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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook 2-in-1 laptop review

The compact 2-in-1 is a value pick among highly mobile laptops.

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Last updated: 01 September 2020

CHOICE verdict

As the name implies, Lenovo’s 10.1-inch IdeaPad Duet Chromebook gives the benefit of both a tablet and laptop in one very compact and affordable device. The inclusion of a detachable keyboard means there’s nothing extra to outlay for a highly portable 2-in-1 that’s no trouble to carry on the move, making it a value pick for mobile users on a budget.

Price: $599
Contact: google.com/chromebook/device/lenovo-chromebook-duet/

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet entertainment

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is a compact entertainment device that comes with a keyboard for productivity.

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Chromebook advantages

Chromebooks are known for their simplicity and security, and the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is one of the lightest, thinnest 2-in-1 devices on the market, even with the keyboard and back cover attached. We spent some hands-on time with it courtesy of Lenovo, so we can tell you what to expect.

It comes in not two, but three pieces. Use it as a lightweight (920g) tablet with the supplied magnetically attached keyboard and back stand, or detach them for use as a super-light (450g), standalone tablet. The keyboard is powered via a five-pin connector, so no need to use Bluetooth, as with third-party keyboards.

Just log in with a Google account to get started

The IdeaPad Duet boots up very quickly (Lenovo claims as fast as eight seconds) and the "verified boot" process self-checks to keep it virus-free. It comes with eight years of automatic updates which run in the background. 

As is usual with Chrome OS, you just log in with your Google account. Tablet-optimised apps are available from the online Google Play Store, including movies, TV, music, books, games and productivity software such Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus extras via the Microsoft 365 Office suite.

Folded Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

The keyboard and back cover/stand protects it when folded, but adds to the thickness.

Hardware

The IdeaPad Duet has a stylish design in dual-tone Ice Blue and Iron Grey, with a fabric-textured back cover and Surface-style stand for stability (let's call it a kickstand for convenience). The kickstand allows it to be used at many tilt angles, but means you can't use it easily in your lap or bed. In that way, it's similar to Microsoft Surface products, except the keyboard attachment has to be sitting flat, rather than sitting angled up against the screen as with Surface devices.

Keyboard

We found that when the keyboard is closed over the screen, it doesn't sit perfectly, and it is easy for the keyboard's attachment to come loose if you try to align it perfectly against the tablet edge.

The keyboard feels good to type on, but is a little cramped, as you would expect with a 10-inch device. The keys themselves are comfortable to hit. The touchpad didn't always work though, with some taps failing to register and requiring more than a couple of taps to work. 

Separated Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

The keyboard attaches magnetically with pin connectors, removing the need for Bluetooth connection.

Screen

With a screen resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels, the 10.1-inch touchscreen displays higher than full-HD and though glossy, it has a good anti-reflective coating to cut down glare. It has excellent vertical and horizontal viewing angles, plus it supports 10-point multi-touch for Chromebook gestures. 

CPU and connectivity

The processor is an eight-core MediaTek P60T, with Integrated ARM Mali-G72 MP3 GPU for graphics. There's 4GB RAM (memory) and 128GB onboard solid-state flash storage. Performance is modest, as you'd expect from a tiny tablet, but adequate for everyday tasks.

Wireless connectivity comes via Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), which gave us very good speed, and Bluetooth 4.2. The tablet also has two cameras: a 2MP (megapixel) front camera and 8MP rear camera.

Battery life

The 7000mAh battery charges via an included 5V/2.0Amp adapter, and gave us almost six hours of life on a single charge in our heavy usage test. Lenovo claims up to 10 hours of battery life, based on a mix of standby, web browsing and general use, but so do other tablet makers. It depends on what you're doing, but with general use you can expect to get a full day out of it between charges.

Like the tablet itself, the 5V charging adapter is small and took us almost four hours to recharge from flat to 80% full, and another hour to take it up to 100%.

Sound

The speakers are located at the top and we found them OK for personal listening, though a little weak unless you crank them up (but not too much or you'll get some distortion). You might want to play with app equaliser settings to get the most out of them.

Touchscreen on Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

The screen supports 10-point multi-touch gestures, plus there's a touchpad.

Software

The IdeaPad Duet runs Chrome OS (Android 9 version) and can be loaded with apps from the Google Play Store. This makes it a versatile Chromebook, because it can be used for almost all of the same things as a smartphone. Apps can be opened in full-screen mode and used with the keyboard and touchpad in a laptop configuration, or just used as a regular tablet with the touchscreen input. 

Chromebooks focus on being internet-connected, using web-based apps such as Google Docs, Sheets and Drive

In tablet mode you get a desktop layout similar to Windows, with system settings showing up in the bottom-right corner, along with regularly used apps at the bottom, plus an app drawer that can stretch for many screens depending on how many apps are installed.

Being a Chromebook, the focus is on being connected, with web-based apps such as Google Docs, Sheets and Drive, but there's an offline mode available when you're away from Wi-Fi. With the usual Chromebook emphasis on cloud connection, the local storage of 128GB is reasonable, with documents stored in the Downloads folder and accessed by the Files app. 

Despite the mobile-style processor, we found performance to be decent in everyday general use, though you will notice it start to slow if you tend to leave a lot of browser tabs open at once. We found no performance issues when using Docs and browsing the web.

Getting started

When you switch it on, you have to select the language (set to Australia by default), then connect it to Wi-Fi. It then checks for updates after you accept the licence agreement (also you should opt out of the data collection at this point). You then have to sign in to the laptop using your Gmail account and password. You are given the option to put in a six-digit PIN, which you can use instead of a password to log in to the laptop. 

By default, the laptop backs up data, including app data, to Google Drive. Location is also enabled. Any apps that you have installed on other devices can be installed on the laptop if they are compatible with it. This can include apps such as Slack, WhatsApp, Spotify, and Plex. 

Connect an Android phone to send texts, share an internet connection or unlock your laptop

Google Assistant is enabled and you are asked if you would like to use the Voice Match feature. Google Assistant is only available when the laptop is connected to a power source in order to save battery. By default, Google Assistant spoke with an American accent. We had to change the language to get her speaking in an Australian accent.

Connect a phone

An Android phone can be connected so that the laptop can be used to send text messages, share an Internet connection, or unlock your device. If it finds your phone in your account, simply select it and click on "Accept and continue". 

Gestures are then shown on the screen, which allow you to swipe up to go Home; swipe up and hold to switch to another open app, and swipe from the left side of the screen to go to a previous screen. It's important to know these as they can make general usage a lot simpler. 

After all that, you are ready to hit the road with this very compact and capable Chromebook. 

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