Let’s look at the numbers first – so as to accommodate those folks which maybe don’t feel quite enthusiastic about reading the whole lot:
Name: Chuwi Lapbook 12.3
Processor: Intel Celeron N3450
Memory: 6144MB, DDR3 + slot for optional SSD drive (M.2 SATA, 2242)
Display: 12.3”, 3:2 ratio, 2736 x 1824 px, 267 PPI, anti-glare (matte)
Graphics Adapter: Intel HD Graphics 500
Storage: 64 GB eMMC Flash, (Windows 10 pre-installed + 38 GB free)
Sound: Realtek ALC269, Stereo speakers, headphone connector
Connectivity: 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, Audio (3.5mm), microSD slot
Networking: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.2
Size (W x L x H): 299 x 222mm x 17.5 (11.77” x 8.74” x 0.69”)
Battery: 36.5Wh Li-po
Approx life: good for 5-7 hours, depending on work
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
Webcam: 0.3 MP
Power Adapter: 100 – 240 VAC, 50-60Hz, output 12 VDC, 2A
Weight: 1.4 kg (3.09 pounds), Power adapter: 182 g (0.4 pounds)
Tech part thus delivered, let me continue in “Computers for Dummies” style. There’s always more to personal things than mere numbers…
Right out of the box, this is one pretty little machine. The package is a solid cardboard box, quite adequate but nothing to write home about. It contains the lapbook, power adapter, User’s Manual and paperwork. So even during the computer unpacking, its box will be noted as good – and forgotten.
ChuWi lapbook hints at something between a laptop and notebook, and the initial impression fits. If you’re used to larger, 14 – 17” screens, your first reaction might probably be like mine: “… and how on Earth am I supposed to work on that…”, but the feeling will quickly change.
It is a pretty little device, even if you’re not fond of silvery surfaces. The body is aluminum; does not suffer when you lift it by the corner, opened. The metal case helps in keeping its optimal operating temperature without any forced air cooling at all; it dissipates heat by transferring it to its metal surface. An absence of a blower makes it totally silent. It also better retains its effective battery charge.
Not less importantly, the case is completely closed and no dust is invited in, too. On the sides, there are several contacts and a Kingston lock point, and on the bottom side, there is only a tight cover over the (optional) SSD drive space and two perforated areas behind which the stereo speakers are placed. Funnywise, the speakers are directed downwards, which is not the best solution. I presume the layout of internal elements actually forced that decision.
Lifting the lid (to a maximum of 145°) reveals the screen with its efficacious anti-glare surface. I’m typing this in the tree shade on the terrace, there are some sunny spots on the monitor and also wide white stucco surfaces behind me, but there are no reflections to influence the screen contrast. Thus, a big plus for that detail. This is one very well made monitor.
The image on the screen is razor-sharp and delivers plenty of detail in pleasing, maybe somewhat intensive colors. This can be regulated, as per taste and wish.
The keyboard I have found adequate, as it proved to be surprisingly comfortable even to my fingers, and my hands are anything but small. Black keys with white markings (while still clean!) are each in its place punched through the surface, and are well spaced too. The keyboard is not backlighted, so not meant for low light use. The height of the keys is 1.5 millimeters above the keyboard grid, and sink about that much when punched. There is no click, but the tactile information while typing is still good, reminding me of keyboards of twenty or more years ago.
Reads promising so far? That was my first impression too! But let’s never forget the thorns while sniffing roses.
The lapbook’s On/Off key is placed in the top right corner. Of course, since Murphy’s law is only sheer reality, touch it even slightly and the screen goes black. On my former machine, this spot was reserved for Delete key, the keyboard was also larger… so when I started to type here, my “finger memory” still wanted to distribute keypunches over the remembered distances. It took me five or so inadvertent switch-offs until I finally entered the Setup functions and rendered it dead. Now the key is used to switch the lapbook On, and I switch it Off either via the normal Shutdown procedure, or by closing the lid down.
That solved the problem rather elegantly, even more so since Windows is also known to be capricious when coming out of hibernation – so it removed one more frustration. The closing down of the lid now activates straight Shutdown; no Hibernate and no Sleep to pick among. Besides, there is a Sleep key (Fn+Esc, top left corner) if I ever need that.
But wait… to the left of the On/Off key, there is the NumLk! So when I noticed that my text suddenly becomes enriched with numbers smack mid letters, I realized that I have to watch yet another key. And since the Delete key is immediately over the Enter… yes. One more to watch! Thus, there’s no other way than keeping up the concentration until your fingers get used to their new playfield.
And then I have to tell you about the touchpad. As you can see in the photo, it lacks the distinctive left and right-click buttons at its lower end. That’s because these are still where you’d expect’em to be, only under the touch surface. Simply press down on these spots to click, though the sound is more like an overloud “clack”…
The touchpad surface is quite sensitive, and multiple-finger gestures are accepted. But – and this is my biggest but of all – there is this sweep down from the top which makes me boiling mad, as it resizes the fullscreen to… something smaller. Do what you wish, the finger will creep up to the top rim of the touchpad and willy-nilly, you’ll have to go resize the window you were into its previous size. When it happens ten times, it’s kind of written off to finger memory or inexperience… but by the fiftieth time, your comments will become distinctly NSFW – also NSFH.
So I thought, OK, let me see if I can download another driver, like Symantec’s one with all the usual gestures normally used for drawing and/or photo-editing. And then you realize you can’t do it at all, because this touchpad is treated by Microsoft as a mouse, and not like a separate device. So you’re stuck with what you have! But…
I’ve been through lots of fora and other reviews
looking hoping whether anyone, anywhere managed to find some solution to this rather frustrating thing. People even tried to cover the top rim of the touchpad with some kind of a barrier… but it just reduces the active surface. So far, I haven’t found the cure; not the complete one, that is.
NOTE: Here is the workaround that at least disables the swipe-down gesture from changing the window size!
ChuWi, please… do separate the touchpad from the mouse, or this will be (and not only to me), the worst possible touchpad of all that I ever had to try and use!
As I said, the lapbook arrives with a version of Windows 10 that you should best update to the latest version, and right away. Be warned that it takes a considerable download and installing time since we all know that Windows secret name is Please Wait (that is supposed to be a joke, MS, please don’t nuke me!). The built-in eMMC storage leaves you about 38GB free space alongside Windows, and after I have installed the text, photo, and video programs that I need, the free space dropped to 11GB. It simply isn’t enough for the kind of data I work with.
That takes us to the add-on SSD storage drive slot on the lapbook underside. It gives you an option to create more storage by slipping in a small SSD M.2 SATA 2242-sized card. ChuWi lapbook has one covered connecting point for just that on the otherwise smooth and featureless metal surface.
And when my card arrived, I simply flipped off the cover and slotted the card in. It is a Transcend MTS400S SATA III, 6Gb/s M.2 2242 (MLC NAND Flash, B+M module), said to operate up to 450MB/s. The SSD, by the way, comes with a 3-year Warranty, so you can look it up if you wish.
Using the machine Setup, creating a D: disk was straightforward, and I was able to immediately transfer all data from the eMMC (C:) to my new storage space.
I’m happy with the ChuWi, bar those several grumbles uttered above. Some sensitive key positions, the unfortunate touchpad field layout due to the way it was connected is/was so far my only beef. However, considering the machine price, together with Windows 10 Home software and 1-year Warranty… Well, even when you include the added SSD drive, you can think of it as something that competes with many more expensive devices.
From its practical and simple concept to the elegantly designed lines and very precisely fitted parts, to its very acceptable battery capacity and quite a good sound, the ChuWi 12.3 is well worth the price. There are several other ChuWi models with larger monitors and different specs, for everyone to choose among. Based upon this single experience, I feel I can suggest you look closely at this one, also to look up the contemporary range of ChuWi laptops and accessories.
I am fond of simple and highly usable things that do not cost an arm and a leg. Things that can stand rough usage and variety of applications. Things that work well outdoors. Things worth taking along on my trips or trails. And even after I’ve used this lapbook for less than a month before writing this review, I sincerely think it will fit my needs and expectations.
- Price is good
- Concept & design is good
- Good manufacture & material
- Simple and lightweight
- No moving parts
- No forced cooling
Not So Good:
- The touchpad is utterly wrong and unchangeable
- On/Off, NumLk & Delete key are placed… dangerously
- Loudspeakers are directed downwards, instead of up
- Non-removable battery, I don’t like those anywhere
In short, I can recommend this buy.