December 2, 2023

I like low-cost laptops. Extra precisely, I like good low-cost laptops… however these might be exhausting to seek out. For each hundred bucks that will get trimmed off a laptop computer’s value, its options, design and efficiency all sometimes take a success. However once I discover one which rises above Black Friday doorbuster stage, it’s one thing to cheer about. 

In case you want a price range laptop computer that appears first rate, has a satisfactory keyboard, is sufficiently small to go wherever and is versatile sufficient to double as a video-streaming pill, then take a look at the Lenovo Duet Chromebook. It’s not particularly quick, and the touchpad isn’t nice, nevertheless it’s nonetheless among the best computer systems you should buy for beneath $400. Simply notice that it makes a greater secondary or journey laptop computer than a major machine — which is one thing I’d say about virtually any 11-inch laptop computer. 

Like

  • Features a keyboard cowl
  • Works as a laptop computer or pill
  • Glorious general worth

Don’t Like

  • Touchpad isn’t nice
  • Slower efficiency
  • No headphone jack

At the moment promoting for $379, that is an 11-inch ChromeOS pill with a keyboard cowl and kickstand. Meaning it could work as a standalone touchscreen pill, or as a clamshell-like pocket book. In that method, it’s type of like a less expensive Microsoft Floor 2-in-1. The model examined right here has 64GB of eMMC storage, however the mannequin in shops proper now has 128GB, which is a plus. 

Microsoft already makes a price range Floor, the most-recent model of which known as the Floor Go 3. It’s $400 and runs Home windows as an alternative of ChromeOS, and has an Intel processor as an alternative of the Snapdragon 7c right here. However the largest sensible distinction to me is that the Lenovo Duet contains its fairly darn good keyboard cowl within the field, whereas Microsoft forces you to purchase its keyboard cowl for an additional $100 to $129, relying on the colour. When purchasing at this finish of the price range pool, a 25% premium to get the keyboard (which is a must have) makes an enormous distinction.

As a Chromebook, the Duet is much less succesful than a Home windows machine in some respects, however as trendy Chromebooks can run virtually any Android app, the use instances the place this may make an actual distinction to you proceed to slim. And head-to-head, a sub-$500 pc operating ChromeOS is normally going to really feel speedier and extra responsive than a equally priced Home windows PC, due to the lighter OS. 

Learn extra: The best way to Purchase a Price range Laptop computer in 2022

Keyboard and kickstand 

I’ve at all times stated the keyboard cowl design and construct high quality are one of the best issues concerning the Floor line, and that’s true for the Lenovo Duet as properly. The Lenovo keyboard is equally strong, not flimsy like another clip-on keyboards, and its smallish keys have glorious depth and a satisfying clacky really feel. The tiny touchpad, in distinction, is the only most annoying factor about this method — it’s usable, however doesn’t really feel as correct or responsive as I’d like. 

Right here’s a fast ChromeOS trackpad tip. If you wish to get a extra acquainted Home windows-like really feel, bounce into the system settings, positioned at Settings > System > Touchpad, and ensure tap-to-click and faucet dragging are each enabled. 

For infrequent long-form typing, I may get by with this keyboard cowl. However for severe modifying, which requires navigating throughout a doc with the touchpad, it wasn’t enjoyable. However truthfully that’s asking rather a lot from such a reasonable machine. 

In contrast to the Floor line, which has a superb built-in kickstand, the kickstand here’s a separate again cowl piece that magnetically snaps onto the again of the system, and matches the aesthetic of the keyboard cowl. You may take it off for a very stripped-down slate look, however I don’t know why you’d hassle. 

Lenovo Duet with kickstand

Dan Ackerman/CNET

An honest show 

The show is one other sturdy level, with a 2,000×1,200 display decision and an 11-inch (actually 10.9-inch) display. Lenovo additionally makes a bigger 13-inch Duet with an excellent higher OLED show that’s usually on sale for beneath $500, and that’s value a glance for those who want one thing bigger. The IPS touchscreen right here was greater than acceptable for video streaming and productiveness, with a max brightness of 400 nits. 

Because it’s so small and light-weight, lower than 1.2 kilos with simply the display (or simply over 2 kilos with the keyboard and again cowl), that is nice for holding one-handed in panorama mode for prolonged studying classes. 

Lenovo Duet as ebook reader

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Efficiency and battery life

As a performer… properly, this isn’t on the speedy aspect, even amongst latest Chromebooks. I positively felt it when hitting a dozen or extra open tabs within the Chrome browser. In benchmark checks, it was center of the pack. 

Nonetheless, operating Android apps must be positive, because the Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU right here is just like what you may discover in some telephones. From the Google Play retailer, I attempted a few latest Android video games with first rate graphics, together with Diablo Immortal. The free-to-play motion RPG performed positive, however was restricted to decrease in-game graphics settings, together with a 30fps versus 60fps body charge. 

Lenovo Duet  playing a game

Dan Ackerman/CNET

I additionally tried cloud gaming through Xbox Cloud Gaming. For that, I performed through the Chrome browser. You probably have a strong web connection, it may be a really satisfying different to downloaded video games, and cloud gaming is barely going to change into increasingly more mainstream. On this explicit case, I had hassle getting my Bluetooth controller acknowledged by the Xbox cloud gaming app, so I hardwired my controller through USB-C. 

You continue to run into occasional compatibility points with Chromebooks. Whereas most apps and cloud providers right here labored as anticipated, I couldn’t get Adobe’s beta cloud model of Photoshop to run, as an alternative getting an incompatible browser message.

And whereas I just like the Duet general, there are a couple of different issues that is perhaps a dealbreaker for you. The keyboard cowl is included, however a stylus will not be. Any USI pen will do, and there’s a rubber holder that snaps into the again cowl for those who determine to get the official Lenovo model, which is $35.  

You’ve solely bought two USB-C ports for charging, which might be limiting (nevertheless it’s additionally the identical as a MacBook Air). And probably most vital, there’s no headphone/audio jack. 

If these flaws aren’t deadly, the Lenovo Duet 3 makes an important second or journey laptop computer. I’d be hard-pressed to make use of it as an all-day, day by day machine – but when I solely needed to spend $400 on a laptop computer, I’d even be hard-pressed to think about an general higher choice.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Asus Chromebook Removable CM3

Word:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

3DMark Slingshot Open GL

Lenovo Ideapad Chromebook Duet 3

Asus Chromebook Removable CM3

Word:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Google Octane 2

Asus Chromebook Removable CM3

Word:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

JetStream 2

Asus Chromebook Removable CM3

Word:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

System specs

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 ChromeOS; 2.55GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2; 4GB RAM; 64GB eMMC SSD
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 ChromeOS; 3GHz Intel Core i3-1115G4; 8GB RAM;128GB PCIe SSD
HP Chromebook x2 11 ChromeOS; 2.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c; 8GB RAM; 64GB eMMC
Asus Chromebook Removable CM3 ChromeOS; 2GHz MediaTek 8183; 4GB RAM; 128GB eMMC SSD
Acer Chromebook 714 ChromeOS; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-1235U; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD

The evaluation course of for laptops, desktops, tablets and different computer-like gadgets consists of two elements: efficiency testing beneath managed circumstances within the CNET Labs and intensive hands-on use by our skilled reviewers. This contains evaluating a tool’s aesthetics, ergonomics and options. A closing evaluation verdict is a mixture of each these goal and subjective judgments. 

The checklist of benchmarking software program we use adjustments over time because the gadgets we take a look at evolve. Crucial core checks we’re at the moment operating on each suitable pc embody: Primate Labs Geekbench 5, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10 and 3DMark Hearth Strike Extremely. ChromeOS methods run browser-based checks like Jetstream and Google Octane.

A extra detailed description of every benchmark and the way we use it may be present in our How We Check Computer systems web page. 

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