The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we are reviewing a really interesting notebook. The Flex series of notebooks is meant to facilitate productivity and access on the go, and in this case, we not only have a 15W U-series CPU, but also an MX 130 discrete GPU from NVIDIA. The notebook came with a digital pen that can be inserted into a USB type-A port for storage. Let's take a look at this ultra slim and portable notebook.
Our model uses the 14" FHD IPS glossy display, the Intel 8th Generation Core i5-8250U, 8GB of DDR4, a 256GB SSD, an HD camera, 1x1 Wireless AC (433Mbps), and a 45Wh battery. The notebook weighs 3.7lbs and measures 12.9"x9.01"x0.69" (LxWxH).
The Flex 14 IKB in our configuration cost $800 when launched, but now costs closer to $700.
Lenovo's box is simple, and packaging is simple and effective.
Accessories include AC/DC power adapter and manuals. The AC/DC adapter is rated at 20v at 3.25A, so it's a 65W adapter.
The top and bottom are made of a composite close in resemblance to aluminum. The notebook uses a dual-hinge design that allows for sturdy 360-degree rotation. The bottom of the notebook features a large rubber grip at the rear and two smaller ones at the front. We can find the intake and speaker vents on the bottom of the notebook.
The top of the notebook is slightly longer than the bottom so you can easily grip the display. The rear of the unit features the exhaust vents. The right side on the notebook features the power button, microSD card slot, USB 3.0 port, and Kensington lock slot. The left side of the notebook features a DC input jack, HDMI port, charging USB 3.0 port, type-C USB 3.0 port, and headphone/mic combo jack.
The QWERTY keyboard features standard sized keys with little key travel distance. We see that Lenovo hasn't swapped the function and control keys as they sometimes do, and we found the typing experience to be a pleasurable one. Unlike some of the more expensive Yoga products, the keyboard does not retract into the body when you rotate the display.
The material surrounding the keyboard and touchpad is brushed aluminum.
The notebook also features a fingerprint sensor for added ease of use.
The display is vibrant, and the keyboard lighting is decent, but you won't really notice it if in a lit room.
The Lenovo Active Pen works well and comes with a clip that sticks in a USB port for travel.
Physical Overview Continued
The Camera is rated up to 720P and we can see the dual array microphone. We are glad the camera is at the top of the notebook.
As you can see you have 360-degree rotation to turn the notebook into a tablet.
Here we see that the notebook opened, notice that the intake vents only cover a quarter of each of the fans. We are happy to report it was not easy to get the notebook to throttle, we test with AIDA64 and test the CPU, FPU, GPU, and storage all at the same time. Most gaming notebooks throttle, but not this one.
Here we see the 1x1 Realtek WIFI controller and the 45Wh battery.
There is a single SO-DIMM slot with an 8GB module installed.
Here we see the Samsung SSD; it's quite fast reaching peak sequential write speeds upwards of 3500Mb/s, which is the limit of the link between the chipset and CPU.
Software and BIOS
Lenovo has a pretty well-built software ecosystem that consolidates almost all hardware and even some software settings into one application called Lenovo Vantage.
Under the hardware menu, we find settings for battery, audio/visual, input, smart settings (sensors), and a virtual assistant.
Battery settings are the most important settings of any notebooks, and here we can see everything about battery help and we can do things like put the notebook in conservation mode.
Application-based settings are also available, such as Dolby audio settings. You can also have the notebook mute other applications when making VoIP calls.
TP rejection is important for users who use the touchpad but also Type-C lot, and here we have those settings.
The BIOS isn't your typical UEFI, instead, it's a very basic BIOS with few options. However, that is what we typically see in notebooks like this. You can, of course, do things like disable WIFI and some features.
System Performance Benchmarks
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
These benchmarks are run using default settings and configuration.
AIDA64 AES and HASH
Handbrake 4K and 720P Transcoding
UNIGINE Heaven 4.0
We can see that the 8250U in the notebook is being hindered a bit by the single channel memory, and because of the notebook's size and discrete graphics solution we find it's TDP envelope has been slightly restricted, which results in lower CPU performance.
However, there are limitations to what you can expect in a package of this size. Overall, you should be just fine with this solution when it comes to most tasks, and while you wont be able to run AAA game titles, you will be able to tackle pretty much anything else.
System IO and Battery Performance
System IO Benchmarks
Internal Storage Read Test:
Internal Storage Write Test:
ixChariot Network Throughput:
Lenovo installed a surprisingly fast SSD in this thin notebook, boasting some of the fastest speeds we have seen. The WIFI could have been a bit faster, but power savings is what Lenovo was aiming for here.
With a discrete GPU, you don't expect much in terms of battery life, but here we see decent battery life, although not as good as notebooks like the X380 Yoga.
The notebook operates pretty well under stock conditions, the notebook doesn't get too warm.
Here we can see that the notebook does indeed have two fans; one to cool the CPU and one to cool the GPU, and we can see their air intakes, although they look a bit restricted.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Discrete GPU: While the MX 130 might not be as good as NVIDIA's mobile gaming GPUs, if your application can utilize a discrete graphics card, this notebook has one in such a flexible form factor.
Very Lightweight: One aspect of the notebook we really enjoyed was how lightweight it was. These days with larger batteries a lot of notebooks weigh a lot, which makes them cumbersome to take around.
Display and Camera: A lot of new notebooks with thin bezels have their cameras moved to the bottom of the screen, and personally we don't really like the camera placed there due to weird angles. On this notebook, you get the camera at the top of the notebook.
WIFI: The WIFI was a bit underwhelming.
The Lenovo Flex 14 is a very versatile notebook with a solid array of features in a very slim form factor. The inclusion of the MX 130 is a nice touch, and if you have an application that can use its acceleration, then it's not a bad thing to have. The price is also very reasonable.
While the WIFI wasn't the most impressive, the storage performance of the notebook was. Battery life and thermals are what you might expect from a very thin notebook with a discrete GPU. Overall, if you are looking for a goto notebook for your everyday tasks, this one should meet your needs at a reduced budget.
Chiming in at under $1,000 with a dedicated GPU, the Lenovo Flex 6 offers a decent amount of value and features.