The recent months have seen several laptops that get their inspiration from Apple’s iconic MacBook range. The Jumper EZBook 2 looks like a 13-inch MacBook Air while the Xiaomi Air 12 borrows heavily from the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.
Chinese vendor Chuwi follows that trend with the LapBook, a notebook that sharply differs from the competition in physical terms. Firstly, it adopts a white finish throughout (except for the screen bezel and the keyboard), then there’s the fact that it uses a 15.6-inch display, and finally, it is one of the very few devices to use a 5V adaptor, the same as your smartphone or tablet.
Indeed we’ve successfully managed to power it using a standard charger, although sadly, Chuwi engineers opted for a proprietary connector rather than the ubiquitous microUSB port. There are two models of the LapBook available with the only difference being the processor and the price.
The better value of the two is the model based on Intel’s Z8300 CPU which retails for £149 (around $185, AU$250) at the time of writing. The one based on the slightly beefier Z8350 sells for around a third more. Both are currently available from Gearbest (who also provided us with the sample for this hands-on review) on pre-order.
(These costs are exclusive of any taxes that may be levied by HMRC or the courier companies on behalf of the vendor. Want to buy tech from online Chinese retailers? Read this first.)
As expected, the laptop has a slightly tapered profile; not as pronounced as the MacBook Air but still significant enough. It does look like a larger version of the Asus EEE PC Seashell, a netbook launched in 2009 that had similar but softer lines.
The chassis might be plastic but it is of the posher, polished variety. There’s no flex under any circumstance, either with the screen or keyboard and that’s partly because of how big the LapBook is.
This is a hefty enough piece of kit, weighing 1.86kg with dimensions of 371 x 240 x 22mm. Oddly enough it comes with a tiny power supply unit, a 15W (5V3A) model which can also be used to charge your smartphone should you feel the need to.
Open the notebook up and you’ll find a massive 15.6-inch Full HD display with a decent size keyboard and a larger than average touchpad, one which has a slightly granular texture.
The power button is tucked away on the top right-hand side and that’s not what one would call a good decision, especially as it is located next to the delete button – meaning there’s an unnecessary danger of shutting down the laptop accidentally.
There’s some better news in the form of the display, with the IPS screen being more than adequate having uniform brightness across the surface and no significant bleed.
The keys on the keyboard have a good amount of travel, not surprising given the thickness of the device, and they offer sharp feedback. It is a shame though that Chuwi didn’t opt for a full-size keyboard with a separate numeric keypad, something that would have set this device apart from the competition.
We were surprised (and disappointed) to find out that it has only two USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0). There’s also a microSD card reader, a mini-HDMI port, an audio jack and a proprietary power connector.
Inside the LapBook the hardware consists of the usual suspects, a triumvirate of components that have become part and parcel of all the entry-level Windows-based systems we’ve reviewed over the past 12 months.
As we previously mentioned, there’s an Intel Atom x5-Z8300, a quad-core CPU based on Cherry Trail and clocked at 1.44GHz. It is accompanied by 4GB of low power DDR3 memory and 64GB of eMMC flash storage, all of which is resolutely entry-level.
You also get 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, two speakers (and what appears to be two microphones) and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera to round things off.
As expected, Windows was pre-registered, something we strongly discourage and absolutely do not condone. Why Chinese retailers engage in this practice is beyond us.
As for performance, just make sure you adjust your expectations given the hardware inside. This laptop is great for lightweight tasks, but it struggles when having to deal with more than a few tabs in Microsoft’s Edge browser, for example. The benchmarks below show how it performs across a series of popular test applications.
What surprised us was the fact that across a number of benchmarks, the laptop scored higher (i.e. performed better) when using battery power as opposed to being plugged in.
Battery life was better than expected, indeed far better than expected at nearly eight hours (yes, eight hours). Granted, we were testing using a simple video of a clock with brightness on 50%, but this certainly still counts as an impressive result.
Note that the charger was a 15W one so it took longer to charge the bigger-than-average 10,000mAh battery. And further note that the battery, as is the case on most entry-level laptops, is not removable.
The speakers were underwhelming to say the least; the sound coming out of these was devoid of any character, lacking depth and oomph. But that’s pretty much as expected with a device in this price bracket.
Despite sporting a name that will attract all sorts of comments, the LapBook left a positive impression on us. A cheap price – remember it costs only £150 (around $185, AU$250) – coupled with a very likable, distinctive design, a large 15.6-inch Full HD display, and a tiny power supply make it a winner for those on a budget.
We just wished it had more connectors and dropped that proprietary power socket. Oh, and don’t fork out extra for the faster processor, the price difference is far too big to justify the jump in performance.
The only real competition at this price is the slightly more expensive Jumper EZBook 2 which looks even more like a Macbook Air and shares the exact same specification as the LapBook, bar the battery.