Thursday, 21 September 2017
Reviews

GamePad Digital Pocket review


When we first set eyes on the Pocket we thought it was a gimmick. Who is really going to use a Windows 10 laptop with a 7in screen and a fiddly mouse button? Well I’ll tell you who would: me. (And it’s not because I’m a woman, GPD.)

Despite looking like a toy, the GPD Pocket is amazingly powerful – for a tiny laptop, that is. It’s on par with the other Chinese budget laptops we’ve reviewed, and no less impressive than any of the Chuwi or Jumper models, for example.

It’s a little bit more expensive than those devices, costing £379.23 ($495.99/421.92€) from GearBest (also factor in import duty at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11), but we think deservedly so. (Read up on buying Chinese tech.)

This miniature laptop comes with a 10-point touchscreen, an Intel Atom processor, 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 128GB of flash storage. A full-size USB 3.0 port lets you hook up a mouse or other peripherals, and you also get USB-C for charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 4.1 support and Micro-HDMI.

The latter is important, meaning you can connect it to a large screen using an HDMI cable and use Windows 10 to its full potential. So this little laptop has some big ambitions.

GPD Pocket review

GamePad Digital Pocket design and build

This is perhaps the most portable laptop we’ve ever seen, yet its size doesn’t hamper usage as much as you might expect – provided you don’t want to use Skype. The GPD Pocket measures just 182x109x19.9mm, meaning it can easily squeeze itself into a handbag or jacket pocket.

You will notice its presence, tipping the scales at around 500g, but most ultraportables weigh in at double that.

Part of this heft can be attributed to its battery, with a non-removable 7,000mAh lithium-polymer cell inside. In our tests it was good for 7 hours and 39 minutes – that’s at 120cd/m2 (not far off its maximum 140cd/m2) with a video playing on continuous loop. It’s not the 12 hours quoted by GPD, but it’s very reasonable. Better still, it will recharge in an hour and a half with a PD charger.

The GamePad Digital Pocket is well built, with an aluminium chassis and four small rubber feet to keep it stable on the desk. There’s a vent on the lefthand side and an interior copper radiator that keep it mostly cool, and a speaker that emits audio from below – we’d like to see this facing the user, though given the size constraints it’s difficult to grumble.

GPD Pocket review

The 7in display is of good quality, though not amazingly bright. GPD says it’s stronger than sapphire glass with 8H hardness, and we love the fact it’s a touchscreen – the dimensions don’t allow for a physical trackpad. Instead you get a joystick-style mouse button, which is easy enough to use given the small area it needs to cover. It’s accompanied by dedicated left- and right click buttons.

But while it isn’t the brightest display we’ve seen, it is crystal clear with a full-HD (1920×1080, 323ppi) resolution, and offers very realistic colours and excellent viewing angles.

Our one complaint here is that the bezels to the left and right edges are much thicker than we’d have liked, and the extra space could have been used to make the display larger.

GPD Pocket review

The keyboard itself could have been problematic, because cramped keys invariably make for inaccurate typing. We made more mistakes than we would with a full-size keyboard, sure, but not as many as we had expected.

So there’s no number pad or trackpad as you would expect, and the function keys are doubled up with the number and symbol buttons, but everything else is where you’d expect to find it and the majority of the buttons are of a decent size and generously spaced.

We say the majority because there are a few that are cramped together, such as the A button and half-size Caps Lock key, and the slimmed-down <, >, ? trio. The Alt, Ctrl and Fn buttons are also half their usual size, and the Spacebar very short and cut down the middle by the mouse button.

This doesn’t bother us so much in terms of usability as it does the messy look it creates. The inconsistent spacing and sizing, coupled with full-size legends, hurts our eyes somewhat. There’s no backlighting either, though the labels are bright enough to make use in a darkened room possible.

The Chiclet keys themselves are reasonably quiet in use, and you quickly become familiar with their layout. Unfortunately, though, this is a US keyboard, and a UK version is not available. You can configure Windows 10 to use a UK English layout, though you’ll have to remember some of your button legends will no longer tally.

GPD Pocket review

GamePad Digital Pocket performance

Performance is perhaps one of the most surprising aspects about the mini GamePad Pocket. We won’t pretend this is a workhorse, because it isn’t, but it is faster than we had assumed it would be. It’s also just as fast as any other budget Chinese laptop, so more than capable of your daily computing tasks.

The marketing materials for the Pocket laptop are mildly amusing, comparing it to the MacBook Air and pointing to its 128GB storage/8GB RAM as common ground (ignoring the difference between the Intel Atom used here and Intel Core i5 selected by Apple).

It also claims performance beyond the Microsoft Surface 3, which initially sounds like an outrageous claim until you realise we’re not talking about the Pro model here. Microsoft’s cheapest (and now discontinued) Surface is an Intel Atom-toting beast with similar performance in our benchmarks. (It also has a larger, brighter screen, a less cramped keyboard, front and rear cameras, stereo speakers and comes from a brand you know and trust.)

GPD Pocket review

Powering the GPD Pocket is a 1.6GHz Intel Atom x7-Z8750 quad-core processor that can Turbo Boost to 2.56GHz, plus 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 128GB eMMC storage. Graphics are integrated to the processor, but capable fow low-intensity games.

We ran the Pocket through our usual benchmarks and recorded 1342 points in PCMark8 Home (1495 accelerated), and 3411 points in Geekbench 4 (1152 single-core). That’s decent performance for a budget laptop, and especially one of this size.

We use GFXBench to test onscreen graphics, and here the GPD Pocket turned in 31fps in T-Rex, 16fps in Manhattan, 13fps in Manhattan 3.1 and 9fps in Car Chase.

It’s worth pointing out there is no support for storage expansion, though you can plug in an external hard drive via USB or make use of the cloud.

The company claims this is the first 7in pocket laptop to support 64-bit Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, though we tested it in its out-of-box configuration running Windows 10 Home.



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