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Progress
is wonderful. In September 2018, the HP Chromebook x2, an unusual detachable 2-in-1 Chromebook, was an Editors’ Choice at $599.99. Today, the Lenovo
Chromebook Duet is an Editors’ Choice at half that price: $299.99, with a surprising 128GB of
eMMC flash storage aboard (or $20 less if you settle for 64GB). You can technically
call it a 10.1-inch tablet with a standard keyboard and kickstand—and you can
grumble about its having only one port, a USB 2.0 Type-C (Lenovo throws in a
3.5mm audio adapter for your headphones)—but it’s a full-fledged Chromebook. And in every way from comfortable typing to smart tablet gestures, it’s a nifty
productivity and streaming entertainment device.

A
Three-Piece Gray Suit

Dubbed
the “IdeaPad Duet Chromebook” outside the U.S., the Chromebook Duet is really a
trio, of sorts, if you count its main components. The 1-pound aluminum alloy tablet is the first (and most important) piece. The second is a gray fabric “stand cover,” a magnetically attached back panel that has a kickstand you can fold out to prop up the tablet on a desk. The third bit is a magnetically attached
keyboard with touchpad, which can flip up to cover the screen. With all three pieces combined, the Duet trio forms a 2.03-pound sandwich. (It takes some fussing with
your fingernails to open the kickstand, which pivots through 135 degrees,
without removing the stand cover.)

The
display offers a sunny 400 nits of brightness, good contrast, and reasonably
rich, well-saturated colors. Since its native 1,920-by-1,200-pixel resolution makes
screen elements look too tiny, you can choose among faux or “looks
like” resolutions ranging from 1,662 by 1,038 pixels to 831 by 519; the default
setting (1,080 by 675) is a good mix of sharpness and readability without being
too pixelated.

It
is, of course, a touch screen, compatible with Universal Stylus
Initiative (USI) pens
like the one Lenovo says it will sell soon, joining other
vendors such as HP and Chicony. The Duet has 4GB of memory along with the 128GB of
storage I mentioned (not, alas, expandable since there’s no SD or microSD card slot), plus support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 wireless.

The
tablet alone measures 0.29 by 9.4 by 6.3 inches and combines a glossy front
panel with a two-tone back that has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera lens in one
corner. There’s a 2-megapixel front-facing webcam in the medium-thick screen
border or bezel. Two speakers and two pinhole microphones decorate its top edge
(as you hold it in landscape mode). Along its right edge are a volume rocker,
the power button, and the USB port, which serves for data transfer, charging—the
supplied power plug’s cord is rather short—and DisplayPort video output. Pogo pins
on the tablet’s bottom edge fit the keyboard.

Perched
and Petite

Small
tablets aren’t known for their booming speakers, so the Duet’s are a mild positive, if you tweak them. Sound from the Lenovo’s pair
is too soft unless you crank the volume all the way up, which introduces some
distortion. But with a little adjustment, you can get agreeable audio, albeit low
on bass and with overlapping tracks mostly muddled. The 1,600-by-1,200-pixel
webcam captures reasonably bright and impressively sharp shots; given the image quality, it was obvious
that I’d been too lazy to shave for a video chat. The 3,264-by-2,448-pixel rear
camera is above average, as well, exhibiting snappy autofocus behavior and showing crisp colors.

The
Chromebook Duet is just the right size for an airline tray table with the
kickstand propping the screen and the keyboard snapped into place below. Like
other tablets with kickstands, it’ll work—or mostly work—on your lap, taking up
all available thigh space with the kickstand on your knees. It doesn’t feel
flimsy or wobbly typing on your lap, but it definitely feels more comfortable on a
desk or table.

The
main area of the keyboard isn’t too squished—the Q through P keys span seven inches
instead of the regulation seven and three-eighths—but the keys toward the right
edge, like the comma and period, semicolon and apostrophe, and left and right
brackets, are only half a key wide, which takes some getting used to. The typing
feel is surprisingly good (Lenovo says there’s 1.3mm of travel; most laptop
manufacturers strive for 1.5mm), but the keyboard is realistically more for writing emails and notes than reports and novels. I could say the same about the
screen; this is, again, a 10.1-inch device, after all.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet front view

It’s
a clever 10.1-inch device, however. Besides running Android apps via the Google
Play Store, the Duet pairs with your Android smartphone so you can use your
phone to unlock the Chromebook or manage and type text messages on the keyboard
(assuming you’re using Google Messages instead of your phone vendor’s messaging
app).

The
latest update (the Duet is assured of updates through June 2028) adds several
convenient gestures for use in tablet mode, such as a partial swipe up from the
bottom of the screen to view open app windows and a full swipe up to access the
home screen. Swiping from the left moves to the previous screen in the Chrome
browser. The gestures don’t work when the keyboard is attached.

Just Enough Performance, for a Light Touch

In
discussing the Chromebook Duet’s performance, I need to make two things clear:
First, for most uses—opening a few browser tabs, watching a video, or playing
an Android game—it’s perfectly fine and reasonably perky. Second, Chromebooks
with ARM processors have proven time and again to be weaker than models with
x86 chips; the Duet has an eight-core, 2.0GHz MediaTek Helio P60T processor and
is one of the quantitatively slowest Chromebooks we’ve tested in years, losing across the
board in our benchmark tests. If you try opening many tabs or playing multiple
videos simultaneously, it will stutter and stumble.

For
our formal benchmarks, I compared the Chromebook Duet to two compact
convertibles, the HP Chromebook x360 12b and the Lenovo Chromebook C340-11, which use the same Intel Celeron CPU; the Acer Chromebook 315, which has an AMD A4; and the Intel Core i3-powered Asus Chromebook Flip C436. (The Celeron and AMD A4 systems set a low bar; I didn’t choose any Core i5 machines.)

The
first objective benchmarks we use are Principled Technologies’ venerable CrXPRT
(a suite of simulated Chrome OS productivity apps) and more recent WebXPRT 3 (a
browser-based test of HTML and JavaScript throughput).

Lenovo Chromebook Duet CrXPRT

Lenovo Chromebook Duet WebXPRT 3

The
Core i3 Asus Chromebook Flip is clearly the class of the field here. The Chromebook Duet
tried valiantly but brought up the rear.

JetStream
2 is another performance test; it combines 64 JavaScript and WebAssembly
benchmarks to measure a browser’s (in this case, the default Chrome’s)
suitability for advanced web applications.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet JetStream 2

I
could almost hear the Duet chanting, “I think I can, I think I can”
as it chugged through this test. Again, it finished behind but within reach of
the AMD and Celeron Chromebooks.

We’ve
recently added UL’s PCMark for Android Work 2.0 test to our Chromebook regimen.
This test suite runs in a small smartphone-style window and mimics productivity
operations ranging from text and image editing to data charting and video
playback.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet PCMark for Android

The
Duet wasn’t too far off the pace set by the Celerons here. It won’t dazzle you
with its alacrity, but it’ll satisfy you with real-world apps.

Finally,
to test a Chromebook’s battery life, we loop a locally stored video with screen
brightness set at 50 percent, audio volume at 100 percent, and Wi-Fi disabled
until the system quits.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet battery life

The
little Lenovo was close to the Celeron Chromebooks here as well, showing
exemplary stamina. Getting through a work or school day plus an evening of
YouTube or Netflix should be no problem.

A
Bargain on Its Own Terms

While
Microsoft’s Surface Go 2 starts at $399.99 with a Pentium CPU and without a keyboard, our recent test unit was $729.99, or $859
with matching Type Cover. To be sure, its Core m3 CPU and 128GB solid-state
drive give much faster performance than the Chromebook Duet, but at that price,
they’d better. As for Apple’s iPad, it’s $429 with 128GB of storage, or $588 with Smart Keyboard, so the Lenovo’s
$299.99 with keyboard and kickstand remains a remarkable value. (The Apple and
Microsoft tablets are available with LTE mobile broadband; the Duet isn’t, but
offers tethering to Android phones.)

Lenovo Chromebook Duet angle view

The
Chromebook Duet earns an honorable mention among Chromebooks for consumers and
captures our Editors’ Choice among Chromebooks for students. Besides being a
bargain, it’s a thoughtfully designed and well-crafted detachable, especially
for Android phone owners; the tablet and its peripherals have the look and feel
of a product costing much more. As you use it, you keep discovering things—from
the cameras to the screen brightness—that are better than you expected. I wish
it had a faster CPU, but I believe a lot of users will be very happy with it.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet Specs

Laptop Class Chromebook, Detachable 2-in-1
Processor Speed 2 GHz
RAM (as Tested) 4 GB
Boot Drive Type eMMC Flash Memory
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested) 128 GB
Screen Size 10.1 inches
Native Display Resolution 1,920 by 1,200
Touch Screen Yes
Panel Technology IPS
Variable Refresh Support None
Screen Refresh Rate 60 Hz
Graphics Processor ARM G72 MP3
Wireless Networking 802.11ac
Dimensions (HWD) 0.29 by 9.4 by 6.3 inches
Weight 2.03 pounds
Operating System Chrome OS
Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes) 13:48

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