Lenovo Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 Tablet and Laptop Sings for the Right Price
Lenovo Chromebook Duet 2-in-1
A fun Chromebook that converts to a tablet. The ARM G72 keeps browsing, media consumption, and basic creation snappy. Small size, included keyboard and cover make the combo carry like a book, and that’s a good thing. Not a fan of the flip-out stand as it makes it hard to use on a lap. The less than a pound tablet sings with responsiveness that makes loading Android apps a worthwhile investment. The right features in this price range make it a good affordable Chromebook and tablet choice.
Starting at only $279.99 the Lenovo Chromebook Duet fights well above its price tag. Removing the detachable keyboard turns this Lenovo Chromebook into a better tablet that most Android-based devices.
What we like
The 10.1 FHD IPS display (1920×1200) delivers a good viewing experience at 400 nits, and a great touch screen experience when detached from the keyboard. The 4GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 64 GB eMMC HD offer enough space for running Chrome apps and storing some files locally. The 802.11AC Wi-Fi keeps the bits hoping. ARM G72 MP3 Graphics power the 10.1-inch display adequately for work and basic gaming.
The device includes verified boot that checks for viruses and other anomalies on start-up. Despite that, start-up takes only a few seconds, and I do mean a few seconds. Unless it is coming back from a Chrome update, that can add considerable time to the start-up experience (that isn’t Lenovo’s issue, however).
The Duet can be completed with a pen, but our review unit did not include one.
On the mostly good front, the Chromebook includes a 12-month 100GB subscription to Google One. I say mostly good, because these little Trojan Horse offers are there, like the bloatware of old, to hook you on a product.
The detachable keyboard connected magnetically and does not require Bluetooth® for connecting.
And the Lenovo Chromebook Duet also looks great. It sports a dual-tone blue and iron gray back when not hidden by the magnetic cover. The fabric cover on the back looks good though, even if it isn’t the most functional friendly feature.
I found battery life great. Hours spent working with text, playing games, and binging video bring down the charge, but they don’t deplete it before the end of the day. Lenovo rates the battery at 10-hours, but personal use patterns may consumer more or less power.
What could be improved
The $279.00 price makes is hard to squabble with any of the choices Lenovo made to ship the Chromebook Duet at that price level and maintain a good user experience. But that said, I would like to see Bluetooth® 5.0 rather than 4.2. The Duet assumes wireless headphones (save the purchase of a USB-C hub with a headphone jack) so the newer BT version would improve connectivity and sound quality.
The rattly gray plastic keyboard takes away from the sleekness of the overall design by making it reflect its inexpensive price more than the main unit. The keyboard also feels a bit cramped, but so do all keyboards for 10.1-inch devices design to attach to the device. The keys on the edge sacrifice the most real estate. The keyboard would benefit from backlighting as well.
The keyboard includes a basic trackpad which is fine with me. No bevy of special gestures to remember (or remember not to use in the wrong situations).
My biggest dislike comes in the rear magnetic cover that also doubles as a stand. I almost always remove the cover from the device when trying to deploy the stand. Further, the stand, as in all devices that eschew the clamshell, makes laptop typing nigh impossible.
Given the shift brought about by Covid, I would love to see tablet makers start flipping their camera choices, putting the better camera, in this case, the 8MP one (or at least an HD on with a good light sensor) on the front, and either leaving out or matching that on the back. In truth, how many people actually take photos with their Chromebooks vs. their phones? Some educational use cases may require that integration, so a better camera front and back would be a more useful choice in a world of on-demand video conferencing.
I found the speakers underwhelming except for the most intimate of local use. They will not fill any room with sound. The addition of BT headphones and speakers highly recommended.
An microSD slot would also be a useful addition, but the rise of USB-C memory sticks makes that less of a necessity.
Lenovo Chromebook Duet: The Bottom Line
Lenovo made the best design decisions possible with the Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 and the constraints given the design team. They left the essentials in place so that their diminutive tablet can hold its own against devices half again, or even twice the price. A cramped, cheap feeling keyboard, a finicky kickstand, and low speaker volume detract from an otherwise excellent Chromebook that actually works better as a tablet.
At less than $300 consider a third-party stand and keyboard to create an even more flexible experience.
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Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.