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Usage and performance
We noted that the USB Type-C port used by Chuwi is slightly longer than average; this means that standard Type-C connectors (from adaptors, for example) will have a hard time staying in the port. Other than that, the device itself is very well constructed, and also sturdy thanks to the magnesium alloy. Overall, it oozes quality.
Here’s how the Chuwi SurBook performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Passmark CPU: 1739
CPU-Z: 667 (single-thread); 2438 (multi-thread)
Geekbench: 1401 (single-core); 4137 (multi-core); 7179 (compute)
Cinebench: OpenGL: 10.93 fps; CPU: 91
CrystalDiskMark: 156 MBps (read); 110 MBps (write)
Atto: 286 MBps (read, 256mb); 102 MBps (write, 256mb)
Sisoft Sandra (KPT): 2.2
Windows Experience Index: 4.6
UserBenchmark (higher is better): 63
The stylus pen has a small tip, and according to Chuwi, it can be angled at up to 30 degrees, doesn’t require physical contact with the screen and offers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. The display supports 10-point multi-touch and is not a fingerprint magnet as one might fear, despite the material used.
The device is an average performer on single-core tests but excels when all four physical cores are used. It is let down by the on-board storage – as expected – with some abysmal scores here.
Battery life isn’t as good as we’d like to see, either, barely reaching four hours in our standard test (running a YouTube count-up video at 100% brightness with default battery saving settings until the device shuts down).
The graphics chip, which is (integrated) Intel HD Graphics 500, seems to struggle to deliver the sort of firepower needed to handle the 4.99 million pixels on the panel (that’s more than two Full HD monitors put together).
The tablet doesn’t include the price of the stylus or the companion keyboard. Adding them will bump the asking price to over £400 ($530), and that’s for the 64GB model. Switching to the 128GB model adds another £60 ($80) to the price. Still, a fully-loaded SurBook costs about half the price of a similarly configured Surface Pro 4.
Another potential competitor is the Cube Mix Plus which uses the same core components as the cheapest Surface Pro 4 (Intel m3-7Y30 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD). It doesn’t have the same screen, though, opting instead to stick to a classic 16:9 Full HD model, and eschewing the Type Cover for a more traditional keyboard, giving it a blander look.
On the other hand, it is far cheaper than the Chuwi SurBook and should also score higher in benchmarks thanks to the use of an SSD rather than eMMC flash storage.
Neither HP or Dell have anything comparable in this price range: the HP Elite x2 and Dell’s Latitude 7285 cost around three times the price, but they are completely different beasts. Lenovo has the attractive IdeaPad Miix 700 which costs under £800 ($1,050) and comes with a rear 3D camera and a folio case keyboard (add £29 – around $40 – for an active pen). And of course there could be deals to be had on any of these machines come Black Friday.
Amidst rumors that Microsoft could kill the Surface brand in 2019, Chuwi and a few others could benefit significantly should the Redmond-based company call it a day. The SurBook shows that there is still plenty of life and potential in a market created almost single-handedly by the Surface brand.
At less than £500 ($660), the Chuwi SurBook is a bargain, but there is one caveat to bear in mind: aftersales service is likely to be a bit of a pain as you have to send the device all the way back to Shenzhen, China. If you’re ready to take that risk, then the SurBook is a cracking deal, on par with the aforementioned Cube Mix Plus.
There are some issues with this hybrid, notably the battery life and the problematic USB Type-C port. The lack of HDMI connectivity could also hamper its adoption in a business setup where more and more firms are adopting a flexible approach offering a docking station with monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Overall, Chuwi has identified a potential opportunity in the market and delivered a product that aspires to fulfil it. The Surface 3 was one of the more successful Surface products, and the SurBook is essentially a souped-up Surface 3 (that incorporates some features from the Surface Pro) at a Surface 3 price.
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Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.