Lenovo Chromebook Duet review: Best small 2-in-1 Chromebook around
The Chrome OS 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard is a sweet ultraportable work and play companion.
Joshua GoldmanManaging Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
ExpertiseLaptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and dronesCredentials
More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Good performance, battery life for its size and price
Cover and detachable keyboard included
Only connection is a single USB-C port
Keyboard is cramped for extended use
With Android apps available on Chromebooks, lightweight tablets with a detachable keyboard like Lenovo's IdeaPad Duet Chromebook make more sense. Google has added to Chrome OS's support for tablets, too, with new touch gestures and a tablet mode for the Chrome browser making this slim, small two-in-one feel like a hybrid of the desktop side of Chrome and tablet side of Android more than earlier Chromebook two-in-ones.
If you're familiar with other small two-in-ones like the Duet you might think this is essentially a Chrome version of the first Microsoft Surface Go, and you're not wrong. Like the Go, the Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. Unlike Microsoft, though, Lenovo includes the keyboard. It also costs much less than the Go (including the newer Go 2), starting at $279 for a 64GB version or $299 for one with 128GB of storage. It's essentially a smaller, albeit less powerful, Pixel Slate that makes more sense for more people with a price more in line with what people expect a Chromebook to cost.
The Duet is built around a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, so you have a bit more height for work. It's a nice display with a 400-nit brightness, which helps with the reflections off the glossy screen. The keyboard connects with pogo pins and magnetically attaches with a solid satisfying snap. Also, the tablet supports USI active pens for writing and drawing on the screen. l tested Lenovo's pen with it and it worked well, but there's seemingly no palm rejection. For example, while taking notes with the pen, the page would regularly resize and move if I didn't keep the side of my hand off the display.
The keyboard feels reasonably good for a tablet cover, but Lenovo cut down the size of keys on the right side. I found the apostrophe key particularly frustrating: I simply couldn't seem to hit it, and instead repeatedly hit the Enter key. The keyboard isn't backlit, which isn't uncommon for cheaper Chromebooks or detachable keyboards. The small clickpad is good. However, if you tend to drag your palms while typing, you can likely look forward to some cursor jumpiness and accidental text selection.
The included back cover is a separate piece that also just snaps on. Half of the cover is a hinged stand that gives you quite a lot of range for positioning. It's a tight hinge, too, so you don't have to worry about it sliding out of position. Also, since the magnetic keyboard connection is strong and the kickstand is just wide enough, you can use this carefully on your lap. Combined with its fast startup and instant wireless tethering with a paired phone or hotspot, you can quickly start working just about anywhere.
If you're working at home or the office, you can take advantage of the USB-C port and get a dock to connect an external display, keyboard and mouse. Using this Anker USB-C hub, I worked side-by-side with a display (it outputs up to 1080p) as an extended desktop. This gives you a small screen to use as a communications device if you want to keep Slack or email or Messages open. Or you can use the Duet as a media player while you're working on your larger main display.
Inside is a Mediatek octo-core Helio P60T processor, 4GB of memory and either 64 or 128GB of eMMC flash storage. With no card slot for expansion and only $20 separating the two, you should go with the 128GB version if you can. I was a little concerned about having only 4GB of memory in this thing. Using the Cog system viewer app, the Duet seemed to be using most of its memory most of the time. That said, performance would only get laggy for a few seconds here and there, both on its own and when connected to an external display. It would snap back and otherwise perform well, even while gaming.
Since you have access to the Google Play store, I stuck to Android games for testing, but the Duet could be paired with Google's Stadia controller and service. With its removable keyboard and kickstand, the Duet is easy to set up for gaming with a Bluetooth controller. Plus, since it only weighs about a pound (450 grams), it's light and small enough to play handheld games, too.
Lenovo's Duet Chromebook is part laptop, part Android tablet
Battery life is in the ballpark of what Lenovo promises, which is up to 10 hours. I hit 8 hours, 10 minutes on our streaming video test. Using it on and off throughout the day, I had no trouble getting through a workday, but it's all going to depend on your screen brightness and whatever it is you're doing.
Along with the USB-C port on the right, you've got a volume rocker and power button. Moving to the top you'll find far-field mics and stereo speakers. There are 2-megapixel front-facing and 8-megapixel rear cameras. Webcam and mic performance is nothing special, but certainly good enough for team video chats. The mics can also be used for Google Assistant for doing important things like setting reminders, opening Gmail, playing music, answering all your questions and finding cat videos on YouTube. The speakers are not great. They're OK for casual use, but anything more and you'll want Bluetooth headphones or speakers.
Chrome keeps growing in features and this two-in-one will continue to get updates every six weeks for the next eight years. As your main device, its performance and size may be a little limiting. But if you're looking for something for pure mobility or as a secondary device, this is a smart choice. I can certainly see why Chrome users are excited about it, especially at $300 or less.