Updated: December 23, 2021 5:33:51 pm
During the pandemic, an entirely new generation of Chromebooks was introduced in India. The online education boom helped brands refocus on the market for Chromebooks which gave consumers an alternative to Windows notebooks in a cash-strapped economy. Although many still say Chromebooks deliver a ‘straightforward’ computing experience, the fact is that the Chrome OS’s strength lies in simplicity. While using the IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook, I realised there is no need to shell out extra on a notebook when the requirement is limited to web browsing and the use of cloud apps. For kids, especially, a Chromebook is nothing less than a perfect learning tool. But Chromebooks equally appeal to first-time PC owners or someone who lives in the Google ecosystem. My review of the IdeaPad Flex 3i will help you decide between a Chromebook and a Windows notebook.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook price in India (as reviewed): Rs 29,620
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook review: Design and aesthetics
Before you consider a Chromebook, let me tell you that devices like these are not aimed at the tech-obsessed. Even though the Flex 3i is a budget machine, Lenovo has made sure this Chromebook does not look like a cheap device. The Flex 3i has a very nice design, with a two-tone finish on the top casing. Sure, the chassis is plastic but without too much flex. Like every other entry-level Chromebook in this price range, the Flex 3i is also on the chubbier side but not heavy by any means. I wouldn’t mind taking the Flex 3i to a cafe and writing a long piece with my headphones on. This thing is beautiful to look at, hold, and use.
The port layout is surprisingly decent. You get a USB-C port, along with two USB-A ports, a microSD card slot, the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand side, the HDMI port and a security lock slot. It’s also nice to see the supplied AC adapter supports USB-C. Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 5 handle wireless communications.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook review: Display and sound
Lenovo has a lot of experience with hinges, and it shows. I can use the Flex 3i in different forms, including as a tablet. Opening and closing this device is just what you expect to be, and there’s a satisfying resistance when you close the lid. I am not a big fan of touchscreens on notebooks but since this Chromebook has a 2-in-1 design, a touch-enabled display does have a use case. The screen isn’t the weakest point for sure but it would be great if brands start using slightly better panels on entry-level Chromebooks. With a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, nothing feels cramped on an 11.6-inch screen but yes those bezels are annoying. All said and done, the screen’s compact size makes text and visuals sharper compared to a budget Windows notebook with a 15.6-inch screen. Above the screen is a 720p webcam with a built-in privacy shutter. The webcam works decently while attending video calls which is the norm these days due to the pandemic but the quality takes a hit in low-light.
The sound from the speakers is good. I, in fact, get the same sound quality from many mid-level Windows notebooks. They just lack bass and sometimes you will hear a bit of distortion at high volume — otherwise sound coming from the speakers is impressive.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook review: Keyboard and trackpad
The Flex 3i has a fantastic keyboard. It’s almost as good as the keyboard found in high-end Windows notebooks (minus backlit) – with no flex and a good amount of travel. For someone who reviews a new laptop every week, I feel like a veteran who has enough experience in spotting between a good keyboard, an average keyboard, and a bad keyboard. Meanwhile, the trackpad is not too big and not too small. It feels good, has just the right size, and offers a smooth texture.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook review: Performance and battery
A Chromebook is often looked at as a second fiddle to Windows notebooks. I completely disagree, because Chromebooks belong to a different genre of notebooks. They definitely target entry-level consumers but calling Chromebooks underpowered is a strong statement. At least, in my case, Chromebooks work absolutely fine. Lenovo loaned me the Flex 3i with an Intel Celeron N4500 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB eMMC 5.1 storage. This is the only version the company sells in India – and I think for most people, this model will be just fine. I will not recommend this notebook to anyone who needs heavy processing power. It makes sense to get a Windows notebook from either Lenovo or any other brand with at least a Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM.
You may ask, who should really buy a Chromebook? I do review laptops ranging from entry-level Chromebooks to full-fledged Windows notebooks aimed at content creators costing as high as Rs 300,000. But my work does not require me to use a notebook with tons of horsepower and RAM. Look, my work is confined within a web browser and a handful of other apps, including WordPress, photo editing tools, and Google Docs. A device like a Chromebook is designed for those who spend a lot of time browsing, a little bit of social media and streaming video content. The Celeron processor is not a powerhouse by any mean metric but it seems okay for the basic tasks 90 per cent do on a notebook.
During my time using the Flex 3i, I did not face stuttering while navigating 10-15 Chrome tabs. Even casual games run flawlessly on this Chromebook. Of course, I would like to see budget Chromebooks with an ARM processor as I believe Android apps will respond much better. The battery life is also expected to see a slight jump, though in the case of the Flex 3i I got roughly 8 hours of usage with the screen brightness set at 50 per cent. Thanks to Chrome OS, the performance is satisfactory on the Flex 3i despite the low-end hardware. Chrome OS loads faster, and the native Android apps compatibility means I can access thoughts of apps. You can read in detail what Chrome OS is and how it’s different from Windows OS here.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook review: Should you buy it?
Lenovo is clearly pushing the IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook for kids or those new to the PC market. The target audience like parents and first-time PC owners may not go beyond the certain budget they have set for studies. And it’s quite clear why Chromebooks are in high demand. I get that: the price does matter to end consumers. But if you are buying a notebook, make sure you take the final decision based on the need and requirement. For someone who needs a lightweight laptop for light work and wants to be in the Google ecosystem should get the IdeaPad Flex 3i Chromebook.
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