The evolution of Windows 10 on ARM has been an interesting one for the last few years. Like any new category, it has taken time for the always-connected PCs to find their niche. While Surface Pro X finally put Microsoft's stamp on the technology, it is Lenovo who is taking it even further by being the first (and currently only) Windows 10 PC with built-in 5G connectivity.
Putting aside what the hype around next-gen mobile connectivity, Lenovo's take on the Flex 5G is surprisingly better than I had expected. Of course, its high asking price, no doubt due to Qualcomm's "5G tax" makes it a hard sell for anyone who doesn't have deep pockets. But none of that means it's not a great mobile solution either.
Here is where the Lenovo Flex 5G shines, and what can still be improved.
Bottom line: Lenovo is the first to market with a 5G-enabled, always-connected Windows 10 PC. While 5G is overhyped, its potential is evident in this laptop. Even without 5G, excellent battery life, display, and performance make it a unique solution for mobile workers everywhere. But with the higher cost, it's hard to recommend the Flex 5G for all but wealthy early adopters who live on the edge.
- Unlocked 4G and 5G SIM + eSIM
- Extreme battery life, always on
- Excellent design
- Larger, improved display
- Good performance
- Expensive "5G tax"
- No hibernate, odd low battery behavior
- Very glossy screen
- No Wi-Fi 6
Fit for light computing
Lenovo Flex 5G design, specs, and features
The Flex 5G borrows heavily from Lenovo's previous ARM-based PC the Yoga C630, which was released in late 2018. At the time, we gave the Yoga C630 high praise due to the long battery life, overall flexibility, and is one of the first ARM PCs with 8GB of RAM.
Lenovo went on to release the decent Yoga C640, dumping Qualcomm for Intel. But that was only short-lived as back in mid-2019, Lenovo and Qualcomm had teamed up for "Project Limitless", a collab to deliver the first 5G PC to market sometime in 2020. Project Limitless became the Flex 5G, which is sold directly by Lenovo and through its US partner with Verizon Wireless.
I expected the Flex 5G to be the same as the Yoga C630, but with the bonus of 5G connectivity. It turns out, Flex 5G is much more of refinement – and overall improvement – over Lenovo's last attempt at ARM.
Lenovo calls this "Flex" instead of "Yoga" for various marketing reasons, but the concept is the same. The Flex 5G can act as a regular thin laptop or flip around to become a usable tablet. Toss in some presentation and tent modes, and you have … a flexible PC. Lenovo uses its familiar dual-hinge design, and the laptop can be opened with one hand.
For the exterior, the Flex 5G features an aluminum-magnesium chassis that is wrapped in an inviting "iron grey" soft-touch layer. The body is firm with little flex and feels high quality without also being fragile. Lenovo earns praise for its beautifully minimalist design chic, especially with the tasteful Lenovo metal badge. In a sea of laptops that put the logo center on the back of the display, Lenovo's choice stands out and is frankly more beautiful looking.
However, some may not appreciate the corresponding Lenovo badge on the keyboard deck with Verizon's 5G logo. Still, I think it is a not-so-subtle reminder of why you are buying this laptop in the first place.
|Category||Lenovo Yoga 5G|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
|Display||14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS with touch|
72% color gamut
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx|
|Graphics||Qualcomm Adreno 680|
|Storage||256GB UFS 3.0|
|Webcam||720p IR camera|
Wi-Fi 11ac (2x2)
|Ports||2x Type-C (PD,DP, USB 3.2)|
3.5mm Audio jack
Nano SIM card slot
|Audio||User-facing stereo speakers (Dolby Atmos)|
|Dimensions||12.65" x 8.46" x 0.57" (321.4mm x 215mm x 14.7mm)|
|Weight||Starting at 1.35kg (2.97lbs)|
For ports, there are no surprises with just two Type-C 3.1 Gen 2 on the left that can be used for charging, data, and display out. There is no Type-A port, but since this PC is just a half-inch thick (14.7mm), it is just too thin to accommodate one.
A new smart addition is the dedicated airplane mode toggle on the right side (near the headphone jack). This physical switch has a nice hologram-like color, which adds a smidge of pizzazz. The toggle lets users kill Wi-Fi and the dual 4G +5G radio to save battery. It is a small extra, but it seems so right for this laptop, and I am glad it's here.
Lenovo puts the power button with a small power LED on the right side near the rear edge. That placement makes it convenient for powering on and off in different configurations. Still, it also means some people may accidentally toggle the power when gripping the Flex 5G to reposition it. I never had that happen, but it is why some manufacturers have returned to placement on the keyboard deck. There's another small LED on the left side near the Type-C port used for charging and battery status. That LED can blink orange when low on battery and also let users know the device is charging (solid white LED, instead of blinking) while the Flex 5G's lid is closed.
Besides the infra-red lens for Windows Hello facial recognition (another significant improvement over the Yoga C630), there is a secondary fingerprint reader on the top deck. Both options for biometric logging in worked without a hitch. The Flex 5G is one of the quickest instant-on Windows PCs to date.
At 2.97 pounds (1.35kg), it is difficult to call the Flex 5G light especially compared to the super-skinny Galaxy Book S (2.1lbs, or 0.96 kg). But Lenovo's extra weight has a justification: battery. Microsoft and Samsung prioritized slimness while sacrificing battery capacity (38 and 42 watt-hours, respectively), whereas Lenovo tossed in a massive 60 watt-hours into Flex 5G.
An improved display
Lenovo Flex 5G display and inking
Lenovo is now using a larger 14-inch full HD display instead of the previous 13.3-inch found in the Yoga C630. While it's still oddly 16:9 (instead of preferred 16:10), this screen is a massive improvement over the Yoga C630's, which suffered from a cheap yellowing of whites. The 14-inch size is much more practical, delivering a noticeable difference in usable space. Colors and contrast are excellent, making this one great looking screen.
The panel also hits around 400-nits for brightness, which is decent (and improved). But Samsung's similar Galaxy Book S has an "outdoor mode" that can boost the brightness to 600 nits, which is something Lenovo should adopt. What makes things worse is Lenovo's insistence on using a very glossy display instead of either matte or the superior glossy with anti-reflective coating. This complaint may seem like nitpicking, but for a computer that you can use anywhere at any time, it's sure a challenge to use in the bright outdoors.
There is some aggressive adapative contrast. While that feature is useful for the battery and your eyes, it does reduce the visibility of dark backgrounds even more so when outdoors. Unlike Intel-based laptops, it is not obvious how you can disable the "feature."
There is no adaptive brightness on this laptop, so users will need to set how bright the screen gets manually.
The Flex 5G supports Windows Ink via Lenovo's Digital Pen (opens in new tab), which is an extra $32. Inking also works with the dual-protocol Bamboo Ink. Like the Yoga C630, inking is just OK on this PC. It gets the job done for notetaking, highlighting, and quick sketches, but the lack of precision and accuracy do not make the Flex 5G suitable for dedicated artistry.
Shallow, but OK
Lenovo Flex 5G keyboard, audio, and trackpad
The keyboard on the Flex 5G is a bit of a mixed bag. Lenovo has well-designed keycaps here that are tactical and look great, but the travel is quite low compared to other laptops. It's not dissimilar to the Galaxy Book S and is a smidge deeper, but there is still some adjustment needed. Lenovo is going for a thin profile and a lot of battery, which means less key travel.
I had no problems typing in my use, but Michael Fisher (aka MrMobile) did report dropping some keystrokes, which I find plausible due to the low key travel.
There is two-stage backlighting controlled by the FN key plus spacebar, which is familiar to Lenovo. Thanks to the dark background, the LED lighting works well and is visible at night.