One of the best Chromebooks ever just got better

By John Loeffler published 1 day ago

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook on a woodgrain tabletop

(Image: © Future)

Two minute review

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook is here, and we’re not kidding when we say that we’ve been more excited to try this device out than just about any other this year – and it does not disappoint.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook was hands down one of our favorite Chromebooks ever, hanging onto its spot on our best Chromebooks list for over a year now, and the Duet 5 Chromebook improves on last year’s offering in nearly every way – as long as you’re looking for a laptop more than tablet.

Let’s start with the obvious: it’s bigger. Last year’s Duet Chromebook featured a 10.1-inch display, which meant that its detachable keyboard was also 10.1-inches diagonally. 

This made for a very cramped keyboard, which pretty much ruled it out for a lot of people who don’t have a whole lot of dexterity in their hands.RECOMMENDED VIDEOS FOR YOU…iPhone 13 | Everything you need to know in 1 minute seconds of 1 minute, 0 secondsVolume 0% PLAY SOUND

At 13.3-inches diagonally, the Duet 5 Chromebook’s keyboard is much more like those found on Ultrabooks, which still don’t have the most spacious keyboards, but  are still much more accessible. 

At this size and with a 16:9 screen ratio, though, this is much more of a laptop that can operate as a tablet, as it is a bit unwieldy. This is in contrast to last year’s 10.1-inch, 16:10 ratio model, which was a better tablet than a laptop, owing to the cramped keyboard.

The keys on the Duet 5 Chromebook keyboard aren’t backlit, like its predecessor, and the keyboard itself is still pretty flimsy, also like its predecessor. 

The trackpad could also be better. Our fingers encountering enough friction to give us some uneven swiping and gesturing, but it’s not bad enough that you can’t get used to it and adjust the amount of pressure you’re applying appropriately.

The other accessibility criticism we had of last year’s Duet Chromebook – that the magnetic kickstand could be a pain to extend at times – still remains. 

A pullable tab or lanyard here could easily fix this deficiency, but it looks like we might have to wait until next year for a better design here (or, you can pick up Microsoft’s Surface Adaptive Kit, which will work with any device, not just the Microsoft Surface Pro 8).

The magnetized backplate on Duet 5 Chromebook also has a small cutaway for a Lenovo Active Pen stylus to clip to the back, but the stylus isn’t bundled with the device by default, and even when it is included it will cost extra.

Speaking of costs, one of the best things about last year’s Duet Chromebook was its price. Starting at $279 / £279 / AU$424, the smaller Duet Chromebook was a fantastic value for the price.

This year’s Duet 5 Chromebook is more expensive, starting at $429 ($499 as tested), and AU$799 in Australia. Unfortunately, the UK is in for a tough time as Duet 5 Chromebook starts at an eye-popping £899

We’re hoping that this is only a temporary issue, and we’ve reached out to Lenovo for some context for the extraordinary price differential in the UK. We’ll update this review if we hear back from the company. UK pricing aside, the increased price of the Duet 5 Chromebook isn’t unexpected given its larger size and improve hardware.

In terms of improved hardware, we need to start with the display. Last year’s Duet Chromebook was a 1,920 x 1,200 LCD IPS panel, which was outstanding for a 10.1-inch screen. 

The Duet 5 Chromebook is a step down in resolution to 1,920 x 1,080, but the panel is upgraded to OLED, making it exceptionally bright and vibrant. While both Duets are rated for 400 nits of brightness, the difference with an OLED display is simply incredible.

The OLED display alone more than justifies the increase in price, and the fact that it starts at only $429 in the US makes this a fantastic deal. Even when bumping up to the 8GB RAM configuration for $499, you still get a 13.3-inch 2-in-1 Chromebook with a 1080p OLED display for under $500, which is pretty much unheard of – and it’s worth every penny.

The display isn’t the only thing that got an upgrade this year, with the Duet 5 Chromebook stepping up to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen2 processor from the MediaTek P60T chip in last year’s Duet Chromebook.

Both of these are high-efficiency ARM-based chips, so neither is going to pack the same kind of raw performance as an Intel Core i3 processor, which some of the beefier Chromebooks feature. 

The Snapdragon 7c Gen2 is still a huge improvement over the MediaTek P60T. The Snapdragon 7c Gen2 finished the Kraken JavaScript benchmark in 1,845ms, compared to the MediaTek P60T’s time of 3,940ms. That’s just better than twice as fast as last year’s Duet Chromebook.

Still, the Snapdragon 7c Gen2 is lagging in terms of benchmarks vis a vis other Chromebooks, but it still felt reasonable snappy when we were actually using it. So unless you’re really looking to directly compare the Duet 5 Chromebook against the Asus Chromebook Flip C536Google Pixelbook, or the Acer Chromebook Spin 713, you’re not likely to see any performance lag – though it will still be there.

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook
(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if…

You want the best 2-in-1 Chromebook around
The lightweight and easily convertible form factor here is about as comfortable as it gets, with a decent amount of power and phenomenal battery life.

You want an OLED Chromebook
It’s not often you get a premium feature like an OLED display in a Chromebook, but boy howdy is it worth it.

You want outstanding battery life
Very few Chromebooks get this kind of battery life, and with the right tweaks, you can easily get to the 18-19 hours of battery life.

Don’t buy it if…

You want a cheap Chromebook
There are some truly premium features on the Duet 5 Chromebook, and that does push the price up into the high end for a Chromebook.

Accessibility is a major consideration
While the larger keyboard is a huge improvement over last year’s model, the kickstand might still be challenging for those with more limited hand strength or dexterity.

You want more of a tablet-first form factor
This 2-in-1 laptop puts a heavy emphasis on laptop. The 16:9 screen ratio and 13.3-inch display makes using it in tablet mode somewhat unwieldy.