The success of Chrome OS is thanks to the cheap Chromebooks that sell en masse, not the high-end models. At CES 2020 this week, we got a chance to spend some time with the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet, a Chrome OS tablet that ticks pretty much all of the boxes.
So, what’s been the problem with Chrome OS tablets so far? To date, only two Chrome OS tablets have launched, and, frankly, neither of them have been very good. That’s Google’s Pixel Slate, which was a monumental failure that saw the company pull out of tablets entirely. The Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and ASUS CT100 were also education-focused machines. HP’s Chromebook X2 was perhaps the best effort, but it was still priced too high for general consumers.
The IdeaPad Duet solves the problems of those machines. Firstly, it’s affordable. The entire product is $279, and that includes the keyboard and kickstand cover, unlike other Chrome OS tablets that have launched to date.
Secondly, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is a Chrome OS tablet that consumers might actually be interested in. A 10-inch tablet with a keyboard and a full browser is a compelling package that might even sway some iPad users, too.
What’s the IdeaPad Duet like to use? We’ve only had a limited amount of use so far, but the machine keeps up well. It’s not as fast as a Pixelbook or Samsung’s overkill Galaxy Chromebook, but it loads web pages quick and doesn’t lag when navigating through Chrome OS. We didn’t test any games, but Android apps also ran without issue on the MediaTek chipset.
On this tablet, we’re also getting a first look at some new features for Chrome OS. This model was running on Chrome OS version 80 and includes some previously spotted gesture navigation. A “gesture bar” at the bottom supports a swipe up to go home, and a swipe up and pause to access the multitasking menu. There’s also a revamped dock that acts a lot like iPadOS.
I’ve also got to give Lenovo credit for the display here. Ten inches is probably too small for extended periods of work, but it’s a perfect compromise for portability of the form factor as a whole and media consumption. Similar kudos goes to the kickstand cover, which unlike Samsung’s Tab S6, connects using magnets.
How about the keyboard? Connecting magnetically to the tablet, the keyboard works just fine. The software instantly recognizes it and adjusts Chrome OS quickly, and there’s no input lag when typing, either. The layout of the keyboard is also decent, considering the 10-inch size, with only some buttons along the right side being made a bit smaller. There’s definitely going to be a learning curve there.
Perhaps my only big gripe is that the keyboard use case doesn’t work well when the machine is in your lap. It wobbles far too much. It’s just not stable enough for more than a few minutes of usage on your lap. If there’s a table in front of you, though, this system works very well. It connects easily, works well, and the kickstand works at basically any angle, which is excellent.
So, should you buy the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet? We’ll answer that question in May when the Duet comes to market, and we’ve had a chance to review it, but based on my first impressions, I’m pretty confident that this will be an easy product to recommend, considering its $279 price tag. Our own Kyle Bradshaw also seems quite excited at the prospect of this being a Stadia machine…
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