Which hybrid tablet is best for the back-to-school crowd?

Whether you’re in the middle of the most awkward school year of your life or you’re just getting ready to start, you’re going to need a tool for your academic pursuits. Thankfully both Apple and Lenovo have some solid options for you.

On the Lenovo side, we’ve got a neat little hybrid laptop/tablet called the Chromebook Duet. Starting at $279, it comes with both a tablet and a detachable keyboard for any serious work that needs to be done. Staring at the Chromebook Duet, Apple’s latest entry-level iPad(opens in a new tab)A 10.2-inch tablet with the full suite of Apple apps and services, and a high price ($329 at least).

Both may be tablets with fully functional keyboard accessories, but their differences outweigh their similarities. If you’ve been scratching your head because you can’t figure out which tablet is best for you, allow us to help.

Which tablet has the best display?

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The Chromebook Duet’s display separates easily from its keyboard.
credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

Whether your dorm roommates are embracing the TV or you just don’t feel like getting out of bed, it’s fair to assume that you’ll eventually use either a Chromebook Duet or an iPad to watch movies or TV. After all, why get a tablet if you don’t want to take advantage of a larger screen than a phone?

In this respect, the Chromebook Duet and the iPad are fairly similar, but have a Now Barely takes the top prize.

lenovo tablet(opens in a new tab) There’s a slightly smaller display than the iPad at 10.1 inches, with 1900 x 1200 resolution and 400 nits of brightness to keep things relatively sharp and readable. (“Nits,” by the way, is the unit of measurement for brightness. If you didn’t know that before, you learned something new today. Congratulations!)

Those are pretty decent screen specs for a sub-$300 device. Unfortunately for Lenovo, Apple has it beat with the costlier iPad. Its 10.2-inch display is bolstered by a decent 2160 x 1620 resolution and 500 nits of brightness. It’s (slightly) bigger, faster and brighter.

Winner: iPad

Related Video: Apple Has Too Many New Products, So We Ranked Them

Which tablet has better performance?

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It’s not always the fastest machine around, but the Chromebook Duet can keep up the pace.
credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

The Chromebook Duet is a largely excellent little device, with the battery promising 10 hours of use that will last you an entire work or school day before needing to charge again. Unfortunately, moment-to-moment performance is one area where Lenovo’s enticingly low price rears its head.

As I noted in my review, the Duet always feels like it’s hovering at or slightly below the speed limit without ever really kicking things into high gear. You can absolutely use it for daily web browsing or school work without facing major problems, but that never happens extremely Feels smooth as butter. Open too many tabs and it’ll probably slow down a bit.

It’s hard to compete with Apple when it comes to performance. The relatively old A10 Fusion chip inside the original iPad means it won’t be on par with the new iPad Pro, but the general smoothness found with any modern Apple product puts the iPad at the top of this category.

Winner: iPad

Are detachable keyboards any good?

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Lenovo’s keyboard has a built-in trackpad, but Apple’s does not.
credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable

There are lots of small differences between these two tablets, but the Lenovo and Apple have one major breaking point with respect to our comparison: The Chromebook Duet is Meaning to be used as a laptop while the iPad can do use as one. This difference is the key to understanding which purchase is better for you.

Notably, the Chromebook Duet comes with a keyboard that attaches magnetically and includes a trackpad for mouse movement. The keyboard is a bit small to accommodate the tablet’s small size, so those with larger hands should be prepared to scrunch up when typing as they get used to it. Other than that, it works admirably.

Apple’s problem here isn’t build quality but availability. The regular iPad doesn’t come with the Smart Keyboard attachment, as Apple charges $159(opens in a new tab) For the privilege of having the keyboard. By the way, that keyboard doesn’t have a built-in trackpad. Instead of turning the iPad into a laptop, it turns the iPad into a tablet with a keyboard. Still extremely useful for a lot of day-to-day tasks, but Lenovo is a bit more committed when it comes to keyboard support.

Winner: Chromebook Duet

Well then tell me: are there any special features?

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Apple Pencil support is a nice bonus of owning an iPad.
credit: apple

The biggest software difference between the Chromebook Duet and the 10.2-inch iPad lies in their respective operating systems. Here your personal preference can go a long way in determining which tablet is right for you.

Lenovo’s device runs on Chrome OS like all Chromebooks. It’s a Google operating system, which means you’ll be using Chrome and its suite of Google-related apps for everything. If you already live a life centered around Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Google Meet, this is where you’ll fit in. It’s all built-in, and if you log in with your Google account, everything you have in cloud storage will be immediately accessible.

Of course, the iPad runs on iPadOS. It’s like the iOS that fuels your iPhone, except on the iPad. You get access to all of Apple’s fancy features, including in app multitasking and FaceTime. It’s worth noting that Chromebooks can also multitask. But at the software level, whether you’re bought into Google’s ecosystem or Apple’s should factor into your decision.

In terms of hardware features, both the tablets support stylus such as HP USI Stylus(opens in a new tab) For Duet or first generation Apple Pencil(opens in a new tab) for iPad, but neither comes packaged with one in the box.

Apple has the biggest advantage in this category, and the reason it wins is SIM support. The iPad can connect to cellular networks if you’re willing to pay at least $459 for it. This is huge, especially on a campus where WiFi may not always be ideal.

Winner: iPad

So which tablet offers the best value?

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Achieving all this costs a lot of money.
credit: apple

We love Apple products here, but even the most dedicated Apple-head has to admit that you pay a premium to get the company’s hardware. Simply put, sometimes Apple charges too much for things. At least in this case Lenovo didn’t do that.

The Chromebook Duet comes in two configurations, a 64GB model for $279 and a 128GB model for $299. Otherwise, the two models are identical. It’s a great price point for a tablet that doesn’t pack in a ton of processing power but is robust enough to serve as a daily portal to the Internet and word processor.

We can’t really say the same for the iPad. Its $329 starting price is great for an Apple tablet, but that’s just for the 32GB version with no extra features. If you want 128GB of storage and cellular network coverage, that jumps up to $559, which doesn’t include the cost of getting the keyboard. That’s not a lot by tablet standards, but it’s about twice as much as the most expensive Chromebook Duet configuration.

Lenovo dunks the whole of Apple when it comes to value.

Winner: Chromebook Duet


The Chromebook Duet and the 10.2-inch iPad are separate products that serve slightly different audiences. Lenovo’s offering is underpowered as a pure tablet, but Chrome OS and a packed-in keyboard and trackpad turn it into a nice little schoolwork machine you can stash in a small bag. It’s also really affordable, giving users plenty of versatility without going bankrupt.

Apple’s basic iPad is also a worthy contender for most standards. The screen is brighter and clearer than the Chromebook Duet, and Apple always makes sure that the performance of its devices is fast and powerful. SIM support is also clutch, especially on a campus, but the price jump may be too much for some students to handle.

Unfortunately for Apple, the iPad’s advantages haven’t been enough to offset Lenovo’s win on price and back-to-school day functionality. The Chromebook Duet can give you a lot of storage, and a fully usable keyboard and trackpad for very little money. The iPad may be a better device overall, but for people who need a small laptop that won’t get in their way or ruin their day, the Chromebook Duo is hard to beat.

Winner: Chromebook Duet

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