks for education (and the occasional consumer model like the Asus C202S), but kids aren’t the only ones who can abuse their stuff. We all know someone who jams their machines into their bags with the rest of their junk, or jostles and knocks the chassis as they haul it around. For these people, the Flex 11  is designed to survive a drop of up to 2.4 feet. All its ports and its touchpad are sealed against water seepage. Special channels in the keyboard deck can divert and drain up to one cup of spilled water. The chassis even sports a non-slip texture for a more secure grip.

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Lenovo

Lenovo’s Flex 11 includes a 720p webcam over the 11-inch display.

 Inside, the Flex 11 Chromebook’s specs are pretty typical. It has an 11-inch, 1366×768-pixel touch display. I prefer higher resolutions, but this display is adequate for basic computing and even has an anti-glare coating. The CPU is a 2.1GHz quad-core ARM. The Flex 11 weighs less than 3 pounds and has a battery that lasts up to 10 hours, according to Lenovo.

Connectivity looks good: It includes a USB 3.1 Type-C port for data and charging, plus traditional USB-A. You also get an SD card slotsand a full HDMI port, plus a 720p webcam above the display.

One thing you won’t see on Lenovo’s Flex 11 is pen support, which is still rare among Chromebooks—only Samsung’s new Chromebooks sport a slender stylus in a spring-loaded slot. Still, we can’t wait to try the new Android-Chrome blended world the Flex 11 brings. We’ll let you know if we get to review it.