Lenovo Flex 6 (14″) First Impressions

Posted on May 23, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 13 Comments

Lenovo Flex 6 (14") First Impressions

The Lenovo Flex 6 is an affordable take on the convertible PC, but it offers some nice premium touches, too.

And that, potentially, is the sweet spot, a part of the market that often gets overlooked by reviewers as they focus, somewhat understandably, on more impressive—and far more expensive—premium PCs instead. It’s like being a car reviewer: What would you rather drive, an M-class BMW or a Toyota Corolla?

To be fair, this isn’t entirely the fault of the reviewers: PC makers, like car makers, I’m sure, aren’t necessarily looking for well-rounded feedback, they’re looking for glowing reviews that might help drive sales of their most profitable offerings.

So credit Lenovo for reaching out to me about the Lenovo Flex 6. I’m always happy to review a ThinkPad X-series anything, of course: Those premium business-class PCs are routinely among the best I’ve ever used. But truth be told, I can’t really afford one myself. And neither can many of you, I suspect.

Which is what makes the Lenovo Flex 6—here, in 14-inch guise—so attractive. This is an affordable PC, though you’ll want to step up to higher-end models that offer Core processors, which offers a nice blend of premium features and convertible PC usability.

What we’re looking at here is a 14-inch convertible PC whose display can rotate back 360 degrees, providing you with the same usage modes as is available on a Yoga-branded PC. That is, it can lay flat, used as a thick and somewhat unwieldy tablet, or be propped up in tent and presentation (stand) modes.

This Yoga-like flexibility isn’t the only premium feature that’s made its way down to the Flex 6. This PC also features a speedy, Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader, very slim display bezels on three sides, and excellent dual Harman speakers with Dolby Audio Premium sound.

A Lenovo Active Pen that sports 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity is also available.

That display is commensurate with the cost of this device, meaning its a Full HD, 1920 x 1080 16:9 IPS unit that doesn’t get particularly bright and won’t turn any heads. But it’s both multi-touch and smart pen compatible, and is perfectly serviceable. I could use this as a daily driver, for sure.

The bezels, as noted, are quite small for this class, but that’s only true on three sides: There is a huge expansive—over 1-inch tall—of bezel at the bottom of the display. But Lenovo does, at least, find room for a reasonable 720p webcam above the display, too.

(That the Flex 6 doesn’t sport a 3:2 display is somewhat disappointing given the PC’s convertible design. But that probably has more to do with cost than anything. And to be fair, tablet usage of this device, even with a smartpen, will likely be limited given the awkwardness of that configuration.)

The keyboard and touchpad are excellent for a PC of this caliber. In fact, they’re better than expected.

On the keyboard front, the Flex 6 provides the same scalloped keys we see on expensive ThinkPads, with excellent backlighting and a row of multimedia function keys.

The touchpad, while not glass—it’s mylar-covered, Lenovo says—isn’t humongous, which I prefer, and it is a Microsoft Precision Touchpad, meaning that it will offer the best possible integration with Windows 10. That’s great.

The internal components are both reasonable and modern too, at least on the review unit, which provides a quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8250U processor, discrete NVIDIA MX130 graphics, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of PCIe-based SSD storage. That configuration will set you back a reasonable $850.

Lenovo does sell even less expensive Flex 6 models. Indeed, you can purchase one for as little as $550. But that model provides a Pentium processor, 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of SSD storage, and a low-res 1366 x 768 display. A $600 model bumps up the processor to a previous-generation Core i57130U. But I recommend setting your sights higher than either of those: The $850 review unit is what you’re looking for.

Expansion, tool, is proper for the class: We get an old-school, barrel-style proprietary power port, full-sized HDMI, full-sized USB 3.0, USB-C, and a headphone/mic jack on the left.

And a full-sized SD card reader and a full-sized USB 3.0, plus a Kensington Lock slot, on the right.

The Flex 6 provides fast charging capabilities, and while that barrel charger may seem like a bit of a throwback, it’s a 65-watt unit that can provide 2 hours of usage in just 15 minutes. It can allegedly provide up to 10 hours of battery life overall.

The Lenovo Active Pen is optional and was provided with the review unit. It doesn’t provide tilt support, but it’s full-sized and only costs $35 too. Totally reasonable.

The build quality is solid and the materials are a bit of an upgrade over the standard plastic you typically see in this class: Lenovo mixes glass fiber into the otherwise plastic body and it coats the keyboard deck with brushed aluminum, giving the PC a more premium look and feel.

As a mid-tier PC, the Flex 6 is, of course, a bit big and heavy: It’s 17.6 mm (.69-inches) thick and weighs 3.5 pounds. By comparison, the Huawei MateBook X Pro I wrote about this week is a premium aluminum-based 14-inch Ultrabook that is 14.6 mm thick (.58-inches) and weighs 2.9 pounds. Fair? No. But that’s what an additional $350 to $500 buys you.

The Flex 6 ships with Windows 10 Home and a minimal, not-quite ThinkPad level of software preload: It includes Lenovo’s well-designed Lenovo Vantage software, which handles driver updates and support, a weird Lenovo App Explorer app which appears to be a subset of the Microsoft Store (like that old Nokia app that did the same on Windows Phone), and some McAfee security software that I quickly removed. This is all perfectly acceptable, I think.

Overall, the Lenovo Flex 6 looks like a solid offering for those who can’t or won’t throw down over $1000 on a Windows PC. I’m looking forward to using it on the road and reviewing it.

 

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