A few weeks ago we reported that the Lenovo Chromebook 10e was available for purchase from a few different outlets and proceeded to go out and buy one for ourselves. While I never thought for a second that I’d rather have this version of Lenovo’s tablet over the still-unreleased Duet, I did consider this education-focused version as a way to get a general feel for what life would be like with the Lenovo’s upcoming consumer-focused model.
Since that time, I’ve used the Lenovo Chromebook 10e quite a bit and, though I’ve found some issues here and there, I can easily say that my takeaway from my time with it has only solidified how much I’m going to use and enjoy the Duet when it finally makes its way to my hands.
As a device in and of itself, I don’t recommend you go buy a 10e now or in the future. For schools I think it will be a great tablet, but when the Duet comes out soon you’ll be able to get a better version of the 10e for nearly the same amount of money and it will come with a thinner, lighter chassis, more storage, and a keyboard/trackpad in the box. So, instead of a review, we want to offer up some thoughts about the 10e and how it really paves the way for what we expect from the Lenovo Chromebook Duet very soon.
The Bad Stuff
There’s more good than bad here, so I want to get the rough stuff out of the way and then talk about all the fun stuff I really enjoyed in this tablet. Let’s start with the build quality. The device is heavier, thicker, taller, and wider than the Duet will be, so in that sense it feels a tad clunky. It is still usable with one hand, but there’s no escaping the overall feel, here. This thing is meant to take a beating and you feel that when you are holding it. For me, a tablet needs to feel light, thin, and simple to use in one hand. While this 10e isn’t heavy or crazy-thick, it just feels a tad chunky and a bit uninviting.
At the top of that casing is a pair of stereo speakers that sound about as bad as you could possibly imagine. They are quiet, tinny, and pretty shameful all around. I have nothing good to say about them, really, so I’ll just leave it at that. Pack earphones if this tablet is your device for watching content.
For the time being, there is no keyboard to attach to those pogo pins on the bottom, but a first-party solution is in the works. My biggest complaint there is that the keyboard accessory – unlike the upcoming Duet – lacks a trackpad and will simply hinder the usability of this device in desktop mode for quick-hit tasks. That’s probably not a problem in a first grade classroom, but it is an issue for older users looking to get things done.
Finally, there were some software quirks like my app drawer and taskbar simply not behaving like every other Chromebook. When I logged in, most of my apps and shortcuts were missing, my app tray wasn’t arranged at all like it normally is, and my taskbar had pinned apps that I’ve never pinned on any Chromebook ever. After taking the time to set everything up and get folders made, I moved through the Beta and Dev channels for a bit and then back to Stable. This, of course, prompted a Powerwash of the device and after signing back in, all my customized stuff was gone again.
My guess is the software quirks are due to the fact that this could be running on unfinished firmware. Sure, it is on the latest build of Chrome OS, but this device is meant for the classroom and I’d wager Lenovo probably didn’t expect too many consumers to go out and buy one. After all, that’s what the Duet is for. With this in mind, there are likely bugs in the system that they feel can be worked out by the start of school in the fall and thus, our current hardware/software setup isn’t quite fully-baked.
The Good Stuff
Now that we have that stuff out of the way, let’s talk about all the stuff I really liked on this Chromebook. As we do so, I want to be very clear that my likes on this device should inform your opinion of the Duet, not this Chromebook. Even though – as you’ll soon see – there’s a lot to like about this device, the better choice will be the Duet without question.
First up, the display is lovely. At 1920×1200, the 16:10 IPS panel gets nice and bright (400 nits) with consistent viewing angles and great color. With a tablet, the primary thing you see is the screen, so I’m glad Lenovo chose to pack in a solid, attractive, and bright screen for these tablets.
While I don’t love the extra size and weight of this tablet versus the Duet, the whole package was still usable with one hand and light enough to feel like a proper tablet in my hands. Consuming content, reading, watching video and playing games were all activities I thoroughly enjoyed while using the 10e, and I imagine all these will feel just a bit better on the Duet thanks to its smaller, thinner form factor.
The performance was great as well, considering the asking price. No, this device won’t win many speed tests, but it rarely gets in its own way, either. Buzzing around the new tablet gestures, the MediaTek P60T processor held its own and as long as I kept things reasonable, it didn’t fall down all the time. I even spent some time with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse hooked in while I knocked out a few articles for Chrome Unboxed. Between creating the post, editing down some photos, creating a few graphics and sharing things to social media, the tablet performed just fine. Again, it is no speed demon, but it is quite usable.
Gaming was a breath of fresh air, too. I played some PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile, Stadia, and Roblox without much issue at all. As a matter of fact, when the Duet shows up, this may be my go-to device for Call of Duty Mobile and Stadia. Even the gyro aiming worked perfectly in Call of Duty! I was actually a bit stunned how well these games ran on the tablet and even more shocked at how much I loved playing on the bigger screen with Android games.
Finally, all this was happening while I was seeing 12+ hours of battery life. There were times when the tablet’s internal battery rating was tracking for 16 hours! While I don’t think that is even close to accurate, my testing showed an easy 12 hours of regular use and 8-10 hours of life while gaming or with other heavy use. Standby battery was solid as well and I became quite confident that leaving my 10e in the bag for a day wouldn’t yield a dead slab the next time I reached for it.
Now, if we take all that good stuff, remove the software issues (fingers crossed those issues aren’t present in the Duet), nix the part about there not being a keyboard (the Duet ships with one), and forget about the chunky/clunky stuff (as our time with the device in Vegas showed us), we start to get a very clear picture of what it will be like to use the Lenovo Chromebook Duet in the near future. Other than the speakers being terrible (I can’t verify if they are the same on both tablets), the Duet rights all the 10e’s wrongs and will offer up what I feel will easily be the best value in the Chrome OS space right now.
For $279 (or $299 for the upgraded 128GB model), the Duet will be a device many will love for the portable size, the beautiful display, and the take-anywhere flexibility. At this price, a single device can become your couch web surfer, your entertainment control, your e-reader, your gaming buddy, your news source, and the device that can also convert into something you can actually be productive on, too. There’s just so much to love about what Lenovo has put together in the Duet, and the 10e has been a great preview of it.
Based on my time with the tablet, I can easily say you should skip buying it. But I can also now confidently say that the Duet is going to be a rock-solid hit. We can’t wait to begin the review process soon and let you all know how it stands up under the hype that now surrounds it. If the 10e is any indication, I think it is going to do just fine.