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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5i hands-on: One-upping the Surface Pro

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 might be the best Windows 2-in-1 you can buy, but companies like Lenovo are using the base design of the device to try new things with the form factor. The ThinkPad X12 detachable is a good example of this, but Lenovo is now going after the Surface again with the new IdeaPad Duet 5i.

I got to try it ahead of Mobile World Congress and quickly found out that this new Windows tablet can do one thing that a Surface Pro or Surface Go can’t — and it’s all thanks to the keyboard.

The Lenovo IdeaPad 5i tablet stands out due to its keyboard.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

Specs

  Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5i
Dimensions 11.35 x 7.59 x 0.37 inches
Weight 1.78-pound tablet. 0.79-pound Folio keyboard case
Processor 12th-gen Intel Core i7 or Core i3 U-Series Processors. Starting option for Intel Pentium 8505.
Graphics Intel Integrated Graphics
RAM 4GB, 8GB, or 16 GB
Display 13.35-inch. 2K resolution (2650 x 1600) tuned to 16:10 aspect ratio
Storage 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB
Touch Standard on all models
Ports 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, 1x Audio Jack
Wireless Up to Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam Windows Hello 5MP front, 5MP rear
Operating system Windows 11 Home
Battery 50 watt-hour battery. Up to 11 hours MobileMark 2018.

Keyboard battery up to 28.3 hours, with no backlight, always typing

Price, availability $750, July 2022

Design

The back of the IdeaPad 5i
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

The IdeaPad Duet 5i is one of the most portable products in an IdeaPad lineup, which traditionally is associated with convertibles or laptops. It’s a new 2-in-1 tablet with incredible detachability. As soon as you spot its Stone Blue or Storm Gray color options, you’d likely be eager to pick it up.

When holding it, the IdeaPad Duet 5i feels a lot like a Surface Go would. With a built-in kickstand, it even can sit on someone’s lap or on a desk, with the screen open at multiple angles. Rounded corners and a uniform bezel on the screen complete the look and make it easy to hold in hand.

The back of the IdeaPad 5i.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

In terms of weight, the tablet is right on par with the Surface Pro 8, and even its cheaper sibling, the Surface Go 3. It weighs 1.78 pounds, with the keyboard adding another 0.79 pounds. That’s a bit heftier than the 1.22 pounds Surface Go 3, but it’s not a big difference. The Surface Pro 8, weighs in at 1.96 pounds.

The IdeaPad Duet 5i is super portable. I had no issues holding it with one hand for the photos in this piece. Like a Surface Go 3, it’s perfectly manageable, and not too big, nor too small.

Keyboard and touchpad

The Ideapad 5i with the keyboard detached.
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

The thing that makes the IdeaPad Duet 5i stand out from the competition is the keyboard. On a Surface Pro or Surface Go, you might feel the urge to detach the keyboard and use it separately from your device, such as when you’re plugged into an external monitor. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible on a Surface, but on the IdeaPad Duet, it is something you can absolutely enjoy.

Simply pair the keyboard with the device using Bluetooth, detach it from the pogo ports, and you’re back in action. But how does it feel?

Well, the keyboard and trackpad are just as good as what you’d find on an IdeaPad laptop. There’s plenty of key travel, and the slightly curved keycaps are smooth. The trackpad could be a little bigger, but it’s quite responsive to all inputs, especially when web browsing. If anything, it’s right up there with what you’d expect from a Surface Type Cover, sans the fabric material. Lenovo’s option is all plastic.

Display

The display on the IdeaPad Duet 5i.

Another signature feature of the IdeaPad Duet 5i is its 12-inch 2.5K resolution (2650 x 1600) IPS touchscreen display. Unlike the 3:2 on a Surface Pro or Go, this panel is in the 16:10 aspect ratio. That allows for more vertical information, with less scrolling in situations like web browsing.

The 2K resolution here is also more than that of the Surface Go 3, which comes in at 1920 x 1280. It’s a bigger device, but it has more screen space to stack windows side by side. Doing so on a Surface Go 3 might be trickier as the screen is cramped.

I thoroughly enjoyed this display in my brief hands-on time. Drawing in Microsoft Paint with the optional Active Pen 3 felt immersive and natural, and was boosted by the uniform bezels, as well as the 96% DCI-93 color gamut and 450 nits of brightness. Lenovo even says that the device supports Dolby Vision’s wide color range and contrast, for increased viewing pleasure.

Ports

Ports on the Lenovo ideapad 5i.

The IdeaPad Duet 5i features two USB-C ports and an audio jack. This is the almost same as the Surface Pro 8, with the only exception being that device’s Surface Connect Port. There’s also no expandability via microSD card slots, just like on the Pro 8.

USB-C, though, does mean that you can enjoy output to 4K displays, as well as high-speed data transfers. These might be important for those who are working from home. Yet the port choice means dongles will be something you’ll need to buy, which is just a slight inconvenience.

Performance and battery life

The IdeadPad Duet 5i with the screen detached.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

Under the hood of the IdeaPad Duet 5i is a chip that might surprise you. It sports the Intel Core i7-1255U, Core i7-1345U, Core i3-1215U, or the Pentium 8505. These are low-power U-series chips, but it’s amazing to see that Lenovo managed to fit Core i7 power in a small chassis.

Thesmaller Surface Go 3 only maxes out with a Core i3 chip, so Lenovo is definitely onto something that Microsoft isn’t. The company even tells me that the IdeaPad Duet 5i sports Intelligent Cooling systems that keep temperatures low under heavy loads and fan noise to a minimum.

I could not run benchmarks to confirm any performance claims, but light web browsing and playing around with system apps worked just fine on this Windows tablet. As far as battery life, Lenovo claims up to 11 hours and cited a MobileMark 2018 test result. We look forward to testing more, but it’s become the average result with most devices, including the Surface Go 3.

Price and availability

The IdeaPad Duet 5i detachable with bundled keyboard folio with optional backlighting will start at $750 and is expected to be available starting in July 2022. This $750 configuration comes with just the Pentium 8505, so you’ll need to pay more to upgrade to the more powerful Intel Core chips.

The optional Lenovo pen is sold separately in most markets.

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