When it comes to sequels, the point is always to at least attempt to be better than the original. As we all know, that doesn’t always happen. In the case of Lenovo’s latest Chromebook tablet, however, the company has delivered an upgrade over the much-loved original that makes for a better ChromeOS tablet and Chromebook in basically every single way. So, let’s take a look at all the ways they pulled off the perfect sequel in the new Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3.
Before we get into that, let me clarify one thing. There’s never been “the perfect Chromebook” and there most likely never will be. There are just too many factors and subjective options for that to actually exist. Besides, what is “perfect” for me won’t necessarily be “perfect” for you anyway, so when I say the Duet 3 is a perfect sequel, I don’t mean it is a perfect Chromebook. There are absolutely flaws, here, but what Lenovo has done from the first generation to the second is pretty impressive, so let’s dive in.
Build quality and design
Before you even open this device up, you’ll notice some upgrades right off the bat. The kickstand back and detachable keyboard are here once again with their cloth exteriors just like before, but the fit and finish is so much better this time around. The back plate is extremely thin and though the keyboard portion is about the same as before, the entire piece feels more sturdy. Additionally, the magnets holding things together are far stronger than on the original Duet and it makes for a more-solid feel in the hand when everything is closed up. The keyboard latches on solidly, the back plate drops right into position, and the keyboard portion holds its place against the screen in a very satisfying way when things are all closed up.
Around the outside, you see the speakers placed in a far better position for stereo separation and a USB Type C port on both sides this time around. I wish Lenovo would have added a microphone/headphone jack ( to the selection, but it is sadly missing again. With the volume rocker, power button and camera being the only other parts of the outside of this device, there’s not much else to remark on, and that’s a good thing. It makes for a simple, clean aesthetic that feels great and looks very nice, too.
Crack open the casing and you are met with a very good looking tablet. Once the outer parts are removed, the mostly-aluminum tablet is thin, light, and firm in the hand. One-handed use feels perfect and the small bezels around the screen provide enough space to use this device as a tablet while remaining out of the way enough to still look modern. With the tablet keyboard and back plate attached, the weight is perfectly portable at just over 2-pounds. As a tablet only, that weight drops to just over 1-pound and paired with the 7.9mm thin body, this thing feels fantastic to hold. I really love what Lenovo has done with this hardware and in every way it is an upgrade over their first attempt.
Small, meaningful screen upgrades
For a tablet, one of the most meaningful parts of the hardware is the screen. When we strip all the rest of this Chromebook away, you are basically holding a display, so it needs to be a good one. Thankfully, Lenovo once again took the original Duet and made it better. We now have an 11-inch 16:10 display versus the original’s 10.1-inch measure, and things are still bright, colors are punchy and viewing angles are perfect. At 400 nits, this Chromebook can be used outside when there’s a bit of shade and when indoors, it has all the brightness you could ask for. At 1920×1200 resolution, things look extremely sharp as well, making for my favorite Chromebook tablet screen yet.
With something like the HP Chromebook x2 11, you get the benefit of a 3:2 display, but it’s pushing way more pixels than needed with its QHD resolution. The Duet 3 gets the pixel density perfect for the screen size and mobile processor inside, and it does so with an aspect ratio that works fine both on the desk and in the hand; though I would have loved to see Lenovo go with a 3:2 1920×1280 layout if I was nit picking a bit. Additionally, the rounded corners of the display bring a thoughtfully refined look to the perfectly-symmetrical bezels and I find basically nothing to complain about with this display.
While we’re here, I should mention that you get a 5MP front-facing camera and an 8MP shooter on the back, but don’t let those numbers fool you. The quality is still decidedly Chromebook and the dynamic range is pretty poor. It’ll be fine for a video chat or to scan a document, but don’t plan on snagging family photos with these cameras. It’s a bummer, sure, but the extra megapixels do help make things look a bit better than your average Chromebook.
Big keyboard and trackpad upgrades
The keyboard and trackpad on the Duet 3 are even bigger improvements, giving you a solid option for navigating the desktop UI of ChromeOS. Is it the best keyboard or trackpad I’ve ever used? No, not by a long shot, but the difference in this and the original cannot be overstated. With the larger display size, there’s more room for better key spacing and Lenovo took full advantage and delivered a far-better overall typing experience. The keyboard, while still smaller than standard, is really nice to type on once your hands get the hang of things. The keys are clicky, they have plenty of travel, and they allowed me to type long-form articles with no real issues at all.
The trackpad is small, but overall quite good. The click is really nice and the surface – though plastic – stayed smooth during my use. Even outside where humidity tends to make trackpads a bit sticky, this one held up quite well for me. Though I carry around a Logitech Pebble mouse in my bag for remote work situations, I didn’t really feel that absolute need for it with the Duet 3. The trackpad is plenty usable for shorter work periods.
Huge performance gains
Again, when compared to the original, the biggest step up is really in the performance category. The Duet 3 is leveraging the same Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 processor that impressed me in the Duet 5 and you feel it at every turn. Whether it’s getting productive on the desktop or swiping around in tablet mode, there’s no denying the speed gains you get in the Duet 3 versus the original Duet. While still not what I would consider wildly-fast, the Duet 3 is fast enough for most things you’ll want to do on a Chromebook and it can even stand up to multi-monitor setups, too. There were hints of lag here and there when I had my external QHD screen attached with multiple virtual desks and lots of apps running, but it was never unusable.
If I kept things confined to the internal display, there was little I asked of the Duet 3 that it couldn’t deliver on. Our unit has 4GB of RAM and only 64GB of storage, but the model at Best Buy looks to be starting with double that storage at 128GB. I’m hopeful that a version shows up in consumer channels with 8GB of RAM like the Duet 5, but we don’t yet have confirmation of that. While I think the extra RAM would help keep things smooth, if you are generally using this as a tablet and part-time productivity machine, the 4GB RAM limitation isn’t too worrisome. And all of this performance comes along with a 12-hour battery life that lives up to the promotional material. With the addition of quick charging, this little tablet never feels like it lacks mobility from a power standpoint: it goes all day long and tops up fast.
Right now, the Duet 3 is $379 at Best Buy, and for that price, I think this is a fantastic deal. This tablet is fun to use, powerful enough for most tasks, will get regular updates until June of 2029, and is a form factor that we don’t get too often in the ChromeOS space. But there are a few caveats we have to discuss before we wrap this up.
First up are the speakers. While I mentioned the positioning making for better stereo separation, the actual sound is pretty bad, still. They are thin and lack any real bass, so if you are kicking back to catch up on an episode of Stranger Things, I’d recommend some headphones.
And then there’s the whole mess with the USI pen support on this Chromebook. Simply put, this device is a USI 2.0 Chromebook, and while that brings some cool upgrades like better tilt support and wireless charging, it also means support for in-cell displays. The Duet 3 utilizes one of these in-cell displays, and that unfortunately means only USI 2.0 pens will work on it.
The problem? The only one we know of at this point is Lenovo’s USI Pen 2, an it isn’t available for purchase. We finally received our Lenovo USI Pen 2 in the office after wrapping up the video, so we can at least confirm the pen works and does so in the same way you’d expect from something like the HP Chromebook x2 11, but without the ability for general consumers to buy the pen at this point, this is still a bit of a blemish on a really great device.
Once that USI Pen issue is tidied up, however, there’s little to knock the Duet 3 for. It’s the device I wanted the original Duet to be, and I really think Lenovo did everything you could expect when putting this little Chromebook together. With so many upgrades, this tablet is an easy-to-recommend device for a wide swath of users. It’s powerful enough for mobile productivity, but sized the right way for real tablet use, too. With a great screen, vastly improved keyboard, trackpad and speed, I’d have to crown this as the best overall tablet in the ChromeOS market right now. With a few changes that are likely on the way – more RAM and a supported pen – it will be tough for anyone to make a better Chromebook tablet in 2022 if you ask me. Perfect? No, but it sure does feel like a perfect sequel.