Over the past couple of months. Chuwi has been making some noise when it comes to its products, first announcing the SurBook which is an homage to the Surface Pro, and more recently its LapBook Air which clearly borrows heavily from Apple's MacBook Air. Although you have probably never heard of this brand, the firm is a huge player when it comes laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices - offering their goods in Asia and online through various third party vendors.
While there are multiple benefits to purchasing a laptop from the likes of a company like Chuwi, the top reason used to be that you'd be getting good performance, for a relatively small price. But a lot has changed and that always isn't necessarily the case. Regardless, let's take a look at what the firm has to offer with its LapBook 12.3.
|Chuwi LapBook 12.3|
|Display||12.3-inch matte display with 2736 x 1824 resolution|
|Processor||Intel Celeron N3450 (Apollo Lake)
1.1GHz Quad Core
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 500|
|Storage||64GB internal with expansion via microSD or M.2|
USB 3.0 x 1
|Battery||7.6V / 8000mAh|
|Launch OS||Windows 10|
|Size & Weight||11.77 x 8.74 x 0.69 inches
Design and display
From a design perspective, it looks great, offering a metal exterior that is reminiscent of Apple's MacBooks. The exterior of the top lid has the Chuwi brand embossed in one corner in foil. Unfortunately, the model that was sent out by the firm might not have been quite ready for prime time, as the letters began peeling off immediately after taking the device out of the box.
Luckily, I prefer the more muted look, and shedding the letters from the chassis just leaves a more subtle embossed logo that blends into the top lid. As you might expect, the interior is also made from the same material, and the unit as a whole feels quite solid.
The firm states that this is due to the outer shell being made of a magnesium aluminum alloy, while also utilizing a unibody construction for the best quality. Although small, the laptop has a two full size USB ports, a microSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and power port. Perhaps what makes this laptop a bit different is that it has an M.2 slot for added expansion.
When it comes to the display, Chuwi touts the device as having a 2K "Retina" screen, with a resolution of 2736 x 1824. This is a bit confusing as "Retina" is a moniker used by Apple for the displays in its products, and is trademarked by the firm. All that aside, the matte IPS panel looks good as you can imagine, with text being quite sharp on the 12.3-inch unit. The brightness should be more than enough for those working indoors and when it comes to outdoor performance, it handles that decently, with text and web browsing looking legible, albeit not the most comfortable. As for videos when outside, I wouldn't expect most to rely on this model for that, as it lacks the brightness to make it a pleasurable viewing experience.
Keyboard, trackpad, and sound
The keyboard relies on chiclet style keys, which actually offer a good amount of travel. Although the keyboard isn't the largest, it is still quite comfortable enough to use all day without issue. In fact, I used the Chuwi Lapbook 12.3 exclusively for a week to write articles and also produce this review. If there are any complaints with the keyboard, it would be that the function keys are quite tiny, but since they aren't used much in my day-to-day activity, this wasn't a huge problem. I did also manage to hit the power button accidentally a few times, since it is located directly above the backspace key. Lastly, as with most laptops in this price category, the keyboard does not illuminate.
Even though the keyboard is quite good, the trackpad is probably one of the worst I have ever encountered. Its size is decent and the texture of it feels pretty good, but the thing simply has a mind of its own. You can't navigate using the trackpad for more than a couple minutes without the pointer jumping about, gestures being triggered, and the like. As opposed to other laptops that utilize more advanced drivers, this model's trackpad options are as basic as it can get, and this becomes a huge problem when you are relying on the trackpad day in, day out. As I mentioned before, I used this device for close to a week and I can tell you, it was... infuriating.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an immediate solution on Chuwi's end as they haven't provided an updated driver or software solution despite the cries from the community on its forums echoing the displeasure with the trackpad. There are user created solutions that fix the aforementioned issues, but for the purpose of the review, I kept the unit as is, since this isn't a solution that's offered from the firm itself. As far as sound goes, the LapBook 12.3 offers stereo speakers that reside on the bottom of the chassis and provide a respectable level of volume. As far as the audio quality goes, the sound isn't as full as I'd like it to be and it can get tinny when cranked up.
Performance and battery life
On paper, this laptop has quite a set of specifications, offering an Intel N3450 Apollo Lake processor, 6GB RAM and 64GB of storage. It isn't the most robust on the market, but for the purposes of my daily work - like authoring articles and browsing through Chrome - the unit worked well. The Windows interface seemed snappy most times, with YouTube and other streaming sites working without issue, even in 4K.
If you're a gamer, you probably won't want to pick up this unit, as its capabilities are fairly weak. It can still handle simple or older titles, but it is probably best used with games that just run through the browser. Per usual, the numbers have been listed using a variety of different benchmarking software.
As for battery life, this laptop will get you about five to six hours on a single charge with brightness at around 50 percent. Naturally, you can probably squeeze a bit more life out of it by making some adjustments and popping it into power saver mode, but in normal use, this is what I was able to achieve without really babying it. Putting the laptop through its paces with more intense processes could yield a bit less.
While the Chuwi LapBook 12.3 is a fairly decent laptop, although one has to wonder how much better it is compared to other offerings on the market. The construction of it is solid and the size is perfect for anyone looking for something truly portable. That said, despite its usable keyboard, it's unfortunate that the trackpad is so unstable, making the experience truly frustrating. For someone that will be using the LapBook on the go, this won't be an option. If you can plant this at a desk and hook up a mouse, it can definitely earn its place. As mentioned before, according to the Chuwi forums, users have created fixes for the trackpad issue, but that's up to the user whether fixing a problem straight from the manufacturer is really worth a bargain. I'm guessing most just want a working unit, as soon as they open the box.
Companies like Chuwi had an advantage a couple years ago with their prices, but now there are name brand companies like Delll, HP, and others, that are producing quality notebooks priced around the same as the LapBook 12.3, notebooks that offer excellent value, support, and also construction. Sure, you might not be picking up an all-metal design, but at least you'll have something more powerful and the support of a major company. If something goes wrong you have a year's warranty. I can't even imagine how to get support for this when the company can't even issue a simple software update to fix the trackpad.
Although it might look good, it has a fundamental flaw where its core functionality is compromised. Sure, I made due with it for a week, but many times it would bring me to life's edge and would have me altering my usual behaviors to avoid using the trackpad as much as possible or not making any complex actions with it. This is perhaps the laptop's Achilles heel and is what kills the experience as a whole for me. Maybe the SurBook or LapBook Air will fix this issue, bringing consumers a laptop worth bragging about.
I'd like to extend a big 'Thank You' to the folks at Chuwi who supplied the LapBook 12.3 for this review. If you would like more information you can head to the official website or if you are interested in purchasing this device, you can pick it up from GearBest.