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Lenovo Chromebook Duet now available, but don't call it a tablet
Lenovo today kicked off sales for the Chromebook Duet, a laptop-tablet hybrid that the company first revealed at CES 2020. The Chromebook Duet is available from Lenovo.com for $279 and $299 for the 64 and 128GB variants, respectively.
We spent just a couple of days with the device, so here are some of our initial impressions.
Lenovo clearly thinks of the device as a Chromebook first and as a casual browsing device second. It’s similar to the Google Pixel Slate in that it includes a slate that snaps to a thin keyboard that doubles as a cover. The convertible design allows you switch from traditional Chromebook to a tablet with a quick yank on the keyboard. The Chromebook Duet also comes with the snap-on rear cover that acts as a stand. Together, the keyboard and rear cover sort of feel like a folio, giving the device a notebook-like experience and plenty of protection.
As for the Lenovo Chrome Duet itself, it has a 10.1-inch Full HD IPS LCD screen with 400nits of brightness and a 70% color gamut. The main body resembles the size and shape of the Apple iPad Pro, though it is noticeably smaller than the 11-inch iPad. I found the screen to be plenty sharp and bright after spending a short weekend with it. I’d call it thin and light on its own, though it naturally takes on weight and bulk with the included accessories.
Controls and ports on the slate are minimal. A power button and volume toggle are high on the right side, and a USB-C port joins them. There’s no headphone jack, nor are there any USB-A ports for legacy input/output, or even an SD/microSD card slot. The slate attaches to the keyboard magnetically via three copper contacts that are on the bottom edge.
They keyboard feels a wee bit cramped, but it is still quite good. The keys have that traditional Lenovo shape and travel/feedback. There’s a full row of number keys and a full row of function keys for adjusting volume, brightness, cycling through apps, and similar. Some will surely appreciate that the keyboard has a trackpad. Speaking of which, the trackpad felt great and was quick and responsive.
In all, the hardware package comes across as well conceived and put together. I feel like it would shine as a work machine when cramped into an airplane seat with a deadline waiting for you on the other end of your flight.
The IdeaPad Duet runs Chrome OS, not Android, though it is compatible with Android apps. It supports an optional USI stylus for pen-based input. Lenovo says it is working with accessory makers to ensure some third-party stylus options are available soon.
Lenovo didn’t make it clear if the review units are running final or pre-release software. Either way, it’s a bit buggy. The company worked with Google to come up with a series of gestures to make it more workable as a slate. If everything functioned as described in the reviewer’s manual, it might actually be legit. Instead, we’re left wanting more. Much more.
If you’re at all familiar with the navigation gestures of Android 10, that’s sort of how the Chromebook Duet is supposed to work. Swipe up for the app tray, swipe up and hold for multitasking, and swipe up and then sideways for opening two apps. However, these gestures hardly worked at all. The only thing I could get it do to was to open the app drawer.
Moreover, the Chromebook often froze when transitioning from laptop to tablet mode. This was a big headache. You could be using the Lenovo Chromebook Duet as a tablet and then set it on the keyboard only to find that it didn’t recognize or want to work with the keyboard. It took some futzing about to get them talking to one another. This definitely marred the experience some.
Thank goodness, then, that Lenovo has committed to eight years of system updates. We’ll have to hope the Lenovo Chromebook Duet ages like a fine wine and only gets better over time.
Look for a full review of Lenovo’s affordable convertible in the weeks ahead.