If you’re looking for a new laptop for school or uni, don’t rule out the Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet Chromebook.
I must confess, I didn’t know a lot about Chromebooks before trying one out. But that’s what made it a perfect candidate for our new Real Life Reviews series. In our reviews, we’ll be testing a range of products and addressing all of the relatable issues, wants or needs you might have.
So, without further ado, here’s what to expect from the Lenovo Chromebook.
Introducing the Lenovo Chromebook
I had no pre-existing expectations when trying out this Chromebook for the first time. I knew Chromebooks were having a moment, but I didn’t know why. Now I do.
The Chromebook I tested is Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet. It’s a 2-in-1, both a tablet and a laptop and the screen and keyboard can be separated and snapped together as needed. The screen is touch-sensitive, so you can use it for reading, drawing, watching or browsing like you would a tablet.
If you’re interested in some very basic specs, here’s what you should know:
- Screen: HD, 10.1 inch, 1920×1200
- OS: Chrome
- RAM: 4GB
- Ports: 1 x USB-C
- Battery: Up to 10 hours
- Weight: 950g
- Storage: 125GB
Let’s start with my favourite feature of the Chromebook: it’s size. When I first opened the box I literally said, “wait, that’s it?” At only 10 inches, the screen is one of the smallest I’ve seen on a computer.
It’s also one of the lightest. Even with the keyboard attached the whole packaged comes in at under a kilo. Which is something you appreciate if you’ve been lugging around 15″ Macbooks for your entire life.
The size of the Chromebook makes it incredibly convenient. It takes up minimal space, it’s easy to whip out on the bus or train and it won’t weigh down your bag.
It’s incredibly easy to set up with just a login to your Google account required, and then you’re ready to go. It’s also easy to set up multiple accounts for family members.
In terms of usability, the Chromebook impresses with its speed and efficiency. Programs run on Chrome OS as apps, which can be downloaded from the Google Play store. There’s also the suite of inbuilt Google apps such as docs, sheets, drive and G-Mail. You can also download Microsoft Office apps but you’ll need your own subscription and account for these.
Everything is linked to your Google account, so things like documents, bookmarks and passwords sync across your devices. This is actually pretty handy if you like working across multiple devices. You could use the Chromebook as your day device, going between classes or meetings and then switch to a desktop when you get home to pick up where you left off.
The duality of the Chromebook also has an advantage when it comes to things like travel – whenever that returns. The keyboard makes it easy to pick up work tasks wherever you are and then switching to tablet mode make playing games or watching movies a breeze. It also has an inbuilt camera, which is handy for those times you’re without a phone or want a quick snap of the presentation you’re following.
Google also offers offline capabilities so you can keep working even if you’re not connected to the internet.
The Chromebook has a decent 10-hour battery life to get you through the day. When it comes time to charge you’ll only need a USB-C cord, which has become pretty standard across Apple, Samsung and Google products.
You can also easily access all your favourite apps from the Google Play Store and you have the ability to run these natively on your device rather than through a browser. When it comes to entertainment, this is great for streaming and mobile gaming apps. The screen presents a bright HD picture which looks great when watching Netflix programs. I could then just as easily switch over to backstabbing strangers in Among Us, taking full advantage of the touchscreen.
When it comes to speed, the computer boots up almost instantly and effortlessly switches between apps. As any normal person would, I opened as many apps and tabs as I could and didn’t find any decrease in speed or load times.
The closest thing I can compare this Chromebook to is an iPad. It works similarly in terms of size, speed, interface and capability. But mercifully it includes the keyboard, whereas other tablets require you to fork out extra if you want to type.
On that note, the price of the Lenovo Duet Chromebook is incredibly competitive. You’re looking at an RRP of just under $500, which is pretty insane considering what’s on offer here.
What’s not so good?
I’ve used both PCs and Macs in the past, so a Chromebook was a new world for me. While I’m a big fan of everything mentioned above, there are a couple of things to be aware of.
Like it says in the name, a Chromebook is angled at Chrome users. It uses Chrome as an OS and you need a Google Account to even log in. This is all easy enough to set up, but if you’re used to Mac or Windows it can take some getting used to. A lot of the keyboard and touch shortcuts still catch me out. But like anything, these can be learned.
The Chromebook is also similar to a tablet in terms of its interface. It has apps on the home screen, which you can swipe or tap through, and you can’t really drag or drop anything to your desktop.
The size of the Chromebook can also be a double-edged sword. It’s great for portability but if you need a big screen to spread out your work, you won’t find it here. The keyboard is also much smaller to match the screen size, so it can feel a bit cramped.
My one other concern with this Chromebook is its lack of ports. There’s only one USB-C port for charging, so if you want to connect a USB drive, mouse or hook up to a monitor you’ll need to purchase an adapter. At a minimum, you’re going to need a USB-C adapter. But if you want to connect more than one extension simultaneously you’ll need a dock.
This includes audio. There’s no headphone jack in the Chromebook but a USB-C to audio jack adapter is included. This means you can’t plug headphones in and charge your computer at the same time. However, Bluetooth capabilities offer a way around this for any wireless headphones.
When considering this Chromebook I would say look at it through tablet or iPad coloured glasses. It’s not going to offer you next-gen graphics or insane processing power but it can fulfil the basic work and life tasks easily.
The main things to consider are your preferred operating system and what you want to use it for. If you’re familiar with the Google Suite of apps and use them often, this will be an easy transition.
It’s best to set your expectations. I wouldn’t call this a work desktop-grade laptop. It should work fine for students or for travelling, but if you’re looking for grunt power or a work-from-home setup, maybe consider a laptop.
But if you’re after size and convenience at an affordable price – it’s hard to go past this Chromebook. If I had my time at uni over again, this is the sort of device I’d be looking at. The portability and multiple uses that the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook offers are hard to beat.