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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook Review: Best Chrome Tablet

The Chrome tablet space is certainly heating up. While the original Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook dominated the space for over a year, there are now several compelling options at the end of 2021. Earlier this year, HP launched the Chromebook x2 11 tablet, which was the first Chrome OS tablet to run a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor. In our review, we liked a lot of things about that tablet, but the first generation 7c processor was just a bit too laggy. Luckily, Lenovo sent out the beautiful Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook for us to check out, complete with the second generation Snapdragon 7c chip inside. For brevity sake, we refer to this tablet as the Duet 5 throughout this review. There’s no doubt that the big OLED screen is the selling point on this machine, but I was incredibly curious about improvements made by Qualcomm between generations of the 7c.

In this review, we’ll answer a few key questions. First, is the Duet 5 worth its $499 price tag? That’s a rather hefty sum for a Chrome OS tablet, so it’s worth thinking about whether you really want to drop that much cash on this device. Next, can you use the Duet 5 as an everyday work machine? This is a tablet with detachable keyboard and stand. It’s important to test how well the keyboard holds up for long typing sessions and travel. Finally, is this the best Chrome OS tablet out there and should you buy it over the HP Chromebook x2 11? Let’s find out in our Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook review.

SpecificationLenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 ChromebookDimensions & Weight7.35″ x 12.4″ x .29″1.5 lbs (700 g)Display13.3″ 1920×1080 pixelsTouchscreenOLEDProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 7c Compute Platform Gen 28 coreQualcomm Adreno 618 GPURAM & Storageup to 8GB LPDDR4X on boardup to 256GB eMMC storageBattery & ChargingUp to 15 hours with fast chargeEstimated based on lower brightness settingsSecurityFront cameraWorld-facing cameraPort(s)2x USB-C (Gen 2)5-point pogo pinsAudio4x Dolby Audio speakersSmart ampConnectivity802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, MIMO, 2×2, 2.4GHz/5GHz dual bandBluetooth 5.1SoftwareChrome OSOther FeaturesDetachable keyboardAbyss Blue, Storm GreyStarts at $429

About this review: I received the 8GB/128GB model from Lenovo for review. This is the model on sale at Best Buy right now. I’ve used this as my primary Chromebook for a little over two weeks. Throughout that trial period I used it as my primary work device for writing articles, drafting lecture notes, and light video editing for my YouTube channel. 

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook build and design

Lenovo did an excellent job with the design on the Duet 5. The understated two-tone aluminum casing is classy and elegant. In addition, the tablet feels very sturdy in the hand. One thing to keep in mind, is that this is a large tablet with a 13.3″ OLED screen around front. While the Duet 5 is certainly thin and light by regular Chromebook standards, you have to pay a bit more attention when it comes to tablets. If you plan on using the Duet 5 all day as a handheld device, you’ll no doubt notice that it’s a bit bulky for that task.  I’ve used the Duet 5 as my primary tablet for lecture notes and it can be a bit heavy and seems too big too carry around the classroom. That certainly isn’t a knock on this device, as I feel the same way about my 12.9″ iPad Pro, just something worth noting when considering this device. Overall, for daily use and carrying it around in your bag, this is one of the lighter Chrome OS devices you can buy, with a super thin profile to go with it.

Bezels on the tablet are slim enough to make the front of the display pleasing to the eye. The back has a matte finish, though it does seem to still pick up fingerprints rather easily. Buttons are sturdy with plenty of click and travel, but they don’t feel too loose in daily use. As a point of comparison, the Duet 5 feels a lot more premium in hand than the original Lenovo Chromebook Duet. This isn’t that surprising given the large difference in starting price, but it is nice to see more OEMs strive for Chrome OS devices with a quality build. It’s really nice to have USB-C ports on both sides of the device, making it easier to charge the Duet 5 in a variety of scenarios. The kickstand attachment is very sturdy, but the magnets are a bit weaker than those in the HP Chromebook x2 11. I was able to accidentally detach the kickstand on a few occasions when propping the tablet up to watch Netflix.

In terms of durability, the tablet feels sturdy and doesn’t have a ton of flex, despite being an incredibly wide tablet. I didn’t drop the device while reviewing it, but I would imagine it could survive a short drop onto a variety of surfaces. This tablet lacks a headphone jack, which isn’t a big deal for everyone, but definitely worth mentioning. Thankfully, the quad speaker array is quite good, so if you can listen to audio without headphones, that may be a reasonable option. Other than that, I didn’t have any huge complaints when it comes to the build quality or overall layout on this tablet. The kickstand attachment does have one small quirk though, as it includes a slot for a USI pen that isn’t included with the tablet. This isn’t a huge deal, but it seems strange the include a built-in holder for a pen you have to buy as an optional accessory. On the whole, Lenovo did a solid job providing a more premium Chrome OS tablet most people would be happy using as their daily driver.

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook keyboard and touchpad

Chrome tablets aren’t know for being the best productivity machines out there. After all, the specs are usually less than stellar and more importantly, the keyboard comes in the form of a flimsy attachment. On the other hand, not all keyboard attachments are created equal. While I was relatively happy with the keyboard attachment on the HP Chromebook x2 11, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook far exceeded my expectations. The keyboard attachment and stand included with this tablet are actually usable for getting work done.

While a traditional clamshell Chromebook is always going to be a bit better, the Duet 5 keyboard attachment is less cramped than most detachable keyboards since it’s so incredibly wide. The key travel is also very good and it’s quite comfortable to compose an email or short blog post using this device when it’s sitting on a desk. There’s definitely something to be said for the fact you can keep the keyboard attached to the device when closed. This is something you couldn’t do with the original Lenovo Chromebook Duet, which made it quite cumbersome to carry around the tablet and keyboard separately. Indeed, this also protects the front display of your tablet when you’re carrying it around, circumventing the need for a case our screen protector in my use.

What’s more, the Duet 5 is actually something I can use on my lap as well, without getting frustrated beyond belief. There are occasional (albeit rare) ghost clicks on the touchpad, but the keyboard itself is sturdy enough to use on your lap while traveling or at home. The fact that you can use the Duet 5 on the go and in a number of environments, really adds to the value proposition for this tablet. You’re not just getting a tablet for media consumption, it’s a true 2-in-1, which you can use for work or play.

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook display and pen support

If there’s one big reason to buy this tablet, it’s the 13.3″ FHD OLED display. Being able to get work done on your Chrome OS tablet is a nice benefit, but most people are going to use a slate like this primarily for media consumption and casual web browsing. When it comes to watching Netflix, Youtube, or any other streaming service, the Duet 5 is as good as it gets. The 16:9 aspect ratio is perfect for watching movies and the colors are crisp and really pop. Brightness is off the charts, easily bright enough to consume an entire movie outside in direct sunlight and hardly be bothered. Viewing angles are excellent and there really isn’t anything bad to be said about the panel on this device.

Of course, you’ll need excellent speakers if you’re going to consume tons of media. Lenovo has you covered there as well. These quad speakers get plenty loud and clear to enjoy streaming media and games without the need for headphones. As I mentioned before, that’s a good thing since this tablet doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Duet 5 supports USI pen input, as you’d expect, but it is puzzling that Lenovo doesn’t include a USI pen in the box. Not that I expect a $60 pen to be included in general, but the slot on the kickstand attachment for storing the pen makes it awkward that you don’t get a pen bundled in the retail package. There are cheaper options for USI pens on Amazon of course, but you’re still looking at around $40 if you want one that’s precise enough to use for heavy workloads.

I spent quite a bit time using Google’s Cursive app with the Duet 5, to work on my weekly lecture and research notes. I’m happy to report the experience of using Cursive with my Penoval USI pen on this tablet is excellent. In general, I had quite a few less false touches caused by resting my wrist on the display. This is something I experienced quite a bit when testing Cursive on my ASUS Chromebook CX9 and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2. The larger canvas on this tablet also makes it very intuitive for notes and also virtual teaching with Zoom. I held a few of my online courses through Zoom with the Duet 5 and the whiteboard feature works incredibly well with such a wide display.

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook performance and battery life

That brings us to performance. My experience with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c 1st gen was less than ideal when I reviewed the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 and the HP Chromebook x2 11 earlier this year. Naturally, I was a bit skeptical that the beautiful display and build of the Duet 5 would be ruined by subpar performance and general UI lag. To my surprise, that’s absolutely not the case with the Lenovo Duet 5. Not only does this tablet fly with Chrome OS tasks, ranging from light browsing to running full Linux apps, it also runs Android apps brilliantly as well.

There’s virtually zero UI lag here, which makes it much more inviting to use this tablet as a casual media consumption device. I often felt frustrated when simply navigating around the HP Chromebook x2 11 UI, even when simply browsing the web or switching between Android app. The Duet 5 fixes all of these issues and runs Android games surprisingly great as well. Playing Asphalt 9 and similar high-end mobile games is a pleasure on this large OLED screen and you won’t see many dropped frames either. It’s truly impressive how big the performance leap really is from the Snapdragon 7c 1st gen to 2nd gen chip. Qualcomm or Lenovo, maybe both, really worked some magic with the Duet 5. While I think the slightly lower resolution screen has something to do with this (the HP x2 11 has a 2K display), there’s no denying that the second generation of the 7c is a big improvement for Chrome tablets.

Battery life is equally impressive. Lenovo claims up to 15 hours of use and that’s not far off from what I saw in regular daily tasks. Using this tablet for word processing, web browsing, and media streaming resulted in an average of 12-14 hours of total off-charger usage. That’s an entire day worth of work and entertainment for me, as well as most other people out there. Of course, if you run it at full brightness outside or play games all day, you can expect to dip into the 8-10 hour range. Even still, 8-10 hours is still incredibly solid for a Chromebook with a large OLED display.

Conclusion: Should you buy it?

Absolutely. If you’re looking for a Chrome OS tablet, there really isn’t another one I’d recommend over the Duet 5. At a price point of $499 at Best Buy, this is the best premium Chrome OS tablet ever made. Of course, if you want to spend way less money and get a smaller, less impressive display, the original Lenovo Duet is still fine too. However, those looking for the best tablet experience with Chrome OS, you’ll want the bigger brother. The Duet 5 beats the HP Chromebook x2 11 in nearly every way, most importantly in performance, battery life, and keyboard comfort on the go.

There are other nice options around $500 in the Chromebook space, like the Galaxy Chromebook 2, but those are all traditional clamshell models. If you need portability, versatility, or just want the best media consumption experience, the Duet 5 is impossible to beat. This is definitely one of the best Chromebooks from Lenovo in quite some time.

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 is a larger, more premium version of the Chromebook Duet from 2020. You get a bright OLED display, detachable keyboard, and USI pen support. All of those features for $499 makes this a solid value in the Chrome tablet space.

 

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