This Well-Priced Convertible Is No Yoga
The original IdeaPad Flex 14 wasn’t a device which set the world on fire. But, it was quite good anyway, and the only major drawback was its low resolution display. With the Flex 2 Lenovo has not only added a new Full HD screen, but also removed the IdeaPad designation. Is it a complete remodel of the last model or is it just an iterative upgrade with few minor modifications? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
In the Yoga series, the hinge is able to rotate 360 degrees, which allows you to use it in tablet mode. In the Flex 2, the hinge only moves 300 degrees which means that you can only use it in Stand Mode. Tent Mode is also possible, but it is not recommended. Most of the chassis is made using plastic (which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the price) and even though it looks classy, the surface has a fair amount of flex.
Compared to the IdeaPad Flex, connectivity options haven’t changed. The device has one USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an SD card reader, headphone/mic jack and an HDMI port. For increased security, Lenovo has even added a slot for a Kensington lock. There is no 802.11ac Wi-Fi support. But, the 802.11n protocol is usually fast enough for private use.
With a weight of around 5.5lbs and a thickness of around 1 inch, the Flex 2 isn’t a very portable device. The outer hinges are thick and leave a gap of a few centimeters between the keyboard area and the bottom bezel of the display. Small rubber attachments protect the keyboard when in stand mode, and also provide reasonable grip. But, since the plastic chassis tends to wobble and bend, turning the display isn’t a process that fills you with confidence.
The overall design of the Flex 2 14 is pretty similar to the last model. But, the quality of the plastic does make it a mixed-bag.
The Flex 2 14 has, as the name suggests, a 14-inch touchscreen display. Screen resolution has been bumped up to 1920×1080 to better compete with rivals like the ASUS Transformer Book and the Acer Aspire R7-571G. It has decent brightness and a brightness distribution of 88%. The IPS panel has good viewing angles and manages to reproduces colors pretty well. But, the colors do look a bit pale which makes it ill-suited for professional use.
The screen is not as sharp as some of its competitors, and this is clearly visible in some programs. But, the contrast ratio of 1029:1 happens to be one of the best in this class. The display is very glossy and prone to reflections and therefore, working outdoors and under bright lights can be a challenge.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard looks just like the ones used in Yoga 2 Pro, Yoga 2 13 and IdeaPad Flex. It has a similar performance too. The keys are well laid out and have a decent width of 14mm making them a breeze to type on. But, it does have its share of problems. Travel is limited and there is very little feedback. Strokes are a bit soft, and it will take a while to get used to. Keys are well-illuminated and the brightness has two levels to it.
The Flex 2 14 uses a clickpad which means that there are no dedicated mouse buttons. However, the lower portion of the touch pad can be used to execute left or right clicks, depending on where you touch. But, the clicking areas are only separate by a small stripe which can’t be felt with your fingers – leading to wrong inputs at times. Moreover, clicking could cause the cursor to move a bit. It is easy to drag and drop files even though the touchpad does get confused from time to time. Multi-touch gestures were pretty reliable too.
The older IdeaPad Flex had a Core i5 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz. The Flex 2 has a 1.7GHz Core i3 4010U, 4GB DDR RAM, a 128GB SSD and an NVidia GeForce 840M GPU. Even though the i3 has a higher clock speed, it doesn’t have TurboBoost like the i5, and this affects performance considerably. In the CineBench synthetic benchmarking tests, the Flex 2 showed a decline of around 30% compared to the IdeaPad Flex.
The drop-off in CPU performance is slightly negated by the dedicated GPU. In fact, the Flex 2 manages better graphics performance than most of its rivals. The PCMark 8 score of 2,274 was better than the IdeaPad Flex (1,535), Transformer Book (1,918) and Toshiba Satellite W30t (2,399). The Flex 2 lets you run older games and less-demanding new games without a hitch. However, you will have to turn down the resolution to get good framerates.
Data transfer rates were pretty quick and the SSD performed well. The faster processor and greater RAM of the Flex 2 helped the SSD outperform the ASUS Transformer Book T300. In our tests, the Samsung drive returned sequential read/write speeds 485.3MBps and 126.4MBps.
The 32.5Wh Li-ion battery in the Flex 2 14 is smaller than the 48Wh unit used in the IdeaPad Flex. As long as you don’t use the NVidia GPU, the Flex 2 manages decent run times. The battery lasted for 5h 42m of internet browsing or 5h 2m of video playback. These results pale in comparison to the 10 hours managed by the Transformer Book.
- Excellent value for money
- Good trackpad
- Easy to use keyboard
- Glossy screen
- Stand mode isn’t really useful
The Lenovo Flex 2 14 is a decent convertible laptop and manages to perform well, especially considering its price. It does have a number of drawbacks and if you can live with them, the Flex 2 can be considered a sufficient and cheap alternative to the Yoga series.