A Surface Pro for $350? Not Exactly

Posted on April 30, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 22 Comments

A Surface Pro for $350? Not Exactly

You may have seen reports about a $350 Surface Pro 4 alternative called the CHUWI Lapbook 12.3. In truth, it’s not a 2-in-1 like Surface Pro 4. But it still may be interesting to those looking for a PC with a gorgeous, PixelSense-type display at a deep discount.

As I’m sure you know, Microsoft has mysteriously chosen to delay updating its own Surface offerings. But that’s OK, as we’re awash in Surface Pro clones and alternatives these days, with PC makers embracing the hybrid functionality that Microsoft first popularized. All of these clones PCs some advantages over the Microsoft offering, of course, and most are at least a little bit less expensive.

Some, however, are significantly less expensive, and these devices are potentially much better values. One incredible example—maybe—is the CHUWI Lapbook 12.3, which will cost just $349 when it arrives in May.

$350? Seriously?

You’re right to be dubious. And for starters, it’s not even a Surface Pro clone: Instead, this is a standard laptop form factor, a clamshell design. But the reason we’re comparing it to Surface Pro 4 is that this device offers a 12.3-inch PixelSense-like high DPI (2736 x 1824, or 267 dpi) display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Just like Surface Pro 4. We can debate the relative merits of laptops and 2-in-1 tablets, of course. But there’s no debating that there is currently a bigger market for traditional PC form factors.

No, this China-based offering will not deliver the premium quality seen in Microsoft’s products—and in most Surface Pro clones, as well—nor will it provide the same performance.

But I suspect CHUWI Lapbook 12.3 will still be of great interest to many readers. After all, $350 is about one-third the price of a typical Surface Pro 4.

So what is this thing?

“CHUWI Lapbook 12.3 finally has a price tag fixed at $349 and release date settled in May,” a CHUWI representative recently told me, while apologizing for the later-than-promised release date. (It was originally expected in April.)

(It’s worth noting, too, that CHUWI also offers a similar (and similarly priced) 13.5-inch device called the Hi13, that provides a Surface Book-like screen: 13.5-inches, 3000 x 2000 resolution, with a 3:2 aspect ratio. This company is going right for the Surface sweet spot, in a way.)

But the firm is cutting corners somewhere, of course. And as it turns out, those corners are basically everywhere but the screen: The CHUWI Lapbook 12.3 is “powered” by the latest generation (“Apollo Lake”) Intel N3450 processor and integrated Intel HD Graphics, for starters. That’s a mobile Celeron (read: Atom) part, by the way, and it does offer four processor cores.

The remaining specs are mostly low-end as well: The device ships with 6 GB of DDR3 RAM, 64 GB of internal eMMC storage with microSD expansion, a 37 Wh battery, dual-band Wi-Fi, a 2MP rear camera, “USB 3.0 +2.0” (which I take to mean a single full-sized port) and mini-HDMI for video-out.

I’ll consider reviewing this is there is enough interest. But you should look over the CHUWI website to see what else the firm offers. In some ways, these devices seem like the Moto G5 Plus of the PC world: Some premium features and build quality, lower-end components, and low prices. And they may thus possibly represent great value, in addition to some risk. I’m certainly curious.


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