CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2
Display: 11 inches, 2,000 x 1,200 pixels
Cameras: 5MP/8MP (front/rear)
Size: 10.16 x 6.48 x 0.31 inches
Weight: 1.2/2.1 lbs (tablet only/tablet + cover)
Ports: (2) USB-C 3.2 Gen1
Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1
The Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Duet 3 ($359 to start) is here, and there's plenty of good reasons to be excited about this Chrome tablet.
This is effectively a bigger, more expensive follow-up to the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, a surprisingly capable and inexpensive Chrome tablet that Lenovo released in 2020. We loved the original Duet for its great battery life, solid performance and decent packed-in keyboard cover, all of which could be had for roughly $250 (or less with a Lenovo coupon code).
Lenovo's new Duet 3 costs a bit more, but it also delivers a bigger, brighter display, more ports, and the power of a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 chip. After spending a few weeks reviewing it, I can tell you that despite a few weaknesses, this is a worthy successor to the Duet that's one of the best Chromebooks for kids and indeed, one of the best budget laptops period. Read on to see why.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Price and availability
- Releasing May 2022
- Price starts at $359
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3 Chromebook is expected to debut later this month (May 2022), and when it does you can purchase one via Lenovo's website as well as select third-party retailers. Here in the U.S. you can get a Duet 3 for as low as $359, which gets you a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. You can pay $379 for one with the same RAM but twice the storage, up tor 128GB.
Our review unit has a unique configuration of 8GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, since it's a prerelease unit sent to us early for review purposes. You can't buy this specific configuration with maximum RAM and minimum memory, but other than that it appears indistinguishable from a release model. Lenovo has told us to expect models with 8GB of RAM to go on sale in select regions of Europe (including Spain, Germany and France) later this month as well, but it's yet unclear when or if models with 8GB of RAM will be available Stateside.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Design
- Feels sturdy and nearly as light as an iPad
- Bigger, higher-res screen and more USB-C ports than its predecessor
The Duet 3 Chromebook looks very similar to the original Duet Chromebook Lenovo released in 2020. The Duet 3 is slightly larger, with an 11-inch 2K (2,000 x 1,200 pixels) screen housed in a thin black aluminum chassis. At 10.16 x 6.48 x 0.31 inches with a weight starting at 1.14 pounds, the Duet 3 isn't quite as light or thin as the base iPad 2021 (0.29 inches, 1.09 pounds), but it's pretty close, and in my hands it feels both sturdy and light enough to carry around the house all day.
Lenovo retained the two-piece design of the Duet's detachable keyboard and cover, which have a nice thick-woven cloth texture that feel good in the hand. Like the Duet, the new Duet 3 has a detachable keyboard and back cover that you have to attach separately, though each is magnetized to help it slide easily into place.
The keyboard cover feels sturdy to type on, and on our review unit the magnets are strong enough that if I move the keyboard cover's attach point within an inch or so of the appropriate port on the tablet, the two devices snap together with a speed and strength that's faintly intimidating.
The rear cover also snaps on quickly and easily, with an extra bit of utility that isn't obvious at first glance: The lower half can be folded out to serve as a pretty decent kickstand. Unfortunately, getting a finger in under the flap of the kickstand and extending it out can be kind of a pain.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Display
- 11-inch 2K display gets nice and bright
- Colors look great
The Duet 3 has a bigger, brighter screen than the original Duet, with a higher resolution. Lenovo claims it can achieve up to 400 nits of brightness, but our lab testing revealed our review unit actually gets even brighter.
When we pointed our Klein K10-A colorimeter at the Duet 3's display with the brightness cranked all the way up, we found it achieved an average brightness of 434.4 nits, getting as high as 466 nits in the center of the screen. That's better than the original Duet's average brightness of 372 nits, and brighter than the likes of Android tablets like the Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 (390 nits), but it still can't match the brightness of the iPad 2021 (472 nits).
In terms of color accuracy, the Duet 3's display achieved 108.4% of the sRGB color gamut and 76.8% of the DCI-P3 color gamut (100% is most accurate). These numbers typically only matter to serious photo/video editors, but they're useful to evaluate the Duet 3's display because I can tell you that it's roughly in line with its predecessor the Duet (106% sRGB) and the 2021 iPad (105.3% sRGB).
To my eyes, the Duet 3's display looks bright and colorful. It's not as dazzling or as vibrant as some of the best OLED displays on laptops and tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra ($1,099 to start), but it's plenty good enough for this ~$400 Chrome tablet. I enjoyed watching YouTube videos and playing games on the Duet 3, and even watching dark movies like Bubba Hotep was an enjoyable experience on the 2K display.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Ports
- 2 USB-C ports is all you get
- Still no headphone jack
Lenovo has improved the port options on offer for the Duet 3, as it now sports a pair of USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 jacks, one on either side of the tablet when held in landscape mode.
That's better than the paltry single USB-C port we got on the original Duet, and since the Duet 3 still charges via USB-C, you now have some flexibility about which side of the tablet you want to plug into power. And since either port can drive an external display, it's pretty easy to hook the Duet 3 up to a monitor for greater productivity when you're at a desk.
However, it's still a pretty limited device that can't accommodate a variety of accessories without serious investment in adapters and time spent swapping cables out.
Worse, the Duet 3 still doesn't have a headphone jack, something we sorely missed in the original Duet. These tablets are clearly designed to be multipurpose computing devices, and the original Duet proved very popular among parents during the COVID-19 pandemic as an inexpensive Chromebook that could be used for remote learning, so it's a huge disappointment that the Duet and Duet 3 don't allow you to plug in a pair of inexpensive earbuds. As it stands, you'll have to invest in one of the best wireless earbuds or best wireless headphones if you want to do any private listening (or Zoom calls) on the Duet.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Performance
- Light browsing and app usage feels plenty snappy
- Some games and apps still slow to load
Our prerelease Duet 3 review unit is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 chip and packs 8GB of RAM, which together give this Chromebook plenty of power to multitask between web browsing, working and some light gaming.
In my time with the Duet 3 I found it to be pretty snappy for a Chromebook, with almost no slowdown when launching and switching between apps. I was able to open 15 tabs in Chrome and stream music, watch videos on the Amazon Prime Video app, and play a game downloaded from the Google Play Store with no meaningful slowdown.
When we put it to the test in the Geekbench 5.4 multi-core CPU benchmark, the Duet 3 earned a score of 1,732. That's low compared to most laptops, but this is a Chromebook running on a Snapdragon SoC, not a pricey ultraportable packing the latest Intel or AMD CPUs. When you compare it against the performance of its predecessor or similarly-equipped tablets, the Duet 3 looks good by comparison.
The original Lenovo Duet Chromebook we reviewed in 2020 didn't even run Geekbench 5, but if it had it would have been outperformed by the new Duet 3. The Microsoft Surface Go 3 (Intel Core i3-10100Y, 8GB RAM) earned a lesser score of 1,571 in the same test, for example, as did its predecessor the Surface Go 2 (Core m3-8100Y CPU, 8GB RAM) with its score of 1,617. However, more powerful (and more expensive) tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (Intel i7-1185G7, 16GB RAM) and Apple iPad Air 5 (M1 chip, 8GB RAM) zoomed past the Duet 3 with scores of 5,347 and 7,151, respectively.
We also ran the Duet 3 through the JetStream 2 suite of benchmarking tests to see how well it handles web apps, and the Chromebook earned a score of 63.7. That's decent, but it puts the Duet 3 a bit behind more expensive tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 (120.3) and the iPad Air 5 (207.2).
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Audio
- Remarkably loud on the high end, surprisingly quiet on the low end
- No bass to speak of
The pair of 1W speakers built into the Duet 3 help it kick out the jams at respectable volume. While you shouldn't expect any real bass or depth to the sound, the Duet 3 gets surprisingly loud for a Chrome tablet.
However, it's also remarkably quiet. Maybe I'm just getting old in my mid-30s, but our Duet 3 review unit was basically inaudible to my ears when set below 20% or so of max volume. This is rarely a problem, but it does feel sort of strange to have to increase the volume several ticks above the lowest setting in order to hear anything.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Keyboard and touchpad
- Keyboard cover is surprisingly good, and included at no charge
- Too cramped for most of us to use regularly, but still a value add
The detachable keyboard that comes with the Lenovo Duet 3 is remarkably good, with keys that feel satisfying to type on despite their shallow travel. The keyboard itself also feels a bit cramped and uncomfortable under my giant mitts, but that's to be expected from a detachable keyboard for an 11-inch tablet.
The Duet 3's keyboard is good enough that I'd be willing to type emails, blog posts, and even whole term papers on it, making this Chrome tablet a great productivity device in a pinch. One additional caveat: the detachable keyboard isn't very thick or sturdy, so you'll want to use it on a solid surface like a desk or table (not your lap) for serious typing sessions.
Still, the fact that this keyboard is so good for its size, and the fact that Lenovo bundles it in at no extra charge, help make the Duet 3 a great value.
The touchpad on the keyboard is equally usable, and it comes in handy when you don't want to risk smudging the screen by, say, stretching out a Cheeto-stained finger to crank up the volume.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Camera
- 5MP front-facing camera is not very good
- 8MP rear-facing camera isn't much better
I doubt you'll like the way you look through the lens of the Duet 3's front-facing 5MP camera. On calls with colleagues and family via Google Meet, I found the Duet 3's camera made me look even more washed out and pale than usual.
The rear-facing 8MP camera isn't much better, and in my experience I thought the images it captured looked blurry and washed out, with overly muted colors and fuzzy details.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Battery life
- 10 hours and 30 minutes of battery life, according to testing
- Less than its predecessor, but still quite good
After spending a few weeks with our Duet 3 review unit, I can tell you that it doesn't exactly burn through battery. I never had to worry about it running out of charge during the day, and when I plugged it in it was able to recharge up to about 80% in an hour.
When we put the Duet 3 through our battery test, which tasks the tablet with continuously surfing the web via Wi-Fi with its display set to 150 nits of brightness, the Duet 3 lasted an average of 10 hours and 30 minutes. That's pretty good for a tablet, though its hardly surprising given that this is a low-powered Chrome device.
However, it's less impressive than the 11+ hour runtimes put up by tablets like the the Microsoft Surface Go 2 (11:38), the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 (12:52) or the base Apple iPad 2021 (11:59). It's not even as good as the original 2020 Lenovo Duet (12:47), which may have something to do with the fact that the newer Duet 3 has a larger, higher-resolution screen than its predecessor.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Heat
- Hardly a lap-scorcher
The Duet 3 rarely heats up, and even when I used it to watch movies or play games for hours I never noticed more than a mild warmth emanating from the device.
When we put it to work playing an HD video for 15 minutes and then swept a heat gun over the Duet 3, we found it ranged between 75-88 degrees. The hottest spot we measured was the upper left quadrant, which warmed up to 88.9 degrees.
Lenovo Duet 3 review: Verdict
The Duet 3 is an improvement over the original Duet in some smart ways. Lenovo upgraded the screen and boosted its resolution, making everything you view on it look better. The second USB-C port is also a nice addition that makes the Duet 3 a more feasible productivity device, because you can now plug it into power and a USB hub at the same time to use your favorite keyboard and mouse (or whatever accessories you prefer). It's one of the reasons one of our editors chose this Chromebook over an Android tablet.
That said, there are better options if you're willing to spend more money. As good as the Duet 3 is, Apple's base iPad outperforms it in nearly all areas, and now that the Duet 3 is creeping up past the $300 mark it's not actually any cheaper than a base iPad ($329 to start).
Of course, the iPad doesn't come with a keyboard bundled in, and it also doesn't support Apple's excellent Magic Keyboard, so you'd have to pay an additional $159 for a Smart Keyboard to make your new iPad as functional as the Duet 3. The Smart Keyboard isn't much better than the Duet's detachable keyboard anyhow, so you'll end up paying over $100 more for a similarly subpar tablet typing experience.
If you can afford it, upgrading to a new iPad Air (2022) with a Magic Keyboard would be an across-the-board improvement over the Duet 3. But it'd also cost you several hundred dollars more. If you just need a surprisingly good Chrome tablet for under $400 that can double as a Chromebook in a pinch, Lenovo's Duet 3 is a great choice that won't let you down.