The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 takes Lenovo’s concept pioneered in the IdeaPad Yoga 11S ($999) and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, and gives us the 75% version: The screen doesn’t swing all the way around. The price shift gets us a larger battery pack with more battery life, but there are other tradeoffs. The IdeaPad Flex 14 works as a second or third laptop in the house, particularly if you have kids who like to draw on screen with their fingers, but in general there are other more traditional touch-screen laptops that make more sense for most users.
Design and Features
Until you flip the screen around, the Flex 14 looks like an average, if flashy, laptop. The system comes in either black with a silver grey edge (like our test system) or in black with a bright orange edge. The system measures about 0.84 by 13.5 by 10 inches (WHD), and weighs 4.03 pounds. These days that’s somewhat bulky compared with the recent crop of premium ultrabooks like the two-pound Acer Aspire S7-191-6640, but relatively light compared to some other midrange desktop replacement laptops like the Edtiors’ Choice winning Asus N550JV-DB72T ($1,079), which weighs almost six pounds.
The Flex 14 screen swings 300 degrees around its unique hinge. It’s similar in concept to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 ($999) we looked at last year, though the Flex 14 doesn’t flip completely around into tablet mode. The two modes that the Flex 14 concentrates on are the traditional laptop mode and the aptly named stand mode, where the bottom of the laptop is swung around so the keyboard faces the table and the screen faces the user. The Flex 14 has designed the swing mechanism and top surface of the laptop to make sure the keyboard and trackpad don’t rest on the table while you’re using the system in stand mode. The net effect of stand mode is that the screen is closer to users touching the screen, and there is no keyboard surface distracting you when you’re watching videos or looking at pictures. On the whole, the stand mode works fine when you have a table or desk in front of you. The traditional laptop mode works better when you’re using the laptop on your lap.
The screen is a 14-inch, 1,366-by-768 resolution 10-point touch screen. This means that you’ll be able to use Windows 8′s touch-based UI fairly easily, though the screen’s fairly tight resolution means that you can’t view 1080p HD videos natively (instead they will be shrunk down), and you may miss the extra screen room when you’re in desktop mode or working on large documents like spreadsheets. That said, the screen is well sized for drawing and painting programs, particularly if you don’t mind working on small, detailed sections of larger works.
The 128GB SSD is pre-partitioned into a C: drive and D: drive. The D: drive is about 25GB, and roughly 100GB C: drive only has about 45GB free when you take the system out of the box. This begs the question: Why bother with a data drive? While you can argue that the 25GB data drive is safe if you ever need to reinstall Windows 8, it’s still a smallish data partition that could be replaced by a 32GB SD card.
In addition to the SD card reader, the Flex 14 has a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single USB 3.0 port for external peripherals like hard drives. The Flex 14 has a HDMI port and is WiDi compatible if you ever have a need to use an external display like a HDTV. Other connectivity includes an Ethernet port, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. With 8Gb of system memory, you should be fine multi-tasking and keeping more than a dozen browser tabs open.
The Flex 14 comes with a few programs pre-installed, like McAfee Security Advisor, Accuweather, Kindle, rara.com, Evernote, Skype, Encycolpedia Britannica, Merriam-Webster dictionary, Zinio, Film on Television, eBay, SugarSync, Office, and Dragon Assistant. You can use Dragon Assistant to issue voice commands to the Flex 14, but on the whole you’re probably better off using the touch screen, particularly in a noisy environment like a coffee shop. Speaking of coffee shops, if you are frequently away from home, you’ll appreciate the fact that the Flex 14 has a removable battery, so you can swap out for a fully charge spare (available separately).
The IdeaPad Flex 14 has an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 8GB of memory, 1,366 by 768 screen, and a 128GB SSD, which all help the system gain a not-too-shabby 4,463 point score on PCMark7, which measures day to day performance. To put this into perspective, the Editors’ Choice Asus N550JV-DB72T scored 3,546 on the same test because it has a spinning hard drive, even though it has a speedier CPU. The Asus N550JV-DB72T blew the Flex 14 out of the water on the 3D tests, since it has a discrete enthusiast level Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics card.
On the all-important battery life test, the IdeaPad Flex scored a quite respectable eight hours (8:04), four hours ahead of the Asus M550JV-DB72T. But it was edged out by the Editors’ Choice for entry-level desktop replacement laptops, the Dell Inspiron 14R-5437, which almost reaches ten hours (9:46). The takeaway is that the IdeaPad Flex 14 won’t seem slow for many years and will give you many hours of untethered use, though the cramped storage space 128GB SSD may be a concern if you like to download videos often.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 has innovation, a responsive touch screen, and battery life on its side. However, for only 80 dollars more you can get the whiz-bang mid-priced EC Asus N550JV-DB72T, with its large 1080p screen, Core i7 performance with Nvidia 3D graphics and a subwoofer. In terms of portability, the entry-level Dell Inspiron 14R-5437 lasts almost two more hours and still has a touch screen. Though the Dell 14R-5437′s screen doesn’t flip around like it does on the Flex 14, the extra $350 in your pocket will assuage that possible envy point. If you really like the IdeaPad Flex 14′s swinging screen, check out the similarly priced IdeaPad Yoga 13 or other flipping convertible laptops soon to come.
|Processor Name||Intel Core i5-4200U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Networking Options||802.11n (2.4 GHz only)|
|Processor Speed||1.6 GHz|
|Screen Size||14 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||128 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc