I’ll say this right up front: the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is quite awesome just the way it is. There’s so much to love for the price and for many, many users out there, it already feels just about perfect. It has a high-quality, attractive build, a fantastic screen, a keyboard accessory in the box, and finally a version of Chrome OS that feels quite nice on a tablet form factor.
As I made clear in a handful of posts leading up to my review, however, there are a few things with this tablet that I’m still left wishing for. In many ways, Lenovo brought me back to the tablet side of things, giving me more reasons than ever to actually choose to do tasks on a tablet rather than on my phone or Chromebook.
In other ways, however, the Duet simply left me wanting more. A few missing features, for me, could have made this tablet go from a great Chromebook at this price to a flat-out must-have Chromebook. Sure, some of these changes would come with a tad bit of a price hike, but if a tablet could fully function as your every day carry, it would be worth the price. So, in that vein, here are some things I’d change and what I’d love to see in an upcoming Chrome OS tablet, provided we ever get another one.
Slightly bigger screen
First up, I love the display on the Duet, but I’d opt for something closer to what we got on the Acer Chromebook Tab 10. Something between 9.7-inches and 11-inches would be great, assuming we get to keep a 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratio. Just as it has done for other devices like the Pixelbook, Pixel Slate, Acer Chromebook Spin 713, the 3:2 ratio goes a long way towards making a screen feel far larger. If you’ve handled an iPad Pro 11-inch or one of Samsung’s newer tablets, you know the feeling. Larger, only by a bit, and it makes a difference when that keyboard and mouse are attached. Anything much bigger than 10.5-11 inches would be too much in my book for a tablet, but a tad bit of extra diagonal measure and that more-square aspect ratio would really go far in adding productivity.
Speakers were not a high point with the Duet, but we’ve seen phones with great sound and tablets with far better audio quality. While I don’t expect a symphonic delight in a tiny tablet, stereo speakers with a tad more oomph would go a long way in making the media experience better all around. The speakers in the Pixel Slate aren’t huge, but they sound phenomenal. Something closer to that would be a big win.
I love the fact that Lenovo gave us a way to have an actuating kickstand right in the box with the Duet, but I continually removed it to cut down on the bulk when using it as a tablet. While that included magnetic kickstand works well, I would prefer the kickstand be build into the back of the device similar to what Microsoft does with their Surface tablets. There are other options with keyboard cases where there is a multi-level kickstand built into the case and that would work, too. Having two pieces to take off and on all the time would be a great thing to remove from the Duet’s current equation, though, so I think this upgrade would be highly beneficial.
A better-spaced keyboard
This upgrade would come as a result of a slightly larger screen. A 10 to 11-inch screen would give the tablet a bit more lateral real estate and thus give the attached keyboard the same extra room to work with. It wouldn’t take much to space out the keys on the included keyboard to make for a far-more comfortable typing experience across the board.
Proper USB-C monitor output support
I have spent far too much time on this subject, so I’m just going to link my final article about this issue here. In a nutshell, the Duet cannot output anything more than 1080p at 30hz via the USB Type-C port, and this kills the productivity potential with this tiny tablet. I don’t want to spend a large portion of my day staring at a 10-inch screen, so having the ability to add a larger external monitor would be very, very beneficial and would simply put the Duet on par with every other Chromebook in existence on this front. As it stands, this Chromebook won’t give you a working resolution on any external monitor you likely own, so that setup is just not possible with the Duet.
Finally, a faster ARM processor would be a huge win. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the under-powered MediaTek chip in the Duet plays a big roll in keeping the cost down, but this chip sits right on the edge of being too slow. For a few small tasks, it is fine. For the price, it is fine. But if I was putting together a wish list for what I’d love to see in a better version of the Duet (which is kinda the point of this post), I’d love to see something like the Snapdragon 7c or 8c processor in this thing. We’ve yet to see ARM Chromebooks really show up with faster, more-modern Cortex cores, and I really think that there’s room for great improvement, here. Perhaps ‘Asurada’ and it’s much-faster MediaTek 8192 and/or one of the Snapdragon-powered devices will deliver on this front.
I think that’s all I’d ask for at this point. While those six things sound like a ton of change, they really aren’t. What Lenovo made in the Duet is pretty incredible, especially at the price they are asking. If the tweaks I’ve mentioned above ran an additional $100-$150, I think the trade-off for users like myself who really dream of using a great tablet as their primary computing device would be glad to fork over a bit more cash for the ability to operate from a single Chromebook. For now, we’re just trying to figure out if anyone else is going to step up with another shot at a Chrome OS tablet and, if they do, what that will end up looking like. With the success and popularity of the Duet, I’d imagine manufacturers are spending quite a bit of time figuring out how to counter. The points laid out above could be a good starting point.