Since the Lenovo Chromebook Duet arrived on the scene back in January 2020 at CES, most users have been a bit enamored by the diminutive tablet with the bright, beautiful display and very low starting price. After all, getting a great tablet, kickstand cover and keyboard/trackpad combo in the box for $299 is pretty amazing and makes for a great overall Chromebook experience. Add to that mix the fact that we’re starting to see pretty deep discounts on this package for the shopping season and picking up a Duet has never been more attractive.
There’s one issue that’s been a bit of a thorn in many sides, however, and that is the fact that this Chromebook doesn’t behave like others when hooked into a USB-C docking station. In fact, it behaves unlike just about any other device we’ve ever seen with a USB-C port on board. I won’t go any further into a rant here as I’ve done that quite a bit, but I’m still a bit baffled why this little Chrome OS tablet didn’t get the simple extended display treatment other far-less-prominent Chromebooks have had for years. It was an odd omission for sure.
Verified: how to get a proper extended display with the Duet
Not too long ago we began hearing about users having some luck with different display adapters and being able to extend the Lenovo Duet’s display out to multi-monitor setups of up to two additional screens. Though hearing of these anecdotes, try as I might, I could not get a workable resolution output to any extended display with the handful of USB-C adapters around our office. To be honest, I’d all but given up on the idea of extending the Duet’s display in any workable fashion.
However, a comment in the bug thread for this issue prompted me to rethink my methods and dig up an older display output tech that I’d not considered in years: DisplayLink. Chromebooks began supporting DisplayLink back in 2016, so this isn’t anything new. However, with the arrival of USB Type C on most Chromebooks in the past few years, the need for DisplayLink has nearly vanished. For those unfamiliar, DisplayLink can create display outputs over standard USB 3.0 ports and requires some special drivers to do so on Windows and MacOS systems. Chrome OS has these drivers built in, so DisplayLink works just fine on any Chromebook you have lying around at this point.
After seeing the comment in the bug report about a user having success with a DisplayLink adapter, I realized we have a couple of those lying around the office and I set out to give it a go. You know what? I’m typing this article on the Lenovo Chromebook Duet extended to a portable 1080p monitor at full resolution and full 60hz refresh rates. The setup isn’t pretty, requiring a USB A to C adapter (DisplayLink adapters are USB Type A) to plug into the Duet and a DVI to HDMI adapter to get to the right output for most monitors. But it is working.
With a better adapter (like the ones we’ll link below), you could clean this up quite a bit. You’ll still need the USB A to C adapter to get the right output from the Duet, but after that point you’ll have a clean HDMI port to hook into. For desktop monitors, this works OK, but you still need more adapters to charge your Chromebook at the same time since the Duet only has one USB Type C port. For a fully-mobile setup, you’ll also need external power for the monitor since DisplayLink doesn’t carry power along the connection like we see with the single cable USB Type C setup.
I did test my simple USB Type C Samsung dock and verified that I could run the DisplayLink connection from the USB Type A port there while also having a spot for power to pass through to my tablet, but that doesn’t really fix the monitor power issue. If this is a setup you’d like to use on the go, you are 100% going to need a battery pack in your bag at all times to get some juice to the display. If you are planning on using this at your desk most times, no worries there as your monitor obviously stays plugged in.
One other consideration before you go to assemble your workstation: I’d highly recommend a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Again, with the Duet’s limited port selection, hooking up an external keyboard and mouse is far simpler with Bluetooth, and our favorite pair is still the Logitech K580 and M355 as they are both designed to work perfectly with Chrome OS and still get the job done every time they are needed.
Is this the most perfect desktop setup? Not at all. In fact, I’d only go this route if forced to. With DisplayLink being a technology that taxes the processor a good bit, performance isn’t great, here. The Duet is already a slow Chromebook experience, so this setup just makes it feel a bit more sluggish. However, compared with completing this post on the Duet’s included keyboard/trackpad and 10.1-inch screen, I can definitely say that having a larger extended display made my task far simpler to accomplish.
I’m still hoping that a Snapdragon 7c Chrome OS tablet or something with MediaTek’s upcoming 6nm MT 8195 may be that tiny, light Chromebook detachable I’ve been after for both desktop work and leisurely browsing, but those devices are still a ways off. While I wouldn’t want to bind myself to the Duet on a daily basis, it gives me all sorts of hope for what this setup could be with a Chromebook that simply has proper display output via USB Type C and a bit more oomph under the hood. Lenovo didn’t see fit to make that happen with the Duet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work around it if you are bound and determined to make this tablet a productivity machine, too. Hope this helps make that a reality for some of you looking.