Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook review: a well-built convertible that does the job

The IdeaPad Flex 3i is a touch-enabled, convertible Chromebook

Laptops have become essential tools in our daily lives, given how the device has evolved from being a shared gadget in the house to a personal one. With usage at an all-time high thanks to work-from-home and learn-from home use cases, almost everyone in the house needs a laptop of their own. For many users though, the usage revolves around basic stuff like web browsing and productivity-focussed tasks, and these don’t really require powerful specs. And this is exactly where Chromebooks come in. These Chrome OS-powered laptops offer the basics at affordable price points, though Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 3i adds a twist to the tale by adding a touchscreen and convertible form factor to the mix. Let’s take a closer look.


The Flex 3i comes across as a well-built, sturdy device from the get-go. Encased in a silver / grey body, it’s reasonably thick, and weighs around 1.25 kg. You’ll see Chromebook and Lenovo branding on top of the lid, which, by the way, needs both hands to open. Opening the lid reveals the spacious keyboard and decently-sized trackpad. The speaker is top-firing and is positioned above the keyboard. The 11.6-inch IPS screen offers HD resolution (1,366 x 768) and 250 nits brightness, and is touch-enabled too. There are wide bezels visible all around it, and a webcam with a physical shutter is present up top. The webcam is a basic 720p one, but the physical shutter is a nice touch, ensuring privacy.


Of course, since this is a convertible, the screen flips over 360 degrees and folds flat over the base, enabling you to use the device as a tablet, and in tent mode as well. The touchscreen is quite responsive too, so no complaints there.


The connectivity options on offer are quite decent. On the right, you get a Kensington lock port, an HDMI 1.4, a USB 3.2 Type-A, a volume rocker and a power key, while the left is home to another USB 3.2 Type-A port, a microSD card slot, a headphone / mic combo jack and a USB 3.2 Type-C port that supports PD 3.0 and DisplayPort 1.4. Dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth handle wireless connectivity.


The keyboard on the IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook is nice and spacious and doesn’t really need much getting used to. I think the keys are a bit mushy, and there’s no backlighting, but other than that, I found the keyboard good for the day-to-day typing work. The trackpad is decent and responsive too, though I did notice that the mouse pointer can be a bit jumpy sometimes. You’d notice that the top row of keys, which usually includes the function keys in the case of Windows laptops, has different buttons in this case. Apart from dedicated keys for back, forward and refresh (that work in Chrome), you’d also find keys to adjust brightness and volume here, among others.


The device runs Google’s Chrome OS as its operating system. The OS is lightweight, and offers access to Google’s suit of apps, being especially suited to basic tasks like web browsing and word processing via Google Docs. The latter can cache documents for offline use as well, so it’s not as if you need to be connected to the internet at all times to use the device. In addition, there’s the Google Play Store which provides access to a plethora of Android apps and games that can be downloaded and used on the device. This means that the device can work well for most video calling platforms like Zoom etc as well, apart from Google Meet, which comes preloaded. Do note that not all Android apps are available though. Also, using Chrome OS does involve a bit of a learning curve, especially if you’re used to platforms like Windows or Mac OS, but it’s a small one, and it doesn’t take too long to get used to.


Moreover, I think the IdeaPad Flex 3i’s cause is helped by the fact that it has a touchscreen and a swivelling screen that add to its usability, enabling hybrid usage. When you’re not working, you can use it as a tablet to browse, read and shop, or use it in tent mode to stream videos and shows. Worth mentioning at this point that the screen resolution does seem low, and I wish it’d have been sharper… thereby making the device even better for streaming. And while the top-firing speakers are decent for calls, the audio isn’t very rich.


With the laptop powered by Intel’s Celeron N4500 processor mated to 4 gigs of RAM, the specs seem par for the course for a Chromebook, especially considering that Chrome OS doesn’t require heavy-duty hardware to function. There’s 128GB of built-in eMMC storage as well. In daily use, this hardware can handle the usual productivity and browsing tasks with relative ease, though there is a slight stutter noticeable if you have too many Chrome tabs or apps open at a time. If your requirements are higher than this, perhaps this isn’t the ideal machine for you. Speaking of battery life, the IdeaPad Flex 3i last roughly 8 hours or so, give or take, with regular usage and screen brightness set to 50 percent. Charging it fully takes a bit over 2.5 hours, using the bundled 45W adapter that features a Type-C connector. Other Type-C chargers of similar or higher wattage can be used as well.

Verdict


While Chromebooks might not offer the same level of flexibility as laptops running Windows or Mac OS, especially in terms of software and apps, they’re definitely capable of handling tasks like web browsing, video calling, writing, document editing etc. And for a large majority of users, these comprise a huge chunk of their day-to-day usage. The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i handles these well, topping it off with decent battery life, a solid build, a touchscreen and convertible form factor. It’s suitable not just for students, but can handle WFH requirements as well, provided you’re well entrenched in Google’s ecosystem. For its asking price of Rs 30k, it can make for a decent, affordable option to consider.

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5

Pros:

  • Sturdy build
  • Flexible form factor
  • Decent battery life
  • Good keyboard

Cons:

  • Screen could be sharper
  • Wide bezels
  • Average speaker quality