Chuwi is known for offering value for money products, especially laptops and tablets. This time, we will be reviewing one of their best models, the lapbook 12.3 that aims for an upgraded premium feel carrying a budget price.
Packaging – Specifications
Nothing fancy here. It arrived in a common cardboard box. It was adequately protected and inside you will find the (not so convincing) wall charger too. A cloth between the display and the keyboard was found additionally to the one covering the laptop itself for extra protection.
Chuwi never uses high performing Intel CPUs and this is also the case. Intel Celeron N3450 is a quad core/thread CPU with clocks up to 2.2GHz, 2MB of L2 cache and only 6W TDP for less consumption and increased battery life. Intel HD Graphics 500 is the integrated processor graphics unit of the new Apollo Lake series that promises adequate performance for simple 2D games and hassle free hardware acceleration for your popular video files (including 4K ones).
6GB of RAM are plenty for everyday tasks and the 64GB of eMMC ROM is what we expected for the price. Fortunately you have the option to add a 128GB MicroSD card and a M2 slot 2242 SATA drive for extra and faster storage space.
Connectivity is great for the price, including 1x USB2.0 port, 1x USB3.0 port, 1x microSD slot, 1x headphone jack and 1x microHDMI (limited to 4K@30).
Wireless connectivity is very good with Bluetooth 4.2 and Dual Band Wi-Fi via its Intel 3165 module. There is no Ethernet port.
The included battery is of 37Wh capacity. Not a large one but the energy efficient SoC will help to achieve long battery life.
Dual speakers and a front faced camera/microphone combo are also included for your video conference calls and media entertainment.
We saved the display for last since it is probably the highlight of the laptop. It is a 12.3 inch wide, 2736×1824 resolution, 3:2 ratio, IPS display similar to the one we find in latest gen Microsoft Surface Pro units. It does not support touch feature though.
It comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed.
Overall, the specs are amazing for the price (~250-270€)
Build Quality – Layout – Input Devices – Display
The almost premium build quality is the first thing you will notice. The lapbook 12.3 has an all-aluminum quality chassis that is a first for a budget device. Aluminum finish is convincing but not as good as the way more expensive Apple Macbook and Dell XPS models. Still way more than what you would expect.
Design is also very pleasant with slim profile (<1.8cm) and relatively compact dimensions (300x 223x 16.7mm). It weights almost 1.5kg. Screen bezels are not thin though but the solid black single hinge solution makes up for it. Applying pressure to both body and screen lid, results only to minor dent.
I/Os distribution is okay, with the power, USB3.0 and micro HDMI ports located on the left and the USB2.0, card reader and headphone ones on the right side.
Chuwi uses an 81 key chicklet keyboard that provides a good typing experience with its decent key travel and adequate size. Layout could certainly be better, at least for the power key that is located where the DEL one should be (top right corner), resulting to accidental stand-by of the machine. As expected, the keyboard is neither spill proof or back-lighted.
The plastic touchpad is medium sized and despite the good first impression, a long-term use will reveal its rough surface and average two finger scroll (it is very easy to decrease the fonts, instead of scroll. It should be less sensitive).
The display is amazing for the price. Although not as bright as a Surface Pro, the maximum brightness level is sufficient both for work and media playback. The 3:2 ratio, matte coating and very high resolution provide a very comfortable work space. The display does not appear to be calibrated due to its poor greyscale accuracy. Contrast ratio is certainly good but we don’t have the special equipment for a precise measurement. Color accuracy could also be better. At the end, you end up with a great display for as long as you will not use it for any type of photo or video editing purposes.
Webcam and stereo speaker performance is typical and sufficient for non-demanding use.
Intel Celeron N3450 outperformed previous gen’s Intel Z8350 by almost 50%. That is a great score considering they have a similar clock frequency and passive cooling.
That was also reflected in real life performance by providing a very pleasant user experience while performing all basic tasks. The 6GB of RAM certainly had a part towards that.
Audio and video playback was now better than ever (for a Celeron processor), with HD Audio pass-through and 4K HEVC video acceleration. CPU load will remain as low as 15-20% when decoding such files.
4K out is limited to 30Hz so consider that if you have a native 4K monitor.
PC Mark and 3D Mark scores were of course higher than Intel’s Z8350 but considerably lower compared to Intel’s higher CPU models like Core m5/i3/i5 etc. This does not affect basic operations like casual desktop use (office, Browsing the web, Spotify, You-Tube etc.) but only constant CPU intensive tasks like rendering, 3D games etc.
Internal flash ROM showed average read and write speeds (>110Mb/Sec read, ~40Mb/Sec write) but at least you have the option to install a fast M2 drive.
MicroSD performance is also average maxing out at 33Mb/Sec.
Network performance was up to par with a maxed out Gigabit LAN and great wireless performance that allowed streaming of Full HD material. Just make sure your access point can provide Dual Band protocol and a good signal to where your laptop is positioned.
Battery life is good despite the small battery. The new Apollo Lake series is extremely energy efficient resulting to better than average scores. While on battery and performing simple tasks like web browsing, Spotify and You-Tube, you can definitely surpass the 5 hour mark.
Windows Home installation appears to be clean, although at first boot there was already a CW named primary account (CW stand for Chuwi?). If it makes you feel safer, you can always perform a clean installation. After the first boot, you will find ~40GB of free space. Disk partitioning is normal.
Chuwi did its best to provide a budget friendly, everyday laptop with premium looks.
Lapbook 12.3 manages to impress with its display, build quality and specs (Speedy quad core Intel Apollo Lake CPU, 6GB of RAM, Dual Band Wi-Fi, BT4.2). There are definitely shortcomings (non-calibrated display, touchpad, average speed ROM) but all of them are totally justified by the extremely low price tag (280€/320$).
If you are on a budget, or out for a second laptop to carry around then the Chuwi Lapbook 12.3 is in a class of its own.
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