I’ve been fortunate enough to try out the first two generations of Lenovo’s Flex laptop line. Recently, they sent me the Flex 3 15, an example of the current generation. The Flex’s shtick is that it transforms from laptop to tablet to presentation mode ala Lenovo’s other multi-factor line, the Yoga.
I admit to being a bit of a mark for Lenovo products. Leaving aside that they’re kind enough to loan me review units, my first laptop was a ThinkPad (back when they were IBM made) and the Lenovo laptops all have some of that in their DNA. The Flex is more consumer-oriented but still has that same level of craftsmanship. The keyboard is solid, and features a dedicated number area. This results in a touchpad that’s off-center, a common occurrence in laptops these days. Drives my muscle memory nuts, but it works well. One further caveat about the keyboard, though – when you switch the device to tablet mode, you can feel the (now deactivated) keys on the back and it’s weird.
On the topic of modes, let us be honest: using a 15″ laptop as a tablet is not fun or easy. It’s bulky compared to a dedicated tablet, and the way the plastic on the Flex 3 meets makes it even less comfortable. The two halves actually curve away from each other, so it feels like you are holding two distinct bits of plastic. No risk of it falling apart, thanks to the really solid hinges, but try telling my subconscious that. It works well laying it flat, but as a tablet I’d give it a C-.
Presentation Mode is the most useful mode next to laptop – really good for media watching, even if the screen is not the best in the world. I found it a bit overly glossy despite the web site noting it was anti-glare.
The Flex 3 is the first Windows 10 device I’ve reviewed, and it was a better experience than the first time I used Windows 8. But that’s tangential to the review, so let me note that it ran really well with the 8 GB of RAM on a Core i5 processor. Now, that’s the top model that sells for $949, but you can find models for as low as $449. There is a decent selection of ports, including Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0, an HDMI port, and even a card reader. As some companies are cutting down on the ports they include, this is quite welcome.
Lenovo is famous for bundling lots of software as a value add, and this model is no different. I counted a dozen such applications before getting tired of checking. There’s plenty of space, but if you’re someone who wants total control of his app situation, it may be a turn-off.
So what’s the bottom line? The Flex 3 is a good laptop that can also work as a passable tablet in a pinch. It’s just not quite as versatile. I personally would go for the Flex 3 11 over the 15 just for portability, but others would find that too cramped. Which raised one good plus about the Flex 3 line – there are a lot of options. If you need a multifunction tablet right away with a solid build, this is worth checking out.