Advertisement
Advertisement

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: The little Chromebook hybrid tablet that could

Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
300
Inc VAT

Small and slow, but an impressively versatile and lovable hybrid

Pros 
Versatile hybrid form factor
Great keyboard included
Excellent screen
Cons 
Poor single-threaded performance
Size could cramp your productivity
Advertisement

Google might have given up on the idea of a Chrome OS tablet with the demise of the Pixel Slate, but that hasn’t stopped Lenovo. The IdeaPad Duet is a 10.1in tablet running Chrome OS and supplied with a rear cover that doubles as a fold-out stand, plus a magnetic clip-on keyboard that instantly transforms it into a productivity device. Take a look at the price and you’ll expect the result to be a disaster, but here’s the surprise: while far from perfect, the IdeaPad Duet turns out to be a little wonder.

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: What you need to know

This is first and foremost a tablet, going up against the base model iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tab A7s of this world. With Chrome OS and Android support, it arguably gives you the best of both tablet and Chromebook worlds, and you won’t find a Full HD+ IPS screen on many other Chromebooks at this price point. The only downside comes in the fact that it’s small. If you’re a heavy multitasker or want to spend a lot of time on your Chromebook keyboard, then you really need to think about a larger device.

READ NEXT: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: Price and competition

Lenovo doesn’t really have much competition in this particular area of the Chromebook market. Google long ago abandoned its Pixel Slate Chrome OS tablet, and while Acer released the Chromebook Tab 10 in 2018, its specification now looks slow and long in the tooth. This means the only real competition is other hybrid tablet devices, but these are generally more expensive, like the Microsoft Surface Go 2 (from £399 without a keyboard) or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (now £259, but also without the keyboard, which is pretty tricky to track down).

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: Design

The IdeaPad Duet is a well-built little tablet in a fetching two-tone blue and grey design. The shell is plastic rather than anything fancy, but it feels reasonably robust, despite being just over 7mm thick and weighing only 450g. Clipping on the magnetic stand cover adds a few millimetres to the body and a further 220g to the weight but gives the tablet a little more protection and a handy pull-out kickstand – we kept it on during use. The keyboard, meanwhile, has a magnetic clip and a pogo-pin arrangement for connection and hooked up flawlessly every time we snapped it on or off. True, it sits flat on the desk in use, unlike the Microsoft Surface keyboard, but at least this gives you a nice, firm base to type on.

As a tablet, the Duet has two cameras, with a standard 2MP fixed focus webcam on the front for video calls and meetings, plus an 8MP auto-focus camera on the back for snaps. The webcam works well across most sensible lighting conditions, even coping with bright sunlight streaming in from a window. The rear snapper is also better than you might expect, delivering relatively clear and well-exposed images of the sort you’d get from a half-decent budget smartphone.

Does Chrome OS make sense on a tablet? Well, a couple of years ago we had our doubts; the OS wasn’t that touch-friendly and neither were most web-based apps. Now, however, the OS has improved to make more use of gestures for navigation and app switching, while Android apps – especially the few that have been optimised for tablets – give you a little more software to work with. In practice, you still tend to switch between Android apps for media and content consumption and Chrome and web-based apps for productivity, but the choice is there. As we said, the Duet gives you the best of both worlds, at least outside Apple’s ecosystem.

READ NEXT: Asus Chromebook C233 review

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: Keyboard and touchpad

Despite its almost pancake-flat nature, the keyboard itself is surprisingly good. It’s had to shrink down in size to fit the 10.1in form factor, but it’s styled like one of Lenovo’s ThinkPad or ThinkBook keyboards and it gets away with the lack of travel through an action that is tight and springy. I’ve used several 10.1in tablet keyboards, and the size is always the biggest issue. That’s as true with the IdeaPad Duet as with any other sub-11in tablet, but in terms of feel, it’s one of the best.

The reduced size also means the touchpad is more adequate than awesome, but given that it’s barely 8.6cm across, it’s still pretty usable – and you can always use the excellent touchscreen if you prefer.

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: Display and sound

As long as you can cope with the 10.1in size, the IPS screen itself is superb by budget Chromebook standards. It’s bright at a maximum 396cd/m² and covers 99.6% of the sRGB colour space. Even colour accuracy is decent – we measured the average Delta E at 2.42. The size means it’s not ideal for heavy multitasking, just because having more than one window or tab open on the desktop involves a lot of squinting, but it’s brilliant for basic productivity tasks, browsing, video chats and playing games or watching movies. In fact, the form factor means it’s as handy on the sofa as it is on the desk.

The audio isn’t too bad, either, and you can happily catch up with your streaming favourites without plugging in headphones. There’s a bit of depth and richness in the output, and a convincing impression of a wider than usual soundstage.

READ NEXT: Asus Chromebook C423 review

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: Performance and battery life

The biggest compromise you make with the IdeaPad Duet is on performance. It’s based on a MediaTek Helio P60T processor running four ARM Cortex A-73 cores and four Cortex A-53 cores in a BigLittle configuration. It’s a decent multitasking platform, albeit aimed mainly at smartphones, and it’s teamed with 4GB of RAM. However, it also means that the IdeaPad Duet is one of the slower Chromebooks we’ve looked at recently, particular when running single-core heavy web-based apps.

This isn’t a disaster. In actual use for browsing, watching videos and tapping out documents, we never found the IdeaPad Duet less than usable, and we didn’t encounter the stalls and pauses you sometimes find with theoretically more powerful dual-core Celeron machines. Stadia game streaming and light image-editing are definitely on the cards. And there’s also a little payback in the battery life, where the IdeaPad duet kept pushing on through our video playback test for a staggering 16 hours and 14 minutes. No other Chromebook we’ve looked at recently comes close.

READ NEXT: Acer Chromebook 314-H review

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review: Verdict

After the failure of the Chromebook Pixel, it looked like the whole concept of the Chrome OS tablet was dead. Yet with its style, stamina and all-round usability, the IdeaPad Duet turns this around. We can forgive the poor performance in the face of how effectively it manages everything else, and it’s only the lack of size that makes it impractical for more demanding users. If you’re looking for a versatile Chrome OS all-rounder that can handle Android apps, look no further.

Read more

Reviews