Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet takes the 2-in-1 approach to the Chromebook: the screen section can be used as a standalone tablet, or you can attach the keyboard and kickstand, and type away. Running Chrome OS and with support for Android apps, this diminutive 10-inch multi-modal device, whose starting price is just £279.99 (inc. VAT) in the UK, or $249.99 in the US, looks like excellent value. Let’s find out how it shapes up.
There are three IdeaPad Duet Chromebook models available on Lenovo’s UK website. All are powered by a MediaTek P60T processor with an integrated ARM Mali-G72 GPU and run on Chrome OS. Also standard across the board is 4GB of RAM, 802.11ac wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.2, a 10.1-inch 1,920-by-1,200 IPS screen with 400 nits brightness, a 7000mAh battery and a pair of cameras (2MP front, 8MP back).
My entry-level £279.99 review unit had 64GB of internal storage, of which 18.8GB was used out of the box, leaving 45.2GB for apps and data. The mid-range £269.99 model doubles the storage to 128GB, while the top-end £319.99 model adds a stylus.
The 10.1-inch screen sits in fairly large bezels, so the tablet is a little larger than you might expect. Still, it’s by no means unwieldy at 239.8mm wide by 159.8mm deep by 7.35mm thick and 450g. With the keyboard and kickstand, the dimensions and weight are 244.87mm x 169.31mm x 18.2mm, and 920g.
That weight isn’t far beneath the very lightest of laptops, but it is unfair to make that comparison, so I won’t give any laptop examples here. What’s noteworthy is that the complete kit is small enough to stow away in the tiniest of backpacks; it even dropped neatly into the top pocket of a rucksack I use regularly.
The tablet is made of plastic rather than metal, and might be susceptible to drops — although, that said, it felt sturdy enough in the hand. It’s nicely designed with a mid-blue section at the top lending a distinctive appearance.
There is just a single USB-C port on the tablet, and that’s used for charging as well as for attaching a wired headset. Lenovo bundles a USB-C adapter for a 3.5mm headset jack, which is a nice touch.
The kickstand, which attaches to the back via very strong magnets, feels solid. It won’t hold the tablet upright in portrait mode, though – it’s strictly for use in landscape orientation. This two-piece kickstand-based design means the IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is only appropriate for desk-based work with the keyboard attached. Unlike a clamshell laptop, it’s near impossible to work sitting on an armchair or lounging on a sofa.
The kickstand has a nicely tactile fabric back, and feels tough enough to provide good protection for the device when it’s sitting in a drawer or on a desk, and perhaps even in transit – so long as those magnets hold.
The keyboard also attaches to the tablet using magnets, and has pogo-pins for data sharing. The magnets are strong enough under normal conditions, but slippage in transit is a potential worry. On balance, I’d want to use a sleeve when travelling.
The 10.1-inch IPS touchscreen offers 400 nits of brightness and covers 70% of the NTSC colour gamut. This, along with a pair of stereo speakers, makes video catchup a perfectly feasible use case. Using both Chrome OS and Android apps was a pleasant enough experience, and anyone with an Android handset will immediately feel comfortable with the use of gesture controls to get around. The few shortcut keys for app control on the keyboard’s top row also enhance usability.
The screen is on the small side for many productivity tasks, though. There isn’t enough space for serious spreadsheet work, and it’s impossible to have two documents open side by side — in viewability terms at any rate. If you just need one working window you should get by OK, unless you’re working with a commented document, in which case the actual writing area is distinctly cramped.
The keyboard will be challenging for many people because it’s packed into an area just 244mm wide. With the exception of the arrow keys, the space bar and top row, the keys have Lenovo’s characteristic pot-bellied design. The QWERTY and number keys are reasonably sized, but the punctuation keys on the right are rather narrow. If the keyboard size isn’t a problem, then typing is a rewarding experience thanks to the bouncy and responsive keys.
The touchpad is very small and looks like it will be cramped in use, but it’s actually large enough to take the cursor across the screen in one sweep. Still, for many may prefer to prod at the touchscreen.
The MediaTek P60T processor with 4GB of RAM is not designed to handle heavy workloads. I found working into web apps, viewing video and browsing web pages all perfectly fine. But even flicking a YouTube stream into full-screen mode involves a wait while the command is executed. Basic productivity tasks should be fine, but this is not the Chromebook for you if anything more demanding is required.
Battery life is reasonable. In one typical session with a small pop-out streaming window sitting alongside a web app the battery went from 100% to 71% in three hours. That’s pretty much in line with Lenovo’s claim of 10 hours for the IdeaPad Duet Chromebook.
Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is neat, portable, and functional. The keyboard is rewarding to use provided your hands are small enough, and battery life is good. The fabric kickstand protects the tablet nicely.
The processor will complain if you try to do more than just the basics, and it’s advisable to opt for the mid-range device, because for just a small uplift in cost you get a lot more storage (128GB versus 64GB). Overall, this is a solid little 2-in-1 Chromebook that does double duty as a standalone tablet. Considering the keyboard and kickstand are bundled, it offers very good value for money.
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