Hands on: Vensmile K8 Mini PC review

A computer built into a foldable keyboard

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Vensmile K8 is all about practicality – it is a computer that’s both portable and has a usable keyboard and touchpad. Don’t expect a road warrior for this price, though.

For

  • Innovative form factor
  • VGA adaptor

Against

  • Only two USB ports
  • Poor performance

Geekbuying sent us the Vensmile K8, an entire computer that is about the size of a standard keyboard which is foldable and costs just over £137 (around $170, AU$230) – not a bad price for what you get here.

(That price is 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.)

The K8 comes with an HDMI cable, a 15W (5V3A) adaptor and a rather elegant, leather-like, carrying pouch. Note that the device is advertised as waterproof but what this actually means is that the keyboard is spill-proof; immersing the K8 completely in water will kill it.

Unfold the K8 and you’ll find a rubber keyboard with 87 keys and a small metal box on the right. The device is meant to be used as a temporary computer.

There’s no indication as to how many strokes the keys are expected to last but given the very nature of the material, don’t expect them to last tens of millions of keystrokes (as is the case for most mechanical keyboards).

Typing on it is not the greatest of experiences – it’s a bit hit and miss as the device only registers a keystroke when you hit the middle of the key rather than the edges – but it’s definitely better than typing on a non-responsive capacitive display. At least you have actual feedback rather than just haptic feedback.

The keyboard base is about 2mm thick while the keys add another 2mm. The elevated touchpad is located on the top of the computer, and it is a tiny 85 x 12 x 120mm affair; there are three status lights (‘worked’, power and lock) just above. A raised surface is not something common on personal computers, so it takes some time to acclimatise to this.

The fact that it is on the right-hand side will put off some left-handed users. It also doesn’t have any left or right click buttons which is frustrating; instead you have to double-tap with two fingers to bring up the options menu.

Flip the computer over and you will see slits on the underside – to help cool the components – and four tiny rubber feet. The chassis of the PC is metallic so that should help with cooling as well.

As for most of the entry-level PC devices we’ve seen recently, this one comes with the same assortment of components. There’s a quad-core system-on-a-chip, the Intel Atom x5-Z8300, which is clocked at 1.44GHz with 2MB of cache and a Gen8 GPU.

It is flanked by 4GB of RAM, 64GB eMMC storage (which can be supplemented by a microSD card), 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Surprisingly, it sports a legacy port, an antiquated VGA connector, which is great if you have old projectors or displays. There’s also an HDMI port, one USB 3.0 plus a USB 2.0 port and an earphone jack along with a retractable antenna.

Switch on the computer – the power button is on the side – and the classic Windows 10 installation process kicks off with no pre-registration tricks. 

However, within seconds, it asks for a product key – just going further (skip it), allowing the installation to proceed until the end and allowing the system to reboot solves that problem.

Performance-wise, this is an entry-level computer so your expectations should be tempered accordingly. It is, after all, an Atom-based computer, albeit with 4GB of memory and 64GB on-board storage which should be enough for lightweight computing.

Tests across five benchmark programs (see the results above) showed that the K8 ranks among the weaker devices that use this trio of hardware components, reaffirming our belief that this is more of a casual device aimed at users seeking a secondary computer for remote working.

Early verdict

The K8 is a tale of two halves. On the one hand, there is much to be liked about it. We appreciated the form factor and the fact that it is a complete computer that you can shove in your back pocket is great – plus you can use it on any television set without needing to cart along a keyboard and a mouse.

On the other hand, the performance delivered by the K8 is one of the lowest we’ve seen on an Intel Z8300 coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage. Why it performs so poorly remains a mystery.

As concerns potential improvements for a theoretical K9, swapping out the proprietary connector for a microUSB one should be on the agenda, although top of the priority list should be sorting out those performance issues. 

An embedded battery would also be fabulous in case you want to type a quick email in a cybercafé without the need to hunt for a power socket.

There’s also a very solid case for using the Vensmile K8 as an out-and-about thin client, especially if it is made a tad more rugged. Its ability to be used on almost any surface (even curved ones) and the fact that it has a spill-proof keyboard could be useful in certain circumstances.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.