Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS Review
The new Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS is a 2-in-1 convertible that gets a lot right for its price with good battery life and reliable performance for daily business productivity. It’s great for Netflix binging thanks to a pleasant 1080p display.
- Aggressively priced
- Good battery life
- Webcam slider shutter
- Fingerprint reader in keyboard deck
- Slightly dim screen
- A few ounces overweight
In the market for a 14-inch 2-in1 convertible laptop? You should seriously look at the Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS. One of favorites have been the beautiful Lenovo Yoga C930 and the gorgeous Dell Latitude 7400, but Lenovo introduced the Flex 14 (or Yoga 530 for those outside the US) during the MWC 2018. While not as flashy as the Lenovo Yoga 730 released around the same time, the Flex 14 aims to deliver both solid performance and portability.
The Lenovo Flex 14 is available in both AMD and Intel hardware options. We reviewed the AMD version (Lenovo Flex 14 81SS0005US) last month, now the Intel version dropped on our desk and we need to see how well it stacks against the competition.
The unit we’re reviewing packs an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Processor12GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). The variant we reviewed earlier came with the same CPU, but with 8GB RAM and an included Stylus Pen. Lenovo currently offers some configuration options for the same base model, if you look around, you might snag an option that tops RAM at 16GB, has more SSD storage and maybe runs on Intel processor if that sounds better.
The Lenovo Flex 14 will surprise you if you think you’re getting a hum-hum design for the relatively cheap price. In fact, it is among the few 2-in-1s that blurs the line between budget and premium. It is dressed in a familiar Lenovo matte black, is only 0.7 inches think and weighs 3.7 pounds – quite light for a convertible laptop. In fact, its way portable than the Dell Inspiron 14 5481, but slight heavier than both the LG Gram 14 2-in-1 (2.5 pounds) and the Dell Latitude (3 pounds). The chassis is sturdy, no much give when you tinker with the screen corners, though, there is some when you press the keyboard.
At this price point, you are not getting a Thunderbolt 3 port, but that’s not a deal-breaker. After all, it has most of the ports you’d need. On the left side, there is a USB 3.1 Type-C port, an HDMI video output, an audio jack and an AC adapter connector. The right side hold a pair of USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a full-size SD card slot, a power button, and a reset pinhole. It doesn’t include a volume rocker to use when in tablet or tent mode.
The Lenovo Flex 14 2-in-1 has a 1080p resolution screen that blends well with the 14-inch diagonal size, showing sharp details even at the default Windows 10 factory setting of 150 percent, or when you opt to shrink it to 125 percent, depending on your desired icon size. The Flex 81SS000DUS model we’re reviewing has good contrast, and offers wide viewing angles with well saturated colors.
The 14-inch screen responds well to touch, is smooth and precise, though the glass overlay is a bit reflective, common with most touch panels. Unlike most cheap displays that show inverse colors when viewed from odd angles, this one looks great.
There is an included Lenovo Active pen that fully supports 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. For business executive who will be using the open quite often, its practical to buy a plastic USB pen holder for your Lenovo Flex 14 pen.
Keyboard and Touchpad
While the Lenovo Flex 14 is offered with a touchscreen and an Active pen, it also gets a comfortable keyboard with concave keys and a tactile bump, half-way of each keystroke. We didn’t expect a number pad on a 14-inch notebook, so its omission isn’t surprising at all. Still, the keyboard deck is spacious enough for longer interactions, you can type a business report or college thesis comfortably.
On the bottom-right corner of the keyboard, there’s a fingerprint reader which supports Windows Hello apps, which you can use to unlock your Windows with a single profile. The same feature is available in the Lenovo Flex 6 2-in-1 laptop as well. Also, there are bottom-firing Harman Kardon speakers that produce good quality audio than most budget laptops around.
Below the keyboard, there’s a midsize trackpad that’s both smooth and responsive to gestures. It offers accurate swipes, but requires a fair amount of pressure before it can register clicks. Also, there’s a 720p webcam above the screen’s top bezel, that will let you capture fairly sharp pictures and video, but the quality isn’t suited for anything outside Skype or video chats.
For this Lenovo Flex 14 review, we’re looking at the AMD version (named, Flex 81SS000DUS) of the base model that is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Processor, Radeon Vega 8 Graphics, 12GB DDR4 RAM and 256GB NVMe SSD. There is another model, the Lenovo Flex 6 81EM0008US 2-in-1 with the same 14-inch screen but uses an 8th Gen. Intel Core i5-8250U processor.
The Picasso SoC chip used in our review unit uses the Zen+ microarchitecture that delivers an up to 3 percent increase over its predecessor, meaning this new processor offers better performance while keeping power consumption very low. For daily productivity, the Ryzen R5 processor with four Zen+ cores (8 threads) performs well, and you can even use it for demanding tasks like video editing.
For the business executive, the Lenovo Flex 14 will let you edit spreadsheets on the flip, enjoy videos while travelling and some more. If you’ll be using it for college, the all-day battery life and sturdy construction are features you’ll appreciate, in addition to solid overall performance. In case a 2-in-1 convertible doesn’t excite you as a general-use laptop, Acer are offering the Spin 3 (SP314-53N-77AJ) in a sleek design and performance to match.
The Lenovo Flex 14 AMD Ryzen version has a non-removable battery, like most notebooks, and that works well for portability. It gets Lenovo’s Rapid Charge technology that pumps juice up to 80% in just 60 minutes and that will give you some time to complete any urgent task.
When fully charged, it gives you 8 hours 34 minutes of battery life, which is quite impressive for such a bright display with touchscreen support. Still, the ASUS ZenBook Flip 14 UX461UA-DS51T leads the pack with over 12 hours battery life on a single charge.
The new Lenovo Flex 14 is a 2-in-1 convertible that gets a lot right for its price with good battery life and reliable performance for daily business productivity. It’s great for Netflix binging thanks to a pleasant 1080p display. But it’s also the most practical 2-in-1 we’ve reviewed at this price point, and may easily be the one you will use that won’t make you feel like you’re sacrificing power over flexibility.
Is there a better alternative?
Unless you’re willing to sacrifice the 2-in-1 specs, finding a better alternative at this price won’t be easy. It competes with the Acer Spin 3 (SP314-53N-77AJ) that offers an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. If you budget isn’t very tight, the Spin 3 offers better overall performance, is very thin (0.78 inches) and top up with over 12 hours battery life. Still, for the value buyer, the Flex 14 is a great 2-in-1 convertible.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS is a solid value in a computing segment where costs can easily run out of control.