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Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 Convertible Ultrabook Review: An Affordable Convertible

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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Contortionist PCs are a big deal these days as convertible models take the stage to help bridge the gap between notebook and tablet. But not everyone wants to drop a grand on a convertible, and not everyone wants a 12-inch notebook, either. Meanwhile, these same people may not wish to blow their cash on an underpowered (and far less capable) Chromebook or tablet. It’s for these folks that Lenovo has introduced the IdeaPad Flex 14 Ultrabook, which occupies a valuable middle ground between the extremes.

The Flex 14 looks an awful lot like a Yoga at first glance, with the same sort of acrobatic design and a thoroughly IdeaPad styling (Lenovo calls it a “dual-mode notebook”). The specs are also similar to that of the x86 Yoga, though with the larger size (and later launch), the Flex also manages to assemble a slightly more powerful configuration:

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The biggest internal differences here are the i5-4200U CPU, which is a 1.6 GHz Haswell model with a TDP of 15 W and the ability to Turbo Boost (versus the Yoga 11S’ i5-3339Y, which is Ivy Bridge with a marginally lower TDP of 13 W and no Turbo Boost), the integrated graphics improvements that follow with the newer CPU, and a few more ports made possible by the larger chassis. Well, and the regression to a TN panel from the Yoga 11S’ much-appreciated IPS display, which is a bummer. Externally, your wallet will also appreciate a $250 drop in price: our model, as configured here, retails for just $749 (versus the $999 Yoga 11S we reviewed a few months back).

You can actually score a Flex 14 for as low as $429 (as of this writing), by the way, but if you’re after any sort of respectable configuration, that price quickly climbs above the $500 mark. Ours is the least expensive option currently available with both a solid-state drive and an i5 CPU.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14!!!

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Design and Portability

The IdeaPad Flex is certainly larger and heavier than its Yoga counterparts, weighing in at 4.07 lbs. versus the Yoga 11S’ 3.02 lbs. But it also feels sturdier; yes, it’s primarily comprised of plastic (with only the slick black brushed aluminum of the palmrest standing as an exception), but it’s well-constructed for a notebook lacking a metal frame. There’s still a small degree of flex when pressure is applied directly downward on the base unit or in a twisting motion, but it’s nothing disturbing. And the display lid—in contrast with that of the Yoga 11S—seems at least somewhat sturdy, with only torsion resistance leaving something to be desired. In everyday use, it shouldn’t be a problem.

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The low-key grey-and-black coloring and uncluttered surfaces also manage to evade the look of discount styling, with the only chintzy choice being the shiny black plastic display bezel, which—doubtful we even need to say so—absolutely adores fingerprints. This is to say nothing of ergonomics, of course, which we’ll cover in much greater detail in the next section.

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The signature feature of the Flex 14 remains the ability to rotate the display nearly 300 degrees backward to accommodate using the device in “Stand Mode”, which is essentially akin to operating a tablet with a stand. Making this possible are the side-mounted hinges, which do a good job of firmly supporting the display and do not allow any sort of vibration or wobble in the face of heavier typing.

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Also returning is the small rubber lip around the perimeter of the bezel (to protect the plastic-covered touchscreen while closed), as well as the raised shelf surrounding the keyboard, though it doesn’t retain its purpose as a platform on the Flex. That’s because—unlike the Yoga models—while in Stand Mode, two raised rectangular platforms at the top of the base unit double as feet for the notebook, working alongside two smaller triangular rubber feet near the bottom to keep it propped up off the surface at a slight angle. This seems to work better, and it also allows Lenovo to choose the aforementioned brushed metal for the palmrest as opposed to being limited to rubber.

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Another problem solved by the addition of the rubber feet is the operation of the edge-mounted buttons while in Stand Mode. On the Yoga, we had trouble using them when the base unit was flat again the surface, but having the base elevated slightly rectifies this. You’ll find the same assortment of hardware control buttons—Power, Volume Up/Down, Lenovo OneKey Recovery—lining the notebook’s left and right edges. Alongside them is a slightly wider selection of ports as well, though not much: the Flex 14 adds just a single USB 2.0 port (for a total of two USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 ports) and a 10/100 Ethernet port to the repertoire of available connections (versus the Yoga 11S).

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Maintenance is once again a bit of an afterthought, with a total of sixteen screws securing the bottom panel of the notebook. The good news is that once that’s finished, nearly every major component is immediately accessible. This is in contrast to the Yoga 11S, which requires removal of the rubber feet, keyboard, and top panel to access the innards.

December 9, 2013 | 01:04 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

only a single memory slot, means single channel, lower video performance,
is it common for this kind of laptop?

December 9, 2013 | 11:51 PM - Posted by StewartGraham (not verified)

When thickness, weight and value are core focal points of the design, yes.

December 9, 2013 | 01:21 AM - Posted by pdjblum

Crappy screen, crappy keyboard, crappy touchpad and still gets a silver award? Monitors, keyboards and touchpads are parts of the computer you most interact with. If they suck, it seems you are being a bit generous.

February 5, 2014 | 04:49 PM - Posted by Blueboywill (not verified)

I actually have a flex 14, am posting this using it, and I actually *adore* the keyboard and track-pad. The layout is fab (good shortcut buttons and Fn keys, and the track-pad is hugely better than any track-pad I've ever used before, namely my macbook pro with retina. Firstly it's huge, and secondly, it is extremely sensitive, yet never seems to fire off accidentally, hand resting on it while typing for example. The screen, yeah okay, the resolution isn't the best, but it's excellent for displaying both text and HD images and movies, and without the capabilities for really intense HD gaming, the screen doesn't do so badly for itself. No pixels are visible, even from around four inches away, and if the resolution was better, it'd just take away from the frankly amazing battery life. it's a perfect mid-range ultrabook, and I couldn't be happier with it.

December 9, 2013 | 02:03 AM - Posted by ThorAxe

It's a decent price for what you get.

I just wish more laptops/ultrabooks came with 1080p screens, expecially if they are 13.3" and above. Surely it wouldn't add more than $50-100??

December 9, 2013 | 04:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No gigabit ethernet, but that screen could double as a shiving mirror. Lots of spare parts in the warehouse, let's just slap them in case, and let the marketing folks flex some musculi masticatori.

December 9, 2013 | 06:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice design and user accessible innards...I like !
Typed on my Logitech K360 USB wireless KB with up to 3 yrs. battery life with 2 AA`s Came with Duracell`s installed...
$12.99 at Fry`s...yes...$12.99 !!!

December 9, 2013 | 06:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I used to think glossy was bad but like they pointed out on one of Leo`s podcasts matte loses brightness and blacks are not as good.
Matte makes the screen somewhat opaque.

December 9, 2013 | 06:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The tree reflection thing you did was very creative.

December 9, 2013 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I followed an ad from Amazon on your site...the Intel NUC is on sale for $179 !!!

June 10, 2014 | 04:30 PM - Posted by shak (not verified)

I have the Lenovo 14 flex. Does anyone know how to change you name that is at the top right hand corner.

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