We’ve seen plenty of tablets from Chuwi, but the firm has expanded its laptop line-up and the latest model aims to offer something a little more stylish and portable. Here’s our Chuwi Lapbook Air review.
We were pretty impressed with the Lapbook 14.1 a year ago and although the Lapbook Air is an upgrade, there’s some tough competition in the budget laptop market.
Price and availability
It’s no big surprise that you can’t just pop down to PC World or Argos to buy a Chuwi laptop.
As will others, we’ve sourced the Lapbook Air from Gearbest which sells the Chuwi at a price of £328 ($443), that’s around £100 pounds more than last year’s model. That’s at its launch price as the laptop is now just £134.
However, it’s unusually available at Amazon for £379 which is probably a better option considering the import duty and customer support.
It’s still an reasonable price, especially when you consider that it includes shipping to the UK as well. However, you will need to pay some import duty so you’ll be looking at closer to £400 and suddenly the device isn’t quite the deal.
This is largely due to some excellent rivals from manufactures much easier to get hold of in the UK. The Acer Swift 1, for example, is just £329 and sits at the top of our budget laptop chart at the time of writing.
Design and build
The main difference between the Lapbook Air and the aptly names Lapbook 14.1 is that Chuwi has gone for a metal build instead of plastic. Although the previous model had a decent build for a plastic device, the Air looks and feels much more premium.
So that’s one reason why the Air is more expensive and on the whole has the appearance of a more expensive laptop. The dark grey magnesium alloy does the job well, complete with bevelled edges for a nice finish.
The Chuwi logo on the lid even lights up in Apple-esque fashion – see above.
The firm claims that the Lapbook Air is just 6mm thin but this is only if you measure it at a very particular point. It’s actually 15.5mm at the thickest point so don’t be fooled.
Despite the name, the Lapbook Air isn’t actually that light either. The plastic 14.1 model is 1.5kg but the Air is only slightly less at 1.41kg. For comparison, the Swift 1 is only 1.3kg so the Lapbook Air is not quite the featherweight promised.
Chuwi could have perhaps saved some weight by making the underneath of the laptop plastic but it’s all metal. There’s even an Apple style ‘Designed by Chuwi. Made in China’ printed on the bottom.
Keyboard and trackpad
Despite having the same size screen as its predecessor, the Lapbook Air has a larger keyboard. It’s very similar but Chuwi has fitted in an extra column on the right including Home and Page Up etc.
This time around, the keys match the colour of the metal and it looks good. For a budget laptop, we’re pleased with the type experience on the Lapbook Air. Although the keys are quite big and bulky, typing is surprisingly smooth. Not everyone will like how springy the keys are thought.
You do get a backlight here but it’s fairly weak and uneven in the way it lights the keys. Still, it’s better than nothing.
Moving onto the trackpad which is also a matching grey, it’s large and smooth but frustrating in a couple of ways.
There’s often a perceived lag between the movement of your finger and the cursor on the screen. Additionally, if you push-click in the bottom left of the trackpad, the cursor will often teleport to the bottom-left of the desktop and open the start menu which is extremely frustrating.
The latter is a problem we experienced before so it’s a shame to not see it fixed here.
Specs and features
Despite the time difference between the Lapbook Air and the previous model, Chuwi has stuck with the same processor.
So inside is an Intel Celeron N3450 (Apollo Lake), a 1.1GHz quad-core chip able to Turbo Boost up to 2.2GHz. That’s not ideal when the Acer Swift 1 at the same price has a newer Intel Pentium.
Chuwi has fitted the Laptop Air with 8GB of RAM, though which helps a little. And you also get 128GB of storage, too – both are double its predecessor and the Swift 1. There’s also an M.2 SSD expansion slot as well as a microSD card reader.
As you can see in the benchmark tests below, the Lapbook Air doesn’t do much better than the old model. In fact, in some tests it comes out worse.
In the real world, this means the Lapbook Air will be fine if you want to do basic tasks – we’re talking word processing, web browsing and streaming video. It’s not suitable for gaming or anything too advanced like video editing, but that’s understandable given the price.
A benefit of the Celeron is that the Lapbook Air doesn’t need fans and so runs effectively silent. The low power chip should also mean battery life is decent and in our video loop test with the screen at 120cd/m, the Lapbook Air lasted six hours and 20 minutes.
That’s not bad from the 38Wh battery, but Chuwi claims eight hours and the Swift 1 will give you an extra hour and a half thanks to its 42Wh battery.
So there’s nothing particularly outstanding so far, but the screen is a highlight here. Like its predecessor, it’s 14.1in in diagonal and uses a Full HD resolution. Furthermore, it’s IPS rather than the old fashioned TN variety so offers better viewing angles.
That said, the screen isn’t great in all areas as colours aren’t anything special and the brightness tops out at 245cd/m, when you really need 350 or higher to work in bright light. We must be forgiving here, though, as the screen is decent for a laptop this price and matches up to the Acer Swift 1.
The Lapbook Air is fairly well connected with two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, a microSD card slot and a mini HDMI port. Charging is done via a traditional DC input.
Lastly, Chuwi has fitted the laptop with dual-band Wi-Fi, dual-mics, stereo speakers and a 2Mp webcam. None of which are anything to write home about.