It’s been nearly three years now since the Surface 3 was announced, and just over one year since it was discontinued, much to the chagrin of droves of potential customers who may have wanted to get their hands on an affordable member of the Microsoft Surface family.
Online Chinese retailer, Gearbest, sells the Chuwi SurBook Mini with keyboard for just under £170 ($241) at the time of writing using the coupon SurBookMini which expires on 2018-03-29. Note that, while this price includes delivery, it 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 void has convinced some ambitious Chinese vendors like Chuwi to release their own alternatives. Meet the SurBook Mini – a smaller version of the SurBook which we reviewed recently – along with a soon-to-come Gemini Lake-based device called the SurBook Pro.
If you’ve assumed that the SurBook Mini is just a shrunk-down version of the SurBook, you’re spot on – see both models pictured side-by-side below. The Mini uses the same magnesium alloy material for its unibody chassis, and the location of its ports reflects that of its bigger brother. It is also very similar to the Microsoft Surface 3, but that isn’t a surprise.
Clearly, Chuwi engineers did their homework when it comes to economies of scale and reusing existing components either from competitors or from its own product portfolio. The screen is a fully laminated 10.8-inch model with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 1920 x 1280-pixel resolution, just like the Surface 3.
The brushed finish, the kickstand – which can open up to 125 degrees – and the Type Cover magnetic keyboard are all there to remind us where Chuwi got the inspiration for this hybrid.
There are two USB 3.0 ports and a Type-C connector, but unfortunately the latter seems to exhibit the sort of issues we had with the one on the SurBook, meaning that standard Type-C connectors (from adaptors, for example) might not connect or stay in the port properly.
Other than the audio connector and the hidden microSD card slot, there are no other I/O ports, which means that you will sacrifice the Type-C connector when you charge the device. A quick note about the dimensions of this hybrid – when attached to the keyboard, its dimensions bulge to 268 x 190 x 14mm, while tipping the scale at 979g.
Here is the Chuwi SurBook Mini configuration sent to TechRadar Pro for review:
CPU: Intel Celeron N3450 quad-core 2.2GHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 500
RAM: 4GB DDR3
Screen: 10.8-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution display
Storage: 64GB eMMC Sandisk DF4064
Ports: 2 x USB Type-A, 1 x USB Type-C, audio jack, card reader
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: 2MP front webcam, 2MP rear
Weight: 979g (with keyboard)
Size: 268 x 190 x 14mm; W x D x H (with keyboard)
The bezel surrounding the screen is to be blamed for the rather large surface area, but that’s normal because you need an area where you can hold the tablet (without inadvertently pressing on the touchscreen).
The device uses the same core components as its bigger brother: an Intel Celeron N3450 CPU, DDR3 memory (albeit a third less) and SanDisk eMMC 5.1 for storage (albeit half the amount seen in the Chuwi SurBook).
The N3450 hails from a newer generation compared to the x7-Z8700 that powered the Surface 3 – it might have the same number of cores and threads and the same amount of cache, but a lower frequency means that these two will perform comparably.
You get a pair of 2-megapixel cameras which are great for quick snaps and video calls, a 35Whr battery (powered by the same 12V,2A/24W power supply unit found in the SurBook), 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 (courtesy of the Intel AC3165 chip) plus a pair of speakers. Note that the active stylus pen is not included; you can purchase one for just over £12 ($17).