I’m shocked. Not because Google and Lenovo have produced a capable entry-level 2-in-1 with the Lenovo Duet Chromebook, but because it’s only $599 (although you can probably get it for much less right now). That’s not cheap per se, but it’s incredible value for something that doesn’t feel like a heavily compromised budget PC.
The Lenovo Duet Chromebook is actually a hardy, reliable device that works exceptionally well as a tablet, and reasonably well as an on-the-go laptop (especially for air travel). But the real winner is an 11-hour battery life, which is in no way expected at this price point.
Look, corners have been cut. That’s for sure. But Google and Lenovo have done it in a way that’s smart and works with the lower cost to still give users quite a bit of bang for their buck. You’ll want to use it more as a tablet though, with it’s beautiful 10.1-inch screen. An included keyboard and kickstand transforms it seamlessly into a laptop, but for the most part this works much better without any such attachments.
The tablet is a lightweight aluminium alloy and feels great to hold. The keyboard attached magnetically and can be used to cover the screen when not in use. It’s the simple, straight-forward 2-in-1 design that we’ve all become well acquainted with over the years, in typical Chromebook grey. But what it lacks in personality, it makes up for with that gorgeous display.
We’re talking a good 400 nits of brightness with great colour accuracy on a 1,920×1,200 screen. The contrast is good, the touchscreen is superbly responsive, and readability is no issue in natural light. Of course you’d want more if you had a bigger budget, and there’s plenty to go around, but for something so inexpensive, this is generous value-driven tech at its finest.
Not all is good here though. They keyboard feels very squished and restrictive, the kickstand feels flimsy, and the speakers are negligible. I often found myself using Bluetooth headphones (there’s support for Bluetooth 4.2 wireless) with this for media consumption, as the average-quality speakers would distort too much at higher levels.
Connectivity is quite disappointing though. There’s nothing here for expandable storage, only one USB slot, and no headphone jack. Thankfully the cameras are decent though, with an 8MP snapper on the rear and a 2MP front-facing camera that fortunately looks light and crispy enough for those Zoom calls.
Don’t try and do too much on this. You’ll be pushing that eight-core, 2.0GHz MediaTek Helio P60T processor much too hard and the poor Chromebook will start to stutter. Again, use this as you would a casual tablet and don’t expect much else. You do, after all, only get 4GB of memory along with 128GB of storage. That’s painfully slow if you’re not working with what you’ve got and think this is something meant for multi-tasking, hundreds of tabs, and photo editing. Be reasonable here and you will be rewarded well.
The battery life is my favourite thing about this petite device. 10 hours – I even got to 11 at one stage with very light use – is a great target for this price range and not something you’d find very often. Google’s promise is accurate too, as long as you’re playing within reason.
Verdict & Value
The Lenovo Duet Chromebook is a great device for those who want an extra tablet in the house that they can occasionally use to replace their laptop while travelling. I wouldn’t be relying on this for too much work, but for entertainment and browsing, it’s an excellent offering that has plenty of stamina. Given the retail price of $599 has probably dropped slightly by now, if you know where to look, this one is a no-brainer – as long as you have a need for it.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Excellent battery life; bright and legible display; very portable design; lightweight.
Lowlights: Very slow if you push it harder than you should; squishy keyboard; floppy kickstand; poor connectivity.
Manufacturer: Google, Lenovo