The $250 Lenovo Chromebook Duet was my unlikely favorite product of 2020

Lenovo Chromebook Duet Laptop Mode 3
Lenovo Chromebook Duet Laptop Mode 3 (Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

From the moment it was announced at CES last year, I knew that I would like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. I just didn't know how much I would come to love it.

We at Android Central have had the Duet ranked high on our list of the best Chromebooks for months, and it is also prominently featured on best Chromebook for students. It is hands-down the best Chromebook tablet available, and in my opinion, it gives lower-cost iPads and the best Android tablets a run for their money. Others in the tech industry have also taken notice, including notable Chromebook advocate Kevin Tofel, who named it his Chromebook of the year.

It's been a little over a month since I purchased this device on a Black Friday sale, and nearly two weeks that I've been using it on a daily basis (it was a Christmas gift — from me, to me). During that time, it has become my go-to device here at home, whether I'm on the couch, in bed, or at the breakfast table. I had hoped to be able to use it as a travel companion, but that hasn't panned out yet (here's hoping for late 2021!). But even after this short amount of time, it's safe to say that I'll be using the Chromebook Duet for a long time to come.

The almost perfect balance

Lenovo Chromebook Duet Laptop Mode 2

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

I won't waste your time here rehashing my colleague Ara Wagoner's excellent hands-on Chromebook Duet review. Still, echoing some of what she said, I wholeheartedly agree that this device is a near-perfect balance of all of the features that matter to me (and I presume most people) when it comes to a lightweight computing device.

For starters, the dang thing retails for under $300 in its top configuration of 128GB, but you can pick up a 64GB version for $50 cheaper; even less if you happen to catch it on sale. Ara recommended that you grab the 128GB version, and while I don't disagree with her logic, I can say that the 64GB version was a fair tradeoff for me to make, saving me $50 that I could spend on other holiday gifts (or better yet, just to save).

The build quality is impressive, especially for the price. The inclusion of the back cover and keyboard is great to see, particularly when Apple, Samsung, and others charge additional money for these accessories that are kind of necessary for the full experience.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet Keyboard

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Speaking of that keyboard and trackpad, I can't believe how good it is for a detachable device. Sure, it can be a little wobbly while on your lap or a lap pillow, but I've found that there is just enough give in the hinge to allow the keyboard to sit slightly off-kilter and still be very useful and stable. When I don't need to type on my lap, I'm more than happy with the new ChromeOS tablet UI changes introduced in the version 81 update. It's great for watching movies or videos, playing light games, or scrolling Twitter or Reddit. You could do those things with a cheaper Fire tablet, but the fact that the Chromebook Duet can also function as a productivity triage machine gives it a leg up on something like the Fire HD 8 Plus in my book.

The MediaTek Helio P60T processor is not ideal for heavy work like video or photo processing, and it's probably not a great coding machine. But for many real work scenarios like email, Slack, Google Workspace tasks like word processing, etc., it works great. I don't use it as my primary work device, but it's nice to know that I can get work done on it in a pinch or in short bursts.

Arguably the biggest drawback is that the Chromebook Duet only has one USB-C port, but that hasn't bothered me too much in my usage. If I need audio, I just connect my Bluetooth earbuds. And I don't really need to worry about charging it much, because the battery life has been superb. I use the device several hours a day and can go multiple days without plugging it back in.

Tablet ChromeOS is actually pretty good

Lenovo Chromebook Duet Tablet Mode 1

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Okay, you may say. Sure, the Chromebook Duet is usable with that keyboard and kickstand, but what about as a tablet? To that, I'd say, the tablet-focused UI improvements that Google put into the ChromeOS 81 update have made the experience of using a Chrome tablet pretty darn good for tablet-y things. Honestly!!

The new tablet swipe gestures work exactly as advertised and as expected, and they are easy to remember after using similar methods on my other Android devices. Not to beat a dead horse, but Google and developers still have a ways to go with Android apps on tablets. However, the ones that I've downloaded and have been using have offered a decent overall experience. For me, these include Telegram, Dashlane, Facebook Messenger Lite, Authy, and Gmail, just to name a few. Really the biggest problem that I have with the Android apps above is that they don't support hitting the return key to send a message (you have to click/tap on return on the screen).

The fact that ChromeOS supports multiple users makes this tablet a great option for families who want to save a little money and share a device (try to do that on an iPad!). And ChromeOS boots up instantly and updates in the background, which means you're going to get a stable and secure computing experience.

Speaking of those updates, I also greatly appreciate the fact that the Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date for this device is June 2028, so I'll be getting a good seven to eight years of updates and security patches for the $220, or so I spent on this Chromebook tablet. I know that iPads and iOS devices often get four to five years of similar software support, but even Apple can't beat this deal!

In conclusion

Lenovo Chromebook Duet Laptop Mode 1

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

I've put it on record that I now live in the mid-tier tech bracket and enjoy using my great but inexpensive Pixel 4a as well as my basic Fitbit Inspire 2 tracker. Good tech is getting cheaper, and cheap tech is getting better, so why pay more thank you need to?

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I've put my mouth where my money is and have written this review on my Chromebook Duet (minus the photo editing, which I could've done). I can confidently say that if you're looking for an affordable device to use at home or traveling, share with the family, and use for years to come, take the plunge and get yourself a Chromebook Duet.

Jeramy Johnson
Editor-in-chief

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

9 Comments
  • Having purchased one of these myself, I agree with pretty much everything: Good value, great build, good keyboard, great battery life, updates for years to come, great as a laptop if not doing really heavy work. I would add that it's also really useful that it supports the Linux subsytem, giving access to a whole world of Debian packages - and that seems to integrate pretty nicely. I'm not so happy with tablet mode, its okay, its "usable", it's infinitely better than Windows 10 as a tablet, but Android still works better as a tablet OS and I do still use by android tablet for casual browsing/youtube/twitter - but that's only down to navigation around the OS (e.g. gestures, notification shades, nav buttons, etc) - things just take a few more swipes on ChromeOS, but those are things that are software; so I'm hoping ChromeOS will get better as a tablet OS in future releases as they streamline navigation for tablet mode (hopefully without breaking it in keyboard/mouse mode!). Its very close to being the perfect blend of laptop + tablet.
  • Add LTE and magnets to the keyboard to stop it flapping around and it's pretty perfect.
  • Totally. The magnets would be easy, but I wonder how much more an LTE variant would cost.
  • The same. Lenovo merely needed to use the MediaTek Helio P60 that is widely used in smartphones (Blu, Nokia, ZTE, Oppo, Realme, Vivo ... the usual suspects) instead of the MediaTek Helio P60T. The only difference between the P60T and the P60 - which was used in Android Go phones that cost as little as $110 with the Nokia version costing $150 - was that the LTE chip is disabled in the P60T. Indeed, using the MediaTek Dimensity 800 5G chip would have only added $25 to the cost of the device. $25!!! And for that you would have not only gotten 5G connectivity but much better performance, making Linux productivity apps practical. Add $75 to the price of the device to get that plus 8 GB of RAM instead of 4 and you wind up with a device that is comparable to the iPad Pro but for hundreds less. I really have no idea what Chromebook manufacturers are doing here. Instead, you have Samsung wanting us to pay $550 for an Intel Celeron Chromebook with 4GB of RAM, and $750 for one with a dual core Intel Core i3 Chromebook. Why doesn't Samsung use their own Exynos 1080 SOC instead? Cheaper than an Intel Core i3, MUCH more powerful and you get 5G! Makes no sense. Well I guess it makes sense for SAMSUNG ... they would rather you spend the $400 on a hypothetical Exynos 5G Chromebook on a Galaxy Tab instead, because those Samsung can use to try to make money on their own Samsung App Store, deals that they have cut with Epic Games for Fortnite and Microsoft, Samsung Pay, Bixby and other services. But why no one else is willing to put a Qualcomm 5G SOC in a Chromebook - especially the new 490 which is very cheap, or perhaps the 765G for premium models - or a similar MediaTek one needs to be explained to me. They are cheaper than the Intel Core i3 and Intel Core i5 - the 765G costs $40 to manufacturers - and offer far more benefits.
  • my neighbor's were in a desperate need for a chromebook and asked for my advice, i recommended this one for the needs and they just love it to death. Non tech people who needed something extra fro the house and school etc .
  • Keyboard needs work. Otherwise it's ace. Way more versatile and powerful (*) than Android tablet. * in what you can do.
  • Ok, I was getting pretty excited that I would finally be able to replace my Fire 10 at a reasonable price until I read the part of your article about the apps! That's a no start for me right there. If it can't handle Google's (Android) apps how is it going to handle others such as Microsoft apps that I need also? My Fire 10 does just fine with that and although not ideal for now it works, and is affordable
  • How well can it do Zoom? Similar experience as a laptop? Decent camera for Zoom?
  • To each their own, but "MediaTek Helio P60T" + updates for 7-8 years = a machine that starts off slow and will only get progressively worse as time goes on, because Developers are Developers and most don't optimize for hardware these days - *especially* on multi-manufacturer platforms like ChromeOS. I can see why this machine might appeal to people, but I think I'll stick with an iPad for tablet use.