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Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook review: A charmingly chubby, cheap and rugged Chromebook

Good luck finding another tough Chromebook for less money.

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Xiomara Blanco
XIOMARA_BLANCO-4218-001.jpg
Xiomara Blanco Associate Editor / Reviews - Tablets and monitors

Xiomara Blanco is an associate editor for CNET Reviews. She's a Bay Area native with a knack for tech that makes life easier and more enjoyable. So, don't expect her to review printers anytime soon.

3 min read

If you want a cheap laptop that can take a beating, the $269 Lenovo Flex 11 is one of the only good candidates to choose from.

lenovo-flex-11-8229-008
7.5

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

The Good

The Lenovo Flex 11 is an affordable Chromebook with a durable build. Its 360-degree hinges allow it to prop up like a tent, fold flat or be used as a tablet. It has an IPS display.

The Bad

It's a bit heavy. The touchscreen and spacebar have difficulty recognizing taps. Shallow keyboard is uncomfortable.

The Bottom Line

Out of all the cheap Chromebooks, the Lenovo Flex 11 is one of the only models that offers extra built-in durability.

The chubby Chromebook has a rubber bumper wrapped around its edges (yes, like a bumper car) because, according to Lenovo, it can withstand a 2.4-foot (75cm) drop. It also has a water-resistant keyboard tray (up to 1 cup of water or 220ml), reinforced ports and a sealed touchpad to avoid any electrical damage in case of accidental spills.

lenovo-flex-11-8127-002

A rugged Chromebook with a flexible design.

Josh Miller/CNET

Not only is it a durable design, it's also versatile. It has solid 360-degree hinges that allow it to prop up like a tent for easy video-watching, or fold over like a tablet -- though at a little over 3 pounds, it's too heavy to hold for long.

The Flex 11 is not without its faults, like short battery life and clunky user input, but if you're looking for an affordable laptop for basic use that's also extra-durable, it's one of the only choices you have.

The Flex 11 starts at $269 in the US. International availability has yet to be announced, but UK and AU pricing converts to £207 and AU$361.

lenovo-flex-11-8207-005

The touchscreen responds quicker when scrolling than tapping.

Josh Miller/CNET

Boring, but tough

Its design is nowhere near as stylish as high-end Chromebooks like the HP Chromebook 13 or the Asus Chromebook Flip, but it's definitely more rugged. I was able to cautiously spill some water on its keyboard and quickly dry it after with no performance issues. I also dropped it a few times from 1 to 2 feet. Other than a few scratches, it remained unscathed.

Its specs and performance are comparable to those of other Chromebooks in its modest price range, which means you won't be getting an Intel processor or high-resolution screen Still, the Flex 11 handled basic Chrome OS tasks well. Keep in mind Chrome OS is basically just Google's Chrome web browser, and you're largely restricted to cloud-based online tools, rather than downloading or installing traditional Windows software.

lenovo-flex-11-8290-014

The edges look like bumpers.

Josh Miller/CNET

It operated smoothly when surfing the web, streaming hours of Netflix shows and lurking Facebook.There's  enough processing power to have a handful of tabs open while streaming HD video with no lag. Open more than a few though, and performance starts to slow down.

Specs

  • 11.6-inch IPS touchscreen
  • 1,366x768-pixel resolution
  • 2.10 GHz Quad Core ARM processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB eMMC storage

Screen brightness is a bit dim, so visibility outdoors on a sunny day is difficult. It's a touchscreen so you can easily swipe or scroll using your finger when reading an article or browsing a web page, but it has some trouble accurately recognizing taps. My taps had to be consistently forceful, more like push, for the screen to acknowledge them. It's regrettable, but this has been a known issue with the least-expensive touchscreen PCs.  

lenovo-flex-11-8140-004

A healthy number of ports, including USB-C.

Josh Miller/CNET

Ports

  • USB-C
  • HDMI
  • USB 2.0
  • SD card reader
  • Headphone jack

Like most current Chromebooks, the Flex 11 can access apps from the Google Play Store on the Chrome beta channel. Most Android apps I downloaded, like Facebook and Spotify, ran fine, but many weren't yet optimized for a bigger screen. For security, Android apps run inside a virtual sandbox, away from the core operating system.

The shallow keyboard is one of the biggest disappointments. It's flat and uncomfortable to type on for very long, and the spacebar requires more pressure than I'm used to in order to function. While typing on the laptop I often had to go back and edit my sentences to add spaces. Not fun. It's solid enough for basic use, but if you're a student who needs to knock out essays, a model with a better keyboard, like the Lenovo ThinkPad 13, is a more fitting choice. It's one of the more budget-feeling aspects of this laptop.

Lenovo Flex 11 is a tough Chromebook for less

See all photos

In our CNET streaming battery test, it ran a little less than 12 hours. Its standby time is also great. I fully charged the laptop and left it sleeping for an entire weekend. When I returned to it, its battery life had barely been depleted.

Nothing about the Lenovo Flex 11 is incredibly special. Yet, if you want an affordable and tough laptop with a touchscreen, it's one of the cheapest you can get. If the keyboard isn't a deal-breaker, the Flex 11's attractively low price makes up for most of its shortcomings.

Google Octane

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook 30,415HP Chromebook 13 27,178Samsung Chromebook Pro 22,586Lenovo Flex 11 10,121Acer Chromebook 14 8,474
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

JetStream

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook 179.72HP Chromebook 13 154.68Samsung Chromebook Pro 120.79Lenovo Flex 11 56.059Acer Chromebook 14 47.171
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback (in minutes)


Streaming video playback (in minutes)
Lenovo Flex 11 719
Acer Chromebook 14 570
Samsung Chromebook Pro 537
Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook 495

Specs compared


Lenovo Flex 11Lenovo ThinkPad 13 ChromebookAcer Chromebook 14HP Chromebook 13
Price as reviewed $269 $845 $355 $819
Display size 11.613.31413.3
PC CPU MTK 8173C Processor (2.10GHz)Intel Core i5-6300U Intel Celeron Quad-core N3160 Intel Core m5-6y57
PC Memory 4GB8GB4GB8GB
Storage 32GB32GB32GB32GB
Operating system Chrome OSChrome OSChrome OSChrome OS
lenovo-flex-11-8229-008
7.5

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Battery 8
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