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Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 Review: An Affordable, Versatile Option

Rating: 7/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $359.99

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 sitting open on wooden desk

Here's What We Like

  • Extremely affordable
  • Lightweight and compact form factor
  • Amazing battery life

And What We Don't

  • No headphone jack (and only two USB-C ports)
  • Speakers are incredibly meh

The Chromebook Duet 3 from Lenovo is a snazzy little tablet that gives you the option of magnetically attaching a keyboard or completely removing it. This versatility makes the Duet 3 the perfect choice for college students or traveling professionals.

If you’re familiar with Lenovo’s original Chromebook Duet and Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook, the Duet 3 is essentially a mashup of the two. If the original Duet is now the budget option, and the IdeaPad Duet 5 is the premium option, the new Duet 3 is the mid-range option. While the Duet 3 won’t give you an OLED display or quite as much RAM and storage, it makes significant improvements on the original Duet model that make it worth the extra money.

I prefer a Windows laptop to a Chromebook, but that didn’t stop me from finding things to love about Lenovo’s Duet 3. Sure, there are certain things that I wish had been better, but I also had to keep the price in mind. You can’t rate a budget item and expect premium quality in every aspect. Let’s dive into where the Duet 3 excelled and where it struggled!

One thing we will note is that we tested a 64 GB version that doesn’t seem to be available right now. However, for $30 more, you can get a Duet 3 with double the storage from Best Buy. We think that’s the better deal anyway.

Specs As Reviewed:

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon SC7180 (8-core, up to 2.55 GHz)
  • Graphics: Integrated Qualcomm Adreno
  • Memory: 4GB LPDDR4X
  • Storage: 64GB eMMC
  • Display: 10.9 inches, 2K (2000 x 1200) IPS, touchscreen, 400 nits
  • Cameras: 5MP front-facing, 8MP rear-facing
  • Keyboard: Detachable, water-resistant up to 330ml
  • Operating System: ChromeOS
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5 802.11AC (2 x 2), Bluetooth 5.1
  • Available Ports: 2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 1
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 258.04mm x 164.55mm x 7.90mm
  • Weight: 1.14 pounds

Design: Not My Cup of Tea, But It’s Good For What It Is

Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 3 has a unique design that consists of three main parts: the tablet portion (or the screen), the detachable keyboard, and the magnetic cover. You can put the magnetic cover on top of the keyboard or the back of the tablet piece, depending on your use.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 and back panel sitting in front of box
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Overall, I love the design concept, but using the Duet 3 with all its pieces wasn’t as seamless as I thought it would be. You pretty much have to be at a table, or some other flat surface, to properly use the Chromebook with the keyboard. Although there’s a pop-out stand for you to tilt the screen, the tablet portion is so much heavier than the keyboard portion that it could easily fall over when bumped if it’s not on a flat surface. As a plus, the kickstand is highly adjustable and can bend almost all the way back if you ever need to.

For example, it wouldn’t be very practical to use the keyboard and stand while sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car on vacation. It’s too easy for your legs to move slightly or the vehicle to hit a bump and cause the heavier tablet portion to close forward on the keyboard or backward, closing the stand. The good thing, though, is that the Duet 3 is sturdy; even if you do have to worry about it accidentally closing in a moving car or balancing on your legs at home, it’s well-protected.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 folded flat on wooden desk
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Lenovo markets the Chromebook Duet 3 as a 2-in-1 device, which it technically is, but only if you plan to work on flat surfaces. Both of my previous Windows laptops have been 2-in-1 devices, but because they have a more solid structure, they’re easier to use on your legs, the bed, or another unstable situation. To prop it up and use the keyboard, you have to pop out the stand part of the magnetic cover. This became easier to do over time, but even once the stand portion had “broken in,” so to speak, it still required two hands to prop the stand up every time.

I’m one of those people who has to align something perfectly, and the magnetic cover was sometimes tricky to position just right. There’s also a hole in the magnetic cover for the rear camera, so it’s essential to get it somewhat straight. Completely lifting the cover off and trying to reposition it wasn’t working, so I pushed it into place with my fingers once it was on.

Also, there is a correct way to put the magnetic cover on the keyboard, but it’s not clear at first because there are no indicators. If you put it on upside down, it’ll stay, but the attraction isn’t as strong as when it’s on the right way. You can feel the difference in magnetic pull, but for reference, the right way is when the Lenovo logo on the keyboard and the cover line up.

The Chromebook Duet 3 is incredibly petite, which is excellent for students and anyone who travels a lot with their device. Although the detachable keyboard is a neat addition and works relatively well, the tablet portion of this device is what truly shines.

Display: It’s Great For the Price

To preface this section, I’ll say that I’m a bit spoiled with my current laptop’s display, which has a 4K resolution. This certainly isn’t the norm for laptops; the standard for most laptops is usually 1920 x 1080, which was the resolution of my previous laptop.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 close up of the bottom left corner of the screen
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 3 has a 2K resolution, or 2000 x 1200, on a 10.9-inch screen. The display looks decent, but you’re not going to look at it and have your mind blown by vivid colors and super dark blacks. To test out the prowess of the display, I watched a few shows on Netflix, played a game I downloaded from Google Play, and browsed the internet.

For the people who would likely be using a device like this, I think the display works wonderfully for the price. It’s bright, easily readable, shows color relatively well, and has fairly narrow bezels.

Operating System: ChromeOS Is Both Good and Bad

Just in case it wasn’t clear from the title of this device, the Chromebook Duet 3 runs ChromeOS, not Windows OS or macOS. ChromeOS is a Linux-based operating system developed by Google, which primarily runs apps through Google’s cloud. These cloud-native apps include Google Docs, Photos, and Sheets, among many more, and you automatically get 100GB of free cloud storage.

Since ChromeOS is based on Linux, it’s a free and open-source operating system, which means that the code is available on GitHub for anyone to see and change the code if they want to and know-how. Typically, Linux-based operating systems are much safer to use than Windows OS or macOS; getting a Chromebook infected with a virus or malware is challenging, if not near impossible.

The user interface is a fantastic choice for some but could bother others. It really just depends on how you intend to use your Chromebook. The ChromeOS user interface essentially looks like a smartphone interface, just larger. This means it’s effortless to learn and use, but if you don’t think you’d enjoy a smartphone interface on a larger screen, you might not like using a Chromebook.

While it’s more secure and user-friendly, there are potential downsides to ChromeOS. One of the most significant disadvantages is that many apps, programs, or other software can’t be downloaded like they can on a Windows OS or macOS. There’s often no compatible version, and there’s not much storage space on the Chromebook Duet 3. That said, ChromeOS can run native apps of Linux in addition to apps from the Google Play store.

In short, if you need your device to carry out intensive photo or video editing, or you want to play games from Steam or another major video game distribution service, the Chromebook Duet 3 isn’t for you. You can play Android games on this device, but that’s about it for gaming. Also, ChromeOS requires a fast internet connection most of the time, so if you’re in an area with poor connectivity, you might consider something besides a Chromebook.

Performance: Long Battery Life, But Don’t Expect a Lot of Power

The Chromebook Duet 3 lasts a long time in between charges, but that’s because you can’t really do too much on it besides browsing the internet, using cloud-based apps, streaming media, and playing Android games. If you’re playing games or streaming media more often, the battery’s going to drain faster but still last all day and then some.

That’s what most people expect out of a Chromebook, though; these devices aren’t built for super demanding software or power-hungry apps. And in exchange for less overall power and performance in the Duet 3, you get longer battery life.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 sitting up on back stand with keyboard out
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

When I review a laptop, I usually test its performance by opening a bunch of tabs, some of which are playing videos, opening Discord, launching Steam, and sometimes even running a video game. On the Chromebook Duet 3, I can’t perform my typical test. With the “Desks” feature on the Duet 3, however, I could open more simultaneously and see how the device handled it.

I had three separate desks open at one time, which essentially means I had three virtual workspaces to switch between. The first desk had a single Chrome browser open with 30 different tabs. Then, the second desk had some restaurant-themed game running from the Google Play Store. Finally, the third desk had the Netflix app open, though it immediately stopped playing the video whenever I switched off that desk.

When I switched between desks, my screen would temporarily go black while figuring things out. Changing to the second desk would display a frozen Android game where I could hear the background music playing, but nothing would move for a few seconds. I couldn’t feel much heat on the device, even when I had everything open across three desks.

I’d say this is a one-task device, which means it performs best when focusing on a single task. Smartphones get bogged down when you have a ton of different apps open in the background, even if you’re not actively using them; the Chromebook Duet 3 is the same way, which makes sense because this thing basically runs off a smartphone processor.

All the Little Stuff: It Gets the Job Done

The Chromebook Duet 3’s small form factor and decently sharp display are its two best features. Almost everything else is a bit lackluster.

I’ll start with the keyboard because it actually has some valuable keys at the top that’ll make your life easier. There’s a button that’ll make whatever you have open full screen, and pressing it again will reverse that action. Then, there’s also a button that allows you to switch between multiple custom desks, which I mentioned earlier. Many laptops and Chromebooks are starting to have buttons like this that allow you to open different workspaces, but it was still a neat feature I loved seeing.

Unfortunately, everything else is pretty dang meh. The trackpad, cameras, and speakers all just exist on this device. That’s it.

The trackpad works well enough but doesn’t feel smooth unless you move your finger at the right speed. I was trying to move my finger across the trackpad as slowly and lightly as possible, and I was still experiencing this feeling of too much friction, causing my finger to sort of jump forward instead of glide if that makes sense.

With the 5MP front-facing camera, you won’t take any legendary selfies that make yourself look awesome, but if you need a functioning webcam for work or school, it’ll do. The same goes for the 8MP rear-facing camera. It’s nice to know that you have a device you can take photos with, but those photos won’t look stunning.

The speakers were probably my least favorite thing about the Chromebook Duet 3. Laptop speakers in general are pretty crappy, and the speakers on this Chromebook are slightly worse. If you’re streaming media and listening to people talking, the audio isn’t too bad. But if you want to listen to music on it? Just don’t.

At full volume, it can sound scratchy and distorted; at a lower to medium volume, it sounds less than okay. Honestly, your smartphone speakers would probably sound better if you have a flagship phone from Samsung, Apple, or Google. When I listened to the same song on my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra) and then on the Chromebook Duet 3, it sounded like I was underwater. Listening to music on the Duet 3 is something I’d only recommend if you’re desperate and have no other options.

Lastly, the only available ports on the Duet 3 are two USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 slots. What’s nice about these two ports is that you can choose either to charge the Duet 3. The charging light indicator is only on one side, but it’ll light up when charging no matter which side you plug the charging cord into.

But where’s the audio jack for headphones? Or a microSD card reader to add additional storage if you want? Or even just a single USB-A port? I know that Chromebooks generally don’t have many ports, but why couldn’t Lenovo’s Duet 3 have just a few of the extra ports of Lenovo’s IdeaPad 3 Chromebook?

Conclusion: I’d Only Recommend It For Specific People

For what Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 3 claims to be and its price, it’s an excellent option for some people, but not everyone. The perfect owner for a Duet 3 is likely a college student who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money and primarily wants a tablet with the option of a keyboard for taking notes in class or writing papers.

Lenovo’s Chromebook 3i is about the same price as the Duet 3 but has a built-in keyboard. If you like the idea of a Chromebook but want a sturdier laptop that’s still affordable, this is a great alternative. But if you think you’d primarily use your device as a tablet, I think the Chromebook Duet 3 is your best bet.

Rating: 7/10
Price: $359.99

Here’s What We Like

  • Extremely affordable
  • Lightweight and compact form factor
  • Amazing battery life

And What We Don't

  • No headphone jack (and only two USB-C ports)
  • Speakers are incredibly meh

Sarah Chaney Sarah Chaney
Sarah Chaney is a professional freelance writer for Review Geek, Android Authority, MakeUseOf, and other great websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Creative Writing concentration. Her degree, paired with her almost two years of professionally writing for websites, helps her write content that is engaging, yet informative. She enjoys covering anything Android, video game, or tech related. Read Full Bio »