Good mini laptop, bad Windows tablet

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Two years ago, Shenzhen-based Chuwi launched the Minibook, which, as the name suggests, was a miniature-sized laptop with an 8-inch screen. I haven’t reviewed this particular device, but I have tested another device with almost the exact same footprint (and, knowing how the small makers in Shenzhen operate, I can confidently guess that they were from the same assembly line), and I found 8 inches for a laptop to be too small. It wasn’t so much the screen, but the keyboard had to be shrunk to the point that it threw away a touch typist like me.

Chuwi’s follow-up, the Minibook X, ups the screen size of the laptop to 10.8 inches, and that’s a much more ideal size in my opinion. It’s still very portable and noticeably smaller than most laptops on the market, but the keyboard is now large enough to look mostly like a full-size keyboard, meaning I can type again at close to my top speed. In fact, I am writing this review on this device.

And just like the original Minibook, it’s still a “convertible” laptop, meaning its screen can fold backwards completely 360 degrees so the device can be used as a laptop. tablet, although it is very thick at 13mm. I guess it’s a matter of perspective: the 13mm thick and 1.9lb weight might make for a thick and heavy tablet, it’s pretty thin and light for a laptop.

Retailing for around $570, the Chuwi Minibook X is surprisingly well built, with a few quirks. The top half of the device – the part with the screen – is basically an LCD display panel glued to an aluminum casing. It looks a bit odd, as the tablet’s screen was built with circular corners, but now it’s wrapped in aluminum corners. There’s also a hole in the screen housing the webcam, which I’ll get to in a bit.

The bottom half of the device, however, is made entirely of plastic. Still, the keyboard is very good, with excellent key travel, and the trackpad, despite its small size, is more than serviceable. I was able to move my mouse cursor around and do regular computing things without too much trouble.

Back to that screen: it’s a 10.9-inch LCD screen with 2k resolution and it’s a pretty good screen for an entry-level laptop. It gets noticeably brighter than most entry-level devices from smaller brands, and it offers excellent viewing angles and color accuracy. The hole in the corner distracts from the user interface at first, but as if I was using the same technology on a smartphone, I got used to it after a few hours. The location of the touchscreen (top left corner) is fun though, because by default Windows always has an icon in the same place.

The screen is also a conventional touchscreen, and while the hardware is excellent, this laptop’s software of choice, Windows 11, is just below par as a touchscreen device compared to Android or iOS.

As a computer, I have very few complaints, despite the processor not being flagship quality – at this price it would be unreasonable to expect it to be. It’s an Intel Celeron N5100 processor, paired with 12GB of LPDDR4x RAM. These components combine for mid-level computing performance that’s fine for productivity tasks like sending emails, streaming videos, or writing articles, but not much more. If you’re trying to edit video or play graphically intensive games, this thing will bog down to the point of being unusable. Even loading Microsoft’s widgets or launching an app like Spotify takes a bit longer than on any high-end smartphone or Windows machine. Again, I’m totally picky – at this price, it’s a level of performance to be expected. And if you’re using this machine for just pounding out words in a coffee shop like me, it will absolutely do the job.

As a tablet, the Chuwi Minibook X isn’t that great, due to the aforementioned Windows issue. Windows is simply poorly optimized as a tablet, with slow orientation rotation and on-screen buttons designed for mouse cursors, not fingers. This is not Chuwi’s fault at all, as even the most high-end touchscreen Windows machines suffer from the same problem.

On the contrary, Chuwi has done a great job with the hardware to make the tablet option possible. The hinge is very sturdy and well built, allowing the screen to sit at any angle in its 360 degree axis without wobbling. The Minibook X even supports pen input. Chuwi sells one for $20, but I found even a generic stylus I had (designed to be used with a portable monitor) worked perfectly fine. The stylus’ input latency is nowhere near as low as Apple’s Pencil or the expensive Wacom stylus, so digital artists don’t need to take that into account. But for basic scribbles and sketches, it’s fine. I use the stylus to help me navigate Windows in tablet mode because the buttons are too small for my finger.

There are a few weaknesses with the Minibook X that aren’t just finicky. The first is the lack of ports – there are only two USB-Cs and a headphone jack. I would have liked to see a full size USB-A, and maybe a card slot. That last point brings me to my second weakness: the device doesn’t support expandable storage, meaning the 512GB SSD is all the storage you have.

Two final gripes: the speakers are placed at the bottom of the laptop, which makes sound muffled; and the battery is only 3800mAh, which is smaller than most phone batteries. Considering it’s a larger 10.9-inch screen, that leaves very poor battery life. According to my tests, the device can only last about two and a half to three hours on a single charge. So while it’s ultra-portable, you’ll need to bring a portable charger or battery pack with you if you need to use it for more than a few hours.

In the end, while it’s good that Chuwi has made a device with the versatility of being both a laptop and a tablet, the reality is that it only does a good job in one place. – the laptop part. As a tablet it is too heavy, too thick and Windows 11 is very bad at this part of the job.

For me, I see definite value in the Minibook X as a mobile work machine – this smaller form factor would be much better suited to an airplane tray table or a small cafe bar table. But I will definitely never use it as a tablet again beyond initial testing.

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