I bought the 2021-update of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 locally about two weeks ago, used it throughout this time, and gathered my thoughts on it in this review article.
This is the 2021 version of the Flex 5 14-inch, code name 14ALC05, (also known as the Lenovo 82H), and I’ve bought it because it was one of the first ultrabooks built on Ryzen 5000 hardware available locally over here and because I found it for a steal price.
My configuration is the AMD Lucienne Ryzen 7 5700U, the rebadged 8Cores/16Threads update of the Ryzen 7 4800U from 2020, built on the revised Zen2+ architecture and with improved Vega graphics. Lenovo also offers Ryzen 3 3500U and 5 5500U configurations for this laptop, but the Zen3 Cezanne platform is not going to be available on this chassis, at least as far as I can tell right now.
That shouldn’t be a surprise, though, as the IdeaPad Flex is and has always been a budget lineup. My configuration comes with the Ryzen 7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a fast 512 GB SSD for an MSRP price of around 800 EUR here, but I actually got mine for only 620 EUR as a Resealed product available on a local sales campaign. That’s an excellent price for what I got, but the fact that it was available Resealed meant that someone bought it first and sent it back for the store to resell to me, at the discount.
So what caused that person to send back a laptop with this kind of specs and power, and also one of the very few of its kind available here (the ZenBook 13 OLED is the other, but a higher-tier product at a higher price). Well, in short, I’m pretty sure it was the screen, which is worse than the screen on the IdeaPad 5 clamshell that I bought in 2020, and ended up returning at that time because of its poor display. That aside, this little laptop also tends to run rather hot under load, yet that’s understandable given the specs inside.
Even so, while I can’t see myself using this sort of a display on my laptop, I still think the IdeaPad Flex 5 can be a good-value choice in its price range for those of you that rather care about specs, performance, and a well-built chassis, and less so about at least having a decent display. I’ll get in-depth on that in the Screen section down below, as well as cover all the other important aspects you should consider when deciding on whether this IdeaPad Flex 5 is a good buy for you or not.
Specs as reviewed – Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14ALC05
||Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14ALC05
||14-inch 1920 x 1080 px IPS 60 Hz, 16:9, touch, glossy, Chi Mei N140HCA-E5B panel
||AMD Lucienne Ryzen 7 5700U, 8C/16T
||AMD Radeon Vega 8, 8 CUs, 1.9 GHz
||16 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (soldered)
||1x 512 GB M.2 PCIe SSD (Micron MTFDHBA512QFD)
||Wireless 6 (Realtek 8822CE) 2×2, Bluetooth 5.0
||2x USB-A 3.2 gen 1, 2x USB-C gen with data and power delivery, DC-IN plug, HDMI 1.4b, SD card reader, headphone/mic
||52 Wh, 65 W USB-C power adapter
||321 mm or 12.62” (w) x 208 mm or 8.18” (d) x 14.9 mm or .58” (h)
||1.53 kg (3.37 lb), .35 kg (.76 lbs) power brick and cables, EU version
||white backlit keyboard, 2x 2W front speakers, HD webcam with shutter
Aside from the different CPU/RAM/storage options, all the IdeaPad Flex 5 versions are otherwise identical and get the same features, display, and battery.
Design and build
Unlike the IdeaPad 5 that I tested last year, the Flex 5 is a convertible with a touchscreen that can go up to 360-degrees on the back. That means this can bs used as a laptop or tablet or something in between, and supports finger-touch and pen input.
At the same time, at nearly 3.4 lbs in weight and a fairly hefty format, expect to primarily use this as a regular notebook, on the desk or on the lap, as the whole thing is rather heavy and awkward to hold as a tablet. Tent mode for movies could be useful, though.
The other noticeable differences are in the color options, as this IdeaPad Flex 5 comes in a standard silver, while the IdeaPad 5 came in a unique blue, as well as the choice in the materials used for the lid. With this 2021 Flex 5, Lenovo went with an all-plastic construction, with a smoother finishing for the lid and underside, and a more textured rugged finishing for the interior. That’s good news, as I feel these materials will age well.
The plastic lid isn’t going to chip away as easily as the painted metal on the 2020 IdeaPad 5 that I had, and the interior seems to be able to handle the mild abuse from my watch’s wristband without a glimpse. Furthermore, the silver color perfectly hides any smudges and finger-oil, so all in all, if you’re looking for a durable no-hassle laptop that you can grab along to work or school, this is a solid candidate.
Lenovo didn’t skimp on the build quality either, as the lid feels strong and barely bulges when pressed, but there is some flex in the keyboard, not the kind you’ll probably notice with daily use, but the kind you can easily show when pressing harder on the keys. I can live with that in this price range.
As far as practicality goes, this sits well-enough on the desk, thanks to the grippy rubber feet on the belly, and Lenovo made sure to blunt and dull all the edges and corners. The hinges also do a good job at keeping the screen as set-up, but their stiffness, paired with the lack of any recess or knub on the front lip for you to grab the screen from, means that you can’t easily lift up the display single-handily here, and you’ll probably need to use both your hands to do it.
The interior is spacious and offers enough room for a full keyboard and a mid-sized clickpad, with enough arm-rest around. The keyboard is flanked by speaker grills on each side, and the status LEDs and the power button have been moved to the sides, out of the way when watching a movie at dark. I sure wish everyone would do that.
I also appreciate that the thermal module benefits from a wide-open intake grill on the bottom and blows the hot air behind the screen, away from the user, and not into the screen and in your face, as with many other modern 14-inch ultraportable. At the same time, though, a taller back foot would have helped the airflow under the laptop, as the intakes are choked up in this design.
That aside, because this is only an averagely-sized 14-inch laptop, you still get a fair bit of bezels around the screen, both at the top and at the bottom. There is at least a camera at the top, with a physical shutter cover, but you’re not getting IR or a finger-sensor with this series.
Finally, the IO is lined on both sides, towards the back of the laptop, and includes pretty much everything you’ll need, except for Thunderbolt support. That means 2x USB-A slots, 1x HDMI, a full-size SD card reader, a headphones jack, and a USB-C with support for data, and charging. Looks like there’s no DP (will check in the IdeaPad 14 review) and that the HDMI port is 1.4b, so this laptop cannot drive a 4K screen at 60 Hz, if that matters for you.
You should be aware that there’s also a barrel-plug charger port on the left side, so you can charge the laptop in two ways. Our model shipped with a USB-C charger, which some of you might appreciate, but keep in mind that this way you cannot use the USB-C port to connect to any peripherals while also charging the laptop (unless you connect to an external dock or monitor that also provides charging). For that, having the barrel-plug charger would prove more beneficial, as it would leave the USB-C port free for other uses.
Keyboard and trackpad
This Flex 5 gets a standard Lenovo IdeaPad keyboard, the same we’ve seen on the IdeaPads that I’ve tested in the past, with the somewhat cheaper-feeling plastic keycaps than on the higher-tier models.
No worries though, I still find this to be a good typer, quick, quiet, and accurate once you get a hold of its mushier feedback, the kind you should expect from a portable laptop with short-stroke keys.
The layout is standard and basic as well, without the extra column of Function keys that some other 14-inchers offer these days, as the space on the sides is occupied by the up-firing speakers. Instead, PgUp/PgDn/Home and End functionality are secondaries bound to the arrow keys in this case.
The keys are also easy to tell apart, with the white writing on a dark-gray background, and backlit. The illumination is rather dim, and with the way the LEDs are positioned under each key, the light creeps out from underneath most of the keycaps, but at least the backlighting is fairly uniform and Lenovo included CapsLock and Numlock dedicated LED indicators.
The clickpad is plastic, so not as smooth as the glass models out there. It’s also averagely sized and a bit flimsy, rattling with firmer taps, especially in the lower half. It tracks well, though, handles all the standard gestures, and offers smooth and quiet enough physical clicks.
As for biometrics, there are no finger sensor or IR cameras here.
All in all, though, Lenovo put fair inputs on this IdeaPad Flex 5, that kind that should easily satisfy most of you looking at a portable laptop in this category.
The screen was the reason I returned the IdeaPad 5 that I got last year, and, spoiler alert, the reason I’m going to return this Flex 5 as well.
Color coverage is still a culprit on this Chi Mei panel that Lenovo provides here, with ~60% sRGB gamut coverage. That might not mean much to you, but to my eyes, reds are especially flawed on this laptop, to the point where they look like washed-our oranges. I’ve added some pictures next to two other panels that are available on cheap laptops these days, the one on the left is ~90% sRGB and around 250-nits, and the one on the right is ~100% sRGB and around 400-nits, and in the middle is this IdeaPad Flex 5. You be the judge of it.
That’s not all, though. This panel on my Flex 5 is also barely usable indoors in a well-lit environment or outdoors, due to the panel’s reduced brightness and the glare and reflections associated with the touchscreen.
By default, we measured peak-brightness levels of just under 250-nits, but once we ran out calibration suite with DisplayCal, the brightness dropped to only about 200 nits. For these images, though, I reverted back to the default setting.
I can’t recall having tested a laptop that I had to keep at almost 100% brightness in my office, but that’s what I had to do here, and even at %100 it sometimes felt dim once calibrated. In fact, I was wondering if maybe there’s some auto-light adjustment setting that I had to disable in the settings, but Vari-Bright was turned off and I couldn’t find anything else to change.
Now, I also considered that I might have gotten unlucky with this sample, but even the official specs mention a 250-nits 45% NTSC panel on this series, so you’re most likely not going to get anything significantly different than what I got.
On the plus side, at least the blacks and contrast are good here, and the panel didn’t show a lot of bleeding around the edges, but we did notice some uniformity variations in our tests. Nonetheless, watching a movie at dark is going to be an enjoyable experience. As long as you’re OK with muted washed-out colors, that is.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with a X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: Chi Mei CMN1406 (N140HCA-E5B);
- Coverage: 59.5% sRGB, 42.1% AdobeRGB, 42.9% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.23;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 242.51 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 9.89 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1477:1;
- White point: 6200 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.16 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
Now, as long as you don’t mind those colors and the low brightness, which is imo only adequate for indoor use in a darker room, I guess you should be alright with this panel. Or if you plan to hook up an external screen instead and use the laptop closed-up, docked in a vertical stand.
For me, though, this screen kills the IdeaPad Flex 5 and it’s the reason I’m going to send the laptop back, despite the fact that it’s otherwise such a great value product in its segment. In all fairness, I might be somewhat biased as I’m used to much nicer displays on a daily basis, but I wouldn’t find this kind of a screen acceptable on anything but a sub 500 USD/EUR laptop these days, and heck, even many of the laptops in that segment get better now. To me, having at least a half-decent display matters more than having the latest and fastest specs, which we’ll get into in the next section.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced configuration of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14ALC05, with an AMD Ryzen 7 5700U processor, 16 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz of RAM, 512 GB of fast Micron NVMe storage, and the Radeon Vega 8 graphics embedded into the AMD APU.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit is a retail model running on the software available as of mid-April 2021 (BIOS GJCN19WW, Lenovo Vantage 220.127.116.11).
Specs-wise, this iteration of the IdeaPad Flex 5 is based on the early-2021 AMD Ryzen 5000 U hardware platform, with options starting with the 4C/8T Ryzen 3 5300U processor, and going up to the 8C/16T Ryzen 7 5700U on this unit. As far as I can tell, only Zen2+ Lucienne platforms are going to be available on this lineup, with Zen3 Cezanne hardware reserved for other Lenovo models.
That’s not really something that should concern you, even with the improvements in IPC and various optimizations of Zen3, as the Lucienne hardware is still plenty fast enough for daily use, better optimized than the Renoir Ryzen 4000 platforms from 2020, more capable in GPU loads with the updated Vega graphics, as well as overall more affordable and more widespread. In fact, for now, Cezanne laptops are hardly available, but you can get Lucienne specs in a few different models throughout the world.
Back to our review unit, the Ryzen 7 5700U builds on last year’s top Ryzen U 4800U processor, as an 8C/16T APU based on the Zen2+ architecture, paired with Vega 8 graphics with 8CUs running at up to 1.9 GHz. The processor is also paired with 16 GB of DDR4 memory (soldered on the MB) and a fast SSD in our configuration.
The storage can be upgraded if you want to, but everything else is soldered on the motherboard. Getting inside requires you to pop out the back panel, which is only held in place by a couple of screws, all visible around the sides.
As far as the software goes, everything can be controlled through the Lenovo Vantage app, which offers access to the power profiles, keyboard customization options, system updates, battery settings, etc. I find this unified implementation one of the better system control apps in this segment.
There are three performance/thermal profiles to choose from, and you can switch between them by pressing Fn+Q:
- Battery Saving – limits the CPU at around 6W and keeps the fans noise at inaudible levels;
- Intelligent Cooling – limits the CPU at around 21W, and ramps that fans to about 40 dB at head-level in sustained loads;
- Extreme Performance – further bumps the CPU to around 24-25W sustained, with similar fan noise of around 40 dB.
I’ve kept my unit on Intelligent Cooling most of the time, and only switched to Extreme Performance for benchmarks and gaming. The fan inside rests quietly with daily use on Intelligent Cooling, and rarely kicks in with heavier multitasking. It’s not completely idle, though, so you can still hear it in a perfectly quiet room.
The next part of this article focuses on the Ryzen 7 5700U’s performance in demanding loads, benchmarks and games.
We start by testing the CPU’s performance in taxing chores by running the Cinebench R15 benchmark for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
On Extreme Performance, the Ryzen 7 5700U stabilizes at 3.1+ GHz and 24+W of power, but also very high temperatures in the 90+ Celsius. The system allows the CPU to run at 45+ W for around a minute, with temps of around 100C, before it gradually clocks down and stabilizes at around 24W, so quick intensive loads will benefit from the even higher CPU power and clocks.
The fans spin at about 40 dB in this mode, and the laptop return scores of roughly 1500 points, which very few mobile platforms can rival (namely the Ryzen 7 4800U and 5800U).
Switching over to Intelligent Cooling limits the CPU at 21+W and slightly cooler temperatures in the 84-86 degrees Celsius.
Switching over to the Battery Saving mode limits the CPU at 6W sustained and trumps the scores, but with almost no perceivable fan noise and very low internal temperatures, in the mid 50s.
Finally, the laptop returns erratic performance while unplugged in this test, with the CPU variating in clocks and power. As a result, the scores drop to around 800+ points, which is still more than respectable for a mobile platform in this sort of load.
To put these results in perspective, here’s how a couple of other AMD and Intel ultraportable notebooks score in this same test.
As mentioned already, only the Ryzen 7 4800U can match the 5700U in this sort of CPU-heavy tests, and that shouldn’t be a surprise, since the two are nearly the same processor. The latest Intel options are miles behind, as those are only 4C/8T and cannot compete in this test, but their IPC makes them worthy alternatives for everyday use and multitasking, as well as certain loads that benefit from specific Intel design particularities, such as Quick Sync support.
We went ahead and verified our findings with the more demanding Cinebench R23 test and the gruesome Prime 95. Much like in the previous test, the Ryzen 7 5700U processor stabilizes at 24+W after the initial higher boost, and temperatures of 90+ C.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook, on the same Extreme Performance profile. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it without a problem, showing potential for stable long-term performance in this sort of combined loads.
Next, here are some benchmark results. We ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the Extreme Performance profile, which allows the APU to run at 24+W of sustained power in the longer duration loads, but with higher power boosts of 45+W in shorter peak loads. Here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 3244 (Graphics – 3540, Physics – 19375, Combined – 1129);
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid: 14142 (Graphics – 14723, CPU – 11561);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1266 (Graphics – 1121, CPU – 4755);
- 3DMark 13 – Wilf Life: 7167;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 2332;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 707;
- Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 26,89 average fps;
- PassMark10: Rating: 4802 (CPU mark: 18506, 3D Graphics Mark: 2442, Disk Mark: 9144);
- PCMark 10: 5410 (Essentials – 9387 , Productivity – 8071 , Digital Content Creation – 5672);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1125, Multi-core: 6000;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1802 cb, CPU Single Core 190 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3327 cb, CPU Single Core 489 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 9009 cb, CPU Single Core 1244 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 45.22 s.
We also ran some Workstation related loads on the same Extreme Performance profile:
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 4m 19s (Extreme);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 11m 31s (Extreme);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: CPU not properly recognized;
- SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 14.29 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Catia: 10.82 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Creo: 25.42 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Energy: 0.83 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Maya: 45.64 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Medical: 9.12 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SNX: 32.95 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SW: 22.74 (Extreme).
These are excellent results for a U-type mobile platform, particularly on the CPU side, where the 5700U remains one of the most capable mobile platforms currently available, and is only outmatched by the Ryzen 7 5800U in some cases, especially in single-core and IPC tests.
The GPU performance, on the other hand, is somewhat under the Ryzen 7 4800U tested in the IdeaPad Slim 7, which benefited from higher power settings and a more capable thermal design. It’s also a fair bit under the performance of the Irix Xe GPU available in the Intel Tiger Lake Core i7 processors of this generation, which can end up scoring 15-40% higher in 3DMark and Uniengine. Just keep in mind that the performance is greatly influenced by the TDP settings and thermal capabilities with these ultraportable designs, regardless of they’re based on AMD or Intel hardware.
With that our of the way, we also ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the Performance profile, FHD resolution, and Low/Lowest graphics settings. Here’s what we got:
|Ryzen 7 5700U + Vega
||IdeaPad Flex 5,
Ryzen 7 5500U 24W
Ryzen 5 5500U 15W
Core i7-1165G7 19W
|ZenBook Duo UX482,
Core i7-1165G7 25W
Ryzen 5 4600U 25W
Ryzen 7 4800U 26W
Ryzen 7 4700U 13W
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)
||75 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||83 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||63 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
||81 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||66 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
|Dota 2 (DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
||53 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
||49 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (44 fps – 1% low)
||64 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||53 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||39 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, no AA)
||24 fps (21 fps – 1% low)
||23 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||26 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||32 fps (26 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (17 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||47 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||48 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (47 fps – 1% low)
||83 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
||41 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
||45 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
|NFS: Most Wanted (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||60 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (49 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (Vulkan, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||26 fps (15 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||35 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
||38 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||27 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Low Preset)
||36 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||44 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
||41 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||37 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||24 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||22 fps (12 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (14 fps – 1% low)
- Dota 2, NFS – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock, Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
We’re looking at 60+ framerates in the older titles, but barely 30fps or even under in the more demanding AAA titles launched in recent years. Furthermore, the Iris Xe chip running at a similar power envelope comes in front by 10-30% between the tested titles, so if you’re after an ultraportable that can handle light-gaming, you’re getting better results on that end, or much better once you opt for some sort of a dGPU, even the entry-level Nvidia MX450.
That aside, the AMD APU also runs very hot inside this chassis on the Extreme Performance mode with the laptop sitting on the desk, averaging between 85 to 98 degrees in the games that we’ve tested. Ouch! The performance, on the other hand, remains solid and consistent, with the GPU able to run at its designed clocks of 1.9 GHz in all the tests.
Switching over to Intelligent Cooling limits the CPU power at around 19-21 W between the tested titles, allowing for slightly improved temperatures, yet still in the mid and high 80s, or even higher. The fan keeps spinning at 40+ dB in both cases, and don’t ramp any faster on Extreme.
I did mention that there’s very little space underneath the laptop for the fresh air to get inside with the way the rubber feet are designed on the back, that’s why you should consider raising up the back of the laptop or using a cooling pad when running demanding loads.
We measured temperatures lower by 15-25 degrees C on Extreme Performance with the back bumped up by an inch in these gaming tests, so this small tweak makes a huge difference here. The first image down below clearly shows how the CPU and GPU temperatures drop quickly as soon as I lift up the back of the laptop from the desk.
All in all, though, while the Ryzen 7 5700U performs well in both the multi-threaded CPU and the combined CPU+GPU loads that we’ve tested on this IdeaPad Flex 5, it also runs at very high temperatures in all these tests, the kind that might translate in reliability problems long term and even performance degradation, once the thermal paste dries out and once the cooling module fills up with dust.
That’s why, if you’re looking for a powerful Ryzen 5000 U implementation that you plan to push to its limits and fully benefit from the performance this is capable of, I feel that you’d be better off with a more mature design with a beefier thermal module, such as the IdeaPad Slim 7. At the same time, I’d also expect the 6C Ryzen 5 5500U processor to be a better match for this chassis, at an even more affordable price, and what I’d most likely recommend on this Flex 5.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
Lenovo went with a dual-heatpipe and one large fan thermal module on this configuration, a slightly more complex solution than what’s normally implemented at this level, and identical to the one tested in the clamshell IdeaPad 5.
This design allows the Ryzen 7 5700U APU to run smoothly at 24+ W in demanding loads and tests, while at the same providing fair cooling with daily use, keeping the fan quiet most of the time, with only warm exterior temperatures.
The APU does heat up to 80 and 90 degrees in demanding chores and games, and a fair bit of that heat also spreads onto the exterior chassis.
With games, we recorded temperatures in the low-50s around the WER keys, on top of the AMD processor, and low-50s around the radiator, but also 60+ on the underside, around the thermal module. That’s with the laptop sitting on the desk, ambient temperatures of around 24 C, and the fans spinning at around 39-40 dB in our tests. At least the hot air is blown out behind the screen, and not into the screen.
However, lifting up the laptop in order to improve the airflow underneath has a major impact on the internal temperatures, allowing them to drop by as much as 15-25 degrees in some games, and also helps shave 2-7 degrees of the outside, so this is definitely something to consider when playing games or running in demanding workloads on this machine.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Quiet Mode, fans at 0-35 dB
*Gaming – Extreme Performance mode – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 39-40 dB
For connectivity, there’s a latest-gen WiFi 6 2×2 with a Realtek module on this laptop. It performed very well with our setup and the signal and performance remained strong at 30-feet, with obstacles in between.
Audio is handled by a set of stereo speakers that fire through those grills around the keyboard, well, through the lowe part of that grill at least, as the rest is just for decor. Lenovo puts slightly bigger internal speakers on this Flex than on the standard IdeaPad 5, so expect fair volumes, in the 78-80 dB at head-level, and no distortions at higher volumes, but still not much in terms of audio quality, with little on the lower end.
You shouldn’t expect much from the HD camera placed at the top of the screen, either. It’s fine for occasional calls, but the quality is muddy and washed out.
There’s a 52.5 Wh battery inside the IdeaPad Flex 5, which is OK for a laptop in this price segment, but smaller than the average size available with 14-incher these days. Even so, with the efficient AMD hardware implementation and screen, this notebook lasts for a fair while on a charge.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~80 brightness).
- 7.5 W (~7-8 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Quiet Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (~8-9 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Quiet Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.8 W (~10-11 h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Quiet Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 8.5 W (~5-6 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Intelligent Cooling Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
Our model came with a compact 65W charger that plugs in via USB-C. It’s a dual-piece design with a compact brick and long cables, and a full charge takes about 2 hours.
As mentioned already, the laptop also offers a classic barrel plug DC-Input and Lenovo might decide to offer the barrel-plug charger instead in some regions. In fact, that’s what I’d go with if you’re planning on hooking up peripherals via USB-C on this laptop, as that would leave the single USB-C port on this laptop available to you, and not have it blocked for charging.
Price and availability
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14ALC05, is available in some stores around the world in multiple versions.
Over here this tested configuration with the Ryzen 7 5700U processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB SSD retails for around 800 EUR, before any discounts. The same, but with a Ryzen 5 5500, goes for around 700 EUR, and I’d reckon the Ryzen 3 5300U models should follow up soon.
This updated version of the IdeaPad Flex 5 is not yet available on the US Lenovo website right now, but you can find the 2020 model built on a Ryzen 7 4700U processor for a little over 600 USD, which is a competitive price. The 4700U is still a competitive 8C processor, but without HyperThreading and without the updated graphics available with the Ryzen 5/7 5000 hardware.
Furthermore, you’ll most likely find these discounted here and again, just as I found my unit. Remember that I paid 620 EUR for the refurbished Ryzen 7 5700U/16 GB RAM/512 GB SSD variant tested here, downs from its 800 EUR MSRP.
Follow this link for updated prices and configurations in your region.
I doubt I’ll be able to find a similar 14-inch laptop with this kind of performance, construction, and battery life for the 620 EUR that I paid for this IdeaPad Flex 5. But despite that, this is going back, because of that screen. It’s just too dim and too washed out for me to use on my everyday laptop, and for my use, a half-decent display with 300+ is of brightness and 100% sRGB is the minimum I could accept.
Even so, as long as you can live with this panel that Lenovo puts on this IdeaPad Flex 5 and you can find it for the kind of money that I got mine for, by all means, go and get this. Yes, the hardware runs hot in this budget chassis with demanding loads and games, and yes, this is not as compact or as feature-rich as some of the other 14-inch options out there, but it well compensates for these aspects with its aggressive pricing and the performance it delivers in multi-threaded loads that can properly benefit from the Ryzen 7 8C processor inside.
I would still advise on going with the Ryzen 5 5500U configuration here, that’s still plenty fast for daily multitasking and some work chores, plus should be easier to find at around 600 EUR. At 800, on the other hand, this Flex 5 might not be that appealing as long as you don’t have to get the Ryzen hardware, as the market offers more portable and nicer-made designs with better screens at that price.
Anyway, that wraps up my take on this 2021 Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it and whether you agree with my feedback on the screen or not. No fanboyism please, just be honest and let me know which are more important for you in your mid-priced laptop: the performance of the Ryzen platform, or a nicer display that you’re not going to resent every time you’ll look at those skewed colors?
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