US$500 / AU$799 at Big W
Enter the IdeaPad Chromebook Duet 5. It's packing more
power and memory, and the screen is big and vibrant. Although it
appears to be the perfect sequel device at first glance, there were
a few shortcomings that knocked it down a few pegs.
Image: Michael Crider/IDG
Unfortunately, there were a couple of things that kept this
otherwise excellent machine from reaching the near-perfect status
of its predecessor. With a larger price comes higher expectations,
so the sacrifices count for a lot more.
While the Duet 5 outshines its predecessor at laptop-style
tasks, especially video, its design changes make it less effective
as a tablet. At this price range, it's hard to recommend over a
conventional Chromebook. Unless you really need that gorgeous OLED
screen, there are more practical choices out there.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 is a Chrome OS-powered tablet with a
full keyboard and trackpad attachment plus a detachable kickstand.
It's the same setup as the original Duet, super-sized from ten
inches to 13.3, approximately the same size as a Surface Pro. But at about half the price and
including a keyboard in the box, it's a much better bargain.
The screen isn't just bigger, it's much better. While
the resolution is actually a small step down at 1920×1080, it's
been changed from a standard LCD to a brilliant OLED panel, the
same kind of vibrant tech you'll see on smartphones and high-end
media laptops. That makes every pixel pop with amazing contrast and
Dual USB-C ports,
nice! Image: Michael Crider/IDG
The Duet 5 improves in a couple of other vital areas, too. The
new Snapdragon SC7180 is a big improvement over the MediaTek chip
on the original and it's now offered with up to 8GB of memory. I'd
heartily recommend that upgrade for almost any Chromebook. On the
review unit, it makes the OS pop and snap with a lot more
smoothness. It also has a boosted 128GB of storage, though for
Chrome OS, that's not especially important.
The keyboard and trackpad are notably better on this model. The
extra width gives it more of a full laptop feel and the extra space
for your fingers makes it easier to get around the UI. I also
appreciate that there's a USB-C port on both sides, which makes
charging the tablet up on the go much more convenient. And that
low-power ARM hardware means it can juice up — albeit slowly — on
as little as ten watts from a mobile USB-C charger.
Both the keyboard and
the fabric-covered kickstand can be removed for a minimal tablet
setup. Image: Michael Crider/IDG
I'd have liked to have seen a stylus included in the package and
perhaps a fingerprint sensor for easy logins — I know it's an easy
addition on that Qualcomm chip. But for this price, what you get is
still a bargain. There are a few Chrome OS annoyances that haven't
been fixed, like a weird bug that forced me to log in with a full
password instead of a PIN several times, but I'm laying those
squarely at the feet of Google.
Great as a laptop…
There are a few tasks that the Duet 5 excels at and does better
than the original. First, it's absolutely fantastic at video. Even
though 1080p resolution isn't anything special, the OLED panel is,
as it makes any kind of fullscreen video look great. This also
means it's a good lightweight, low-cost option for game streaming
on Xbox Game Pass, Stadia, or GeForce Now.
Image: Michael Crider/IDG
The Duet 5 is also good at conventional laptop stuff: email,
word processing, web browsing, you know the drill. Anything you'd
sit down for an extended time to do on a laptop, the Duet 5 can
handle. Its keyboard isn't quite as good as Microsoft's pricey
Surface add-ons or a scissor-switch, but it's more than adequate
enough to pound out a thousand words or two.
Battery life is impressive, too. I was able to go for more than
two workdays on a single charge. This thing could stream the entire
Lord of the Rings trilogy with a Hobbit movie
thrown in for good measure. That Snapdragon hardware and Chrome OS
software combines for a marathon travel machine.
…Not great as a tablet
The Duet 5 isn't effective as a tablet. The larger 13-inch
screen and tiny bezels make it difficult to hold comfortably, even
though it's a light tablet for its size.
The 13-inch Duet
dwarfs the 8-inch iPad Mini 6. Image: Michael Crider/IDG
The 16:9 aspect ratio is pretty bad for holding, making it too
wide or too tall for basic browsing. Games from the Play Store that
would work fine on a phone are cumbersome to play in this form
factor. Ditto for tasks like reading a book — after trying to use
the Kindle app for a few minutes I reached for my phone instead,
welcoming the option to use it with just one hand even on a
relatively tiny screen.
The 13-inch Duet 5
compared to the iPad Mini 6 and Pixel 5. It's freakin' huge! Image: Michael Crider/IDG
I suspect that Lenovo is saving money by repurposing a laptop
OLED panel for this tablet design — the aspect ratio and resolution
is a dead giveaway. Combined with the thin bezels that make it
cumbersome to hold, these design choices push the Duet 5 much
closer to laptop territory than, say, an iPad Pro or a Surface Go.
This is a real bummer because the need to use a kickstand for real
work with the keyboard limits its utility. While the folding,
removable kickstand is fine at what it does, it makes the whole
thing far less comfy to use on a couch or a bench.
The Chromebook Duet 5 is almost exactly what I asked for in a
sequel to the original Duet. But, as it turns out, it's not what I
wanted. It's still an excellent tablet, especially if you're
looking for something that will outlast an intercontinental flight
in terms of battery life. It will also play videos like a
But the laptop-focused design — and that awkwardly wide screen
in particular — means that the Duet 5 loses major convenience
points as a tablet. If you're okay with using it like a laptop most
of the time and accepting its shortcomings, it's still a fantastic
deal for the hardware you get. But, for most users looking for
something in this form factor and price range, I'd recommend a
conventional Chromebook instead.