Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook full review
yeahLenovo takes on the Microsoft Surface Go 2 and Google Pixelbook Go with an inexpensive tablet/laptop hybrid that runs ChromeOS. Is this the future of Chrombooks? Here’s the Tech Advisor review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook.
Design & Build
We’ve all grown accustomed to a certain design ethic when it comes to Chromebooks. Either they are compact laptops with 11.6in displays or larger 14in variants that often have the ability to fold the display back through 180 or 360 degrees.
Very occasionally, we see an outlier that uses a tablet format. The most notable example was Google’s ill-fated 12.3in Pixel Slate, but that suffered from buggy software and an eye-watering price. Thankfully, this hasn’t killed off the idea entirely, as the new Lenovo IdeaPad Duet takes the form factor but shrinks both the size and cost.
The Duet itself is a tablet with 10.1in HD IPS display, accompanied by a rear case that features a built-in tilt stand, plus there’s clip-on external keyboard that also doubles as the other half of the protective cover. Both accessories attach to the Duet via magnets which are easy to attach and proved reliably secure during my time with the device.
The best part of this arrangement is that Lenovo includes everything in the box for no additional cost, unlike the aforementioned Microsoft Surface Go, which whacks somewhere in the region of £100/$100 for the essential keyboard that makes it actually usable.
Featuring a simple, minimalist design, the Duet is compact at 240 x 160 x 7.35mm and weighs in at 450g.
This makes it smaller and lighter than the 10.5in Microsoft Surface Go, which measures 245 x 175 x 8.3 mm and 544g, although both obviously grow in size when the keyboards are attached.
The top quarter of the Duet is finished in pale baby-blue looking rather like a Google Pixel phone, with the remainder of the chassis a dark grey. All of the controls and ports are on the right side, with buttons for volume and power, plus the solitary USB-C port that is used for charging as well as output for audio due to the fact that there is no 3.5mm headphone jack.
The latter is a disappointment, but with so many budget wireless earbuds on the market now it’s less of an issue than in the past, plus Lenovo includes a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor in the box. Take note Apple!
Aside from the magnetic clips on the bottom edge that secures the keyboard, the only other accoutrements are the 2Mp front facing and 8Mp rear facing cameras.
It’s a tidy package, with the tilting stand allowing you to position the display at a wide range of angles, the keyboard adding plenty of functionality, all of which can then be folded down to the size of a hardback book and thrown in your bag.
Keyboard & Trackpad
With the smaller form factor of the tablet comes a reduced amount of space for the keys on the keyboard. The main letter keys are all a reasonable size and fall well under the fingers if you’re a touch-typist like myself.
There is a small amount of adjustment to make, but it doesn’t take long to feel natural. The same can’t be said of the special keys on the right side of the layout, which have been reduced to half-size in order to save space.
The return key is also flat rather than L-shaped and vertical, so if you’re used to that kind of arrangement then you may find yourself hitting the \ key a little too often instead.
For light typing it’s decent enough, but any long stretches soon become a little tiring as you work with the cramped layout. By contrast, for years I used the Google Pixel C tablet and keyboard, which was excellent as a mobile workstation.
While I love the look of the Duet, it does suffer somewhat by the compromised typing experience in comparison. Of course, you could just use a regular Bluetooth keyboard of your choosing, which would instantly make a marked improvement for any intense typing projects.
The trackpad is a little small, but as the Duet is also a tablet you’re able to mix between mouse controls and simply touching the screen, so you hardly notice the limited surface area. There were several instances where the trackpad failed to register softer clicks though, so a firm tap is recommended.
Yes, it’s a silly word I’ll admit, and I’m not the first to use it, but 2-in-1 devices can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to using them on your lap. As there is no hinge to hold the display in place, you’re at the mercy of your thighs when determining the lapability of the device.
I found that angling the Duet so that it was comfortable enough to read clearly, meant that the kick-stand was right on the edge of my kneecaps, so any forward motion would knock it off and send the device plummeting towards the floor.
If you’re the supermodel type, with legs that go on forever, then you should have no problems, but for hobbit-folk like me, you may want to move to a table or desk.
Specs & Features
Of course, small devices that look cute aren’t exactly new, but how well does the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet perform as an actual Chromebook?
It should come as no great surprise that the Duet isn’t sporting the latest in high-end silicon from Qualcomm or Intel. What it does come with is the MediaTek Helio P60T octa-core processor, which is the same one we’ve seen in cheaper Android phones since it was introduced back in 2018.
In the speed stakes, it’s not going to outshine processors from premium machines, but then the Duet isn’t trying to. Lenovo seems to have a firm idea of who this 2-in-1 is aimed at, and blazing benchmarks isn’t too high on its agenda.
In everyday use, the Duet handles tasks in a prompt manner with only the occasional delay as it thinks about the job at hand. Apps open and close swiftly, and even my catastrophic use of Chrome with about thirty tabs open didn’t seem to cause too much of a problem.
This is a casual device though, so if you intend to push it to the limits with graphically demanding games and software, you’ll need to accept that things are likely to get bogged down rather quickly.
To give you an indication of the performance limits, I ran the standard barrage of benchmarks, with Geekbench 5 returning 263 for single-core and 931 for multi-core, Basemark 3 was 240.94 and Jetstream 2 scored 35.45.
Compare these scores to those I recorded in my review of the Acer Chromebook 713 Spin and the Duet is completely trounced, but if you only want a device for lightweight use, plus one that doubles up as a very usable Android tablet, then I know which one I’d prefer.
Memory and storage
Chromebooks are rarely overburdened with storage or RAM and the Duet sticks firmly to this pattern. My review model sports 4GB of RAM and 64GB of drive space, which is fine as most ChromeOS apps live in the cloud.
Of course, if you’re planning on taking advantage of Android apps and games, then you may need to manage your storage on a regular basis, as the Duet doesn’t have a microSD card slot.
As you might suspect from the price tag, the Duet maxes out at Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.2. For most people this will be fine, although in the lesser served areas of my house the Duet did struggle to maintain a steady connection, suggesting that it doesn’t have the most powerful antenna.
Usually, I’ll bemoan the poor quality of the cameras in cheap devices like this, but the Duet surprised me by offering reasonable video for Zoom calls on either the front or the back lenses.
You won’t be winning any photography competitions with these optics, but at least you’ll look human and in a room that has some lights when on that next video meeting.
Screen & Speakers
The 10.1in IPS display boasts a 1920x1200 resolution which is a big step up from a lot of Chromebooks in the price bracket. It can also get very bright, with my test unit measuring 495 nits, which is more than enough for most uses.
Colours look equally as vibrant, with graphics and text sharp and clear.
Touch responses were quick and reliable throughout my time with the Duet, with the added bonus that when I’d finished working on a document, I could remove the keyboard then use the device as either a Netflix streaming platform while cooking the dinner or as a games machine on the sofa, making full use of the Google Play Pass.
The latter is due to Chromebooks being compatible with Android apps, and the Duet’s true tablet nature making it the ideal platform for titles like Stardew Valley and Game Dev Tycoon. Yes, you can use it for PUBG, but it handles the more sedate games a little better due to its size and processing power.
Twin Dolby stereo speakers have their grills along the top of the tablet, producing a limited range of frequencies that results in boxy sounding music tracks but acceptable for watching TV shows and YouTube videos.
There’s very little bass, so you won’t be blown away by the scorching soundtracks of Hollywood movies, but that would be unrealistic for a device of this type, size and price.
Lenovo claims up to 10 hours of battery life for the Duet, but in the usual looped HD video benchmark where I set the display to 60% brightness and audio to 50% volume, the Duet survived for seven hours and 52 minutes.
This is still decent for a small device like this and you'll most likely get longer if you're just typing a document or perusing websites.
As I’ve already mentioned earlier, the Duet acts as both a Chromebook and a makeshift Android tablet due to the fact that ChromeOS now has access to the Google Play Store.
You can get a lot done with ChromeOS these days, as many of the apps work offline and sync any changes once you get back online. Google’s office suite covers a lot of ground, plus the Android apps can make up the gap in many instances.
I still encountered several of the latter that were optimised for the portrait orientation of a smartphone rather than the landscape of a tablet, but in general the combination of ChromeOS and Android makes the Duet a very useful device for work and leisure.
Price & Availability
As it comes with the keyboard included, this makes it significantly cheaper than the Windows flavoured, small 2-in-1 that is the Microsoft Surface Go 2, which currently retails for £399/$399 but requires the additional purchase of the Type Cover which costs a further £124.99/$129.99.
Obviously, there are plenty of Chromebooks to choose from, which range in price between the two devices mentioned above, so be sure to check out our best Chromebook chart before making your purchase if you're not convinced.
If you’re looking for a smart, small Chromebook then the IdeaPad Duet has a lot to offer.
It’s well designed, nice to use and the ability to simply pop off the keyboard to turn it into an Android tablet only doubles the fun.
Of course, at this price, there are some compromises that you’ll need to consider, with the processor being middling at best and the cramped keyboard not one that we’d recommend for long typing sessions.
But, should those not be a concern to you then the IdeaPad Duet is well worth investigation.
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook: Specs
- MediaTek Helio P60T Octa-Core
- ARM G72 MP3 800GHz
- Chrome OS
- 10.1in FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS display
- 4GB LPDDR4X
- 64GB Storage
- Rear camera: 8MP auto-focus
- Front camera: 2MP fixed-focus with LED indicator
- USB-C (Gen 2)
- Volume control
- Power button,
- 5-point pogo pins for keyboard
- 2 x 2 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi
- Bluetooth 4.2
- 2 x Dolby Audio speakers
- 239.8 x 159.8 x 7.35mm
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