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Lenovo's Flex line makes the jump to full hybrid, folds all the way

In three sizes, the new Flex 3 display now folds back a full 360 degrees like the more expensive Yoga line of laptops.

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LAS VEGAS -- Lenovo's Flex line of laptops has always been a bit of a head scratcher. Like the Yoga line that clearly inspired it, the first two generations of Flex featured a dual-hinge design that folded back past 180 degrees. But unlike the Yoga, which could fold all the way over and form a tablet shape, the Flex rather conspicuously stopped at 300 degrees. It was a laptop that could bend backwards into a kiosk mode, but no further.

Frankly, the only real justification for that design seemed to be funnelling buyers into the more expensive Yoga products. That said, the Flex actually made for an excellent budget laptop with decent components, if you ignored its half-hybrid hinge.

Sarah Tew

At CES 2015, Lenovo's flex is pivoting to a new design, and this time, the Flex hinge folds back a full 360 degrees, allowing you to use the system in laptop, kiosk and tablet modes, just as one would with a Yoga. The new Flex 3 will be available in 11-, 14- and 15-inch models, each with the new hinge design.

So, what makes this different from the Yoga? In reality, not much. But it seems that the Yoga designation is being reserved for more expensive systems with better components, and the Flex is transitioning into being the Yoga-lite, as even the least expensive 11-inch Yoga 3 starts at $799 in the US.

The 11-inch Flex 3 tops out at a Pentium CPU from Intel and a lower-res 1,366x768 display, while the 14- and 15-inch models will use Intel's new fifth-generation Core i-series CPUs, and have optional 1,920x1,080 displays.

We've seen the fold-back hinge from the original Yoga find its way into low-cost systems from HP, Dell, Toshiba and others, so it makes sense that Lenovo would need a product with the same capabilities at the lower end of the price scale.

The 11-inch Flex 3 will start at $399, the 14-inch at $549 and the 15-inch at $599. All three will be available in May, with international price and availability information still to come. The US prices convert to roughly £260, £360 and £390, or AU$500, AU$680 and AU$740 respectively, but expect final prices to differ considerably.

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