Earlier this summer, Lenovo has launched a new model from the popular 2-in-1 series, the Flex 14. It’s hard to define it strictly from a value for money standpoint. On one hand, the base model is clearly an entry level device. However, the one I’ll be talking about today, the Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS, has three times more RAM, a more powerful processor and more storage than its cheaper sibling.
The AMD-powered Flex 14 costs under $600 (price available at the time of this review). It seems that Lenovo has listened to users who were complaining about the series needing a system memory bump and fitted the laptop with enough RAM to satisfy most users’ needs.
From a functional point of view, the Lenovo Flex 14 isn’t exciting per se. It’s mostly bare-bones computing, with little interesting features sprinkled in between. However, considering price and the fact that it’s a convertible notebook, I can’t really complain. Most times, simple is better, as there are no distractions or complications prone to braking down.
I believe this laptop is a great option for art college students looking for a budget alternative to more professional devices. It’s responsive, well equipped to tackle anything related to art (drawing, illustrating) and design/engineering (CAD, 3D rendering). Plus, the much needed pen for creative users comes not as an extra, but standard.
Performance-wise, let’s start by looking at the CPU. The Flex 14 81SS000DUS is fitted with a new generation AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processor. If you’re unfamiliar with AMDs and how well they can handle tasks, know this: a Ryzen 5 3500 offers nearly identical performance as an Intel Core i5-8265U processor.
This quad-core CPU has 8 threads, a base clock of 2.1GHz that goes up to 3.7GHz, and a cache size of 4 megabytes. As such, the AMD will handle everyday tasks without breaking a sweat, and much more. It will run most modern design and engineering apps, Office products, and so on.
When it comes to system memory, I’d say Lenovo have stepped up their game somewhat. This model, the 81SS000DUS, comes with 12 gigabytes of DDR4-2400 SDRAM installed. You heard that right: not the standard 8 gigs you get in most mid-range laptops nowadays, and not 16 gigs you see in pricier options.
However, I fully believe this amount of RAM will certainly satisfy most, if not all users. After all, we’re talking about a sub $600 device with touchscreen capabilities here. What more can you expect? As is stands, the Flex 14 will handle heavy multitasking, many, many simultaneously opened browser tabs, photo, video editing and some 3D rendering as well.
Storage space is on par with the rest of the specs. The Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS is fitted with an ultra fast 256-gigabyte NVMe Solid State Drive. I’ve said ultra fast, and by that, I really mean it. Compared to the SATA Solid State Drives, which are already (way) faster than hard drives, these NVMe drives can reach transfer speeds up to 5 times than those of SATA SSDs.
I’m not sure if there’s any real bottleneck, apart from graphics. The CPU-RAM-SSD combo is really well balanced. It will provide a smooth experience throughout your day, no matter the task.
Graphics and display
As I mentioned earlier, there is one bottleneck. And that is the GPU. Specifically, I’m talking about the AMD Radeon Vega 8. It’s an integrated solution that works well, in many ways better than its Intel counterpart. However, it’s no dedicated graphics card. It will stream 4K content without stuttering and it will run photo and video editing software without issues.
However, you won’t be able to play many games using it. If gaming is part of your routine, I’d advise against this notebook. Perhaps a 15″ 2-in-1 Lenovo Yoga 730 will suit your needs better with its dedicated GeForce GTX 1050 GPU.
Display quality is standard for a mid-range notebook. It has a 14-inch Full HD IPS multi touch display. It’s bright, but I’ve seen brighter, with the panel being glossy. Beware when computing outdoors, you’ll have a hard time distinguishing what you’re working on.
Interface and networking
I/O options are plentiful. The Lenovo Flex 14 has two USB ports on its right side and one USB-C port on the left side. Other than that, everything else is standard.
- 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A ports (of which one is always on)
- USB Type-C port
- Media Card Reader
- Combo Audio Jack
Here are the available networking options:
- 802.11ac (2×2) Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.1
Portability and battery life
I’m surprised how versatile and portable the Flex 14 can be. You’d think such an affordable device will surely sacrifice either specs, portability, looks, or something else. However, Lenovo have managed to make little to no compromises, except for features maybe. As it stands, the Flex 14 81SS000DUS weighs just 3.65 pounds. It’s light enough to be carried around campus or your local coffee shop, but not nearly as portable as true ultrabooks, such as the ZenBook 13.
With great portability should come great battery life. Sadly, this is not the case. One full charge of its 4-cell Li-Ion 45Whr battery will last for about 7 to 8 hours of moderate use. Is it enough in this day and age? I’m not sure. It depends on your expectations. If you take it to class and then charge it back home it’s fine.
However, some folks won’t be comfortable not carrying the adapter everyday, considering those 7 hours of battery life. So, plan accordingly and think well when and how you’ll end up using this notebook. It may save future headaches.
In the end, I have to say the Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS is an overall great 2-in-1 laptop, plagued by modest battery life stats. I have no other complains, as I really think this is a great companion for any aspiring art or design student on a budget. It’s well equipped and will perform in all circumstances.