Back at CES 2020, five months and a thousand years ago, I got my first look at the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook. I was instantly into the device and named it my favorite thing from CES. I’ve been waiting for months to get it in my hands, and now I finally have one for review. I’ve only had it for a few days—not nearly long enough for the full review it deserves—but I wanted to share some initial thoughts after using it for the weekend.
If you have no idea what I’m babbling about, you can give my CES impressions a read at the link above. Otherwise, here’s a quick refresher on what the IdeaPad Duet is:
- 10.1-inch 1920×1200 display
- 2.0 GHz MediaTek Helio P60T processor
- 4 GB RAM
- 64 or 128 GB of Storage
- 1x USB-C port, volume rocker, power button (no headphone jack)
- 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front camera
- 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2
- In the box: tablet, detachable keyboard, detachable kickstand
- $279 (64 GB), $299 (128 GB)
- Specs as reviewed: 128 GB
- Available Today from Lenovo
So, is it a tablet, or is it a laptop? Yes. If you ask Lenovo, don’t call it a tablet. But if you ask almost anyone else, call it whatever you want. Sometimes it’s a tablet. Other times it’s a laptop. Sometimes it has a kickstand, other times it doesn’t.
That’s the most beautiful thing about this device: it’s whatever you need it to be at the time. And it does it in a way that makes more sense than any other comparable device that I’ve ever used. The iPad is great as a tablet, but when you add a keyboard it’s…not as good. The Surface (and more specifically, the Go) are great little Windows devices, but they’re bulky and awkward as tablets.
But the IdeaPad Duet? It’s so cleverly designed. If it’s not already clear, the whole system is three parts: the tablet, the stand cover, and the keyboard. It’s a fully granular system. You can use all three at once, which is basically full laptop mode. But then you can pull the keyboard off and use the tablet with the stand cover—great for watching videos or whatever. Since the kickstand folds flat against the device, a la Surface, that would be good enough on its own. But Lenovo went a step further.
You can then remove the stand cover, which fits the entire back of the device. This means you lose the kickstand, but it dramatically transforms the device into a badass little tablet. The biggest issue I’ve always had with all laptop/tablet hybrids is that they’re generally heavy when used as a standalone tablet. But removing the stand cover from the IdeaPad Duet changes that—it’s as light as any tablet I’ve ever used at that point. I love it.
It’s such a brilliant design and I really can’t say enough good things about it—especially for $300 with everything included. Otherwise, I haven’t spent enough time with it to really get a feel for much else. But here are some quick bullets before the review:
- The screen is great. It’s high res at 1920×1200, and it shows. Out of the box, everything is huge, so it takes some tweaking to get it just right. The native resolution will make everything too small for all but the best eyes (read: not mine), so I’ve settled into the step above that (1662×1038). It seems to be the best balance between readability and productivity, though it makes touch targets pretty small.
- The keyboard is pretty cramped, especially on the right side. It takes some getting used to, but by the end of this hands-on, I was able to touch-type on it for the most part. The dash and backspace keys—two that I use often—are very small and I often miss them. Also, there’s no backlight on the keyboard, but now I’m just being nitpicky.
- The trackpad is tiny and decidedly not glass. All of the trackpads I’ve used lately are glass, so it’s immediately obvious that this is different. At $300 I don’t expect glass, of course—so that’s more of a quick reality check than anything.
- There’s only a single USB-C port, which is slightly offputting at first blush. After thinking about it, though, it makes sense—when’s the last time you heard someone complain that the iPad only has a single Lightning port?
- There’s no headphone jack. That’s going to upset some people, but there is a USB-C to 3.5 mm adapter in the box. At least that’s something.
- It’s compatible with any USI Stylus, though there isn’t one included in the box. I don’t have one on-hand to test, but I’ll see if I can snag one before the full review.
- Early impressions of the performance are great. I’ve been multitasking like a madman trying to bog it down and haven’t done it yet. But don’t worry—I will. I’ll let you know in the full review how far you can push this thing.
So yeah, that’s all I have right now. I’ll have a full review ready to go in a couple of weeks, so be on the lookout.