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Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 vs. Lenovo Flex 5i (2021): Which should you buy?

Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook
Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5

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After fixing the small problems with the original Duet, the Duet 5 is a Chromebook tablet that you can legitimately use as a full-time computer. The Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 isn't super-powerful, but that 400-nit screen is amazing, the speakers are wonderful, and the 8GB RAM configurations handle casual browsing and light-to-normal work well.

Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook

Bright, shiny, and new

Brighter screen
Detachable keyboard
Long battery life
Better speakers
Weaker processor
Not as stable in your lap

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Abyss Blue Combo

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Following up the stellar Lenovo Flex 5, the Flex 5i bumps up the power and adopts a cooler Abyss Blue hue to its shell. That extra power means it runs down its battery a bit quicker, but it's more work-oriented than the Duet 5 and will be the more practical choice for those looking for a workhorse. That 250-nit screen is just hard to back to after you see the Duet's 400-nit panel.

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook

Traditional power

Much more powerful
More familiar 2-in-1 design
More durable
Dimmer screen
Heavier
Just okay battery life

Coming off the success of the Flex 5 Chromebook in 2020, Lenovo decided to double down on its 13-inch winner by offering it two ways in 2021. The more traditional 2-in-1 laptop form factor of the Flex 5i Chromebook provides more power, but the detachable Duet 5 Chromebook sports a much, much better screen and far longer battery life thanks to the less-powerful, more efficient Snapdragon 7c Gen 2. Both of these are among the best Chromebooks, but which one you get comes down to what you need more: raw power and lap-friendliness or adaptability and longevity. Here's all you need to know when considering a Lenovo Duet 5 vs. Flex 5i.

Experimental vs. traditional: How much fun do you want to have?

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android CentralTwo blue Chromebooks, both alike in dignity: Lenovo Duet 5 (left) and Lenovo Flex 5i (right)

After using and reviewing the Flex 5i and its detachable fraternal twin, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5, I've struggled to pull myself away from the Duet 5. That 400-nit, 1080p touchscreen is sublime, the great speakers are worthy of a Netflix binge, and its detachable keyboard doesn't feel cramped. In short, for casual browsing and content consumption, the Duet 5 can't be beaten.

Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook Hero Tree

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

I have blown literally all Saturday with the Duet 5 playing Microsoft Solitaire Collection and e-reading some favorite stories. This device is addictive for leisure; the 13.3-inch screen sounds ridiculous, but so long as it's in landscape, the 16:9 form factor fits movies and the latest season of Demon Slayer better than the 4:3 and 3:2 most recent tablets have used. Remember 400 nits brightness means that you can take this to the back porch and keep watching the game while supervising the smoker (or the increasingly out-of-hand Nerf war between siblings).

Few Chromebooks have displays this bright, which needs to change, and once you've had that screen for a weekend, going back to the 250-nit touchscreen on the Flex 5i just feels like a punishment. That said, a touchscreen alone does not make a Chromebook: power and practicality play their roles, too, and that's where the Flex 5i starts making up ground.

CategoryLenovo Duet 5 ChromebookLenovo Flex 5i Chromebook
Display13.3-inch OLED touchscreen
1920x1080px • 400 nits
13.3-inch OLED display (touch optional)
1920x1080px • 250 nits
ProcessorSnapdragon 7c Gen 2 Compute PlatformIntel Celeron 6305
Intel Pentium 7505
Intel Core i3-1115G4
Intel Core i5-11135G7
Memory4-8GB4-8GB
Storage64GB eMMC, 128-256GB SSD32-64GB eMMC
128-512GB SSD
Ports2x USB-C (USB 3.0)
Pogo pin
2x USB-C
1x USB-A
microSD card slot
Audio combo jack
Peripheral featuresPre-bundled keyboard and kickstand
Optional Stylus
USI
Backlit keyboard
Optional Digital Pen
USI stylus compatibility
AudioQuad speakersWaves Audio stereo speakers
Battery42Whr
Up to 15 hours
Rapid Charge
Up to 10 Hours
AUE DateJune 2029June 2029
ColorsAbyss BlueAbyss Blue, Iron Grey

The Duet 5's Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 compute platform places priorities differently than the powerhouse Intel Core i3 inside the Flex 5i. When it comes to pure power, the Flex 5i crushes the Duet 5, and the same can be said of storage on the higher-end configurations. Both have 4 and 8GB configurations for RAM, and whichever one you buy get one with 8GB of RAM. Chrome is naturally RAM-heavy, albeit less so on Chromebooks, and while you can work around smaller storage if you have to, you can't upgrade the memory, so don't cheap out on it.

The Flex 5i also handily spanks the Duet 5 on port availability: it has USB-A and microSD on top of the two USB-C ports both machines sport. Again, as a tablet, real estate comes at a high premium on the Duet 5 — and you can always use good USB-C hubs to get the extra ports when you need them — while the normal 2-in-1 laptop has much more room for peripherals.

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

Lenovo Duet 5 vs. Flex 5i: Which is best for you?

That extra room also enables the Flex 5i to have a backlit keyboard, something I miss on the Duet 5, but the core typing experience on the Duet 5 is still the best for any Chrome OS tablet to date. So if you're using a Chromebook on your lap or in the dark in actual laptop mode, the Flex 5i wins for stability and reliability, but if you're done working and ready to ditch the keyboard for some Solitaire or Star Wars binge-watching, the Duet 5 is tailor-made for it.

These laptops also sit in the $400-500 range, so it's not a matter of one being drastically more expensive, just a matter of what role you're looking to fill. If you want a fun Chromebook for weekends, vacations, and afternoons on the back porch while also still being a full-fledged laptop when you need it, the Duet 5 is worth its price tag. If you need a workhorse for your daily 8-7 (because really, who stops working at 5 p.m. these days) that can also work for leisure when the day is done, you'll want to stick with the dimmer, but beefier Flex 5i.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.