Here’s the thing: I’ve been pretty harsh on Chromebook tablets over the years. From the early attempts like Acer’s Chromebook Tab 10 to the swing-and-a-miss that was the Pixel Slate to the latest HP Chromebook x2 11, I’ve not found a tablet running Chrome OS at this point that I’ve loved using. But this new tablet from Lenovo – the Chromebook Duet 5 – is one that has surprised me in just about every way. And it has become a device that I now pick up constantly after pretty much writing it off when it was first announced. There are lots of reason for that, so lets chat a little bit about the first Chromebook tablet that has actually become part of my everyday carry.
Why I haven’t gotten along with tablets lately
I feel like I always have to add this caveat when talking about any tablet – Chrome OS, iOS or Android: I’m not really a tablet guy. Between a thin/light Chromebook and my 6.4-inch phone, I feel like I have things pretty well covered. A tablet most times just feels like another tech thing to carry around and it’s hard for me to make a use case for them. I do most of the tablet-type stuff on my phone and when I need a bigger screen, I hop over to my Chromebook. With my Chromebook’s touchscreen, convertible setup and a keyboard, there’s not much something like the iPad Pro could offer that I can’t already get from my phone/Chromebook combo.
So, with that in mind, when Chrome OS tablets do show up, I try my best to give them a shot, but unless they are great with something like gaming or are ultra-light and can be used in place of my phone for some activities, I have a hard time figuring out what to even do with them. So, what generally happens is I leave the keyboard portion attached full-time and just use it like a Chromebook. But we all know that detachables make for slightly inferior Chromebooks just as much as a convertible Chromebooks make for slightly inferior tablets. So if I’m just going to end up using it as a Chromebook, why not just get a Chromebook?
And that’s how I came into this review period with the Lenovo Duet 5. Right off the bat, I looked at the screen size – it’s a 13.3-inch 16:9 FHD OLED screen, by the way – and thought to myself, “Who in the world would want to pick up a 16:9 13.3-inch tablet and actually use the thing?”
As a Chromebook, that screen size is great and exactly what you get on one of my all-time favorites: the Pixelbook Go. With the Samsung OLED panel on board the Duet 5, its tiny bezels, and a super-thin form factor (it’s only 7mm thick), it has a bunch of good stuff going on: for a Chromebook. A tablet this size with this wide-screen aspect ratio is just silly, right?
And then I unboxed it. And I started to use it. And though there are some issues I have with the trackpad and the odd way Lenovo chose to support a pen slot around back to hold the not-included USI stylus, the overall experience with this tablet has completely won me over. That’s what I really want to talk about with this one, so let’s get some spec stuff out of the way so we can do that.
Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 Specs
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 comes packing the Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal eMMC storage. The screen – as I mentioned before – is a stunning FHD OLED screen that gets very bright at more than 400 nits and is flanked by a quad-speaker setup, two USB Type C ports, a volume rocker and power button. The tablet is super thin and feels cool and premium in the hand, weighing in at only 1.5 pounds and measuring in at only 7mm in thickness. On the front is a 5MP camera and there’s an 8MP on the back. As is usually the case, the cameras work OK, but don’t expect too much, here.
Specs rarely tell the whole story, however, and I’d argue that this is truer more than ever with this tablet. First off, I wasn’t real excited by the prospect of another Snapdragon 7c Chromebook. The Acer Chromebook Spin 513 and the HP Chromebook x2 11 both disappointed me in the performance department, running Chrome OS pretty slowly without a whole lot of upside in the Android app department. With ARM chips, I really expect better performance from Android apps even if Chrome OS doesn’t run the best. Sure, this Duet 5 is the Gen 2 of that same Snapdragon 7c chip, but does that really make much of a difference?
Finally, an ARM Chromebook that doesn’t feel so slow
Yeah, it does. I suppose there are a few factors at play, here, but this tablet feels SO MUCH FASTER than the HP x2 11 I just reviewed. Part of that is the Snapdragon 7c Gen 2’s higher clock speeds, but I think the lower resolution of the Duet 5’s screen (1920×1080 vs. 2160×1440) helps as well. Regardless, this Chromebook doesn’t feel like it is slogging through tasks and that makes a big difference in daily use. With it’s larger 13.3-inch screen and this performance, I’ve been taking it home each evening as my only device. No bag, no peripherals. I just grab this tablet and it’s keyboard cover when I’m headed out. And you know what? It’s been pretty great.
The back part of the cover that acts as the stand is super thin, but sturdy enough to make the Duet 5 feel solid on a table or on my lap. The keyboard is actually decent to type on and since it is so wide, typing in my lap doesn’t feel awkward or floppy. I still prefer to do longer form articles from a table setting, but I’ve typed quite a bit with this tablet in my lap on the couch and it is actually usable that way. With the performance being solid, I don’t have to worry about crashes or hangups when I’m actually trying to get work done either, so that’s nice.
Insane battery life
Then there’s the battery life that is, quite frankly, unlike any Chromebook I’ve ever used. It charges up fast and lasts for a very long time. In one span, I saw about 14 hours of actual use before I needed to hook it up. And when I did, it was full and ready to go in under an hour. Even in standby, it holds battery charge like a champ, too. During the day, I generally leave it sitting on my desk and grab it as I head out of the office. When I crack it open at home, I never end up with a randomly dead tablet on my hands. There’s always at least a bit of battery left and I’ve honestly become confident in charging it only here and there, knowing there’s likely always enough juice left in the tank to get me by.
When you mix that sort of battery life, this amazing, punchy screen and this thin, ultra-light form factor together, you start seeing why this is such a great companion device. While the quad speakers didn’t blow my mind, they are very good and positioned alongside this fantastic screen, it all makes you want to watch content on it. And play games on it. And browse the web on it. This tablet just entices you to pick it up and use it, and that’s what I think has been missing for me in the Chromebook tablet space.
Cutting all the right corners
Yeah, the trackpad is a little cheap feeling, but this is a device that invites touch interactions more than most, so it hasn’t been a huge bother. Would I like to see that part cleaned up a bit? Sure. I’d like backlit keys and an included USI pen, too, but what I’m getting at here is the fact that Lenovo seems to have done it again with their latest Chromebook detachable: they put the right stuff in here to make it an absolute treat to use on a daily basis. It’s fun to consume content on and can help me get some work done when needed. It’s the perfect out-and-about machine that is great at the house or the coffee shop. It’s nice to look at, nice to handle, and nice to not have to worry about the battery. It’s just great to use!
And it’s the first Chromebook tablet I feel pretty confident in recommending, too. It’s good enough at the Chromebook tasks that I don’t feel like I have to warn people about it. It’s pretty great at the tablet stuff, too, unless you were in the market for something much smaller like the iPad mini. Obviously, in that scenario, this isn’t the tablet for you. Sitting back on the couch and watching YouTube is one of my favorite things to do with it, but I could also enjoy a longer movie on Netflix just as easily. The screen is mesmerizing and it just makes content consumption so much better.
While I still can’t make it my only, all-in-one Chrome OS device just yet – it won’t fully support my QHD ultrawide display at the office, which is a limitation of the Snapdragon 7c only supporting FHD external screens – this is the type of Chromebook that one day I can see myself using as both my full-time work and play device once one arrives with a tad bit more power under the hood. For what I’ve been actually using it for, though, processing power has not been an issue at all, and I think most of you watching this will find that to be the case as well.
I can’t overstate how surprised I am by how much I love this tablet. Is it perfect? Nope, but it’s a whole lot of fun to use and I have absolutely no reservations when I tell you to pick one up if a larger tablet is something you’d considering. This one is pretty great, and in so many ways I think it could be just the right Chromebook for a lot of people looking for a flexible, attractive, fun device.