Chuwi LapBook Air

In recent months we’ve seen several laptops derive their inspiration from Apple’s iconic MacBook range. The Jumper EZBook 2 looks like a 13-inch MacBook Air while the Xiaomi Air 12 borrows heavily from the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.

Chinese vendor Chuwi follows this trend with the LapBook Air, a notebook that doesn’t differ much from the aforementioned rivals in physical terms. If you ever wanted to run Windows on a MacBook Air, this is probably the closest you will ever get – and it is no coincidence that Chuwi opted to use the word ‘Air’ in the name.

Design

As expected, the laptop has a tapered profile – it’s probably as pronounced as the MacBook Air with the thinnest end of the wedge being only 6mm thick. This is clearly Ultrabook territory especially as Chuwi chose a magnesium aluminum alloy for its chassis to give the machine an even posher look.

We didn’t detect any flex with the screen or keyboard which goes some way to show how sturdy the LapBook Air is – impressively so! The dimly lit Chuwi logo on the lid is yet another nod to Apple’s MacBooks.

This is a hefty enough piece of kit, weighing 1.74kg with dimensions of 329 x 220 x 20.5mm. Oddly enough it comes with a relatively small power supply unit, a 24W (12V,2A) model.

On the whole, you could say that Chuwi has essentially produced a classier version of the LapBook 14.1 that it released earlier this year – its deep gray color scheme and the chrome cut edges only serve to make the notebook look more premium.

Specifications

Open the laptop up and you’ll find a big 14.1-inch Full HD display with a decent size keyboard and an average-sized touchpad, the latter of which is totally smooth.

The power button is tucked away on the top right-hand side and that’s not what one would call a good decision, especially as it is located next to the delete button – meaning there’s an unnecessary danger of shutting down the laptop accidentally.

There’s some better news in the form of the display, with the IPS screen being more than adequate having uniform brightness across the surface and no significant bleed.

It is covered with glass, edge-to-edge, which made us think, mistakenly, that the display was a touchscreen model. Sadly, it isn’t, but at least it comes with thin bezels; just be wary of glare when you use it in bright sunshine.

There are two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD card reader, a mini-HDMI port, an audio jack and a proprietary power connector. You also get 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, two speakers, two microphones and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera to round things off.

Inside the LapBook the hardware consists of the usual suspects, a triumvirate of components – Intel Celeron processor, DDR3 memory and eMMC storage – that have become part and parcel of all the entry-level Windows-based systems we’ve reviewed over the past year.

There’s also a free slot to add an optional M.2 storage component; just take off a small plastic cover and plug in the SSD, and you’re ready to go. As for the battery, it is a smaller-than-average 5,000mAh model, and as expected, this notebook runs Windows 10 Home.

Usage and performance

This laptop is built around a passively cooled Intel Celeron N3450 processor, a quad-core CPU based on the Goldmont architecture. It is accompanied by 8GB of low power DDR3 memory (in dual channel mode) and 128GB of eMMC 5.1 flash storage.

As for performance, just make sure you adjust your expectations given the hardware inside. This laptop is great for lightweight tasks, but it will struggle when having to deal with more than a few tabs open in Microsoft’s Edge browser, for example.

Battery life was better than expected, indeed far better than expected at five and a half hours. Granted, we were testing using a simple YouTube count-up video of a clock with brightness on 100%, but this certainly still counts as an impressive result, especially given the size of the battery.

The keys on the backlit keyboard have a good amount of travel, which isn’t surprising given the thickness of the device, and they offer sharp feedback. Visually, the keys appear to be higher than they actually are – in other words, going by looking at them, the user may be tempted to press harder than necessary to register a key-press.

The touchpad is smaller than we’d expect with a smooth surface – it works great with single and multi-finger gestures.

The speakers were underwhelming to say the least: the sound coming out of these was devoid of any character, lacking depth and oomph. But that’s pretty much as expected with a device in this price bracket.

The competition

You will be hard pressed to find a laptop with 8GB of RAM for the sort of money Chuwi is asking for here.

The Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA costs £550 (Amazon) – that’s around $735. It has a far more powerful CPU, a touchscreen display, can double as a tablet and has an SSD in lieu of eMMC storage.

The HP ProBook 440 G4 is a different kettle of fish altogether since it is pitched as a business laptop. It has a far faster processor (a Core i5-7200U) and twice the storage (256GB SSD). Add in a bigger battery and twice the amount of ports (it even has a VGA connector) and you get an intriguing alternative at £530 (Ebuyer) – that’s around $710.

If brand is not an issue, then the Daysky A3, from Gearbest, is selling for a mere £220 (around $295). It sports the desktop version of the chip used inside the Chuwi LapBook Air and has a slightly higher TDP due to a marginally higher base processor frequency. It is still an unknown quantity with no reviews around.

Final verdict

Despite sporting a name that will attract all sorts of comments, the LapBook Air left a positive impression on us. A relatively affordable price – remember it costs about £260 (around $350) – coupled with a very likable and distinctive design, a large 14.1-inch Full HD display, and a small power supply make it a winner for those on a budget.

We just wish it didn’t have that proprietary power connector, and that it offered a real SSD rather than eMMC storage. The dual-channel memory architecture is a step in the right direction but it has limited impact on performance – whereas adding an SSD would make a much bigger impact.

Desire Athow
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