Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 14 (2019) review: A solid, bargain-priced 2-in-1 saddled with iffy battery life

Its battery and display could be better, but for just $500, you’re still getting a lot.

Credit: Ben Patterson/IDG

One of the best things about Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake processors is that we’re seeing much cheaper prices for laptops powered by 8th-gen Intel CPUs, and here’s a case in point. The Lenovo IdeaPad 6 14 manages to pack in a quad-core Core i5 chip and a full-HD touchscreen into a 2-in-1 form factor, all for just $500. It’s a solid system by any standard, delivering impressive productivity performance for its price. Unsurprisingly, however, you’ll have to settle for some compromises, including a dim display (typical for a budget system) and mediocre battery life.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested. 

Price and configuration

We tested a $499 version of the IdeaPad Flex 6 14 (SKU number 81EM000KUS, available on Walmart.com) that, on paper, looks like a solid performer when it comes to everyday computing tasks and productivity, although it’s a little cramped in the storage department.

  • CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM
  • GPU: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen
  • Storage: 128GB SSD

For a $500 convertible, these specs look pretty much on target. That 8th-gen, quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU usually does the trick when it comes to Office, web browsing, and other daily computing chores. The 8GB of RAM should help smooth any multitasking bumps. Lenovo doesn’t specify whether the touch-enabled 14-inch screen uses IPS display technology, but based on the solid viewing angles I saw during my testing, I’d say it’s a safe bet. The integrated graphics is standard issue for a productivity-minded laptop in this price range. You’ll be able to play chess and do a little light photo editing, but if you try to play Fortnite, you should expect chopping and jaggy visuals. Our biggest gripe would be with the skimpy 128GB solid-state drive, which only leaves about 92GB of free space once you account for Windows, Office, and other miscellaneous apps.

Design

Lenovo isn’t known for flashy design when it comes to its laptops, and our onyx-black IdeaPad Flex 6 14 review unit is no exception.

lenovo flex ideapad 6 14 81em000kus angle Ben Patterson/IDG

It’s a bit on the plain side, but the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 14 is also pleasingly thin.

Measuring 12.9 x 9 x 0.7 inches, the Flex 6 14 feels pleasingly thin, but it’s also a tad heavy at 3.4 pounds (or 3.9 pounds if you include the AC adapter). Its flat aluminum lid is featureless save for a small, understated Lenovo logo in the back-left corner. Being the 2-in-1 laptop that it is, the Flex 6 14 lets you rotate its display all the way around for tablet use, or you can also tent it on a desk or place it keyboard-down with its display angled up, kiosk style.

Speaking of the Flex 6 14’s touchscreen, it arrives with fairly thin bezels along the sides and top, but also a chunky 1.5-inch bottom bezel. Looking down at the keyboard, the brushed aluminum hand rest looks polished and refined, if a little plain.

Display

The IdeaPad Flex 6 14’s full-HD display is something of a mixed bag. Let’s start with the good points, including its sharp 1920x1080 resolution, as well as its solid viewing angles, with the screen’s brightness fading only slightly when viewed from a 45-degree angle or greater. As I mentioned earlier, Lenovo doesn’t specify whether this particular model of the Flex 6 14 uses an IPS (in-plane switching) panel, but it sure looks like it does.

lenovo flex ideapad 6 14 81em000kus tented Ben Patterson/IDG

You can tent the IdeaPad Flex 6 14 on a table thanks to its 2-in-1 design.

I was less impressed by the display’s overall brightness, though, with the screen coming in at a relatively dim 231.7 nits (or candelas). In general, we prefer laptop display brightness closer to the 250-nit range. While 230 nits is still adequate for indoor viewing, you’ll have a tougher time seeing the display if you take the Flex 6 14 outdoors.

Back on the plus side, the Flex 6 14’s touchscreen responded promptly and smoothly to my taps and swipes, and I had no trouble typing using its onscreen keyboard. The display is compatible with Lenovo’s Active Pen, which is available for an additional $50 (or $38 once you apply Lenovo’s “instant” discount).

Keyboard, trackpad, and speakers

The Flex 6 14’s backlit keyboard boasts a pleasingly tactile feel, with a decent amount of travel (the distance an individual key moves when it’s struck), a solid tactile bump in the middle of each keystroke, and a satisfyingly springy rebound. There’s no dedicated numeric keypad nor any media playback hotkeys, but there are Alt-enabled hotkeys for volume, muting the mic, disabling the camera, and Windows lock.

lenovo flex ideapad 6 14 81em000kus keyboard Ben Patterson/IDG

The Flex 6 14 boasts a comfy keyboard, and yes, that’s a fingerprint reader right there.

The mid-size trackpad sits centered directly beneath the keyboard. It allowed for precise cursor movements while keeping the herky-jerkies to a minimum. The trackpad was small enough that my palms didn’t brush it while I typed, but even when I tried deliberately brushing my palms over the trackpad, it did a nice job of rejecting those accidental (or not so accidental, in my case) inputs.

Sitting near the bottom-right corner of the Flex 6 14’s keyboard is a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint reader, which I used to sign in to my Windows account during the majority of my testing. I’ve had trouble with finicky fingerprint readers in the past, but the one on this Lenovo almost always recognized me on the first try, even when I swiped my fingertip at an angle.

The Flex 6 14 features a couple of down-firing Harman Kardon-designed speakers. Dolby audio helps to boost the soundstage a tad, but otherwise we’re talking your standard meh laptop speakers, almost entirely lacking in bass response. You’re better off plugging in headphones if you want to hear decent sound.

Ports

The Flex 6 14 comes with a standard array of ports for a 2-in-1 convertible in its price range. On the left, we find a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, a USB 3.0 Type-A port, a full HDMI port, a combo audio port, and a barrel-shaped charging port.

lenovo flex ideapad 6 14 81em000kus left ports Ben Patterson/IDG

Left-side ports on the IdeaPad Flex 6 14 include HDMI, USB-C, USB 3.0 Type-A, and a combo audio jack.

On the right, there’s a second USB 3.0 Type-A port, a media card reader, and a laptop security slot.

lenovo flex ideapad 6 14 81em000kus right ports Ben Patterson/IDG

On the right side of the Flex 6 14 you get a second USB 3.0 Type-A port, a media card reader, and a laptop security slot.

All in all, we can’t complain about the Flex 6 14’s collection of ports. Sure, Thunderbolt 3 ports would have been a plus, but you’ll almost never find any in a laptop this inexpensive. If we had to quibble about something, it would be about the too-easy-to-press power button on the Flex’s right edge.

 

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Ben Patterson

PC World (US online)
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