Lenovo Flex 5i 14 (2023) review: not cheap enough – Digital Trends

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I always want to cheer for midrange laptops that come in at an attractive price point. I know a laptop under $1,000 won’t have all the bells and whistles of more premium options, but I’m always hopeful these types of laptops can balance price and quality.
The Lenovo Flex 5i is one such laptop — a convertible 2-in-1 with a particularly attractive entry-level sale price, especially since it comes with a decent amount of storage. Unfortunately, the disappointing battery life and display make it hard to recommend even for those hoping to save a few bucks.
As usual, Lenovo’s website pricing and configurations change regularly, and you’ll find varying prices available through retailers. As of right now, there are two configurations available. The entry-level model is on sale for $550 in Lenovo’s store ($850 list), with a Core i5-1355U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 14.0-inch FHD+ IPS display (the only option).
The high-end configuration is available at Costco for $800 (currently on sale for $700) and $900 in Lenovo’s store, with the same CPU, storage, display, and 16GB of RAM. That makes the entry-level machine a budget laptop while the high-end option is inching out of budget territory.
As we’ll see, the entry-level model is much more attractive at its sale price of $550, while the $800 configuration has some stiff (and superior) competition.
The Flex 5i 14 is a nice-looking laptop, with simple lines and three color options including Abyss Blue, Arctic Grey, and Stone Blue. I reviewed the Abyss Blue model and found it in line with today’s minimalist aesthetic. The only thing breaking up the color scheme, in a good way, is the keyboard with its dark grey keys. The display bezels are a little large, which diminishes its modern appearance.
Those display bezels contribute to a slightly larger chassis, and the Flex 5i 14 is a little above average at 0.69 inches thick and 3.31 pounds. It’s portable enough, but not the thinnest or lightest we’ve seen.
In terms of its build quality, the Flex 5i 14 is a mixed bag. Its lid is made of aluminum and, while relatively stiff, does show some LED distortion when you give it a little press. That’s disconcerting. The chassis is constructed of plastic with 40% glass fiber, and it’s a bit flexible in the keyboard deck.
Finally, the hinge is quite stiff, which is great for holding the display in tent, media, and tablet modes but forces you to use two hands to open the lid. All in all, it’s not a terrible build at $550, but it falls short when you compare it to some other laptops in the $800 range like the Asus ZenBook 14 OLED.
Speaking of the keyboard, it sports Lenovo’s typically large, sculpted keycaps and plenty of space, while the switches have a form bottoming action but not enough spring to give it the precision of, say, the Dell XPS keyboard. I found it comfortable enough for longer typing sessions, but it was far from my favorite.
The touchpad is of decent size for a 14-inch laptop, but its buttons have a bit of a sharp sound when clicked and the surface isn’t quite smooth enough. The Flex 5i 14 supports an optional active pen, which wasn’t included with my review unit.
Connectivity is a relative strength, with a good mix of modern and legacy ports. Wireless connectivity is up to date, and there’s even an option for 5G WWAN support.
The webcam runs at 1080p, which is great for a laptop in this price range but increasingly common. It provided a decent image for videoconferencing. There’s no infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello facial recognition, but the fingerprint reader embedded in the palm rest works fine.
The Flex 5i 14 offers one CPU option, a 13th-gen 15-watt Intel Core i5-1335U. With 10 cores (two Performance at 4.6GHz and eight Efficient at 3.4GHz) and 12 threads, the processor is intended to provide good productivity performance and superior efficiency.
In terms of our benchmarks, the Flex 5i 14 did just fine, particularly in performance mode. It was competitive with the 15-watt AMD Ryzen 5 7530U (with six cores running at up to 4.5GHz and 12 threads) in the Asus ZenBook 14 OLED, and slightly faster than the higher-clocked Core i7-1355U in the Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED.
These results promise solid productivity performance, but you won’t want to edit video on the Flex 5i 14. You also won’t want to game on the laptop, given its integrated Iris Xe graphics that scored relatively low in the 3DMark Time Spy test.
With a low-power CPU and an FHD+ IPS display, you’d hope for competitive battery life. The battery capacity is a bit small at just 52.5 watt-hours, though, which isn’t a lot for a 14-inch laptop.
Unfortunately, battery life isn’t a strength of the Flex 5i 14. It lasted for hours less than its direct competition, with the Asus ZenBook 14 OLED lasting almost twice as long in our web browsing test, almost six hours longer in our video looping test, and almost four hours longer in the PCMark 10 Applications battery test. The Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED lasted significantly longer as well, with a smaller OLED panel and a faster Core i7 CPU.
The bottom line is that the Flex 5i 14 won’t get you through a full day’s work, and if you’re doing anything demanding you likely won’t make it to lunchtime. You’ll want to carry your charger with you if you’ll be away from the office.
I’ve written about how laptop displays have gotten so much better over the last couple of years, and it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a laptop with really poor performance in an important metric. The Flex 5i 14 broke that streak. Out of the box, the display looked muted to me. It was bright enough, and the blacks were deep for an IPS display, but it seemed colorless.
When I applied my colorimeter, I discovered why. While the panel was above our 300-nit threshold at 329 nits and its contrast was very good at 1330:1 (we like to see IPS displays hit at least 1000:1), its colors were disappointing. The display hit just 63% of the sRGB gamut and 48% of the AdobeRGB gamut. That’s well under the average of at least 95% and 75%, respectively. And color accuracy wasn’t very good with a DeltaE of 3.11 (less than 2.0 is good and less than 1.0 is excellent).
The Flex 5i 14 doesn’t have the worst display I’ve tested. But, you can get a much better display for around the same money. The Asus ZenBook 14 OLED is the best example, which offers a spectacular OLED display starting at $700 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD ($870 for the same amount of RAM and storage as the Lenovo). The Flex 5i 14’s display will be okay for productivity users, but creators and media consumers won’t love it.
Meanwhile, the audio system consists of two upward-firing speakers on each side of the keyboard. They provided competent sound, with decent volume and clear mids and highs. Bass was lacking, though, and there was some distortion when the volume was turned all the way up. Overall, the audio quality was pretty average, and you’ll want some headphones or external speakers to enjoy streaming video and music.
While the Flex 5i 14 has solid productivity performance, its battery life is a real hindrance. The display is bright enough and offers excellent contrast, but it’s greatly diminished by the poor colors. The build is a little flexible, and the LED distortion is a concern.
At the sale price of $550, the Flex 5i 14 might offer the right combination for a budget-conscious buyer. But at $800, it’s blown away by some much better laptops.
Intel’s 13th generation of processors, dubbed Raptor Lake, may be closer than we thought. A new rumor pinpoints the release date as October 2022, and the rumored specifications are exciting, with frequencies as high as 5.8GHz.
It also appears that Intel might be launching the next-gen Sapphire Rapids server processors alongside Raptor Lake. What else can we learn from this latest round of leaks?
When you’re looking for a new laptop, you might be after a device that does something very specific. You might want something for video editing, light gaming, and day-to-day work or video conferencing.
The great thing about the PC industry is that there are tons of laptops for each of those end-use cases, but Lenovo might have just made a laptop that combines everything we just mentioned and some more.
The next Intel flagship CPU, the Core i9-13900K, may truly push clock speeds to the limit. A new rumor suggests that the CPU may offer up to 5.8GHz in turbo mode.
As we learn more about Intel Raptor Lake, we are slowly able to piece together the possible specifications of the CPU.
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