Laptops have lagged behind smartphone technology when it comes to using 5G, but that changes with Lenovo’s Flex 5G, the first laptop to take advantage of the burgeoning mobile network. Enabling those scorching data rates is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx, an ARM-based chip built for laptops. The Snapdragon 8cx performs better than other ARM-based chips we’ve reviewed, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Intel’s or AMD’s processors, and compatibility with apps remains an issue. This is our Lenovo Flex 5G Review.
As such, the Flex 5G is not the right choice for power users. Instead, the Flex 5G, with its premium, portable chassis, and beautiful display, should only be considered by people who travel and need internet access beyond their home Wi-Fi. Even then, better options are available. The flagship of the Flex 5G in its current form can only be experienced in certain streets in parts of American cities. And while the battery life of the Flex 5G is no less than a miracle, it’s not enough to justify the $1500 price, especially if you compare the complete package to others in this price range.
|Lenovo Flex 5G Specs|
|CPU:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx|
|GPU:||Qualcomm Adreno 680|
|Battery life:||17 hours and 28 minutes|
|Size:||12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6-inches|
Lenovo Flex 5G Review: Design
As the first laptop with 5G, the Lenovo Flex 5G is no ordinary notebook. And yet the rather faint chassis suggests the opposite. Although the Flex 5G is by no means unattractive, it lacks the flashy design elements when compared to other laptops in this price range. The Flex feels a mix between an IdeaPad and a Yoga, with a sleek aluminum chassis with minimalist aesthetics. A shiny Lenovo label on the rim of the lid is the only contrast to the Flex’s Iron Gray gloss.
Open the laptop, and you’ll see the same metallic tone on the deck and keyboard keys. The keyboard features two top-firing speakers; under the right grille is a fingerprint scanner and more Lenovo branding, this time with a Verizon 5G sticker. I don’t mind the Flex 5G’s simple, uniform appearance, but some chrome trim or a subtle pattern could have given it the spice it lacks. Still, the Flex 5G feels much premium than it looks.
At first look, you’d expect the Flex 5G to be made entirely of aluminum-magnesium, but that’s not the case. The lower half – the deck and the underside – are coated in a pleasantly soft-touch material reminiscent of the plush surface that covers the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. As a 2-in-1 laptop, the Flex 5G can be configured in a tablet or placed in the tent stand when watching a presentation or a video. Like the rest of the laptop, the double hinges are sturdy, which I discovered when the screen stopped moving after tapping it with some force.
There are fewer ports on the Flex 5G, so do add some dongles to your cart before you checkout. There’s no input on the right side except for a headphone jack and a physical switch for switching between Airplane Mode (mobile and Wi-Fi turned off) and mobile connectivity. There are two USB 3.2 USB-C ports on the left side, one of which is used for charging.
At 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6-inches and 2.9-pounds, the Flex 5G is thinner but heavier than LG’s Gram 14 2-in-1 (12.8 x 8.3 x 0.7-inches, 2.5-pounds). The HP Spectre x360 13 (12.2 x 8.6 x 0.6-inches, 2.8-pounds) is about the same thickness and weight, while the Lenovo Yoga C940 is almost identical as the Lenovo Flex 5G (12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6-inches, 3-pounds).
Keyboard and TouchPad
Maybe I learned to type on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon or forgot what to expect from an ultra-thin laptop, but the keyboard of the Flex 5G is not my favorite. The keys are very superficial, so I often get the bottom line. They also feel stiff, and I miss that audible click on tactile keyboards that lets you know when you’ve pressed a key. On the positive side, the scalloped keys are large, well spread, and quiet, so that the people around you can concentrate while you tap away.
The touchpad under the keyboard works well. It has a pleasantly smooth surface and has quite a size, at 4.1 x 2.8 inches. Precision drivers ensured that my swipes and Windows 10 gestures were performed flawlessly.
Lenovo Flex 5G Review: Display
The 14-inch, 1080p display of the Flex 5G is a good one. The panel is much brighter, and the colors are more vibrant than those of competing notebooks. The panel was sharp enough to see the pinstriping in the housegirl clothing and the sleek suit of Conrad, Harris Dickinson’s new protagonist in The King’s Man. Turquoise blue and peach-orange shades glistened from chandeliers in the large ballroom scene as shimmering green and red from gowns, and military uniforms stood out against the golden opulence.
Our colorimeter measured the screen at 115% of the sRGB color range, making it brighter than the Gram 14 2-in-1 (108%), the HP Spectre x360 13 (109%) and the Lenovo Yoga C940 (104%). With a peak of 410 nits of brightness, the Flex 5G’s panel becomes bright enough for outdoor use. It exceeds the Gram 14 2-in-1 (306 nits), the HP Spectre x360 13 (287 nits), the Lenovo Yoga C940 (339 nits), and the laptop category average (368 nits).
Lenovo Flex 5G Review: Audio
The top-firing speakers of the Flex 5G sound decent. While they don’t go crazy loud, my mid-sized bedroom was filled with the voice of Brandon Flower when I listened to “My Own Soul’s Warning” by The Killers at maximum volume. Anyway, you don’t want to crank it up too loud because you might hear a distorted hiss in the treble. That rasping sound disappeared at 75% when the speakers got their feet on the ground; at this volume, the treble was a bit too loud, but the vocals were clear, and the midrange sounded smooth.
Lenovo Flex 5G Review: Performance
Don’t expect the Flex 5G to outperform other $1,500 laptops. At least, not those with Intel’s or AMD’s processors. Armed with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx chip and 8GB RAM, Flex 5G struggled to load a dozen tabs into Chrome; a browser runs it via emulation. My browsing experience improved once all the tabs were loaded, and I worked on one at a time. After learning the limits of the Flex 5G, I watched a YouTube video while flipping through a few tabs without a problem.
It couldn’t be any other way; the Flex 5G’s value for money is ugly. Although there’s an improvement over previous AMD-powered laptops, Lenovo was decimated by the competition in our benchmark tests. The Flex 5G scored a 2,779 in the Geekbench 5.0 overall performance test, well below the Gram 14 (Core i7-10510U, 3,321), the Lenovo Yoga C940 (Core i7-1065G7, 4,055) and the premium laptop category average (4,061).
The Flex 5G is equipped with 256GB UFS 3.0 flash storage disk, not a real SSD. Our tests showed that the Flex 5G needed 19 seconds to duplicate a 5GB file for a speed of 270.7 MBps. This is slow compared to the LG Gram 14 2-in-1 (1,454.1 MBps), HP Spectre x360 (391.5 MBps), and the Lenovo Yoga C940 (1,017.9 MBps). The category average is 681.5 MBps.
Do not try to play games on the Flex 5G. Even if Qualcomm’s Adreno 680 supports what you’re playing, it probably won’t have the power to spin it. The Lenovo Flex 5G played Dirt 3 (High, 1080p) at 21fps (frames per second), holding on before it reached our 30-fps playability threshold. The Gram 14 2-in-1 (34 fps, Intel’s UHD), Spectre x360 13 (56 fps, Intel’s UHD), and Yoga C940 (55 fps, Intel Iris Plus) all accelerated past the Flex 5G.
Lenovo Flex 5G Review: Battery Life
Congratulations Flex 5G, you now hold the record as the longest-lasting laptop we’ve ever tested. Using the Snapdragon 8cx, the Flex 5G lasted 17 hours and 28 minutes on our battery test, which consists of surfing the web over Wi-Fi with 150 nits of brightness. How impressive is that? The average premium laptop lasts 9 hours and 28 minutes on a charge, so any laptop with more than 10 hours of runtime deserves our praise.
17 hours and 28 minutes of runtime mean the Flex 5G keeps going from the lift-off to the touchdown on the longest intercontinental flights. Even the best of its competitors cannot survive the Flex 5G. The Gram 14 2-in-1 has lasted an impressive 14 hours, while the Spectre x360 13 and the Yoga C940 also broke the 10-hour mark, at 12:07 and 11:46 respectively, but did not make it near the Flex.
The Flex 5G is the first laptop that supports 5G mobile connectivity. 5G is the next generation of cellular networks (after LTE) designed to deliver blisteringly fast Internet speeds, among several other benefits. The Flex 5G uses only Verizon’s 5G network and has antennas for both mmWave and Sub-6Ghz technology, which means you get the fastest speeds and widest coverage. Our experience of testing 5G in different cities was promising but inconsistent.
Verizon has the most established 5G network, now available in more than 30 cities. You can find out if 5G is live in your area by visiting the Verizon website. I must emphasize that 5G is still in its infancy; the network will expand to more cities and become faster and more reliable over time.
Lenovo Flex 5G Review: Heat
As a well-trained athlete, the Flex 5G didn’t even break a sweat after we subjected it to our heat test, playing a 15-minute, 1080p video. The touchpad registered at a decent 74 degrees Fahrenheit while the middle of the keyboard registered 77 degrees. You can even use the Lenovo Flex 5G on your lap without any discomfort, as the bottom is heated up to 83 degrees, well below our comfort threshold of 95 degrees.
Price and Configuration Options
Lenovo sells the Flex 5G in one configuration. For $1,499 you get a 14-inch Full-HD (1080p) display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage.
Lenovo Flex 5G Review: Conclusion
I love the Flex 5G as an ever-plugged device for everyday tasks on the go. The 5G antennas in the Flex 5G are not only future-proof but also ensure that you’ll never run out of internet access, which can’t be said of its stuck Wi-Fi-only rivals. And with a record-breaking battery life of over 17 hours, there’s no dragging around the power source. But what makes the Flex 5G such a compelling laptop is also its downfall.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx chip that powers it 2-in-1 can’t keep up with top notebooks powered by Intel or AMD, and you still can’t run certain programs on ARM. Besides, the Flex 5G’s keyboard is shallow and has only two USB-C ports. The biggest problem, however, is the price. For example, if the Flex 5G were half the price, it would be a great secondary device for a more powerful, stationary laptop or desktop. But there aren’t many people willing to spend $1,499 on a companionable laptop.
If you need 5G speeds today, the Lenovo Flex 5G is the only option available and a good one for basic tasks. If you don’t, we recommend you either buy a top laptop with LTE support, such as the Spectre x360 13 or wait until 5G reaches its full potential, because although the Flex 5G is the first 5G laptop, it surely won’t be the last.
Lenovo's Flex 5G is the first laptop with Verizon 5G, but those blistering wireless speeds are offset by slow performance and compatibility issues.
- Record-setting battery life
- Verizon 5G support
- Lightweight, premium design
- Bright and vivid display
- Sluggish performance
- Shallow keyboard
- App compatibility issues