The heyday of ultra-cheap Chromebooks has come and gone, however you may nonetheless discover some remarkably inexpensive fashions on the market. Whether or not it is a flashy design, a useful function set, or snappy efficiency, it is not arduous to discover a first rate ChromeOS laptop computer for beneath $400, however it’s nonetheless a particular deal with to discover a honest purchase. The Lenovo Flex 3 Chromebook is one, being a well-made convertible for simply $349. Its efficiency is not top-notch however delivers a satisfying searching and productiveness expertise; the port choice is healthier than anticipated; and the battery life is lengthy sufficient for informal customers. The Flex 3 is not the best funds Chromebook ever made, however it’s a satisfying compact 2-in-1 and a real discount.
Design: Enjoyable and Versatile
Lenovo’s plastic building right here is not as premium because the aluminum builds of costlier Chromebooks, however Lenovo clothes it up in an enthralling coloration known as Abyss Blue. Like different 2-in-1s, it permits you to flip and fold the display from laptop computer to pill mode. You will really feel some undesirable flex within the chassis if you raise the laptop computer by a nook, however it manages to be sturdy sufficient so that you just really feel no no irritating bounce when typing.
Measuring 0.72 inch thick and weighing simply 2.76 kilos, this Chromebook can also be an ultraportable, with a compact design that simply slips right into a laptop computer bag or backpack. With a 12.2-inch contact display, the little convertible is roughly the identical measurement as most paper notebooks. The Flex 3 is sort of pleasing as a laptop computer, however could also be even higher as a pill.
One utilitarian side of the Flex 3 design is that the highest fringe of the lid, which homes the 720p webcam and sliding privateness shutter, juts out to function a lip for simply opening the system with one hand. We have seen the identical factor on different Lenovo 2-in-1s such because the Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 Gen 7, and we prefer it simply as a lot on this cheap Chromebook.
The 12.2-inch contact display can also be an honest match for the convertible design. Just a bit smaller than an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper, it is a wonderful measurement when held within the criminal of an arm in pill mode, on a desk or desk in laptop computer mode, or propped up in your knees whereas reclining on the sofa. With 10-point contact and 1,920-by-1,200-pixel decision, the show seems enough and responds to each contact simply. Clearly, it is not as sharp or vibrant as a bigger, high-res display or OLED panel, however it’s extra enticing than you’d anticipate at this value. Should you crave increased decision, the processor and full-size HDMI port can drive a 4K exterior monitor.
Talking of ports, the I/O of the Flex 3 is a balanced combine of latest and conventional. On the left flank is a USB-C port that does double obligation as an influence jack, however you may additionally discover a USB 3.0 Sort-A connector, an audio jack, and a microSD card slot. On the proper are one other USB-A port and the abovementioned HDMI monitor port. A safety lock slot retains the Chromebook from strolling away out of your desk, and energy and quantity buttons are readily accessible in each laptop computer and pill mode.
Wi-fi connectivity is simply as succesful on this Chromebook, with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
Efficiency: Center of the Highway, However It Hardly Issues
Most under-$400 Chromebooks are outfitted with processors which might be much less acquainted to laptop computer customers, comparable to Qualcomm or MediaTek chips. Some techniques such because the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 use AMD CPUs, and some Intel Celerons and Pentiums cling to life, however low cost chips are type of the rule for value-priced Chromebooks.
Lenovo’s Flex 3 would not deviate from this development however it does introduce a brand new Intel CPU, the N100. The primary of the silicon large’s N-series processors we have had an opportunity to check, it differs from Intel’s Core sequence by ditching the multithreaded Efficiency cores (P-cores) and having solely single-thread Environment friendly cores (E-cores). The N100 has 4 cores, decreasing energy draw to squeeze longer battery life out of the light-weight laptops for which it is designed. In different phrases, it is nearly excellent for a Chromebook.
As for the Chromebook’s different parts, they’re commonplace fare for this value: 4GB of reminiscence and 64GB of eMMC flash storage. That is the identical because the Acer Chromebook 514 and the Asus Chromebook Flip CM3. The HP Chromebook x360 13b is an identical convertible with a correct SSD as a substitute of eMMC storage.
We take a look at Chromebooks with three general efficiency benchmark suites: One ChromeOS, one Android, and one on-line. The primary, CrXPRT 2 by Principled Applied sciences, measures how shortly a system performs on a regular basis duties in six workloads comparable to making use of picture results, graphing a inventory portfolio, analyzing DNA sequences, and producing 3D shapes utilizing WebGL.
In contrast with the best-in-category Acer Spin 514, the Flex 3 did not seem like a lot, however when stacked in opposition to equally priced funds Chromebooks just like the Asus Flip CM3 or the MediaTek Kompanio-powered Acer 514, the distinction was stark, with the Lenovo simply outpacing these discount fashions in our CrXPRT and Basemark Net assessments. The story was a little bit completely different in PCMark for Android, with the Lenovo, the Asus, and the Acer Chromebook 514 mainly tied between the Acer convertible and the trailing HP x360 13b.
Part and Battery Exams
Two different Android benchmarks concentrate on the CPU and GPU respectively. Geekbench by Primate Labs makes use of all out there cores and threads to simulate real-world purposes starting from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine studying, whereas GFXBench 5.0 stress-tests each low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like picture rendering that workouts graphics and compute shaders. Geekbench delivers a numeric rating, whereas GFXBench counts frames per second (fps).
Lastly, to check a Chromebook’s battery, we loop a 720p video file with display brightness set at 50%, quantity at 100%, and Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting disabled till the system quits. For the Flex 3 and the opposite Chromebooks with solely 64GB of onboard storage, we performed the video from an exterior SSD plugged right into a USB port.
Our Geekbench and GFXBench assessments noticed the identical tough distribution of scores, with the Flex 3 close to or in the back of the pack. Its efficiency was acceptable for each day searching and even media streaming, however demanding apps or extensions or Android video games might often gradual to subpar efficiency. The Lenovo was additionally in the midst of the sphere in our battery rundown, delivering a bit greater than 8 hours and half-hour of unplugged operation. That is the second shortest time within the group and barely half the stamina of the HP, however it needs to be sufficient to get you thru a day of labor or college.
Verdict: A High-quality Worth With Useful Options
The Lenovo Flex 3 Chromebook presents itself as a budget-friendly 2-in-1, and it fulfills that promise with a carry-friendly convertible design and spectacular port choice. Whereas its plastic building and uncooked efficiency aren’t any match for costlier laptops, it is nonetheless a satisfying moveable companion for informal customers at a value that is arduous to beat.
Should you’re on the lookout for one thing with extra energy for demanding purposes or video games, you are in all probability not after a Chromebook to start with. We have examined sooner and extra highly effective ChromeOS laptops galore, however in an setting outlined by on-line instruments and Android apps, comparatively modest efficiency is not a deal-breaker. We want the Flex 3 had a few hours extra battery life, however it’s however a compelling funds choice.