To say that I loved the original Lenovo Ideapad Chromebook Duet was an understatement. I wasn’t alone in loving the compact tablet, with Lenovo hearing the roar of love for the original and announcing a larger, more premium option, the Ideapad Duet 5 Chromebook, at what would have been IFA last year. After a brief wait, the Lenovo Ideapad Duet 5 has hit the Australian stores and it’s time to review it.
Released in 2020, the original Chromebook Duet was a solid midrange 2-in-1 device that, while not perfect, hit a lot of high notes at an attractive price.
Lenovo took the feedback on the original and ran with it when designing the new Ideapad Duet 5, including an OLED panel which is also larger and it now uses a Qualcomm processor which should make for smoother sailing under load. Lenovo retained a lot of the great things about the original, including the rear panel which includes a kickstand, and the keyboard cover.
There’s a lot to like about the Ideapad Duet 5 on paper, but is it just as good as the original, or even better? I spent a month with the Ideapad Duet 5 and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
The Lenovo Ideapad Duet 5 comes with everything you need to get going in the box. As a 2-in-1, it includes the tablet itself, as well as a detachable keyboard and backing panel which both attach magnetically. There’s also a 30W USB-C charger in the box.
The first thing you’ll note about the Ideapad Duet 5 is the size. A “big” part of the attraction of the original Ideapad Duet was it’s compactness. The Ideapad Duet 5 is larger, with a 13.3” panel immediately increasing the size. The display is now 16:9 aspect ratio so it’s wider than the original, but you lose some vertical screen real-estate.
Lenovo has downgraded the resolution on the display slightly from the original, though it’s still FullHD (1920×1080) and the move to OLED with the deeper blacks, more vibrant colours and improved contrast more than makes up for it.
The display is easy to read in most lighting conditions, though direct sunlight can be a challenge as it is on most displays.
The display has some chunky bezel on the top and bottom of the display, with nicely slimmed down bezels on the sides. The bezels make it slightly difficult to hold in landscape, though the portrait option is much better for accidental touches on the display.
Lenovo has included a 5MP selfie camera in those thicker bezels on the Chromebook, as well as an 8MP world-facing camera on the rear. Neither is particularly fantastic, but are perfectly serviceable for video conferencing – or snapping a picture if you need to.
The larger size has also affected other parts of the Ideapad design, allowing for a more spacious keyboard deck on the Ideapad Duet 5, though it still doesn’t have backlit keys for making typing in low-light easier. The trackpad is also larger than the original, and is again responsive and functional.
As a 2-in-1 device, the keyboard deck itself is removable, attaching to the tablet via pogo pins on the base of the tablet and stays solidly in place thanks to some very strong magnets – though the keyboard is easy enough to remove when you want. The keyboard deck is also slightly flexible but you can still type with it on your lap, though it takes a little more balancing than a standard laptop.
The Ideapad Duet 5 has dual USB-C ports, one on each side, to make either charging or connecting peripherals easier but that’s all the ports you get – so if you need to plug in a USB-A cable you’ll need a dongle.
There’s also a distinct lack of 3.5mm jack for headphones, which is unsurprising given the original didn’t include one. If you do need audio there’s a quad-speaker array built-in which does a solid job, though don’t expect the world. Lenovo has done a decent job of placement for the quad-speakers with two speakers located on each side of the laptop.
There’s a power button on the left hand side of the Ideapad 5 as well as a volume rocker just on top. It makes for easy access to the buttons, and the placement on slightly different edges makes it easier to not confuse them.
Lenovo hasn’t included a fingerprint sensor in the power button, or indeed anywhere on the Ideapad 5 Duet which is something to be aware of if you’re after fast login options.
Lastly on the physical side, the rear of the Ideapad Duet 5 is metallic which helps the back panel kickstand to snap easily into place. There’s a matte finish on the rear, but be prepared to wipe down fingerprints as it definitely attracts them – that said, I rarely removed the back panel which doubles as a kickstand and sits essentially flush with the unit, adding very little thickness or weight as a whole.
As a whole the Ideapad Duet 5 design is excellent with a fantastic display and the kickstand and keyboard snap-on accessories are well designed and easy to connect.
In terms of performance, Lenovo went the extra mile including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 processor, a step up from the more economical Mediatek processor used on the original Chromebook Duet. The bump to a more beefier processor is noticeable with a more fluid experience when using Chrome OS or the Android apps you can install.
The 4GB of RAM does mean you hit some lag when opening up a lot of tabs in Chrome – but don’t go overboard and the system flys. On the flip side I was able to run games like Asphalt 9, as well as more casual games and apps with no issues.
Storage wise you get 128GB on-board but as it’s a Chromebook, it’s designed to work with the cloud so you can store files directly in your Google Drive through the Files app. You can also plug in a USB-C thumb drive if you need to store something.
Battery and Charging
With the larger tablet, Lenovo also included a large battery inside the Ideapad Duet 5. The original included a 10-hour battery life, while Lenovo says the Ideapad Duet 5 will last up to 15 hours.
In practice 15 hours is definitely achievable with few, if any compromises. A full day of watching videos, surfing the web, or using the Android apps and games is easily achievable. Amp up the brightness to full and throw some high-end Android games and you can run it down if you want to, but working normally will see good results.
Charging is via the USB-C ports, with a 30W USB-C charger included in the box. There’s no ‘Quick’ Charge option on the Ideapad Duet 5, with the tablet taking around an hour and a half to reach full charge. You can get around 20% battery on a 20 minute charge which is enough for a lot of work,
Of course the Ideapad Duet 5 runs Chrome OS, with Chrome version 97 installed by default. You’ll get updates for Chrome OS on a similar schedule to the Chrome browser, which occurs around every 6 weeks. Chromebooks run on the Chrome stable channel by default, but if you want to see new features before they officially launch you can try out the Beta and Dev channels.
Chrome OS gets a lot of attention for its lack of apps and functionality but with Android apps available through Google Play and Linux apps able to be installed through the Crosstini container, Chrome OS has gotten very functional in the past few years.
That’s not to say that the Android apps still aren’t implemented flawlessly. There’s still some visual asset issues you’ll find in some games which haven’t been optimised, or the app shows a phone layout when an expanded tablet layout is needed. Google is still courting developers to update apps for Chrome OS, and there’s been improvement in quality over the years but it’s still a bit hit and miss.
That said, the additional functionality added by both Android apps and Linux apps can’t be denied, though especially for Linux apps you do need to do a bit of work to get them running – but it does work if you want to experiment.
In short, if you’re not familiar with Chrome OS, it has a lot to offer. It’s an amazingly powerful OS which is great for all levels of computer user. Because it has the full Chrome browser, this means simply logging in with your Google account will automatically bring across any data you’ve saved in Chrome previously like your passwords, bookmarks and more.
An overlooked benefit of Chrome OS is also the minimal threat of virus’ and the ability to reset it (Power Wash) back to factory settings and then get back underway with all your personal settings once you login – this alone makes it great for kids and anyone who’s family aren’t completely au fait with technology, as a quick power wash solves a lot of problems quickly and there’s minimal data loss because all their settings return.
Should you buy it?
Lenovo has again done an excellent job with the Ideapad Duet 5, balancing the need for more premium components against the need to keep the tablet affordable.
With an RRP of $799, the Ideapad Duet 5 is more expensive than the original – but the larger OLED display and bigger battery, more powerful processor and of course the roomier keyboard are all massive bonuses.
The obvious comparison is the HP Chromebook X2 11, though it steps up to a higher resolution display though in an 11-inch form factor with slightly more memory. Even with additional memory there were some performance issues on the X2 11, and the Ideapad Duet 5 with its larger form factor also benefits from larger batteries, and hence longer battery life.
There’s room for improvement of course, but for a more premium Chromebook the Ideapad Duet 5 balances it well for one of the best all-round Chromebook 2-in-1’s at this price.
You can purchase the Lenovo Ideapad Duet 5 from JB Hifi, The Good Guys, Officeworks and even Amazon.