With prices starting at around 400 Dollars, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i is among the cheapest Windows tablets out there. It has a 10-inch screen, an Intel Celeron processor, and the keyboard cover is included. That means it directly competes with the Microsoft Surface Go 2. Which one is better? That’s what you’ll learn in this Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i Review.
Design & Built Quality
I’m starting this review with the design and built quality. This is where the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i shines because the design is fantastic. That’s because it resembles the Surface Go 2. Even though it has a plastic body, it’s premium-feeling. A kickstand is built into the back which is made of metal and can be opened very wide.
Sure, with 890g it’s heavier than every Android tablet of this size, but for a Windows device, that’s normal. It’s 9.9mm thick.
I like that we get two USB C 3.2 Gen 2 ports on its side which are used to charge it. You can also connect an external monitor and one of them can be used to charge other devices like your phone.
There’s no USB Type-A port but we do get a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. Facial recognition is not supported and there’s no fingerprint scanner either.
While we get a 5-megapixel main camera on the back, the webcam has a 2-megapixel resolution. Photo and video quality are pretty weak, similar to an average laptop. It’s usable for video chats.
A major highlight of the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i is its keyboard cover that is included. That’s why usually, it’s at least 100 Dollars cheaper than the Surface Go 2 with a keyboard.
Due to the 10.3-inch screen, the keyboard is smaller than of a bigger laptop. It’s similar in size to other official keyboards for 10-inch tablets. The keys have a proper travel and while the touchpad is small, it works fine. I was able to type with the keyboard comfortably very fast – but I’m used to tablets. You’ll need a bit of time to get used to it. And at home, it makes sense to use a bigger keyboard.
The cover is connected using a magnetic connector and folded up, it protects the screen. Sadly, you can’t use it at an angle like you can with the Surface Go 2. But it has a trick that only the bigger Lenovo Yoga Duet 7i supports otherwise.
Lenovo built-in a small battery and Bluetooth. That means you can use it even when the keyboard is separated from the tablet. I think that’s very useful. If you don’t have much room on a train or plane, you can put the tablet on the table and use the keyboard with a touchpad on your lap. That works great.
Read: The Best Tablets With Keyboards: A Comparison
Hardware & Performance
Let’s get to the internal hardware. You can get the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i with an Intel Celeron N4020 dual-core processor or with an Intel Pentium N5030 quad-core chip. You get between 4GB and 8GB of RAM, as well as 64GB or 128GB eMMC flash storage. A version with LTE is planed too.
I’ve gotten the cheapest version with the N4020, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage. Out of the box, 35GB out of those 64GB is free.
My benchmark comparison shows that the performance of the Intel N4020 is not crazy slow. It’s more powerful than an Atom X5 that used to power tons of Windows tablets a couple of years ago. But it’s also a bit weaker than the Intel Pentium Gold of the Surface Go lineup. And the priciest Surface Go 2 with the Intel Core m3 is much faster.
The version with the Intel Pentium N5030 should be just above the Lenovo IdeaPad D330 with the N5000. That D330 is the direct predecessor of the Duet 3i and I reviewed it two years ago.
You can see the biggest difference between the Duet 3i and Surface Go in their graphics performance. Even the cheapest one from Microsoft offers much better graphics. So, it’s certainly not a gaming tablet. Fortnite and similar titles won’t run. And while you can play other games like Asphalt 9, it does not make much fun because of too many stutters.
As I said, I’ve gotten the cheapest version and that one is too weak for demanding apps. I was able to install Adobe Photoshop and for simple edits, it sometimes runs fine. But at other times, it hangs itself up when loading an image. For somewhat proper Photoshop use, you need at least a Core m3.
Office Work & Web Surfing
Microsoft’s Office apps run very well. I worked with Microsoft Word and Excel and both run great. Sure, if you’re working with huge and demanding Excel files, I’m sure it can be too much to handle. But for simple use cases, it’s fine.
With Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, you can surf the web well too. But don’t expect too much here. If you’re opening too many tabs and demanding web apps at the same time, it can be lagging fast. But simple web surfing with up to 5 tabs is okay.
Cheap Windows tablets often have problems with YouTube and that’s the case here as well. You can watch HD videos on YouTube fine most of the time, but sometimes you’ll see dropped frames. And it takes a couple of seconds to switch to fullscreen view. YouTube runs much smoother on a cheap Android device.
For demanding multitasking, that 4 GB of RAM is too small. Even when just surfing the web and using Office apps, the CPU and RAM are often maxed out. As I said, web surfing and office work perform fine most of the time. But that’s it, especially with the cheapest version.
With the cheapest version, you’ll have to keep an eye on your resources because the tablet can be overloaded fast. Even OneDrive can cause it to slow down dramatically when synching something in the background. And sometimes it can happen, that you just have to wait a bit until some background process has calmed down. That’s why sometimes even simple tasks are not as smooth as they can be at other times. So, don’t expect to use your Duet 3i like a higher-end laptop.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i has a 10.3-inch screen with an aspect ratio of 16:10 and a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. I always think that Full HD on 10-inches is high enough and that’s the case here too. Texts look sharp.
Considering its price, it is bright enough and the colors look great. I also like that the screen is fully laminated.
According to the Lenovo website, you can use an active pen to write on the display. I haven’t tried that. But keep in mind that the performance is too weak for demanding graphics apps anyway, so maybe you can use the pen for handwritten notes, but probably not more. And the performance might be too weak for super long OneNote notes as well.
The tablet has two speakers in total, one on each side. As is common for a Windows tablet, the sound quality is pretty bad. I’m reviewing the Lenovo Tab M10 HD 2nd Gen at the same time and even though it’s two times cheaper, the sound is much better.
Software: Windows 10 S Mode
Out of the box, Lenovo is shipping the IdeaPad Duet 3i with Windows 10 in S Mode. That means you can install apps from the Microsoft Store only which is more secure because you can’t install random malware from the web. But don’t worry, you can switch to standard Windows 10 Home with a couple of clicks for free. Once you do that, it behaves as any other Windows PC does.
Read: The Best Windows Tablet Of 2021
I don’t have much to say about Windows, everybody knows it. If you’re using it on a tablet for the first time, make sure you check out the tablet mode. It’s easier to navigate with the touchscreen that way. And keep in mind, that you can get apps from the Microsoft Store which often are better optimizes for touch. Among these are programs like Netflix or news readers, for instance.
In my battery test, the Duet 3i got a runtime of exactly 6 hours. For this, I’m always looping an HD video on YouTube at maximum brightness. That’s a good result for a Windows tablet. When looping an HD video locally at medium brightness, it lasts a bit longer.
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i Review: Final Verdict
So, let’s get to the end of my Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3i review. I can recommend it if you’re looking for an inexpensive tablet with a keyboard and Windows. We get a pretty design with a kickstand, a good 10.3-inch screen, and a great keyboard with a touchpad. For simple Office work, the performance is fine, but not for much more.
I can recommend such a cheap Windows tablet if you specifically need Windows for something only. If you can do the same with Chrome OS, iPadOS, or Android, you’ll get much better performance with those at the same price. But if you need Windows, the IdeaPad Duet 3i can be a good choice, as long as you want to save as much money as possible and don’t need much performance.
Let’s check out the alternatives.
The most important competitor is the Microsoft Surface Go 2. Even with its cheapest version, the graphics performance is better. And it offers a premium design, a great Surface Pen, and a good keyboard. The version with the Intel Core m3 is most interesting because it’s much more powerful.
If you don’t need Windows but mostly want an inexpensive tablet with a keyboard, I think the Lenovo Duet Chromebook is the perfect alternative. Even though it’s cheaper, the keyboard is included too, and the internal hardware together with Chrome OS is more powerful in real life. Surfing the web and demanding web apps perform much better. And you can install Microsoft Word using the Google Play Store.
In case you need as much performance as possible, you should check out the Apple iPad 8. The keyboard is not included and it’s not as good. But the Apple A12 processor is much stronger than any Windows tablet of this price class. And inside the App Store, you can find the mobile versions of Microsoft Word, but also Photoshop. Photoshop runs great on the iPad 8.
- Pretty design
- Good 10.3-inch screen
- Keyboard with Bluetooth
- Very affordable
- Optional LTE 4G
- Bad cameras
- Intel N4020 quite weak
- Few touch apps