Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Lenovo Chromebook Duet Review | The Desktop Chrome Version Makes it Worth It

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Asif Ahmed
Asif Ahmedhttp://techtippr.com
Founder and Cheif Editor of Techtippr, Get in touch with me on Twitter or Enjoy my Stories on Instagram. I think they are interesting. :-)

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is one of a kind that’s really hard to find. (that actually rhymes). 

Chromebooks were introduced as a cheap option to get a computer device which could actually be used for doing work rather than just reading or watching videos.


After their popularity in countries like the US, they started to come in different price ranges and sizes. And on the other hand, Tablet PCs started to take on this segment by offering detachable keyboards and a PC like interface, like the iPad OS from Apple and Samsung DEX from, well, Samsung. 

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is actually trying to find a market which has previously been explored by Google with their Pixel Slate. Google already removed their focus from that and brought Pixelbook Go, which is more of a Laptop. ewx

But I know there is a market for a Tablet that is powered by Chrome OS, because I am hugely interested in it, and probably it is the reason the Lenovo Chromebook Duet was selling like Hotcakes in the US. It was out of stock almost everywhere in the mid 2020 because of its unprecedented sales. 

I finally got this device and wrote down everything good, bad and ugly about the device. So, make yourself some coffee because this is a long one. 

My Love for Chromebooks started in 2015

I have been using chromebooks since 2015. My first Chromebook was HP Chromebook 14. I remember many reviews had written it off and it was quite a flop in markets like India. 

Chromebooks work perfect for my workflow. I used to spend the majority of my time in Google Chrome Browser and had an old Windows powered machine which took a minute and a half just to boot up and then I would launch Google Chrome Browser and start using it.

After the HP Chromebook 14, I got my second Chromebook, the Samsung Chromebook Plus, in 2018,  although I already upgraded to MacBook Air by the end of 2015.

Samsung Chromebook Plus is an amazing Chromebook which also doubles up as a Tablet PC as you can fold the keyboard 360 degree, and since it is only 12.2 inch in size I was able to take it  to places where it wasn’t possible to take a 13 inch MacBook Air.

Watch the video review of Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Price and Availability

There are two variants of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet available.  one is 4GB ram 64GB internal storage and other is 4GB RAM and 128 GB internal storage.

The price of Lenovo Chromebook Duet $290 in the US for the 128GB variant..  when it is on offer you can grab it for $230. The deal price for the base variant with 64GB of internal storage. You can find the rest of the specifications in the next section.

I live in India so I got it from amazon.in for Rs 28000, although $290 Is roughly converted into Rs 22300. It is a little more expensive than in the US, but that’s the case with all other electronic devices as well

If you live in the US or other countries, online stores like Amazon.com, Amazon.uk or Amazon.in. I put the link to the best deals for the Lenovo Chromebook Duet at the bottom of this article. 

What’s in the Box

You get the 10.1 inch Lenovo Chromebook Duet right on top when you open the box.  and in the other box you get the keyboard with trackpad along with the back cover for the tablet. 

The back cover also has got a small flap which helps you put the Chromebook on a table,  you can adjust it to get any angle you like.  and I like how it is independent of the keyboard so you can still use it to put it on a table even when the keyboard is not attached. 

The strong magnets in the back cover makes it easy to attach it to the tablet and  it is pretty strongly attached.  same with the keyboard as well.  the magnets make it pretty easy to snap on the keyboard to the Chromebook.

Along with that you get USB type C cable and charging adaptor.  and since the Chromebook tour does not have 3.5 mm audio jack Lenovo provides the USB type C to 3.5 mm audio jack adaptor in the box. 

And then there  is a booklet which you are probably never going to read.

What you will not find in the box is a Stylus, although Duet supports USI stylus. The S-pen in Samsung tablets or chromebooks is not USI Stylus.  in fact the only one I was able to find on Amazon is from HP and cost $70.

So if your workflow requires you to  use a pen,  you can go for  Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which has S-pen in the box,  and also works better than the Lenovo Chromebook Duet when it comes to Tablet mode. Find more about the performance of Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.

Specs & Build quality of the Chromebook the back cover and the keyboard

10.1 inch Chromebook looks pretty sleek with only 7.3 mm thickness. It has got two colour accents at the back. The large part is grayish which has Chrome branding and the bluish part has got Lenovo written on it.

The back camera on the Chromebook Duet is 8 megapixel and the front  is 2 megapixel.  The cameras are just there for the sake of specifications otherwise they are not really useful. The front camera being useful on zoom calls for other types of video conferencing.

The volume rocker and the power / standby button is on the top right hand side of the Chromebook tablet and the bottom right area gets the USB type C slot.

The right hand side is empty with two speaker grills on the top along with the two microphones.  The bottom part has got the 5 point Pogo connectors to attach the keyboard.

I like the fact that it has  got a trackpad,  it’s a little small, has a width of five fingers and height of three fingers,  but appreciate that it attaches to at 10.1 inch Tablet that converts into a laptop. The  trackpad supports all the Chrome gestures,  like the two finger scroll, the three finger window preview.

The quality of the keyboard is nice and the magnets are strong so that you don’t have to make a lot of effort to attach it to the tab. It feels nice to press the keys and they have got a good amount of travel, more than what my I MacBook Pro 2019 keyboard has to offer.

The back cover of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet  is made up of a smooth fabric which is really nice to touch and looks pretty premium when it is attached to the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. 

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is powered by MediaTek Helio P60T. Chipset was introduced in 2018 and has been used by many mid range smartphone makers.

It’s not a very high performing chipset but the good thing about Chromebooks is it doesn’t need a lot of power.  We will be talking about the performance of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet  in detail in the performance section of this article.

The Display 

The 10.1 inch screen is the highlight of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. It is an IPS panel with 400-Nits of brightness, in the real world, I am comfortable able to look at the screen outdoors, in the afternoon, when I am enjoying the sun, and the low brightness could have been a deal breaker for me.

It is still not as bright as my Samsung Chromebook Plus, but considering the form factor, I have no complaints. Its competition, which are mainly Android tablets from other manufacturers, do not offer screen as bright as this.

The aspect ratio of the screen is 16:10, and the native resolution is 1920x 1200. The default resolution is set to 1080×675,  but I am comfortable keeping it at 1350×844, which displays everything at 80% but I also get a little extra screen real estate. 

I was initially sceptical about working for long hours on such a small screen but it isn’t really too small. You can also keep it closer to your eyes because of its small form factor.

Looking at the bezels, which are around 10 mm in thickness I think,  the future generations of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet has a potential to get  an even smaller footprint or perhaps they can also choose to increase the screen size a bit more. 

The Detachable Keyboard Performance

I am writing this article using the Lenovo Chromebook Duet’s keyboard. The Chromebook is on my lap as I am typing this. 

The keyboard keys definitely feel to have been placed tightly, so typing on it at full speed is a little challenge. But I like the feel of how the key presses, doesn’t feel cheap at all and it pretty much feels like typing on my Samsung Chromebook. 

A keyboard in a 10.1-inch form factor definitely feels smaller on paper, but when using it, I think it’s pretty comfortable to reply to emails or write quick documents. 

Having said that, it’s not a writer’s Chromebook, it’s a Duet ( a two in one Computer) and considering that, it serves the purpose well. 

The touchpad is fully functional, double tap on a text highlights it, two finger taps work as right click, and scrolling with fingers and pinch zoom also works as intended. 

You can still use it as a Tablet while the keyboard is connected. The tablet PC mode gets activated when you fold the keyboard outwards. The keyboard gets deactivated to prevent accidental pressing of keys.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet as a Tablet PC

Anyone who is mainly looking for a tablet PC to run Android apps,  will be disappointed with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet as a Tablet PC.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet isn’t a good tablet to use Android apps. The reason is because the Play Store is offered as an additional feature to the Chrome OS,  and uses some kind of container to run the apps which makes it run slower compared to the tablet PC that runs Android apps natively.

My tablet experience on Lenovo Chromebook Duet is not great and videos comparing this with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 lite, which falls in the similar price, have also notified that running Android apps is better on the tablet PC that is powered by Android.

Anybody who is looking for a Chromebook with a smaller form factor than the other laptop chromebooks available, then this is pretty much the only option available right now.

Chromebook has its own benefits and the number one reason for anyone to get a Chromebook is that it  runs the desktop version of Google Chrome which also supports extensions. 

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet in a tablet PC form factor service is the purpose of a Chromebook. Having said that, I don’t want to completely write it off as a Tablet. Because there are several use cases of a tablet which qualifies the Lenovo Chromebook Duet as a Tablet

While Android apps may not run as smoothly as they do on tablet PCs powered by Android,  you can still use the Google Chrome browser to access the web version of those apps, which are usually more feature rich and make sense to be using inside a Chrome Browser on a screen as big as 10 inch

Majority of the Android apps are not optimised for bigger screens, and because of that, it’s pretty much a smartphone like experience of apps. 

One of many examples is watching videos on Netflix. The app limits its content to only SD on a lot of Tablets, including the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. But, when you open it in the Google Chrome browser, there is no such limitation and you can watch Ultra HD content if you are subscribed to the plan.

Same goes with YouTube where you get the 4K option to play videos inside the Google Chrome browser and the quality is restricted to full HD in the app.

In short, if you are looking for a device to consume content, or do casual browsing, then Tablets powered by Android would be suitable for you. But, if you mainly work inside Google Chrome, and want to have a small device to carry around and still enjoy consuming content and casual browsing from time to time then Lenovo Chromebook Duet is your best pick.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet as a Laptop

When detached with the keyboard the Lenovo Chromebook Duet goes into the tablet mode, the recent updates from Google has made chromebooks touch friendly with some changes in the UI.

And when you attach the keyboard, which is pretty effortless, thanks to the strong magnets, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet goes into the laptop mode by taking the windows out of full screen mode.

The fact that the keyboard and the trackpad on this detachable keyboard are so good, it doesn’t really feel like it is detachable.  Thanks to the flap on the back cover, you can put it on the table and adjust it to get your desired angle. 

Interestingly, I was able to use it on a lap as well,  although it is not as comfortable as a real laptop,  but you get used to it.  The best position to use the Lenovo Chromebook Duet as a laptop would be on the table where you will be able to type on the keyboard faster.

I also felt the Lenovo Chromebook Duet feels and runs faster when it is attached to the keyboard. The Problem has to do something with the tablet mode UI of Chrome,  I am assuming it will be improved overtime with updates, which you will get plenty of. The about page shows that the Lenovo Chromebook Duet will be getting updates till 2028,  which is  almost 8 years since at the time of writing this article.

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet works great as a laptop especially because of the form factor, I can carry it in my smallest bag and the keyboard also doubles up as a cover that protects the screen, and doesn’t really add too much of thickness to it.

Here is a tip, if you want to write long  on the Lenovo Chromebook Duet.  instead of using the keyboard all the time you can use voice typing.

There are multiple ways to do voice typing on the Chromebook.  You can enable dictation from the ‘Accessibility settings,  and then use it for dictation. It’s pretty helpful for typing website addresses or filling up forms.

The second option is the voice typing option in the onscreen keyboard.  It was pretty nice to convert your voice into text. But, my most favourite way of voice typing is inside the Google docs

You can activate it by going to ‘Tools’ and then click on ‘Voice Typing’ or simply hit Control + Shift + S to activate it,  choose the language, and you are good to go. You can find more productivity tips by following the Productivity tag on our blog .

Battery Life 

When I took it out of the box and set it up, it was 80% charged. I worked on it the entire day, and drained the battery to 1% after 4+ hours of work on it before putting it on charge. 

4 hours usage is impressive considering I was using it with the Keyboard most of the time, which borrows power from the tablet PC since it doesn’t have its own batteries (which is a good thing since you won’t have to worry about keeping it charged to use it) 

Right now, Chromebook plugged into my smartphone’s 18 watt charger and it’s showing that it’s going to take around 4 and half hours to charge fully.

The battery life on Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a pretty amazing, especially the standby mode, after getting it fully charged in around 4.5 hours using the 18 watt charger of my smartphone, I kept it on standby mode the whole night when it was 91 % came back to it after almost 12 hours and the battery was 90%, which is pretty awesome.

Casual usage shows the battery would last 14 hours which is quite impressive. I used it for watching some YouTube videos, casual browsing, and more stuff for reviewing it, for 5 to 6 hours and called it night with 30% of battery left in it. 

Started another day at 29% battery and drained it to zero by again watching a few videos and writing a 1500 word article on it. 

If you just use it as a Tablet PC it is going to last longer like it showed it could last 14 hours when I was using it in tablet mode. If you use it along with the keyboard, the estimated time left shows between  5 to 6 hours. So a mix of both the scenarios I will give you between 8 to 9 hours.

It’s now plugged into a 30-Watt Type C Charger, and approx time to charge it up fully is 2 hours 10 minutes. Which means, if you have one of these chargers for travel, you are good to go. 

Google Perks

Google throws in a lot of Perks to make Google Chromebook more tempting. It has partnered with some third-party developers and under ‘Perks’ they offer new Chromebook users a lot of freebies or extended trial packs for subscription based services.

For example, you can get 3 months of YouTube Premium subscription for free.  There are several cloud-based video editing services, which are perfect for a machine like Chromebook, that offer extended trials of their paid services.

Android apps like the amazing video editor Kinemaster offers 3 months of their premium subscription to Google Chromebook users for free,  although I was not able to claim it since the offer is not available in my country.

Then there are other perks, such as storage from Google One, which Google has been promoting heavily and perhaps the reason why it stopped offering unlimited storage to Google Photos users.

Every eligible Google Chrome user gets 100GB of Google One storage for the next 365 days for no charge. 

My Final Thoughts

I have been using the Lenovo Chromebook Duet for the last few days and I was initially not impressed with the way the Android apps work on the tablet but since Android Tablets do not serve my purpose as I mainly want to use Google Chrome browser with extensions, and for creating something.

Like I said the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is the Chromebook in a small form factor and probably has no competition right now, even the expensive premium flagship tablet PC is powered by Android can’t do the things you will be able to do on a Chrome OS powered tablet. 

So, as a Chromebook, it is amazing to be able to use our full desktop Google Chrome browser on a small screen and the ability to carry it everywhere

If you have a similar workflow, you can go for the Lenovo Chromebook Duet and I am really looking forward to the next generation Lenovo Chromebook Duet it would also be interesting to see other manufacturers bringing Chrome OS based tablets which will only benefit the consumers here are the links to the best deals to buy the Lenovo Chromebook Duet on different websites.

Buy from Amazon

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