Design

One area where Chuwi has done very well, especially for this price point, is the design of the LapBook 14.1. The entire laptop is unsurprisingly made from plastic, but the plastic has a nice textured feel to it, making it very easy to hold, and it never feels like it’s going to slip out of your hands. The white color is a nice change from the traditionally black or gray PC market as well.

Since this is an Atom core, the laptop doesn’t need a fan, which of course makes the device silent, and, at least on the review sample, there isn’t any coil whine perking up over the lack of fan noise. The bottom features four nice large rubber feet, making the laptop stay planted on a desk or table, and while it may seem silly to mention this, there are still laptops that don’t get this right.

Opening the laptop up, the thin bezels on the display really stand out, and allow the LapBook 14.1 to feel smaller than most 14-inch notebooks. The thin design, starting at 9 mm at the front and tapering to 20 mm at the back, make it very easy to stick in a bag and carry with you. It’s not the lightest design around, but the overall construction is solid enough that there isn’t any creaking when holding the laptop on a corner. Considering the price, the construction is solid.

The keyboard is also surprisingly good. It’s nice to see a black keyboard on this laptop, since it gives great contrast to the white system, and makes the keys easier to see. Hopefully no one is shocked that this laptop does not offer any sort of keyboard backlighting, which is unfortunate, but to hit these kinds of price points, it has to be expected. Key travel is also quite good, and the keyboard feels quite solid, with a much better key feel than I would have expected at this price, and at this thin of a laptop. Chuwi hasn’t stuck with a normal keyboard layout though, and they’ve made the same mistake as some other manufacturers in placing the power button as one of the keys. Having the power button where Delete should be is never a good idea, and can easily cause you to shut off the computer when trying to edit something. It also starts a chain reaction on key placement, because Delete must be somewhere, and in this case, it is above the enter key, forcing the \ key beside the space bar. Although you could likely get used to this, if you ever switch between machines, having keys in odd locations is likely going to cause you frustration, and it would be best if Chuwi would move power off the keyboard.

The trackpad is another story though. It’s not a very good trackpad, and the customization for it is very limited with the included drivers. The default scroll direction is reversed from normal, with no way to change it, and you can’t disable the trackpad with a keyboard shortcut either. For simple operations, it’s acceptable, but if Chuwi wanted to focus its energy somewhere to make the experience better, this would be an easy place to start. The notebook would be better used with a mouse, if possible.

There’s not a lot of expansion, with just a single USB-A 2.0 port on the right, and a single USB-A 3.0 port on the left, along with mini HDMI and micro SD, and a headset jack. The power is supplied via a barrel connector, which doesn’t look very robust. It would have been nice to see USB-C power, although that may not be possible at this price point. My experience with thin barrel connectors is not great though, since they can get bent, or snapped off, and finding a replacement is not always simple since they are not always the same size. It’s also worth mentioning that the USB ports are upside down as well, which is not a huge deal, but it’s a bit weird when trying to plug something in.

Overall, Chuwi has done a decent job on the LapBook 14.1. The design is solid, with a pleasant look and feel, and while it can’t compete with all-metal notebooks, it’s really not meant to. The plastic feels decent, and the matte texture really helps.

Introduction Powering the Chuwi LapBook 14.1: Intel Apollo Lake
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  • Mikuni - Friday, March 10, 2017 - link

    Pointless, probably $400 in Europe. Reply
  • vladx - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    It's around 300 euros here in Europe. Reply
  • YoloPascual - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    Given the perf/watt of zen architecture, can we expect AMD to release ryzen mobile chips at this tdp? Reply
  • hojnikb - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    There is a chance, but not as 4 core parts. Maybe if they do a special 2C4T part with smaller gpu just for cheap and low tdp devices. Sorta like stoney ridge. Reply
  • YoloPascual - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    This is what I am thinking too. AMD seems to emphasize "scalability" of zen architecture. I wonder if they can scale downwards too. Reply
  • wumpus - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    Not directly. 4C4T 2GHz @ 6W sounds more like Bobcat/Jaguar in the AMD world (what's in PS4/XBox1). Half a raven ridge would still suck twice the power (at max, probably doing more than twice as much).

    On the other end, this whole architecture is a dead end. No idea how long Intel will produce it (or even update the GPU, they aren't updating the CPU). I doubt AMD is all that interested in updating the "cat" architecture either (although obviously they will continue to produce PS4/Xbox1 SOCs). Given time, "1/2 raven ridge" will probably become pretty competive for this type of thing, assuming you don't go straight to ARM chromebook/android/Linux on ARM/Win10ARM [Microsoft keeps insisting that last bit *is* a thing, but haven't managed to convince anyone else].
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    Maybe, but their 8/16 desktop parts being at the same TDP as Intels 4/8 ones suggests that their core design power is significantly lower than Intels, and the last few generations of their architecture can scale down to 4-6W from 90 at a 50% core count so AMD being able to do the same with Ryzen wouldn't surprise me. OTOH a 2/4 core chip at that level seems a lot more likely as a potential atom challenger. OTOH with the first Ryzen laptop parts not due until the second half of this year (and probably the 4th quarter or they'd've said Q3 instead of H2) I wouldn't be surprised if the first chip in this power class isn't available for a full year. Reply
  • fanofanand - Monday, March 13, 2017 - link

    Ryzen 8/16 being lower than Intel 4/8 isn't as big a deal as it's being made of. The intel parts being used in that comparison all have a gigantic iGPU that takes up half the die space. This is the same issue as "Ryzen's chip is smaller than Core" well yeah because there is no iGPU! If you were to compare the non-iGPU portion of the Core die, you will see that it's smaller than the Ryzen die, and likely the same would hold true with power consumption. All that said, AMD will definitely have low power cores and they will most likely be on the Ryzen architecture. Way too early to even guess at performance but all signs point to it being a competitive chip. Reply
  • OnthroX - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    $230 at GearBest with a EU Plug (vs $270 at Amazon)
    http://www.gearbest.com/laptops/pp_602696.html

    I added DHL Shipping for $5 -- order came out to a total of $235.23
    My first time shopping at GearBest but I hear they are okay.
    Reply
  • Diji1 - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    Good to see Ars covering a Chuwi product.

    The "Chinese manufacturers" phone, tablet and ultra/laptop recieves relatively little coverage in English speaking media which should change IMO.

    It would be great if you looked at Cube, another Chinese brand on tablets andultrabooks.
    Reply

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