Surface Pro 9 vs. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5i: head-to-head 2-in-1
Surface Pro 9 from Microsoft represents the latest version of what has become the industry standard for 2-in-1 detachable tablet. It is also one of the best laptops, period. Meanwhile, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet 5i is a bold new contender taking on an established machine.
There is one important factor that differentiates the two: price. The IdeaPad Duet 5i is significantly less expensive (and configurable) than the Surface Pro 9. Does that give it enough support?
Specifications 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 IrisXe
Microsoft SQ 3 Adreno (5G models)
|RAM||Up to 16GB LPDDR4x||8GB to 32GB LPDDR5
8 GB or 16 GB LPDDR4x (5G model)
|To show||12.4-inch 16:10 2.5K (2560 x 1600) IPS||13-inch 3:2 PixelSense 2880 x 1920 IPS up to 120Hz|
|Storage||PCIe SSD up to 512GB||128GB to 1TB Removable PCIe SSD
128 GB to 512 GB removable PCIe SSD (5G models)
|ports||2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 1
1 3.5mm audio jack
|2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 surface connection 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 5 GB WWAN
|Webcam||Front 5MP with IR camera for Windows 11 Hello
|1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
|OS||windows 11||windows 11|
|Drums||50 watt-hours||60 watt-hours|
|Classification||3.5 out of 5||3.5 out of 5|
Even a couple of weeks after its release, there’s still only 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 costs an additional $30. It’s a cheap machine, but it also has limited 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 up to $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.
IdeaPad Duet 5i and Surface Pro 9 are similar slates in many ways. 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 (the 5G version comes in Slate only). Both are 0.37 inches thick, and the IdeaPad is slightly lighter. Even with its slightly smaller screen, the IdeaPad Duet 5i is as wide as Microsoft’s tablet and about a half-inch shallower.
Both tablets have a kickstand that runs from the center of the back of the tablet and it works well on both and holds the tablets at a wide range of angles. Both are smooth running and rigid, to go with a solidly built chassis that resists flexing 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 space between keys, allowing for comfortable typing. Its touch panel is large and sensitive enough. The Microsoft Type Cover keyboard is also well made, with snappy, precise switches and a good trackpad. However, its advantage is that it rests at an angle. That reduces stress on your wrists and makes for a more ergonomic typing experience.
The Surface Pro 9 comes with an additional port, the Surface Connect port, which allows you to charge without using one of the precious USB-C ports (with Thunderbolt 4 on the Surface Pro 9 Intel version). 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-on internet.
The IdeaPad Duet 5i has 5MP front and rear cameras, while the Surface Pro 9 has a 1080p front-facing camera and a 10MB rear-facing camera. Both have infrared cameras for password-free Windows 11 Hello support.
The Core i3-1215U CPU in the IdeaPad Duet 5i is the only option currently available, 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, 12-thread Core i7-1255U, 10 cores (two performance and eight efficient) in the Surface Pro 9.
However, in our benchmarks, the IdeaPad Duet 5i was fast enough for productivity tasks. It did lag behind the Surface Pro 9, but not as much as we’d hoped, with the biggest difference coming in the intensive Cinebench R23 benchmark. Interestingly, the IdeaPad was faster in the PCMark 10 Complete test for a combination of productivity, media consumption, and creative tasks.
Overall, both tablets perform well for productivity, but creators should look elsewhere.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5i
|Microsoft Surface Pro 9
(single / multiple)
|Bal: 1,513 / 5,676
Yield: 1515 / 5970
|Bal: 1,170 / 6,518
Yield: 1598 / 8165
|cinema bench R23
(single / multiple)
|Bal: 1,488 / 4,087
Yield: 1582 / 4842
|Bal: 1,124 / 7,537
|PC Mark 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 3:2 2880 x 1920 IPS display on the IdeaPad Duet 5i. Surface Pro 9. Microsoft’s tablet benefits from a 120Hz refresh rate that makes Windows 11 smoother and provides a better writing experience, especially given the Surface Slim 2 Pen’s support for haptic feedback.
In terms of quality though, the IdeaPad’s screen was much brighter and enjoyed broader colors and deeper contrast. However, the Surface Pro 9 had better color accuracy. Both are fine for productivity and inking, though again, the Surface Pro 9 is the better digital writing and drawing 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. Both are much thicker and heavier with their attached keyboards.
The Surface Pro 9 has a larger battery at 60 watt-hours, compared to 50 watt-hours on the IdeaPad Duet 5i. Even so, they had similar battery life, lasting around eight hours in our web browsing test. None are likely to get you through a full work day on a single charge, but their power bricks are light enough to carry around.
The IdeaPad Duet 5i has its own
There’s no question that the Surface Pro 9 is the more advanced laptop around, with a 120Hz display, haptic feedback on its Active Pen, and a more refined overall 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 stands out in terms of performance and battery life. It all comes down to 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 offers a budget option that’s quite attractive.