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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Review: Chrome OS finally gets the tablet it’s always needed

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When you think of Chrome OS, you probably think of cheap laptops. For the past few years, though, Google has been working to make Chrome OS better for more expensive machines and, perhaps more importantly, for tablets. The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet looks on paper like it would be the first good Chrome OS tablet, but does it live up? I’ve spent the past week finding out.

Hardware & Display |

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is a device in three parts. At the core, there’s a tablet made from aluminum and with a soft-touch blue accent at the top. There’s nothing really special about the tablet itself. The build is solid — though it does creak a bit if you apply pressure in some areas —, the weight is a bit heavy, but not to an excessive point, and the buttons along the side are tactile and well-placed too.

It’s hard to complain about the tablet portion of this device because, really, it’s just so simple. Nothing about it really stands out and asks for your attention. That’s a shame considering some of Lenovo’s tablet designs are really unique, but it’s not a bad thing either. My sole complaint about the hardware might be that it’s just a little bit “sharp.” The corners aren’t rounded very much on the back which, over time, might make it slightly uncomfortable to hold. Still, that’s nitpicking a design that’s really just totally acceptable.

The tablet portion of the IdeaPad Duet also includes a 10.1-inch 1080p display which is pretty decent. It’s not going to stun anyone, but there’s also nothing that’s really wrong with it. It can be a bit dim outdoors, but inside it’s going to be more than enough for 99% of scenarios. Bezels are a bit big, but not obnoxiously so. Colors are good, too, with decent enough uniformity. Watching content on this tablet is fine, and the size is just right for work too. This display is also equipped to recognize a USI stylus, something that really comes in handy for drawing. We’ve got a full breakdown of that technology here.

The biggest recommendation I’d offer for the display on the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is to head to the system settings and decrease the scale. Setting the display scaling to about 90% leaves you with much more room to get things done without sacrificing touch targets.

Going around the tablet, you’ll find microphones, a front-facing webcam (which isn’t great), a rear-facing camera (which is much worse), the POGO pins for the keyboard dock, and a single USB-C port. One thing you won’t find, though, is a headphone jack. Why? Who knows.

That USB-C port is used for charging, data transfer, and display out. That’s great! However, there are a couple of caveats. For one, there’s only one USB-C port, meaning you’ll need a dongle to plug anything in while charging. Also, display out is severely limited. For most displays, you’ll be stuck at well under HD resolution just to achieve usable results. Don’t buy this product with hooking up an external display in mind.

Keyboard & Trackpad |

The other two parts of the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet are the keyboard dock and the kickstand. Briefly touching on the kickstand, it attaches completely with magnets — awesome — and has a fabric design that looks nice and feels good to hold. The kickstand itself is a bit tricky to get used to, but works well and is very stable. It also adjusts to pretty wide angles and doesn’t lack stability at any of them.

The keyboard, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixed bag. For a keyboard on a 10-inch tablet, it’s great. The keys have a good amount of travel and aren’t particularly small, either. In fact, it only took a couple of hours of use to get used to the keys with the exception of the right-hand side. The punctuation keys on that side are small and cramped and just really difficult to get used to. It takes several hours of use to really get tuned to those keys and you’ll probably still have typos regardless.

My other big complaint is stability. The keyboard won’t just detach or anything, but you absolutely cannot comfortably use this product in your lap. The flexible fabric portion between the tablet and the keyboard prevents that and it’s just a crying shame. I’d find this product much more useful if it had a more stable keyboard that could be used on your lap.

There are little nitpicks I could make about the keyboard dock such as a lack of backlighting, but let’s talk about the good here. This keyboard is included. Generally, getting a first-party keyboard for a tablet such as the iPad or a Galaxy Tab will cost a fair bit extra, often up to $200 on the pricier models. Lenovo, though, includes it in the box. That’s really great!

What about the trackpad? It’s nothing special. It’s plastic which means it feels cheap and the size of the trackpad is decidedly small. Shame, but it’s far from a deal-breaker if you ask me.

Is Chrome OS ready for tablets? |

Most of the time with Chromebooks, the story is just about how Chrome OS performs on that specific hardware. With the IdeaPad Duet, though, Lenovo and Google have worked together on some improvements for this hardware specifically to make it a better tablet.

However, it’s still hard to say that Chrome OS is all that good on tablets. Google’s most recent improvements — gesture navigation and a touch-optimized browser UI — go a long way to make using this device better, but they’re not enough.

Chrome OS’ homescreen for tablets is just not good. The app drawer can be reorganized and given folders, but it’s a mess at first and even after being organized, still feels cluttered and limited — even more so than an iPad. For whatever reason, too, the homescreen is a huge source of performance issues even though the “desktop” mode performs just fine. It’s strange and pretty annoying, to be honest.

Another really confusing aspect of Chrome OS on tablets and also just in general is that there are three different settings menus. Clicking the settings button in the quick shortcuts section accesses one, tapping “Settings” on the browser’s menu accesses another, and if you dig far enough you can access an Android settings menu. All of these control different things — Why?!

There shouldn’t be two settings menus, let alone three!

Android apps, too, are a bit of a chore here. They’re useful and perform decent enough, but web apps work better and don’t drain the battery nearly as much. To fully realize the potential of the IdeaPad Duet, we need more Progressive Web Apps. As it stands today, too many Android apps just aren’t well optimized for Chrome OS. They fill the gap when it comes to games, downloading offline content, and even some things like photo editing, but they’re just not ideal.

Another annoyance is the lockscreen. It’s slow and poorly optimized for touch. Even after enabling the PIN unlock option, the experience of unlocking is cumbersome. Google really needs to revamp this experience. Either that, or make some form of biometrics a requirement on Chrome OS tablets.

Chrome OS’ “tablet mode” homescreen

Performance |

Lenovo has been marketing the IdeaPad Duet as part tablet, part productivity machine. For the latter, a device needs capable performance. Does the Duet hold up? Mostly.

Packed inside of the IdeaPad Duet you’ll find 4GB of RAM, 64 or 128GB of eMMC storage (I reviewed the 128GB model), and a MediaTek Helio P60T processor. All of those combined deliver an experience that’s actually quite good as long as you have your expectations set properly.

If you pick up an IdeaPad Duet hoping to make it your portable productivity workplace, running communication apps, email, and a half-dozen tabs, you’ll likely be disappointed. This setup just can’t handle all of that without choking.

I can’t run much more than three “programs” at a time

I’ve found that the sweet spot, at least for my personal workflow, is 2-4 tabs and Slack in the background. I can have WordPress open, the reference for my current project, and other tools like Google Keep or Gmail open with minimal hiccups. You absolutely cannot be a tab hoarder with this device or even try to open too many ad-heavy pages at once. The Duet will absolutely fail under the pressure and you’ll experience a ton of lag.

For most people, though, the IdeaPad Duet should hold up just fine. I’ve rarely had Android apps lag up and any form of gaming — whether that be local or on Google Stadia — has been fine as well. The best advice I have for anyone who buys this tablet is to regularly reboot it. I found that it needs at least one reboot every 48 hours otherwise lag becomes more common.

Battery Life |

One of the biggest advantages of most Chromebooks is battery life and I’m happy to say that holds up pretty well on the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet! On average, I could use the Duet on and off for 2-3 days depending on how much I use it. Since it’s not a powerhouse, I can’t use it for my morning workflow, but using it for a few hours in the afternoon and evening I rarely find I can drain it more than 50% in a day.

As mentioned, the Duet charges over USB-C. It accepts any Power Delivery charger and includes one in the box, so you’ll get a speedy charge. I just wish there was a second port on the left-hand side.

Speakers |

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is pretty great for media consumption, and the speakers help that. The dual speakers at the top of the tablet are pretty good considering the $279 price tag at play here. Bass isn’t super noteworthy and they do degrade a bit at higher volumes, but I was impressed the first time I used the speakers on the IdeaPad Duet.

This is a crucial part of the tablet too for Stadia. Google’s cloud-streaming game platform is designed to run on Chrome and, for the IdeaPad Duet, it runs brilliantly. Having a good set of speakers makes the Duet a pretty killer portable Stadia machine. I know it’s the only tablet I’d recommend to use the platform.

Final Thoughts |

The verdict on the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet comes down to just one thing — value. At $279, the value isn’t really at question. A capable tablet with a keyboard and kickstand included is just a great deal, but is it worth more than an iPad? For most people, I think a traditional tablet like the iPad is a better option.

Still, for Android users who want a tablet that integrates well with their phone or just someone who wants a proper browser on their tablet, the IdeaPad Duet is a great way to go. I hope Lenovo eventually releases a version with a bit more power in the same form factor for users like me, but a lot of people are going to be happy with this product. I know I’d recommend this over basically any traditional Android tablet.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is available for $279 from Lenovo, Best Buy, and other retailers.

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Latest Google app beta crashes when you customize Discover on Android

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A bug with the latest Google app beta today sees the Discover feed available to the left of Android homescreens consistently crash. This issue affects both Google and non-Pixel devices.

This crash only occurs in one specific circumstance. After swiping left to reach Discover, tapping the overflow button in the bottom-right corner of each card will immediately crash the Google app.

A system prompt might appear, but you could also suddenly find yourself on the homescreen. That menu lets users share or hide stories, express interest/disinterest, and “Report content.” You can still “Manage interests” by going to the More tab > Settings > Interests.

The More/Less control next to the overflow button interestingly still works, while you can also open webpages. To reload the homescreen feed after a crash, open the Google app via its icon.

This issue emerged with Google app 11.13, which rolled out this morning to the beta channel. It’s an unexpected release since version 11.12 launched earlier on Tuesday. It makes for two major updates this week.

We’ve encountered the crash on both Google and non-Pixel Android phones, like the OnePlus 8. The full Discover feed in the Google app does not have the same issue. It will presumably be resolved with a minor update in the coming days.

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TCL brings Android TV lineup to the US, will be sold alongside Roku models

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Roku has been the biggest player in the US when it comes to smart TV platforms, but Google’s Android TV hasn’t given up the fight. Today, Google’s platform is getting a boost as TCL has announced that it will begin selling Android TV models in the United States for the first time.

In a press release, TCL says that it will “[leverage] its years-long mobile device partnership with Google” to bring these new televisions to the US. TCL has offered Android TV models overseas in the past, but only sold models running Roku in the States since 2014.

TCL’s collection of Roku built-in smart TVs have become extremely popular in the US, mostly due to their value proposition. The company’s affordable panels often deliver top-tier features and picture quality for a fraction of the cost of the competition. Now, the same will be offered with Google’s Android TV platform using essentially the same hardware.

Chris Larson, senior vice president for TCL North America says:

Our award-winning TV lineup helped propel us into America’s second-largest TV brand just five years after we introduced our products in the US and with those significant achievements, we believe this is the perfect time to deliver another option for consumers with Android TV.

Since the first day TCL launched in North America, we’ve been focused on becoming one of the most popular TV brands by paying close attention to what our users value. Consumers desire options and our mission is to serve them with our latest multi-OS strategy. We’re excited to introduce new customers to TCL with our expanded television assortment…

TCL TVs with Roku won’t be going anywhere, as Android TV models will be sold right alongside them. Currently, only two TCL models are available with Google’s platform, 32-inch and 40-inch 1080p TVs shipping now from Best Buy with pricing starting at $129.

Notably, this comes just a few weeks after TCL launched its first Android smartphones in the United States.

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Today’s Android game/app deals + freebies: Doom & Destiny, Galaxy Trader, more

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We are now ready to jump into the weekend with all of Friday’s best Android app deals in tow. For those who might be new around here, every weekday afternoon we scour the internet for all of the most notable price drops on Google Play and beyond. Wading through the onslaught of less than desirable Android apps that go on sale everyday can be tedious at best, so just let us do it for you. Today’s highlights include Doom & Destiny Advanced, Weather App Pro, Simple File Manager Pro, You are Hope, Galaxy Trader, Data Defense, Quell Memento+, and more. As always, today’s complete collection of the best Android app deals is waiting below the fold.

Today’s Best Android Game and App Deals:

Today’s best android hardware deals are highlighted by a pair of notable Wear OS offers. We have the Moto 360 Smartwatch with an always-on screen for $270 and Samsung’s stainless steel Galaxy Watch Active2 from $230 ($99 off). These wearable deals join ongoing offers on Skagen’s Falster 2 Smartwatch, a series of Fossil models from $129 and Withings’ Steel Hybrid. We also still have some solid handset price drops running including LG’s unlocked G8 ThinQ and the Moto G7 Play as well as Google Pixel 3a/XL back down at Amazon all-time lows. Lastly, be sure to swing by our roundup for all the best Android accessory deals and more.

Today’s Best Game Deals: Forza Motorsport 7 $10, Persona 5 Royal $40, more


More Android App Deals Still Alive:

***Act fast on these deals from our previous roundup as they are jumping back up in price at any time.

More on Doom & Destiny Advanced:

Venture with the most nerdy anti-heroes of all times, face a crazy adventure, defeat a mad business man and save the universe, one fetch quest at a time. Embody 20 different heroic spirits, equip gear, master skills and character combinations to fight in turn based combat 300+ different enemies and, while you progress into an over 30 hours main quest, feel free to explore 1000+ locations looking for more than 100 hidden secrets. Doom & Destiny Advanced is the sequel, prequel and reboot of Doom & Destiny. This might sound crazy, but in short, it means that you don’t need to play the first Do&De, but if you did, you’ll enjoy the wacky world and funny characters even more!

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