$299 Lenovo Duet Chromebook first impressions: Positive as long as you keep expectations in check

Late last week, I attended a private briefing regarding the Lenovo Duet Chromebook. My review unit arrived that same day: I have the $299 model which is priced $20 higher than the base model and doubles the amount of local storage from 64 GB to 128 GB.

As of Monday this week, you can officially purchase your own Lenovo Duet Chromebook, which comes with the keyboard and fabric back cover, which is also a kickstand. And as of Monday, reviews were allowed to go live.

Regular readers know I don’t like to review a device over just two or three days solely to meet an artificial deadline. I ran into this same situation with the Pixelbook Go, only getting the device shortly before the review embargo.

Having said that, I can share some first impressions on the Lenovo Duet Chromebook from using it over the past few days. Expect a full review when I’m satisfied that I’ve tested it enough in the coming days. Also: If there are specific things you’d like to see tested, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them.

Build quality and display are excellent

The first Chrome OS tablet, the Acer Chromebook Tab 10, was very plasticy and felt like a low end device. That’s not the case with the Lenovo Duet Chromebook: This is a well-designed and built piece of hardware, complete with an aluminum frame.

The form-factor and build reminds me of my iPad Pro 11, with similar materials and nicely rounded corners. Put another way, some tablets look cheaply made. This isn’t one of them. It’s the kind of device that looks more expensive than it costs.

The 1920 x 1200 display is also a standout so far. It’s sharp, although a little blueish, and plenty bright enough, topping out at 400 nits on the spec sheet. I’m perfectly fine using this device with brightness between 40 and 60 percent in most cases.

The full package is chunkier than I expected

The Lenovo Duet Chromebook is 7.35 millimeters (0.29-inches) thick by itself and easy to tote around. Once you add the keyboard and the fabric backed kickstand though, you’re up to 18.2 millimeters thick (0.71-inches). That’s pretty thick and more than I anticipated. Indeed, it’s slightly thicker than the Google Pixel Slate with its keyboard:

Lenovo Duet Chromebook (left) and Google Pixel Slate (right)

You could reduce the thickness by not attaching the magnetic fiber backing but then the physical keyboard becomes useless. Why? Because the kickstand needed to hold up the display when using the keyboard built in to the tablet; it’s part of the fabric attachment. So you’re really looking at just a thin tablet alone without a keyboard or the full, thick package.

You also go from a 0.99 pound tablet to a 2.03 pound device with the keyboard and kickstand part. It feels dense in the latter case because that roughly two pounds isn’t spread out over a wide area: This is a 10.1-inch tablet with relatively small screen bezels.

Early performance indicators are what I’d expect at this price

So far, this $300 Chrome OS tablet performs as I’d expect: Like most other Chromebooks in this price range. That is to say the MediaTek Helio P60T Octa-Core behaves to me like a recent Intel Celeron processor. Perhaps like a new Pentium. That’s not a bad thing because my expectations were set early on: I didn’t think we’d see Intel Core i3-like performance from this device.

I’ve said many times in the past that I’m not a fan of benchmarks, or at least not as the “end-all, be-all” metric to look at.

However, people always ask for them and as long as you see them as an indicator of general performance, they can be a useful data point. So here you go, with all tests run after a reboot and in Guest Mode. In all cases, higher numbers are better.

Octane 2.09,797
Speedometer 246.07
Basemark 3.0228.68
JetStream 231.991

Again, these aren’t performance numbers that can compete with a Chromebook powered by an Intel Core m3 or better processor and double the memory. But again, this is a $300 package, so you can’t expect to perform like a Chromebook that costs $500 or more.

For example, benchmarks from various devices that cost nearly triple illustrate my point: Triple the cost can mean triple the performance. Keep that in mind as you think about purchasing the Lenovo Duet Chromebook: This may be better suited for most people as a secondary device instead of a primary Chromebook, depending on your needs.

For general browsing, the Lenovo Duet Chromebook performs fine. I do see the occasional lag from time to time, which I suspect is partly due to the 4 GB of memory. But I think I’d be happy using this as a small browser or part-time productivity device based on the performance.

I haven’t yet tested any Android apps, so I’ll focus on them during my full review. The new pinned tabs for Chrome OS tablets that arrived in Chrome OS 81 are useful and I don’t see any performance issues with them.

Just to level set, here’s the full specification list to refresh your memory and provide context:

CPUOcta-core Mediatek Helio P60T
(4xA73 at 2.0GHz)
GPUARM G72 MP3
Display10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 touchscreen,
400-nits, 70% color gamut
MemoryUp to 4 GB LPDDR4x
StorageUp to 128 GB eMMC, microSD slot
for expansion
ConnectivityWi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 4.2
InputIncluded keyboard with trackpad,
optional stylus, 2 MP front camera,
8 MP webcam
PortsOne USB Type-C (2.0 + DisplayPort)
Battery7180 mAh, expected run-time of 10 hours for video,
8 hours for web browsing
Weight0.99 pounds without keyboard
SoftwareChrome OS automatic updates through June 2028

About that keyboard

On the briefing call, Lenovo said that most $300 devices have some compromise. You might get good performance but bad battery life. Or you might sacrifice on the display or not get a keyboard. So the company says this is a tablet that can also be a laptop, hence the included keyboard and the inclusion of the word “Chromebook” in the product name.

First up, I’m thrilled that Lenovo is including the keyboard at no extra cost. A USI stylus is optional and will cost you; Lenovo plans to debut one in the coming months but any USI stylus will work with the Lenovo Duet Chromebook.

The kickstand can fold back from around 95 to about 135 degrees

Having said that, there is some compromise in this keyboard. It’s not backlit, for starters. I’m actually OK with that but others may not be. And there are some keys that aren’t full-sized. That’s a design challenge when you only have so much space to work with on a keyboard to fit a 10.1-inch display so it’s not unique to Lenovo.

For perspective, being around 5′ 5″ tall, I have relatively small hands. Here’s what one looks like with this keyboard.

Aside from those two observations, the keyboard is good, provided you can get used to the overall size and spacing. Even after a few days of use, I feel a bit cramped when typing. That’s why I don’t think I could use this as a full-time device for productivity. Give me an hour of productivity tasks though and the experience is good. The same can be said for the trackpad: It’s small but that’s a design constraint in a device with this size. However, it’s very responsive so far.

I should note that the Lenovo Duet Chromebook keyboard suffers in a fashion similar to the Google Pixel Slate Keyboard: It twists and flops a little when using the Duet on your lap. That’s because the top end of the keyboard has flexible fabric between it and the magnetic base that attaches to the screen. It’s actually not as a bad as the Pixel Slate keyboard because this device isn’t as a wide. But, you’ll likely notice it.

Overall first impressions are favorable

For $300, I’m generally impressed by the Lenovo Duet Chromebook, although I kept my expectations in check based on the specification sheet. Battery life so far seems to be what Lenovo has claimed, the screen is really nice while the speakers are adequate but not outstanding. Performance seems to be on par with other devices at this price point.

Obviously, I have more to test such as the aforementioned Android apps. And I’m sure folks will want to see how Linux works on this device although I don’t see that being a primary use case for a 10.1-inch tablet, even when connected to an external monitor. You’re limited to Linux apps compiled for ARM processors to begin with and you’re still looking at running Linux on what’s essentially a smartphone processor.

On that note, let me know what you’d like to see tested or if you have any specific questions. Again, I’ll address as many of them as I can.

Update: As many commenters have noted, there is no microSD card on this Chrome OS tablet. The error was mine as I copied some of the data from another hardware table I previously authored. I apologize for any confusion and for the lateness of the update; I’ve been mostly offline due to illness for roughly a week. Cheers to everyone for surfacing the mistake and informing the community!

43 thoughts on “$299 Lenovo Duet Chromebook first impressions: Positive as long as you keep expectations in check

  • May 12, 2020 at 3:35 pm
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    Do you think this would be adequate for a tween that will use it for Minecraft / Roblox and Google for schoolwork?

    Reply
    • May 12, 2020 at 9:56 pm
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      It has sd card slot?!!

      Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 10:06 pm
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      I would think so, as long as they aren’t writing the next great American Novel, especially as tweens usually have smaller hands, though if mainly used away from a desk a more traditional laptop form factor would likely be a little easier to use.

      Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 7:28 am
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      My first generation iPad Pro has a failing battery. I use it in court during appeal oral arguments to have annotated versions of briefs and other case documents handy and to take handwritten notes using the iAnnotate app. Would the Duet be a good replacement for that purpose?

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 3:46 pm
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    Great review! Very much appreciate the detailed info and pictures. My initial question is about the Speedometer 2.0 score you obtained. Based on what others have posted, that seems more like a Speedometer 1.0 score for this device. Perhaps you could reconfirm? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • May 12, 2020 at 6:21 pm
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      Would like to know how drawing on it with a stylus performs.

      Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 9:12 pm
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      Agree, Speedometer 2 score is around 27 on my Duet in guest mode

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 4:06 pm
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    Thank you for this review. I appreciate the care you’re taking to be conservative and methodical. I’m waiting for my Duet to be delivered this afternoon. 🙂 I too have a Slate, so I know what to expect in terms of lap-ability. I just hope that it’s not too laggy. I rarely have more than half a dozen tabs open. I want a device that can handle that. I read a review or two that said that connecting or disconnecting the keyboard can make the Duet freeze. If that’s the case, that stinks. Like many, I’ve been waiting quite a while for this device (January?). Like many, I want portability and ease of use for reading, skimming social media, web surfing, media consumption, etc. I have fancier machines for bigger tasks (like the Windows machine I’m typing this on).

    So, I don’t have any questions or requests as I’ll conduct my tests in a couple of hours. I just wanted to say thank you for your work.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 9:18 am
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      Thanks for your comprehensive preliminary review.
      My 3 year old Acer chromebook (CB3-431) has been losing the curser every few days recently & sometimes is too slow to reboot.
      Until now this has met all of my needs perfectly (e-mail, web browsing, some docs).
      Can this problem be repaired?
      Will all Chromebooks lose their functionality after 3 years?
      Any suggestions for a comparable (14” preferred) machine?
      Thanks.-RH

      Reply
    • May 17, 2020 at 12:13 pm
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      I own the device. I’m looking at it right now.

      There is NO micro-SD card slot or any other expansion, except what can be achieved through the Duet’s ONE USB-C port.

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 5:03 pm
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    Thank you for this initial look, it has answered some questions for me. I believe the Duet won’t be available until later in the year in the UK. I was getting tablet pangs but am more convinced now that everything I want to do, including the portability, is covered by my Pixelbook Go.

    Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 5:23 pm
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    PLEASE address HD 1080p streaming and downloading through Android apps. Example, Netflix Android app CANNOT do 1080p on ANY Chromebook. To verify if this device can, just download Netflix, hit the three line menu (third option) on bottom, click App Settings and then the Playback Specification. It will show what the maximum resolution supported is for Playback, and a Widevine level. EVERY single Chromebook is L3, SD. I’m hoping this using a phone processor means that Netflix doesn’t need to specifically optimize anything, so hoping it reads L1 1080p, but please include this in review. Checking it literally takes maybe 15 seconds as I mentioned how to above. Thank you!

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 7:07 am
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      1080p is available on the Pixel Slate in the web browser but not in the app. Might be the case for other chromebooks

      Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 1:59 pm
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      That’s a surprising limitation, given that many Android phones and tablets have 1080p or higher resolution displays. (Samsung’s popular flagship Galaxy S series of phones has been using 1440p displays for years now.) Furthermore, there are Android TV devices that connect to 1080p or even 4K TVs. I’m not a Netflix subscriber, but I would be absolutely furious with them (to the extent that I would cancel their service) if they restricted their app to 720p if I chose to run it on an Android phone, tablet, or TV, or a Chromebook running Android apps!

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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    I’m a tad surprised that no one even bothers to compare the performance and miniaturized ergonomics of this Lenovo Duet to what would seem to me to be an obvious alternative. Though a 2-in-1 and not a detachable, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA has a 10.1-inch screen and still costs about $400 even though it’s been around since September 2017. Is this Lenovo going to force Asus to have to drop that price? Or is the C101 justifiably worth $100 to $150 more?

    Reply
    • May 12, 2020 at 9:33 pm
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      I was wondering the same thing. To me personally a detachable keyboard is a ‘detriment’. You can’t easily hold it in bed.

      Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 12:16 pm
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      Your comparison is right – I love mine for the very limited task of delivering talks (when I used to before CV19 lockdown) but unfortunately the screen quality rules it out. Also the keyboard quality is actually worse than the C100 which preceded it. I think in many ways it is a great device, but the Lenovo could beat it in terms of screen resolution and quality, portability, use as a tablet. It will be interesting to see.

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 6:22 pm
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    Hello Kevin,
    My primary use cases for this device would be note taking (using a USI Stylus) and LibreOffice (yes, may be dodgy), and using it on a 1080p external monitor.
    So far no one’s been able to indicate whether lag with a USI Stylus is prohibitive for note-taking or not. If you could please test that, it would be great!
    Knowing how well it might scroll through a LibreOffice document on a 1080p monitor would be nice too.
    cheers Chris W

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 2:42 am
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      I understand the external display output is limited to 720p and is on the single USB C port.

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 6:30 pm
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    Pretty this does not have a microSD slot, which you’ve stated it does.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 4:34 pm
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      Yep. That was my understanding too. This must be one of those rare Kevin Tofel errors that we all hope and search for yet never find. 😉

      Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 8:37 pm
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      Pity, yes. I am confused by this claim, as well!

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 11:24 pm
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    With only one USB C port for charging and external display, what additional hardware would you need to charge the device and run an external display? How does the device perform with an external display, and full size Bluetooth keyboard and mouse connected?

    Cheers,

    Andrew H

    Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 11:27 pm
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    I’m surprised to see you note that this has a SD slot of any kind. That’s not what I’ve seen on other sites (including Best Buy). That certainly ups the appeal.

    Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 1:15 am
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    Kevin, thanks for the review….nice. Can you update the specs to NO Micro SD slot….That’s what all other people have said. Which is making me consider Surface Go instead of this. But the price of the go is turning me off and being forced to Android app thru emulator.

    Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 1:20 am
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    Nice review. Would like to know how it performs when you have multiple tabs (maybe 5-6) in Chrome browser and possibly another work app like zoom / slack running ?

    Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 6:00 am
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    One redditor got 1440 by 900 on his 1080p external monitor. Not great, but maybe useable.

    Reply
    • May 17, 2020 at 2:35 pm
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      Given this unit doesn’t have the mux necessary to deliver 1080p external plus the internal screen, could you please test the practicality of switching to an external 1080p screen and turning off the internal display for desktop use?

      Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 6:28 am
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    “… any USI stylus will work with the Lenovo Duet Chromebook”

    Yes but where are all these USI styli? To date only HP appear to have released a device.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 4:08 pm
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      Lenovo has plenty out already and wacom makes the bamboo line

      Reply
      • May 13, 2020 at 6:52 pm
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        Lenovo sells lots of different pens, but none of them are USI yet. The Wacom Bamboo line use the AES protocol, which works pretty well with a pixelbook but which is incompatible with this tablet. Just to make sure that this is accurate I’ve just tried my Wacom Bamboo Ink pen on the Duet, and it does nothing.

        Reply
      • May 14, 2020 at 12:01 pm
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        They are not *USI* styli.

        From https://9to5google.com/2020/05/12/chrome-os-usi-stylus-hands-on/ :

        > What about USI styluses themselves? So far, there aren’t many major options.
        > In fact, the only major OEM selling a USI compatible stylus is HP.

        You might think from that there are some minor OEM’s making them – I’ve looked hard. It is a shocking state of affairs. Imagine if Apple had released the Mac before you could by a mouse. The empty https://universalstylus.org/usi-certified-products/ page is not encouraging either despite several apparent manufacturers at listed https://universalstylus.org/product-showcase/. If you try to find any of teh products mentioned they do not really exist. The bet read is some of the “supporting statements”:

        > Sunwoda is a professional active pen ODM provider. As a member of USI,
        > Sunwoda is trying its best to provide a perfect USI pen to customers.

        Wow – so long as they are “trying their best” eh!? Is it really that hard?

        Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 3:38 pm
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    Several have asked about the USI stylus support. I picked up one of the HP USI pens in anticipation, as taking notes that way is an important use case for me. So far that seems to work great – it doesn’t feel much different than using google pen on pixelbook. Tracking is pretty tight (tried in both OneNote and Squid) and responsiveness is good. I like the design of the HP pen – clean and uncluttered and the concealed USB-C recharge port is nicely done, and it has a magnetic attachment – if you don’t have the keyboard attached, the magnet there makes a nice place to park the pen. I am not any sort of artist, but I do take a lot of notes including rough sketches, and this is going to work well for me.

    Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 5:25 am
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      You have been using HP USI stylus on Lenovo chromebook duet ? Note taking is one of the main features I am looking forward for .

      Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 4:23 pm
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    I hate my Chromebook! I require a printer and have three – now I need to get a printer, (there are very few choices) that the Chromebook will accept!

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 4:46 pm
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      I’ve got an HP Officejet Pro 8028 printer that we bought at Costco for $99.99 that allows me to print from and scan to my Dell Chromebook with no problems.

      Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 12:17 pm
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      That is not really a comment on this review – the CloudPrint function is common to all Chromebooks.

      There are however are many CloudPrint capable printers listed at: https://www.google.com/cloudprint/learn/printers/

      If one of your existing printers is attached to a Windows PC you can use it as a CloudPrint server using https://tools.google.com/dlpage/cloudprintdriver. Print jobs are queued in the cloud if the PC is not on-line at the time you create the print job.

      I have a Canon TS8251 that my Chromebooks can connect to directly via my LAN or via the cloud, and my phone and desktop PC too.

      Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 5:19 am
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    Hello,
    I am a medical student and wanted to buy a device which suits my needs like reading , browsing, note taking , watching videos and some times working on assignment with either Google docs or slides . On a low budget Is Lenovo chromebook duet worth the investment ? Or should I go with samsung tab s6 lite ?

    Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 8:53 am
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    I have a MediaTek MT8173C and I’ve been happy with it. I can only imagine the Helio P60T crushing it with double the cores and what appears to be a 50-100% faster GPU.

    What I want to see is more RAM. $300-$400 devices should have 8 GB, $850-$1000 should have 16-32 GB.

    Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 2:52 pm
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    “I’m sure folks will want to see how Linux works on this device although I don’t see that being a primary use case for a 10.1-inch tablet, even when connected to an external monitor.”

    Actually, this is the main use case of the Duet that is of interest to me. I want to be able to run Xournal++, but especially a browser that is not Chrome (or Chrome-based clone). The Chrome engine is much too memory-hungry for me to run as many tabs as I would want with just 4 GB of RAM, even with the advantage of running on ChromeOS. And a big fat no to Android app versions of browsers means I need to be able to run Linux. If it means I have to compile a few programs from source (at least until someone does it and posts an ARM-compliant binary), I can accept that pain, provided that the rest of specs meet my needs.

    I’m not too worried about the performance of the MediaTek CPU, if it is, as you say, comparable to a current-generation Celeron; I have an old Chromebook with an Ivy Bridge Celeron that runs Linux (via Crouton) just fine. Honestly, it might be better than the Duet for me, because I’ve managed to pack 16 GB of RAM into it, so it runs hundreds of open Firefox tabs without complaining.

    So the CPU is not likely to be a limitation, which was what I was initially concerned about. The limitations that I think may be more concerning for me are the single shared data/charging port (maybe get a small USB-C hub?), the keyboard layout (I have big hands for my height), no headphone jack (I guess the USB-C to audio jack adapter might work in Linux?), and insufficient RAM (I’m hoping Lenovo comes out with an 8 GB version later this year!). But I’d have to get my hands on a display unit to find out if they might be problems for me or not, and that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon in our current mad, mad world.

    Still, it seems like a pretty good deal for $300. Thing is, I already have devices that satisfy the use cases that the Duet does — lightweight portable productivity device, Full-HD media consumption screen, take-anywhere Internet browser device — and while it might be nice to have them all in a single 2-in-1 package, it really only matters if I must travel or commute a lot (and in these COVID-times, that’s unlikely). It might be great for one use case that none of my current devices satisfies: a lightweight, all-day-battery, device for taking written and audio notes, but again, I’d need to get my hands on one to see how it performs. I won’t need it until classes on campus resume though, which should give me some time to evaluate and decide (and maybe an upgraded version will be available by then).

    Reply
  • May 16, 2020 at 11:50 pm
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    This device is meant to serve as a “laptop” and a tablet. One use case for me would be to plug it into my 55″ TV at home. It seems that the included keyboard won’t work remotely, so I’ll hook up a powered USB hub with HDMI output to my TV and wireless kb & mouse. This “desktop” configuration would be much less cramped in terms of screen real estate and keyboard than the Duet. I’d like to know how this configuration works for you and if the external monitor can go 4K. I’d also want to see how Android apps performs in this configuration as an entertainment device. Currently I have a raspberry pi 4 and an Android box plugged into my TV, a separate Windows laptop and an Android tablet. I’m curious to know if the Duet can essentially replace the 4 devices with 1.

    Reply
    • May 18, 2020 at 2:45 pm
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      You’d need a USB-C to HDMI adaptor, then you might be disappointed by the 720p max resolution over USB-C on this device (apparently form reviews elsewhere). Might be more effective to get a ChromeCast and cast wireless.

      Reply

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