Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 represents the latest version of what’s become the industry standard for detachable tablet 2-in-1s. It’s also one of the best laptops, period. Meanwhile, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet 5i is an audacious new competitor, going up against an established machine.
There’s one major factor differentiating the two: the price. The IdeaPad Duet 5i is significantly less expensive (and configurable) than the Surface Pro 9. Does that give it enough of a leg to stand on?
Specs and configurations
|Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5i||Microsoft Surface Pro 9|
|Dimensions||11.35 inches x 7.49 inches x 0.37 inches||11.3 inches by 8.2 inches by 0.37 inches|
|Weight||1.85 pounds||1.94 pounds|
|Processor||Up to Core i7-1255U||Intel Core i5-1235U
Intel Core i7-1255U
Microsoft SQ 3 (5G models)
|Graphics||Up to Intel Iris Xe||Intel Iris Xe
Microsoft SQ 3 Adreno (5G models)
|RAM||Up to 16GB LPDDR4x||8GB to 32GB LPDDR5
8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x (5G model)
|Display||12.4-inch 16:10 2.5K (2560 x 1600) IPS||13-inch 3:2 PixelSense 2,880 x 1,920 IPS up to 120Hz|
|Storage||Up to 512GB PCIe SSD||128GB to 1TB removable PCIe SSD
128GB to 512GB removable PCIe SSD (5G models)
|Ports||2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 1
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
|2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x Surface Connect port
1 x Surface Keyboard port
1 x nano SIM (5G models)
2 x USB-C 3.2 (5G models)
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1
Optional 5GB WWAN
|Webcam||5MP front-facing with IR camera for Windows 11 Hello
|1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
|Operating system||Windows 11||Windows 11|
|Battery||50 watt-hours||60 watt-hour|
|Rating||3.5 out of 5||3.5 out of 5|
Even a couple of weeks after its release, there’s still just one configuration of the IdeaPad Duet 5i, a $790 model with a Core i3-1215U, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and the included keyboard folio. The Active Pen is a $30 extra. That’s an inexpensive machine, but it’s also limited in storage space, with no option to increase it.
The Surface Pro 9 starts at $1,000 for a Core i5-1235U, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The Signature Type Cover and Surface Slim Pen 2 add $280 to the price. You can spend as much as $2,600 on a Core i7-1255U, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The 5G model running a Microsoft SQ 3 ARM CPU ranges from $1,300 to $1,900.
The IdeaPad Duet 5i and Surface Pro 9 are similar slates in many ways. They both sport rounded edges, have similar display bezels, and are constructed of aluminum. The IdeaPad comes in two colors, Storm Gray and Stone Blue, while the Surface Pro 9 comes in Platinum, Slate, Sapphire, and Forest (with the 5G version coming only in Slate). They’re both 0.37 inches thick, and the IdeaPad is slightly lighter. Even with its slightly smaller display, the IdeaPad Duet 5i is as wide as Microsoft’s tablet and about a half-inch shallower.
Both tablets have a kickstand that extends out from the center of the tablet back, and it works well on both and holds the tablets at a wide range of angles. They’re both smooth in operation and rigid, to go with solidly built chassis that resist bending and flexing. From an overall design perspective, neither tablet has a huge advantage.
The IdeaPad Duet 5i comes with a folio keyboard with snappy switches and plenty of key spacing, making for comfortable typing. Its touchpad is large enough and responsive. The Microsoft Type Cover keyboard is also well-made, with snappy, precise switches and a good touchpad. Its advantage, though, is that it props up at an angle. That reduces stress on the wrists and makes for a more ergonomic typing experience.
The Surface Pro 9 does come with an extra port, the Surface Connect port, which allows charging without using one of the precious USB-C (with Thunderbolt 4 on the Surface Pro 9 Intel version) ports. Neither have SD card readers, and both have Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1. The ARM-based Surface Pro 9 supports 4G/5G WWAN for always-connected internet.
The IdeaPad Duet 5i has 5MP front and rear cameras, while the Surface Pro 9 has a 1080p front camera and 10MB rear camera. Both have infrared cameras for Windows 11 Hello passwordless support.
The Core i3-1215U CPU in the IdeaPad Duet 5i is the only currently available option, and it’s a 15-watt 12th-gen Intel processor with six cores (two Performance and four Efficient) and eight threads. On paper, it’s considerably slower than the 15-watt, 10-core (two Performance and eight Efficient), 12-thread Core i7-1255U in the Surface Pro 9.
In our benchmarks, though, the IdeaPad Duet 5i was quick enough for productivity tasks. It fell behind the Surface Pro 9, but not by as much as we expected, with the biggest difference being in the intensive Cinebench R23 benchmark. Interestingly, the IdeaPad was faster in the PCMark 10 Complete test of a mix of productivity, media consumption, and creative tasks.
Overall, both tablets are fine productivity performers, but creators should look elsewhere.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5i
|Microsoft Surface Pro 9
(single / multi)
|Bal: 1,513 / 5,676
Perf: 1,515 / 5,970
|Bal: 1,170 / 6,518
Perf: 1,598 / 8,165
(single / multi)
|Bal: 1,488 / 4,087
Perf: 1,582 / 4,842
|Bal: 1,124 / 7,537
|PCMark 10 Complete
(higher is better)
The IdeaPad Duet 5i’s 12.4-inch IPS display has a 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1600 resolution, compared to the 13.0-inch IPS 3:2 2,880 x 1,920 on the Surface Pro 9. Microsoft’s tablet benefits from a 120Hz refresh rate that makes Windows 11 smoother and provides a better inking experience, particularly given the Surface Slim 2 pen’s support for haptic feedback.
In terms of quality, though, the IdeaPad’s display was much brighter and enjoyed wider colors and deeper contrast. The Surface Pro 9 had better color accuracy, though. Both are fine for productivity and inking, although again, the Surface Pro 9 is the better digital writing and sketching platform.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Due 5i
|Microsoft Surface Pro 9
(DeltaE, lower is better)
As mentioned above, the two tablets are similar in size and equally portable. They’re both much thicker and heavier with their keyboards attached.
The Surface Pro 9 has a larger battery at 60 watt-hours, compared to the IdeaPad Duet 5i’s 50 watt-hours. Even so, they had similar battery life, lasting around eight hours in our web browsing test. Neither is likely to get you through a full day’s work on a single charge, but their power bricks are light enough to carry around.
The IdeaPad Duet 5i holds its own
There’s no doubt that the Surface Pro 9 is the more advanced laptop, with a 120Hz display, haptic feedback in its Active Pen, and an overall more refined experience. And it can be configured with more RAM and storage, at a significantly higher price.
But the IdeaPad Duet 5i is a more affordable machine, and it holds its own in terms of performance and battery life. What it comes down to is this: if a tablet is going to be your only laptop, then the Surface Pro 9 is worth the price. But if you’re adding a tablet to a stable of other devices, then the IdeaPad Duet 5i provides a budget option that’s quite appealing.