In the world of tablets, there’s basically the iPad, and then there’s everyone else. Everyone else kinda sucks. At least that’s what I used to think. But the Lenovo Duet changed all of that.
I’d heard the Lenovo Duet was a really great Chrome Tablet and so I really wanted to give this a look. And right off the bat, I was impressed. In the first 24 hours, I decided I would be doing a comparison between the iPad and the Lenovo Duet. I’m going to pit the two against each other in seven different categories:
Take It All In
From a strictly resolution standpoint, the iPad is going to take the cookie. The iPad has Apple’s patented Retina display which weighs in at 2160 x 1620 versus the Duet with 1920 x 1200. In terms of brightness, the iPad also wins at 500 nits versus the Duet’s 400. Both are multi touch and support pen input. This iPad support the Gen 1 Apple Pencil. Any USI stylus works on the Duet, so that’s pretty even. While I prefer the 16 x 9 aspect ratio of the duet versus the 4:3 on the iPad, but overall I have to give the nod to the iPad in this category. It’s brighter, sharper, and generally prettier with better color saturation.
Looks Aren't Everything
But now let’s talk about design. Have you ever seen an iPad? Like ever? If so, you know the design - giant bezels, fingerprint sensor on the front, and it’s thin. Aside from that, the design on the iPad has not changed since the original iPad. You get a slightly thinner bezel here, a missing switch there, but it’s basically the same.
The Lenovo Duet however is quite nice. There are slimmer bezels on the sides, while only slightly thicker top and bottom. On the back, is a dual colored affair with dark grey aluminum on the bottom - Lenovo calls it "Iron Gray" with a strip of "Ice Blue" across the top. Lenovo includes a material covered backplate with kickstand that attaches magnetically. The keyboard which is also included in the box is a fairly boring grey color and, due to the soft rubber hinge that attaches the keyboard to the tablet, the keyboard is slightly misaligned with the screen. It’s a minor point, but it certainly does detract from the design. Considering the various materials involved and the utility of the design, this category goes solidly in Lenovo’s camp. This is not an awe-inspiring design, but it’s also not the same old boring design of four iPhones duct taped together.
Taking Care of Business
Both tablets struggle to do a split screen interface with one window on each side. In the case of ChromeOS, you need to drag a window to the side, ala Windows 10. On the iPad you have to swipe up from the bottom to bring up your dock, then tap and hold on the app you want the second screen on, then drag it to the side you want it on.
Neither one is very good at it. The iPad UI just sucks, and Chrome OS works, but isn’t very intuitive. ChromeOS is especially bad when dealing with multiple windows. Both operating systems have some work to do here.
Google docs works great on both devices - and you can install office on either one. There is one key differentiator that makes one device better than the other in productivity. Put simply, the iPad is just a tablet when you pull it out of the box. That means you need to use a virtual keyboard. When that keyboard takes up half the screen, the multitasking introduced into iOS, now called iPadOS doesn’t really matter. The windowed interface of the Chromebook, plus the keyboard and kickstand in the box are solid wins for Lenovo. The Duet is a great productivity machine, though the keyboard is not my favorite.
Netflix and Chill
Both tablets are really great when it comes to app ecosystem, screen, battery life, and more. The iPad’s speakers are louder, which gives the iPad a slight nudge. Add to that iPad apps are generally better optimized for the tablet experience than Android tablets. The kickstand and detachable keyboard do give the Duet some points in this category, but not enough to topple the iPad, so the iPad gets the nod.
On the face of things, it's really hard to decide which tablet is faster. That being said, I apparently don't engage in very high-impact type of activities because Geekbeench strenuously objects with me. iPad - 756 single core test/1361 multi-core test. As for the Duet, the numbers are much lower - around 200 and 900 respectively. But that isn't really the core problem here. The Duet performs just fine for things like Clash Royale, Call of Duty mobile, stuff like that.
The biggest problem I have with the Duet is it seems to have a problem with inertia. And that’s not a technical term, so allow me to explain. Objects at rest, tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. The same is true for the Lenovo tablet. If the device is sleeping, it takes forever to wake up. It takes several seconds from the time you press the power button to wake the tablet, until the time you can enter your passcode. Similarly if you have a movie playing on the tablet, and you need to wake it up to pause it, the movie just keeps going for a second or two before the pause actually kicks in. At any time, the iPad just does what you tell it to do. There’s no lag nor stutter.
Extras and Test Notes
The fingerprint sensor on the iPad is wonderful to have. From waking up, to unlocking, to just returning to the home screen, the fingerprint sensor/home button does it all. On the Duet, you can tie your Android phone to the tablet so when your phone is unlocked, so is the tablet. I found that works, maybe half the time, and it's no substitute for having a fingerprint sensor on the device itself.
Meanwhile, on the Duet, the ability to have whatever configuration you want is awesome. Whether you want a full computer, just a tablet, or a tablet with a kickstand, the Lenovo can do it all. The versatility of the USB type-C connector on the Duet is awesome while the iPad is still stuck on the lightning connector. ChromeOS’s ability to switch between desktop mode and tablet mode is pretty seamless. Task switching on both devices is pretty easy, but what I like about the iPad is two apps in split screen become one task in the multitasking menu, which is great for popping out to do some research, then popping back in.
All About the Benjamins
And finally we get to value, and this is a complete no brainer. It's the Duet all the way. The Lenovo Duet sells for less than the iPad. Forget about a case or a keyboard for the iPad. That's just for the device. The Lenovo Duet comes with both a case, with a kickstand, plus a removable keyboard in the box, for less than the iPad. The Lenovo may even actually see security updates as long or longer than the iPad. It's a shockingly good device for under $300. The Verge's review headline reads that the Lenovo Duet has no business being as inexpensive as it is. So in terms of value, there's no contest.
The Winner is…?
The Lenovo Duet is a great device, and especially once you factor in cost, and the extras that come with it, it's downright amazing. But the Duet is a first-generation device and it still has a few kinks to work out.
If you're looking for a productivity tablet, the iPad, with the keyboard that will cost you extra, can do basically anything the Lenovo can do. In some cases it does it a little bit better. Once Lenovo has been able to take feedback from customers and reviewers, I'm positive that it can make a better 2.0 product. There is no better start that Lenovo could have asked for with this first-generation of device. I sincerely hope Lenovo doubles down on this design and function and price in this awesome package. I will be the first in line to put it through its paces.
I don't want you to think that the Lenovo Duet is lacking - it's really not. It just needs that polish that Apple has had seven generations to figure out. The Duet is my favorite non-iPad tablet ever. Full stop. In time, it will kick ass. It just needs to cook for a bit. That's why, if asked today, if someone should buy an iPad or a Lenovo Duet, honestly, there is no wrong answer, but I have to give it to the iPad, but not by much. Consider this your notice Apple: You're not the only game in town anymore.