We love Lenovo for making table PCs a thing! The new Lenovo Flex 20 IdeaCenter is a desktop computer, a tablet, and a table PC all in one. The 19.5” display is a standalone computer with full 10-point multi-touch, integrated battery, and table-top mode. It’s a thing of beauty for someone who wants it all.
Lenovo Flex 20 redefines the Desktop as we know it. It’s basically a big screen touch screen device to fulfill your every need in the home and office. It’s great for presentations, watching media, or crowding around to play games. It comes with a mouse and keyboard so it’s secret identity can be a desktop computer, but unplug it and you can reveal its true capability.
The Lenovo Flex looks a like a flat panel TV/monitor…. or you could say it looks like a jumbo tablet. There’s no base to prop up Flex, instead it has a kickstand that folds flush with the back of the device. Not too long ago we reviewed the Lenovo Horizon, which is basically the same device in a 27” package. Flex 20 is considerably smaller, lighter, and thinner. It’s just just .8” thick and weighs 7.7lbs.
Flex 20 isn’t designed for travel, but it’s super convenient for moving around the house or office. On the top there’s a button for power, two buttons for volume, and a toggle switch for autorotate lock. On the side there’s 2 USB 3.0 ports, a 6-in-1 card reader, a headphone port, microphone port, and a charging port. On the front there’s a webcam, an ambient light sensor, and a home button. On the back there’s rubber grips so it can lay face up without sliding or scratching.
The specs are good but lackluster. It uses the latest Intel Haswell processor (4th gen), but it’s a 1.7GHz i3 with no available upgrade to i5 or i7. The 19.5” display is not 1080p, it has a resolution of 1600×900. There’s 4GB of RAM, but why not 8GB or more? Bluetooth 4.0 is a plus, as is USB 3.0. Here’s the kicker in our book—there’s a built-in 500GB spinning hard drive—where’s the solid state drive? Lenovo Flex is running full Windows 8 64 bit. There are built-in speakers, a front-facing webcam, 802.11n, and Intel HD Graphics 4400.
It’s easy to forget that the Lenovo Flex is so much more than a desktop. The included mouse and keyboard are all you really need. There’s wireless 802.11n (no Ethernet) and a built-in battery, so you can use Flex like a desktop anywhere you like. If it’s a nice day you can easily move it from the office to the porch. The touch capability is convenient even in desktop mode for a quick pinch to zoom, swipe to scroll, or even tap to click. It runs full Windows 8 so it’s a seamless transition from any other Windows computer.
While the Flex 20 can most certainly be described as a tablet, it’s a bit of a stretch from a usability standpoint. Tablets are meant to be handheld or used in your lap, Flex 20 is a bit heavy and large for both, BUT that’s just an opinion. We’re sure some extreme users will love using the 20″ of touchscreen goodness while lounging on the couch or laying in bed. Keep in mind, Windows 8 is choc full of touchscreen and tablet optimized apps and features.
When you lay Flex 20 flat it automatically launches Aura — a touchscreen interface optimized for multiple users. It’s intended to make Flex a social device where users crowd around for collaborative entertainment. We’ll admit Aura is gimmicky, but it’s fun and the closest we’re getting to Minority Report for now. Here you have access to all your media: pictures, videos, and music. You can fan out your entire collection while multiple users move and resize different pictures and videos onscreen. The best part of table top mode is the games, and the best part of the games is getting to use real accessories that are included. Having a striker while playing air hockey turns Flex into an entirely different device. Similarly, having joysticks and a die makes electronic gaming much more interesting and interactive. Lenovo has an app store for Aura, but if you forget about the accessories, you can find many more touch optimized apps and games from the Windows store.
Portability in the house or office is fantastic. Flex isn’t too heavy and it’s easy to get a good grip for walking a few hallways or even a staircase. Traveling outside with it is not as easy, there is no handle or included carrying case. I brought it to and fro work a few times in a canvas bag and it was manageable, but cumbersome.
Like the specs of Flex 20, the performance is good, but not amazing. Even out of the box there’s some sluggishness and jittering. Using it as a desktop is pretty efficient and once you get it warmed up you’ll find it’s a very reliable and capable machine. It’s plenty fast for web browsing, word processing, and basic functionality. Surprisingly, the underwhelming performance is most noticeable when Flex switches to the Aura interface.
Flex 20 is an amazing device if you think you could use it. You can easily get your moneys worth just using it as a minimalistic desktop, but it’s also the ideal makeshift TV. It can go just about anywhere and live on a full movies worth of battery (~2 hours). You could even justify making it a full-time internet TV. Kids will love making the most out of Flex in table mode, there’s games and education apps to keep them occupied for hours. Pricing in at $740, Flex 20 is an extremely reasonably priced machine—it’s almost the same price as a tablet a fraction its size. With that said, we wish Lenovo would offer a more premium model with better specs. We love the direction they’re headed with Flex 20!
The Lenovo Flex 20 IdeaCenter All in One is currently available from Amazon for $740.
The Good: Multi-purpose, Price is right, Retractable Stand, Tiltable, Runs Windows 8 64 bit, USB 3.0, Built-in battery, Built-in webcam and speakers, Includes mouse/keyboard/accessories
The Bad: Using the included wireless mouse leaves just one free USB, Battery could be longer, Lackluster Specs—no upgrades available, No handle or carrying case, No ethernet