Lenovo Flex 2 15D Notebook Review

Rating:

*Note we do no carry this laptop anymore but you can check out this Acer laptop*

Convertible laptops—those that attempt to be both a laptop and a tablet—are tricky beasts to design. Their complicated hinges usually make them heavier and more expensive than traditional laptops, and they tend to make for very heavy tablets.

Lenovo’s Flex 2 15D takes a different tack. It looks and functions much like a traditional 15-inch laptop, with a very comfortable keyboard and a large screen. But Flex 2’s screen can fold over backwards, similar to the company’s more expensive Yoga line. With the Lenovo Flex 2, though, the screen doesn’t fold all the way over to form a tablet. Instead, it stops at a comfortable viewing angle for watching videos or tapping on the touchscreen.

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So you can think of the Flex 15D as a laptop that also functions as a big-screen tablet-like device that you’ll have to rest either on a table, desk, or in your lap. If you’re looking for a device that’s mostly a laptop, but will also give you some tablet functionality, it’s a good choice.

This model also has a roomy 1TB hard drive, and a generous 8GB of RAM, which is handy if you’re the type that leaves lots of programs or tabs running at once. The Flex 2 15D’s AMD processor isn’t as speedy in most common tasks as an Intel-based system with a Core i5 or higher processor, but it’s good enough to handle basic tasks, like writing documents and surfing the Web without feeling sluggish.

The main downside for the Lenovo Flex 2 15D is the screen. It’s not bad for a laptop in this product range, and it looks good from straight on. But when looking at the screen from below, the image washes out. This is common for budget laptops, but it’s more noticeable with the Flex 2 15D, particularly with the screen flipped around in a stand mode. In some situations in this mode, the screen doesn’t tilt back as much as is necessary to get the best viewing angle.

Also, as is common with budget laptops, battery life is much shorter than what you’ll often get with a pricier PC.

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Design

At 28mm thick and 2.5 kilograms, the Flex 2 15D is a laptop that’s meant to replace a desktop, or be a device you’ll use at home more often than toting it back and forth on a commute. But its thickness and weight are about in line with similarly priced 15-inch laptops.

The Lenovo Flex 2 15D’s lid and underside are a plain matte black plastic that is good at repelling fingerprints, but it looks plain and can flex and creak a little when handling the laptop. HP’s competing TouchSmart 15-p067ca feels a little sturdier, but that laptop doesn’t have the Flex’s fold-over hinge.

Lift the lid on the Flex 2 15D, though, and the laptop is more attractive. The keyboard tray and wrist area has a texture that looks like brushed metal. Though it’s actually plastic, the material feels solid. The grilles for the speakers are actually on the underside of the laptop, but sound output is surprisingly loud. Even when watching a movie from several feet away, I didn’t feel the need to crank the volume up over 50 percent.

The keyboard is roomy and well laid out, with flat keys and a comfortable feel. But it also has some noticeable flex in the middle when typing, and the keys feel a little loose. This may turn out to be a problem in the long run if the keys get snagged on something when the keyboard is flipped over on a table or desk in stand mode. For the record, the keyboard of HP’s TouchSmart 15-p067ca feels more solidly constructed overall, but both offer a pleasant typing experience.

Backlit keys would be nice to have for typing in low light, and some more expensive models of the Flex 2 have this feature. But in this price range, backlit keys are rare.

The touchpad is also large and roomy, and worked reasonably well in my time testing it. It’s also nearly flush with the outer wrist rest area, which is helpful for using Windows gestures, like swiping in from the sides to cycle through running apps or bring up the Charms bar.

Port selection is sufficient for most users. On the left edge, you get the power jack, a USB 3.0 port, HDMI, an Ethernet port, and the headphone/mic jack. On the right side there is an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, and the DVD drive.

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Behind the DVD drive, on the right rear of the right edge, is the small power button. It’s hard to find with your fingers and not exactly easy to see, either. This will probably be annoying at first, but after a few days using the laptop, I got used to it and it no longer bothered me. The tiny green charging indicator light is also here, and it’s even harder to see, which sometimes left me unsure if the laptop was charging or not. This is a very minor issue. But a larger, better-placed LED would be appreciated.

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Display

The Flex 2 15D’s 1,366×768-resolution screen is one area where the laptop shows its budget-class roots. Aside from being glossy (which is par for the course for touchscreen laptops), the screen gets reasonably bright and looks good from a direct angle. But contrast and colours shift if you tip the screen back several degrees, or look at it from far off center.

Viewing angles are the worst if you’re looking at the screen from below the laptop, or if the screen is tilted back very far. When doing so, colours quickly reverse and objects on the screen become unrecognizable. In stand mode, bumpers on the bottom of the laptop keep the screen from tilting back far enough for this to be a major issue.

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But that causes another problem. If you use the laptop in stand mode while it’s in your lap and you’re sitting up straight, the screen doesn’t tip back far enough to use it like a tablet comfortably. This will be worse if you are tall and your head is further away from the screen. But for the record, I’m only 1.7 metres, and it was a problem for me. That being said, if you can lean back, which you’ll probably be able to do on a couch or in a recliner, this isn’t really a problem.

As I noted earlier, when you flip the screen around from standard laptop mode to stand mode, the keys of the keyboard will be on the “bottom” of the device, meaning they’ll be pressing into your lap, or resting on the table. This can feel awkward, but the keys are automatically disabled in this mode, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally pressing them. You’ll want to mostly stick to using touch-based apps from the Windows store, or watching videos in this mode. And as I mentioned, you’ll want to be careful about catching the keys on anything when placing the Flex 2 15D down or moving it around when in stand mode, because they don’t feel as solidly attached as the keys on some other laptops.

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Performance

The quad-core AMD A8-6419 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB (that’s 1,000 gigabytes) hard drive in the Flex 2 15D deliver enough performance to handle media playback, Web browsing, and mainstream productivity tasks (things like Office and image editing) quite well. I ran a handful of benchmarks, including PCMark 8 (to test overall performance), Cinebench (which tests CPU ability), and 3DMark (which measures gaming performance). In general, this model of the 15D performs similarly in most tasks to what you’ll get from a system running a recent Intel Core i3-3227U CPU, and it generally performed a little better than the AMD-A6-powered TouchSmart 15-p067ca. But overall, there isn’t enough performance difference between that laptop and this one that you’d be able to tell the difference without running benchmarks.

If you’re planning on doing things like video editing, serious media creation, or more than light (mostly casual) gaming, you should look for a more powerful machine with an AMD A10 processor or an Intel-based Core i5 or i7 machine with a dedicated graphics chip.

Out of the box, the Flex 2 15D boots to the Windows 8.1 log-in screen in just over 15 seconds, and generally felt snappier than the HP TouchSmart I also reviewed. But if you want a laptop that really feels responsive, you’ll want to pay more for a system that has either a solid-state drive, or an SSD cache drive that’s paired with a standard hard drive. A fast solid-state drive will, in general, do more to make a computer “feel” fast and responsive than a more powerful processor. Still, while the storage here isn’t exactly fast, it is spacious, at 1TB. Many laptops in this price range ship with smaller hard drives.

The Flex 2 15D’s battery life also isn’t exactly stellar. When looping a 1080p video file, with the screen at 50 percent brightness and earbuds plugged in, playing back at 50 percent max volume, the Flex 15D lasted 3 hours and 18 minutes before shutting down. That puts the Lenovo laptop just behind the HP TouchSmart, which lasted only four minutes longer on the same test. You can expect somewhat longer battery life if you’re just writing emails or doing light Web browsing. But many modern laptops (most of them Intel-based) can last much longer before needing to be recharged.

Also, the battery is sealed inside the Flex 2 15D. So you can’t buy an extra battery to swap out and extend battery life that way. And years down the line, when the battery life of the laptop starts to wane, you’ll have to send it in for battery replacement (or buy a new laptop), rather than ordering a replacement and installing it yourself. If the idea of that bothers you, you’ll want to consider a different device. The aforementioned HP TouchSmart has an easily removable battery, as do many other laptops.

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Conclusion

The Lenovo Flex 2 15D is best suited for those looking for a device that’s a good desktop-replacement laptop, but is also serviceable as a big-screen tablet-like device for using touch apps at the table or on the couch.

If you don’t care about the fold-over screen, you can get decent laptops for quite a bit less. HP’s TouchSmart 15-p067ca, for instance, is $600. If you can forego the touchscreen, you can find laptops with similar performance for even less.

Alternatively, if you like the idea of using the laptop like a tablet quite a lot, you may want to pay a bit more for a model where the screen rotates a full 360 degrees, so you won’t bump into the same issue I did with the Flex 15D’s screen not always reclining as much as I’d like in stand mode. Asus’ Transformer Book Flip TP500LA is one option in this vein, though it’s more expensive ($750). HP’s Pavilion 13-a040ca X360 also has a screen that rotates a full 360 degrees. Its screen is a little smaller, at 13 inches, but that means it’s also lighter, at 1.78 kilos, and it’s also more affordable, at $650.

Alternatively, tablets, even those that run Windows, are getting quite inexpensive. So you may want to consider two devices: a light, thin tablet that you can easily slip in your bag, and a laptop that you can use when you want something more powerful, with a bigger screen.

Included in the Box:
Laptop
Power cable
Basic setup papers

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Lenovo Flex 2 15D Notebook
Author Rating
4
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Matt Safford

Matt Safford spends his days testing gadgets and writing about technology. He has written for Popular Science, Smithsonian, Consumer Reports, and Wired.

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