1 Cool Thing: Lenovo Flex 5G

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hello welcome to one cool thing i'm here with tom brandt our senior hardware analyst at pc labs uh tom has a laptop in his hand there as you can see that he's holding up very diligently um this machine is known as the lenovo flex 5g now tom um we just got this in uh from lenovo as a testing sample and the big part of the name that stands out to us is 5g kind of one of the hot buzzwords of 2020. can you tell us a little bit about um what sets this laptop apart

Yeah so this lenovo flex 5g is one of the first laptops to have the snapdragon x55 um cellular modem which enables five g speeds in addition to much faster lte speeds if you are in an area where there is no 5g and that's really what sets this apart from any other laptop that we've seen recently okay so basically this has built-in 5g connectivity um via qualcomm modem uh the idea behind

This is that you would purchase the laptop and it would come ready to go out of the box or like a phone would is that how it works yes you can buy this directly from verizon you can just call them up and tell them you want to add this as a device to your line and that will help you a bit with the otherwise painful 14.99 price tag um spending 1500 on a laptop is is is a lot of money but um but yeah buying it through verizon can can reduce that sticker shock a bit because they'll just add a monthly uh amount to your bill

Okay so 1500 yeah that does sound um a little steep but then again we haven't got 5g yeah right five it's the 5d packs right um but the idea behind this laptop for the most part is that it's a um more or less basic um productivity level type of machine apart from the 5g what's going on inside of it um i understand it's also a qualcomm cpu as opposed to in addition to the qualcomm modem right so basically what happens here is um

Lenovo has kind of some fairly standard ultra portable laptop chassis that they use for you know both mid-range and high-end models the the flex uh chassis it's similar to some other lenovo yoga devices that we've seen it actually does flip all the way around so you can use it as a tablet but other than that it's pretty pretty standard ultra portable laptop um instead of the other notable thing though is it uses

A qualcomm snapdragon processor instead of an intel or amd processor which means there's no fan no there's no cooling fan but it also means that um because these smartphone uh these chips were originally designed for smartphones you might experience um a bit of sluggishness when you're using really intense apps like uh video creation or things like that i see yeah i hope we looked at some earlier models that had um earlier snapdragon not hcx but um earlier 800 series

Snapdragons in them and i mean the performance is not withstanding i also recall that there were some issues at the time around uh compatibility with certain applications could you get into that a little bit yes yes so in order to use uh the flex 5g um the way that microsoft and lenovo and qualcomm intend it you your app the program that you are running it needs to run natively on this snapdragon platform that means it needs to um be written to what they call arm 64

Uh instruction language which is kind of complicated jargon for meaning that the software developer has rewritten the app so that it works properly um with the snapdragon processor it runs natively on the snapdragon processor most common apps already do this that includes from the windows operating system itself to all the microsoft office suite of apps to most web browsers but there are still a few specialized apps like 3d content creation apps that will not run natively

And they'll either run very sluggishly in the emulation layer or they simply are not compatible and will not run at all so that's kind of the hazard that you have to deal with is making sure that the apps that you run are compatible but as long as you go with fairly standard apps like edge web browser firefox um and microsoft word you should be fine yeah that was going to be my next question when you mentioned the emulation layer i assumed a lot of folks have sort of pet apps that they may use

That are outside the sort of microsoft sphere or the you know the common adobe sphere and if you have one of those that you rely upon is it basically a roll the dice more or less as to whether it will work an emulation or how to see sort of uh you can kind of tell from the the if you're looking at apps to download from the microsoft uh from the windows store it will tell you if it's compatible with it the the computer or not um but if you have

You know a an app that um that you just want to install yourself that you that you use uh you won't necessarily know if it's compatible the first time you try to open it it will say you know if it's not compatible we'll say sorry this app will not rot i understand well cool so um you've taken that laptop presumably outside and tooled around a bit with it um to see sort of how the 5g works what has been your experience okay so here yes so basically the whole

Point of buying this laptop is for that 5g modem but right now um we're kind of in the early stages of 5g uh and that's even and so what the early stages of 5g means is that most carriers including verizon which is the one that this runs on has implemented 5g coverage in a very limited number of neighborhoods in major cities around the country and it's not a blanket neighborhood thing like yes my neighborhood has 5g or a dozen

It is street by street and block by block so in reality what that means is you might have 5g coverage that you see on the map that's like one street over and the only way that you can use that is to go out on that street and and basically use that outside because because even if you found a coffee shop or something that's that's on that street we're in coronavirus you probably are not going to be able to go in and so that's kind of the major downside to 5g right now

That said the x55 modem in this um flex 5g does support the two major types of 5g that we currently have in the us which is millimeter wave and uh sub six with basically the the frequencies below six gigahertz the laptop will connect both um but right now the millimeter wave is kind of the more of the more prevalent um in terms of verizon's coverage currently got it so in terms of like if you're traveling around with this right and presumably you're moving in and out of

Zones um it'll bounce down to 4g if you go out of a 5g zone do you uh have any experience how seamless that is or not um so it's right now it basically is similar to switching on your phone between you know in the old days between 2g and and 3g between the edge and the 3g networks right now you can see that it is connected to lte it says well you might not be able to see on the screen but basically right now it's

Connected to verizon wireless lte um it says that in the windows taskbar that's because um i don't have uh 5g here um but um but that's not necessarily a bad thing in in in the x55 modem actually can uh increase the lte speeds that you might be otherwise connected to with a different device so so it basically lifts all boats even when you're not connected to 5g you may experience multi-gigabit speeds from the existing lte networks that you

Might not have with you with your existing devices ah oh i see yeah cause i was thinking that you know the probably use case this is pretty much like a smartphone right you might be on a bus you might be taking it you know from uh locate your location you're going around an airport and depending on what zone you're in you know whether it's 5g or 4g or different flavors of 5g it transitioning seamlessly like a phone does from one to the other would seem to be really important

So cool um so as a laptop itself um what does the sort of feel uh of it suggests to you is there anything comparable that you've held or used um presumably it's very much meant to be a portable machine because 5g aspect basically this is very similar to you know uh laptops that you may have seen or are considering in that you know thousand dollar plus range whether it's a macbook um or a dell xps or um or one of the countless other lenovo ultra portables and two in one convertible laptops

It feels very similar it's lightweight it's very thin um it's uh it has obviously the the the um the flex uh 360 degree hinge um it also has very few ports you're not going to find a full-size usb type a port it is usbc only the usbc ports are used for charging and then lenovo also puts this handy switch here on the other side that lets you turn airplane mode on as both an acknowledgement of the fact that this is a 5g laptop and uh you know perhaps to draw

Attention to you know if the fight if you don't need the 5g you can just easily turn that off with that switch um it's a decent laptop uh you can get most of these features though for around a thousand dollars um which makes this kind of a 50 markup uh for 5g got it yeah and it's hard to tell sort of you know depending on the application that's compatible with it and whatnot what the rough equivalency in terms of like the hcx cpu is versus a i would say core i3 i would say like you

Know high-end pentium to core i3 honestly that's a very very subjective answer um not based on any tests or anything but you know you're gonna experience some slight sluggishness um uh but and and and you know app startup times might be longer but once you get into using the app um like you know browsing through websites and things you probably won't notice much of a difference uh yeah i know as i recall with earlier uh qualcomm tips there we had a bit more trouble quantifying sort of

Equivalency between these chips and others that are on the market because a lot of the benchmarks aren't compatible or those that can run are running in the emulation layer so it isn't really indicative of yeah we can't really test this basically what we would be testing with most of things we used to test normal windows laptops we would essentially be on this we would essentially be testing the performance of the emulation software which is which no one cares about right well in terms of like having used it you

Know in the limited time you've had it so far i mean have you noticed any specific um sluggishness or it takes longer to start up um and it takes longer to start up intense apps like big big apps um uh but uh i was able to open you know like dozen browser tabs in edge with no problem um so you know it overall it's it's a mixed bag but i think for most common tasks it it it's fine but um you know it is there's still that in back of your head worrying

That oh i spent 1500 on a laptop that that might need emulation right yeah i understood yeah i mean i guess nobody is you know sort of expecting a machine that's so geared towards you know maximum portability to be a sort of powerhouse for rendering or conversion or anything of that sort but yeah 300 bucks is still you know not a cheap laptop by any means so how does it feel um i mean it's three pounds um it's a 14 incher 14 inch screen

And um about six tenths of an inch thick i mean does it feel like premium machine yes definitely um yes it's lightweight uh this would not weigh down your backpack um yeah i think that this you know yes it's definitely like it's definitely a portable um laptop not like you know not in the sense that you can forget that it's in your backpack basically right gotcha okay so 1500 bucks um are there do we know offhand

Any of the details of other configurations of it or does it just come in one uh one sku right now it's just the configuration that's sold from lenovo and verizon for that 1500 price which gets you the um obviously the 5g modem and the snapdragon 80x processor but it also gets you a 256 gigabyte ssd and eight gigabytes of memory got it okay and i realized we just got this in you know within hours ago into your hands so testing battery formally hasn't happened yet

And based on previous snapdragons that we've had it will take a while to run it down uh but what's your impression of both battery life so far and what lenovo says it should be so yeah during the early um snapdragon laptops battery life was the key thing that was you know set them apart you we're talking about like multi-day battery life like more than 24 hours um and while we haven't tested this one yet it's probably gonna get there um but in the meantime uh

Other ultra portable laptops from that are that are powered by intel chips have caught up to that and it's not uncommon now for you to see a core i7 ultra portable last for close to 24 hours so um the advantage really that that that the snapdragon laptops had at the beginning is not as big i understand yeah i mean we'll see how long this one takes there i don't know how much the hcx um consumes versus the earlier snapdragon 800 series chips in there but i guess we'll find

Out in terms of the other stuff that's in there storage i think you said did you say what the amount was 256 256 gigabyte ssd and actually one other thing i noticed just from scanning on the spec list of this thing so it's 14 inch screen 1080p which is pretty standard for 14 inch screen size but it's rated for 400 nits which is interesting in that a machine like this you'd expect to use outdoors and ford admits is a definitely a step higher than your

Typical laptop screen what's your impression if you had to use the sand on the patio or um you can't use it unfortunately it's great to you know like yes you think this would be a great thing to you know if i buy this 5g laptop the only place i can use it is in the park down the street um you need you know it's it's the 400 it's great but it's not viewable outdoors um it it yeah you basically like right now i'm inside

Um facing windows and the valve the the the level of brightness is up to 100 um it's fine for pretty much any indoor viewing um that i would say that 400 hits is basically the the the point at which you get you know it will be perfectly viewable whatever the conditions are inside but outside no no guarantees no nice yeah okay so even if you take it in the shade under a tree we're still probably on that yeah it could work in the shade but how

Do you know you're going to find shade you know it's not it's not a versatility thing right yeah i mean that's an easy thing to overlook too when you're looking at a machine that you might be using portably in the sense of you know running from place to place as opposed to running around inside of a building you know yeah for reference foreign is good um but we've seen 800 nets on laptop screens before those are you know viewable outside right like a lot of those typical like industrial type

Laptops that are used by um you know field service personnel and what not oftentimes a screens if i'm not mistaken so 400 is not quite there say the least so cool um any other impressions of this machine uh that you've had i mean i know you've only had a short time so far yeah so well basically i mean you know this this lap this flex 5g laptop is really for people who are on the absolute bleeding edge um there are we're now getting into the point where there are many 5g smartphones available that is a good

Investment in the future because if you find a smartphone that you like now with 5g it's going to be you know it's going to work well for the the years to come i'm not sure that i would invest 1500 in a snapdragon-powered um 5g laptop right now when we know that pretty much um you know 5g is going to be the standard coming up and and there's going to be a lot more wider range of laptop models powered by many different processors

That will be able to have some form of 5g modem in the future so unless you are really on the bleeding edge and you know you're willing to to sign up with verizon to add to your monthly contract um this is is really kind of overkill got it yeah i mean someone's got to be first but oftentimes the one that you know puts their head out first you know gets it knocked right so we'll see how it actually shakes out when you do your uh testing what we're capable of testing on the hcx see how the battery shakes out

See if it lasts a full day or longer or less and we're looking forward to seeing a full review this on pcma.com in the coming days so uh thanks tom for giving us a run-through of the flex 5g and thanks for joining one cool thing we'll see you again soon with some more hot hardware you

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1 Cool Thing: Lenovo Flex 5G

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