The 14-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 ($809 as tested; starting at $470) is a 2-in-1 that aims to offer a lot without breaking the bank. With an 8th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce MX130 GPU, this system packs enough speed to enable solid productivity and play some games. The keyboard and speakers also impress. Unfortunately, the Flex 6's screen reflects too much glare, and its battery life isn't exactly stellar. Overall, though, this is one of the better convertibles for the money we've tested this year.
Despite its affordable starting price, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 is an attractive machine that features a matte Onyx black shell with metallic gray hinges. Those hinges allow the display to rotate 360 degrees, and feel reliably tight. The Flex 6 feels sturdy, with a brushed aluminum deck and a chassis made of a polycarbonate/ABS plastic with 40 percent glass fiber.
Weighing 3.6 pounds and measuring 0.7 inches, the IdeaPad Flex 6 is lighter than the 15-inch HP Envy x360 15t (4.7 pounds, 0.7 inches). It's also slimmer and heavier than both the 13.3-inch Acer Spin 5 (3.4 pounds, 0.6 inches) and the 13.3-inch Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (3.4 pounds, 0.6 inches).
On the left side of the Flex 6, you'll find its first USB 3.0 port, as well as an HDMI, USB Type-C ports and a headphone/mic combo jack.
Its power button sits on its right edge (for accessibility in non-laptop positions), alongside its security lock slot, a second USB 3.0 port and an SD memory reader.
The laptop's fingerprint reader supports Windows Hello and sits underneath the bottom right corner of the keyboard.
Watching the Gorillaz music video "Humility," on the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6's 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen, I noticed decent blues in the skies above Venice beach, as well as the greens and browns of palm tree fronds. When I hit pause, I could clearly read the signage of the nearby haunts and sprawling graffiti.
The display's reflective coating may be a bother if you're using the notebook in a space with lots of overhead lighting -- such as our open office -- as the lights reflected on the screen. This created enough glare in the panel that I could see the texture of our ceiling when I had dark apps open.
According to our colorimeter, the IdeaPad Flex 6 produces 80 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is below the premium notebook average (112 percent), the screen in the Inspiron 13 7000 (110 percent) and the Spin 5 (126 percent). The Envy x360 earned lower numbers (67 percent with an AMD CPU; 77 percent with an Intel CPU).
The IdeaPad Flex 6's screen emits up to 236 nits of brightness, which is below the 305 category average, as well as the 274-nit Spin 5. The Inspiron 13 produced a similar 227-nit rating, while the Envy x360 15t earned lower (186 on an Intel machine; 128 on an AMD machine) scores.
The Flex 6's touch-screen display enabled accurate input as I navigated the desktop. It also correctly registered Windows 10's edge-swipe gestures for opening the Timeline view and the Action Center.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Optional Active Pen
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6's keyboard offers a solid typing experience. Evaluating it using the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I hit a rate of 74 words per minute, not too far from my 80 wpm average. The keys feature only 1.3 millimeters of travel (below the 1.5 mm to 2mm we hope to find), but their mechanisms, which require 78 grams of force for actuation (we look for at least 60 grams) give the keys a natural feel to each click.
The Flex 6's 4.1 x 2.7-inch touchpad tracked my input accurately as I navigated the desktop and scrolled through websites in Chrome. It also correctly recognized the navigation gestures for viewing the desktop and moving between apps.
The $40 Lenovo Active Pen (included when purchasing from Costco, but not Amazon) provided a natural-feeling writing experience as I doodled in MS Paint. While the stylus offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, it doesn't recognize input at hard angles, so you can't do tilt-shading.
The Lenovo Flex 6 produces enough sound to fill one of our larger private offices. As I listened to the Gorillaz song "Humility" on the laptop, the vocals of virtual frontman 2D sounded sweet, and the jazz guitar strings of guest George Benson came through clearly.
The included Dolby Audio app comes preset to using its Music option, which I found to be balanced for music and movies. Of the other options, the Dynamic setting tends to go too warm and loud, adding some distortion, while Movie, Game and Voice didn't do anything especially noticeable to the sound.
I tested a Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 with an 8th-gen Intel Core i5-8250U CPU and 8GB of RAM, which gave it enough speed for quality multitasking. I noticed nary a stutter or pause after splitting my screen between a dozen Chrome tabs (including TweetDeck, Slack and Google Docs) and a 1080p YouTube video, with Microsoft's Mail and Outlook apps running in the background.
The IdeaPad Flex 6 notched 12,130 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, which jumps past the 10,795 premium notebook average. That score also beats the 10,079 and 9,810 scores from the Intel (Core i7-8550U with 16GB of RAM) and AMD (Ryzen 5 2500U CPU and 8GB of RAM) versions of the Envy x360 15t. We recorded a higher 12,949 from the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (Core i5-8250U with 8GB of RAM) and a similar 11,588 from the Spin 5 (Core i5-8250U with 8GB of RAM).
The 256GB PCIe SSD in the IdeaPad Flex 6 duplicated 4.97 GB of multimedia files in 20 seconds, for a speed of 254 MBps, which is slower than the 290 MBps category average. The 256GB SSDs in the Spin 5 (182 MBps) and the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (108 MBps) copied at slower rates, while the 1TB 7,200 rpm hard drives in the Envy x360 15t copied at much slower (28 to 32 MBps) rates, reminding me to never again buy a computer with non-SSD storage.
The Flex 6 matched 60,000 names to addresses on our Excel VLookup test in 1 minute and 30 seconds, a time slightly shorter than the 1:36 category average. The Envy x360 15t took less time (1:20 on AMD, 1:24 on Intel), as did the Spin 5 (1:26).
Lenovo's laptop converted a 4K video to 1080p on our Handbrake test in 23 minutes and 24 seconds. That's a relatively long amount of time and 1 minute and 10 seconds longer than the 22:14 category average. The Envy x360 15t (20:23 on Intel, with 7:48 on AMD) and the Spin 5 (22:12) posted shorter times.
The system we tested includes an integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 chip and a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce MX130 GPU, and the latter enabled its score of 107,728 on the 3DMark Icestorm Unlimited Benchmark graphics test. That leaps over the 86,847 category average. It also dwarfs the 73,701 (AMD) and the 68,187 (Intel) from the Spin 5, the 80,845 from the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 and the 78,305 Acer Spin 5, all of which pack only the Intel HD Graphics 620 chip.
The IdeaPad Flex 6 ran the Dirt 3 racing game (set to medium graphics at 1080p) at 62 frames per second (fps). That's below the 73 fps category average, between the scores from the Envy x360 (54 fps from Intel, 91 fps on the AMD), and above the 52 fps rate from the Spin 5 and the 50 fps rate from the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1.
You might need to remember the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6's power cable if you're going on a day trip. The Flex 6 lasted only 6 hours and 41 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits of brightness), which is notably less than the 8:16 premium laptop average. Shorter times came from the Envy x360 15t (4:49 on AMD and 5:22 on Intel), while the Acer Spin 5 lasted longer with a time of 7:15.
The 0.9-megapixel webcam in the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 is pretty decent. Not only did it capture details in my hair and glasses, but it accurately rendered the colors on my check-print shirt. Too bad all the light sources got blown out, including our ceiling fixtures and daylight filtering in from outside.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 is one cool customer. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the convertible, our heat gun picked up temperatures of 78.5 degrees Fahrenheit on its touchpad, 85.5 degrees on its keyboard and 89 degrees on its underside. All slid under our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The Envy x360 ran cool, but the Spin 5 got hot on its underside, measuring 100 degrees. The same goes for the Inspiron 13, which hit 98 degrees on the lower left side of its bottom.
Lenovo gave the IdeaPad Flex 6 a pretty standard set of apps. Lenovo Vantage gives you information about system health and access to hardware settings and updates from the PC vendor itself (as opposed to those downloaded from Microsoft via Windows Update). Lenovo App Explorer, on the other hand, is an app store that's obviated by the Windows Store.
We tested a $809 Amazon configuration of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 that packs a Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce MX130 Graphics and a 256GB SSD. It's currently on sale at Costco for $700 (with Active Pen), but that requires a membership.
Lenovo sells the entry-level Flex 6 for $470, but that model includes a Pentium 4415U CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. While I'd personally consider the model we tested, I wouldn't suggest anyone get the Pentium model. Instead, I'd suggest the faster $600 Core i3 model, which has the same 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage.
With its speedy performance, strong sound and solid design, the $809 Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 is an attractive and affordable 2-in-1. The discrete graphics is another plus, as you can play some mainstream games on this 14-inch convertible (albeit at lower settings). The Flex 6 would be a lot more useful on the go, though, with a brighter screen to fight glare and more battery life.
For a brighter, more-colorful display and longer endurance, you can pick up a similarly-configured Acer Spin 5 for a cheaper $706 (though that machine gets a little hotter and is packed with bloatware). But if you want a convertible that's good-to-great at most everything at a reasonable price, check out the IdeaPad Flex 6.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag