Lenovo Flex 6 11 | Tech News
The Flex 6 11 ($329.99) is the least-expensive Windows-based 2-in-1 convertible laptop that Lenovo makes. Its chief competition is the Acer Spin 1, our reigning Editors’ Choice award winner for this class of tiny, versatile, and cheap laptop. Despite sharing the same price and screen size, as well as similar good looks and Intel Celeron processors, the two models take different roads on their way to budget-convertible excellence. On the outside, the Flex 6 11 loses points for its plastic chassis and low-resolution screen; the Spin 1 delivers a metal enclosure and 1080p sharpness. Both models boast touch support, but the Flex 6 lacks the Spin 1’s pen support and active pen. In the end, the Acer Spin 1 retains its belt, but the Lenovo Flex 6 11 doesn’t go down without a fight.
Classy Looks in a Budget 2-in-1
The Flex 6 11 I tested is built around a Celeron processor that I’ll get into in more detail later, but it’s backed by only 2GB of memory to the Spin 1’s 4GB of RAM. On the storage front, this test configuration tops the Spin 1; the Flex 6 11 has 64GB of eMMC flash storage to the Spin 1’s barely adequate 32GB. Note that this is the $329.99 configuration, and there is one other model in Lenovo’s Flex 6 11 line to note: A $399.99 configuration steps you up to a slightly improved Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. (Note that that’s a true SSD, as opposed to slower eMMC flash.) That’s a pretty major bump in core specs for about $70.
Lenovo also offers a broadly similar Chromebook version of this machine, more a cousin than a sibling to the Flex 6 11 models. The Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook has a slightly different design and runs Chrome OS. The guts are a MediaTek 8173C processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC flash storage.
Unlike past budget 2-in-1 convertible efforts, such as the Asus VivoBook W202, that ended up looking like cheap netbooks (remember those?), the Lenovo Spin 6 11 masks its budget status underneath an upscale facade. It features a compact, fairly firm plastic chassis with a two-tone color scheme Lenovo calls Onyx Black. The lid and bottom panel are a deep charcoal gray, and the keyboard deck is a shade lighter.
The narrow, beveled edges of the keyboard deck and touchpad feature a cool chrome accent, and a thick piano-black bezel frames the display. On the whole, it adds up to an attractive package, but I prefer the solid, metal-dominant feel and looks of the Acer Spin 1.
The Flex 6 11 is a hair lighter than the metal Spin 1, weighing 2.7 pounds to the Spin 1’s 2.8 pounds, but it is also bigger and thicker. The Flex 6 11 measures 0.7 by 11.6 by 8 inches. It’s by no means a chore to tote it around, and it feels comfortable and natural in its primary purpose as a laptop.
Like other non-detachable convertibles, the Flex 6 11 screen rotates all the way around, so you can use it as a part-time tablet. In addition to laptop and tablet modes, you can use the Flex 6 11 in tent mode (with the screen tilted back 270 degrees and the machine resting on the top edge of its lid and front edge of the chassis) or stand mode (screen tilted back, keyboard face down). Note that the Flex 6 11 is a full 360-degree-rotating machine; early Lenovo Flex models from years back had hinges that rotated through only part of the range, differentiating the Flex machines from Lenovo’s full-rotation Yoga models. No more.
That said, while these Flex hinges rotate the whole way, Lenovo’s chassis design on the Flex 6 11 makes opening the lid a bit of a chore. The seam between the two halves of the system is slight, and the slanted edges of each half are angled the same way, making it tricky to grab the edge of the display to raise it. An Apple MacBook-like cut-out or notch on the front edge of the keyboard deck would help your finger find purchase. Alas, you’ll have to dig a thumbnail in that seam to pry open the lid.
Quiet Keys, Clacky Touchpad
Once you manage to open the Flex 6 11, you’ll get your fingers on its roomy, full-size keyboard. Despite the trim dimensions of this 11.6-inch laptop, the keyboard doesn’t feel cramped, and the keys offer a firm feel with the right amount of travel. They are also supremely quiet and don’t suffer from any of the cheap, clacky feel that plagues other budget laptops.
The only complaint we have about the Flex 6 11’s keyboard isn’t with the keys themselves but the keyboard deck. It—ahem—flexed a bit when we were typing. Also, given the aggressive price, keyboard backlighting is not an option, which is a bummer but fully understandable in a budget machine like this.
The touchpad offers enough space and a friction-free matte surface to make mousing around it comfortable. Unlike the quiet keys, though, the touchpad offers too much vertical travel, and you’ll hear a loud click when it is pressed.
Some 11.6-inch-screened models, such as the Spin 1, boast a 1080p (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) display, but most make you get by with a 1,366-by-768-pixel native screen resolution. The Flex 6 11 is, indeed, like most. The display is fairly bright, with accurate colors, but despite Lenovo’s claims that it has an anti-glare finish, I found the display to have a glossy coating prone to glare and reflections. Also, note that a higher-resolution display would not only offer a crisper image, but also give you more effective screen real estate in which to juggle windows.
Above the display sits a 720p webcam, which is a class better than the VGA cam you get with the Spin 1 and many other budget notebooks and 2-in-1 models. It suffices for workaday use; the audio, though, only barely. The Flex 6 11 features two downward-firing speakers that offer only muddy, tinny sound.
For a tiny, cheap laptop, the Flex 6 11 offers above-average connectivity. On the left edge, you’ll find the power jack, a USB 2.0 port, a full-size SD-card reader, and a headphone jack. On the right sits an HDMI port, an always-on USB 3.0 port, a USB Type-C port, and the power button.
A Celeron’s Struggle for Respect
Both the Lenovo Flex 6 11 and the Acer Spin 1 feature Intel Celeron processors. The Flex 6 11 uses the newer Celeron N4000, which was released at the end of 2017, while the Spin 1 features the Celeron N3350 that was released a year earlier. Both chips are low-power dual-core chips with a base frequency of 1.1GHz, but the N4000 can ramp up to 2.6GHz, while the N3350 is rated to go only to 2.4GHz.
Perhaps more significantly, the Celeron N4000 has double the cache, at 4MB, versus the N3350. The Flex 6 11’s processor advantage helped it overcome its disadvantage in overall system memory (2GB of RAM, as we mentioned, to the Spin 1’s 4GB). Even the Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook has 4GB of memory, and Chrome OS requires a fraction of the system resources that Windows does to run smoothly. So I’d think twice about that 4GB RAM/128GB SSD $399 configuration, given the chance.
Despite its modest specs, the Flex 6 11 performed well enough for the price on our PCMark 8 benchmark…
Where the Acer Spin 1 failed to complete the test, the Flex 6 11 not only finished the test (never a given among entry-level laptops), but also bested pricier models in the Acer Spin 3 and the Dell Latitude 3189.
Also, on our media-crunching trials, the Flex 6 11 was able to keep pace with the Spin 3 and Latitude 3189 on Cinebench and Photoshop. (It fell back a bit on Handbrake.) It topped the Spin 1 on all four tests with ease.
The battery life was admirable, if not exceptional. The Flex 6 and its three-cell, 36-watt-hour battery finished in the middle of the pack on our video-rundown battery-drain test, with an impressive time of 11 minutes and 10 minutes. That’s enough juice to get through even the longest of work or school days. Secretly, I hoped it would be longer, given the 1,366-by-768-pixel native screen resolution. Low-res screens like this one can deliver gaudy off-plug runtimes.
As with any low-powered laptop with integrated graphics, the Flex 6 11 did not comport itself well on our 3D tests. You’ll need to stick to casual, browser-based games while also keeping your number of open tabs reasonably small.
Now, benchmarking is all well and good, but this machine had just 2GB of RAM, so some extensive anecdotal testing was in order, too. Alas, at times, the Flex 6 11 felt like it was either testing our patience or struggling to keep up with our demands. Don’t confuse its respectable showing in labs testing for peppy responsiveness across the board; at times, the Flex 6 11 struggles to run Windows smoothly. Now and then, I noted a delay between giving a command and Windows responding to it. And that delay only grows longer the more windows and browser tabs you have open.
On the plus side, the Flex 6’s hardware components are so low-power that they don’t require active cooling, allowing the machine to run in blissful silence.
A Decent Value, If You’re Patient
How can we still prefer the Acer Spin 1 to the Lenovo Flex 6 11 when the latter outclassed the former in formal labs testing, you ask? For the simple reason that, regardless of their differences in benchmark results, both systems are budget models that suffice for running only basic Windows tasks, preferably one program at a time. Just because the Flex 6 11 was faster than the Acer Spin 1 at editing photos in Photoshop and encoding a video in Handbrake doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for media-creation and -editing work in anything but isolated situations.
With its small, low-res display, low-end CPU, and modest dollops of memory and storage, the Flex 6 11 is best suited for browsing the web and running Microsoft Office docs—and not a lot more. If you need a light-duty, Windows-based convertible laptop on the cheap, it will do the job, but the Acer Spin 1 remains our go-to.