Sometimes the world of smart technology innovations collides with the planet of dumb customer service provisions. That confrontation usually doesn’t bode well for the customer.
In my case, that scenario is especially true. I bought Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 5 from a leading national electronics store at an attractive price. In the end, it was a purchase I wish I could undo.
The Duet 5 is considered by many reliable reviews as the best overall ChromeOS tablet / detachable computer available this year. Its large screen and detachable full-size keyboard create a usable and fun tablet experience that isn’t available with pure Android devices.
To me, that honor does little more than reaching that point. In fact, if your primary need for a Chromebook is to run Linux apps, think again about not buying Lenovo’s Duet 5. You may find a unit like mine that works even if Linux doesn’t. That failure is not considered a valid claim under Lenovo’s warranty.
I have become very fond of Chromebooks. ChromeOS devices complement my home office cadre of Linux computers. They link to my Android phone and its apps. I can run the same productivity apps and access their data directly on the Chromebook.
What fueled my fascination with the Duet 5 is it’s logical follow-up to the very popular 10.1″ original Duet that I bought a few years back. The Duet line has a detachable keyboard and is a stand-alone ChromeOS tablet.
Putting need versus need aside, I debated the potential for greater productivity and convenience with a bigger screen at 400 nits, a bigger keyboard, and 8GB of RAM. I knew the manufacturer and the retail store as well as the product line. Or so I thought.
What could have gone wrong? Three things: a failed product, no support, and a warranty that didn’t work!
maybe a lot
The last thing I needed to buy was another Chromebook. Over the years, I’ve used four or five models from HP, Lenovo and Asus.
The Duet 5 seemed to check all the boxes. As it turned out, the check mark for reliable technical support and customer service went out of the box.
No, I could not return the computer. By the time I realized its faulty nature, the undo window was closed.
I think this incident would prompt me to buy expensive add-on store warranties for less expensive electronic components. Adding insult to injury, Lenovo tech support said the malfunction was “out of the scope of the manufacturer’s one-year warranty.”
A final correspondence from Lenovo’s tech support told me that if I sent the device to its repair facility, all technicians would do is reset the unit to its original OS state and remove Linux.
Heck, I’ve already done the same thing twice.
Lenovo buyer beware
This account is not intended for product reviews. Rather, it explains what happens when corporate arrogance destroys the customer experience.
I usually write about business technology issues and open-source development affecting the Linux OS. My reporting beat overlaps with e-commerce and customer relationship management (CRM) issues.
As a technical writer and product reviewer, I’m used to having manufacturers send me their own products in hopes of showing off their best wares. Marketing wonders often offer high-end configurations to capture the attention of consumers. They go out of their way to make sure the reviewer is completely satisfied.
It’s too bad that mindset isn’t always present when inferior consumers are on the receiving end. But I wasn’t using a lending unit, I’d send back anyway, satisfied or not. I have purchased this model and have no plans to review it. I just wanted to use it.
My personal experience further hardened my resolve not to buy Lenovo products. Not because of a bad product encounter. Lenovo lost my customer loyalty due to shoddy customer service and no dedication to solving my problem with a bad computer I made.
According to Lenovo’s ill-conceived logic, the warranty on Chromebooks doesn’t cover user modifications. Since I ran into a problem with activating the Linux partition, deleting the partition, and not reinstalling Linux apps when I bought it, I was guilty of modifying the device.
To clarify, all Chromebooks require the user to have a Linux partition on and install Linux apps. The same process goes for using Android apps on a Chromebook.
Chromebooks are built to run ChromeOS and optionally run in separate built-in containers of Android and Linux software. Google certifies the hardware to make sure the software works.
ChromeOS likewise enables users to access websites in a browser environment. An additional option lets users access those web destinations to run application services within a tabbed browser window or as Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in their own separate window.
That’s what Chromebooks are designed to do on any manufacturer’s hardware. Turning on/off these built-in features should not be considered as “modifying” the device.
tech support helm
A few weeks after getting the Duet 5, I only experienced one intermittent screen flicker problem. This cleared up after a system update. do not worry. No worries.
that time i turned on linux partition and installed the same linux app i use on my other less endowed Chromebook. Those devices worked fine with the same apps.
But Lenovo Duet 5 froze after loading Linux apps and running for few minutes. Messy installations happen. So I did what is standard troubleshooting. I have reset ChromeOS to its original state. Then I set up the Linux partition and resized it beyond the Google-recommended minimum size.
not a solution to the problem. So I wiped the Linux partition again. This time around, I installed a single Linux app at a time, looking for the culprit that stunned others. Every Linux app froze in isolation.
Lenovo technical support declined to examine or test the hardware. Agents suggest finding an affiliated tech center to pursue a solution.
stuck with no option
I would have happily done so. But the nearest such Lenovo repair center was about 150 miles across state lines.
I contacted the Google Chromebook support community for an alternative solution. A support person there had me run the “df command” in a Linux terminal to determine the physical health of the partition.
A readout of that diagnostic confirmed that the device contained a valid and working Linux container. This partially settled the question about the hardware. However, it did not identify what other hardware issues could be involved.
The Google support forum tech then suggested that I find one or more dude packages by following the procedure outlined above. But, of course, I have already done this many times.
poor lesson learned
If you’re planning on buying a Chromebook just to get easy access to selected Linux apps, seriously consider my experience. Maybe look elsewhere instead of Duet 5. Several Chromebook alternatives exist.
Who knows? Maybe the Linux apps on your Duet 5 work just fine for you. As I said, I haven’t had this situation on any other Chromebook product I’ve used.
No doubt my experience was a gross anomaly. The worrying part of all this is that I will never know the reason for it.
But if you buy the Duet 5 from a retail outlet directly from the manufacturer, be sure to confirm how that store honors the warranty. Now you know how Lenovo honors its warranty.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.