Lenovo's new Chromebook Duet 3 won't work with older USI pens

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 multiple USI pens
(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Many older USI 1.0 pens won't work with the Chromebook Duet 3.
  • According to the USI Chairman, this is due to the display design being used.
  •  It's unclear when the first USI 2.0 pen will become available.

As ChromeOS tablets become more and more prevalent in the market, so does the need and desire for a good stylus solution. The Universal Stylus Initiative was formed to help provide a better hand-writing and drawing experience, but there's one issue that is causing some unforeseen problems.

Around the same time that the original Chromebook Duet was released, the first USI-backed pens were made available. This created a no-brainer solution for those who wanted a better stylus experience as opposed to using those old rubber-tipped ones. Since then, we've seen some Chromebook tablets, such as the HP Chromebook x2 11, released with a magnetically detachable USI stylus included. 

Google Cursive on HP Chromebook x2 11 close up alt

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

But the USI 2.0 standard was introduced earlier this year, aiming to provide a "next-generation" experience for the best Chromebooks. With a USI 2.0-enabled stylus, wireless charging will become the norm, along with providing users with the ability to "use a single USI stylus across all of their USI-enabled devices."

While on the surface, that all seems great, there's a bit more to the story. Lenovo recently released the Chromebook Duet 3, its successor to the original Chromebook Duet. And at first glance, you might think that this will work with any of the USI pens that you have laying around. But what you might not know, is that this is the first Chromebook to ship with USI 2.0. 

So what's the problem with this? As we noted in our Chromebook Duet 3 review, you currently cannot purchase a USI 2.0 stylus. And making matters worse, Lenovo isn't including one in the box. The team over at ChromeUnboxed noticed the same issue, and were provided with the following comment from USI Chairman, Peter Mueller:

Because the touch and display driver are more tightly integrated for in-cell, the touch sensing has to occur within certain timing windows in between the display being driven.  It is this timing constraint that caused us to have to modify our USI spec for some in-cell panels.  We spent many months looking at alternatives to ensure backwards compatibility, but it was not doable.

We have requested clear documentation and marking, and also shipping with a 2.0 stylus (ideally) in order to minimize the confusion and user frustration.

Adding even more confusion to the mix, there's no clear indication on the retail packaging for the new Chromebook Duet 3 regarding the USI 2.0-only compatibility. Instead, you might pick up the new Chromebook, and try to use one of the (current) best USI pens, only to find that it won't work. 

On the somewhat bright side of things, the Chromebook Duet 3 is currently the only option available that relies on the USI 2.0 standard. We have yet to see any new Chromebooks released or announced with the same "limitations," but we're hoping to see a new USI 2.0 stylus pen released sooner rather than later.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks and tablets

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.