Chuwi LapBook SE 13.3 inch Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Decent overall performance; 1080p screen; Aluminum design

The Cons

Disruptively stiff touchpad; Dim display output; Mediocre battery life

Verdict

The Chuwi LapBook is an Apple imitator hindered by its touchpad and subpar battery life.

The $279.99 Chuwi LapBook SE, with its dark-gray "Aviation aluminum" chassis, aims to make people feel like they got a MacBook at a fraction of the price.. The LapBookt does have decent performance for a budget machine and a sharper screen than we expect at this price. Unfortunately, however, its screen is dimmer than your average budget machine and its touchpad is frustratingly stiff. So, even though the LapBook looks like a MacBook, it sure doesn't work like one.

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Design

While the lid of the Chuwi LapBook references Apple's design, the differences stop there, especially for anyone who's ever used an Apple laptop. When closed, the lid and deck don't sit flush and instead have a visible gap between the two, which is created by the display's thick hinge.

At 3.2 pounds and 0.6 inches thick, the 13.3-inch LapBook SE is similar in heft and size to the 14-inch HP Stream 14 (3.1 pounds, 0.7 inches) and the 14-inch Acer Aspire 1 (3.3 pounds, 0.7 inches). The 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron 15 3000 (4.9 pounds, 1 inch) is heavier and thicker.

The LapBook SE's two USB 3.0 ports are split between its left (with its HDMI mini port) and its right (with its headphone jack and microSD slot).

Also, if you've got a small Phillips-head screwdriver, you can access and swap out its 128GB M.2 SATA SSD.

The LapBook SE lacks a full, traditional HDMI output and an Ethernet jack, both of which you'll find in the Aspire 1.

Display

The Chuwi LapBook SE's 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen is sharp and colorful but hindered by low brightness. Watching a trailer for Glass, I noticed that Sarah Paulson's hair didn't have the orange-red hue it should, and that the purple walls of the sanitarium appeared muted. The ripples of a tide of bathwater splashing over the floor, though, looked clear and free of digital noise.

According to our colorimeter, the LapBook SE produces 104 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is better than the 86-percent budget-laptop average, the 82-percent screen in the Stream 14 and the 71-percent screens in the Aspire 1 and Inspiron 3000.

The Chuwi LapBook SE's 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen is sharp and colorful but hindered by low brightness.

The LapBook SE emits up to 200 nits of brightness, a rating notably below the 232-nit average and close to the 206-nit Aspire 1. The 186-nit Stream 14 and 170-nit Inspiron 3000 are dimmer.

MORE: Laptops with the Best Display Brightness

While the LapBook's low brightness hurts its output, we rarely see 1080p displays at this price. Both the Stream 14 and Inspiron 3000 are stuck with outdated 1376 x 768 panels, while the Aspire 1 has a 1080p screen.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Chuwi LapBook SE's keyboard is a bit on the stiff side, but more or less reliable. Its touchpad could be a serious deal breaker, however

Typing out the 10fastfinger test, I click-clacked my way to 66 words per minute on my first try and saw my rates eventually rise to 79 wpm (close to my 80-wpm average). The keys may have a shallow 1.2 millimeters of travel, but their 80 grams of required actuation force helps the typing experience feel more natural.

MORE: Highest Resolution Screens

Unfortunately, I couldn't get used to the LapBook SE's 4.5 x 2.9-inch touchpad. While its navigation and scrolling offer OK accuracy, the surface is incredibly stiff to click on, to an almost unusable degree.

Audio

Don't count on the Chuwi LapBook SE to be the life of the party: It struggled to fill one of our smaller private offices. As I listened to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" on the laptop, I also noticed crackling, distorted horns and an overall muted sound.

Performance

The Chuwi LapBook SE runs on an Intel Celeron N4100 CPU and 4GB of RAM, which provide the base amount of speed for getting anything done. The notebook seemed to max out at about four Google Chrome tabs open at once, however, and after I opened a fifth tab, I saw it stutter and slow down. I even saw fits and spurts when using the 10fastfingers typing test, when it would take moments for the site to acknowledge I'd typed a word.

The LapBook SE earned a 4,897 on the Geekbench 4 benchmark, which beats the 3,791 budget laptop average. We also saw lower scores from competitors, including a 1,817 by the Stream 14 (Intel Celeron N3060 with 4GB of RAM), 3,349 by the Aspire 1 (Intel Celeron N4000 with 4GB of RAM) and 3,163 by the Inspiron 3000 (Intel Pentium N3710 with 4GB of RAM).

The 128GB SSD in the LapBook SE is on the slow side. It duplicated 4.97GB of files in 3 minutes and 22 seconds at a rate of 25.2 megabytes per second, which is slower than the 47.9-MBps budget laptop average. The Stream 14's 32GB SSD posted a similarly slow 24.7-MBps rate, as did the Inspiron 3000's 500GB hard drive, which copied at 26 MBps. The LapBook SE includes a second drive, a 32GB SSD, which is where the Windows 10 installation lives.

Our Excel VLOOKUP test times how long a laptop takes to match 60,000 names to addresses, and the LapBook SE finished this test in 4 minutes and 12 seconds. That's shorter than both the 5:49 budget laptop average and the 6:19 from the Acer Aspire 1.

But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for the Chuwi LapBook SE. It lost ground during the Handbrake test, taking 47 minutes and 31 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p., That's longer than the 41:54 category average. The Acer Aspire 1, though, needed 1 hour and 17 minutes to finish.

MORE: Laptops with the Best Productivity Performance

And don't expect to game on the LapBook SE: Its integrated Intel UHD Graphics 600 chip ran the modest Dirt 3 racing game at a too-slow 18 frames per second. That's far below the almost-acceptable 28-fps budget laptop average and right next to the also-stuttery 19-fps rate from the Aspire 1 (Intel UHD Graphics 600).

Battery Life

You'll want to bring the Chuwi LapBook SE's power cable (more on that later) with you on day trips. The LapBook SE lasted only 6 hours and 31 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits). That time falls below the 7:05 budget laptop average and the Inspiron 3000's 8:01 time but ties with the Aspire 1 (6:31).

MORE: Longest Battery Life Laptops

But about that power adapter. While our unit came with a European power adapter, a GearBest (the sole vendor shipping this laptop), a customer-service rep named Maria told me she "verified we will ship an U.S. plug adapter with [the LapBook SE]."

Heat

The Chuwi LapBook SE's aluminum chassis stays pretty cool. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the notebook, our heat gun read its touchpad (81 degrees Fahrenheit), keyboard (83 degrees) and underside (84 degrees) at temperatures far below our 95-degree comfort threshold.

Webcam

The 0.9-megapixel webcam in the Chuwi LapBook SE produces the same gauzy images you get from most integrated cameras. Sure, I can recognize myself in the images I shot on the notebook, but I wouldn't use them for social media in any way, shape or form.

Software and Warranty

Chuwi's given the LapBook SE a light load of preinstalled applications. BatteryBar, a menu-bar utility, provides a more detailed view of the notebook's internal battery, including the battery's current charge and capacity in milliwatt hours. The only thing that feels close to bloatware is a system utility called SiSoftware Sandra Lite Premium, a system-monitoring and benchmarking tool.

While neither the Chuwi website nor GearBest mentions any warranty, I found a one-year warranty card inside the LapBook SE's box, which notes owners "may need [to] provide valid proof-of-purchase and the [attached] warranty card."

How much does the Chuwi LapBook SE cost?

Currently, GearBest is selling the LapBook SE for $279.99, which the site says is at a 75 percent discount. That means the nonsale price of the LapBook SE is close to $369.99.

Bottom Line

The Chuwi LapBook SE seems like a strong value, with its aluminum design, capable Celeron CPU and sharp display. But once you start using it and feel the pain of its stiff touchpad and dim screen, you'll start to reconsider.

If you really want a MacBook, but can't afford the 4-digit price, I can understand the rationale behind getting the LapBook SE. Still, though, I wouldn't recommend this laptop to anyone, and instead suggest that they save $30 or more on the $249 Acer Aspire 1, or get the similarly priced but longer-lasting Inspiron 15. Neither laptop will stick you with that terrible touchpad.

Credit: Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Celeron N4100 CPU
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 32GB
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type eMMC
Secondary Hard Drive Size 128 GB
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type SSD
Display Size 13.3
Highest Available Resolution 1920 x 1080
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel UHD Graphics 600
Video Memory Shared
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 3165
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2+LE
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4.5 x 2.9 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Mini HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
USB Ports 2
Card Slots microSD
Warranty/Support 1-year warranty
Size 12.5 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight 3.16 pounds
Company Website
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1 comment
  • Castor Oyl Says:

    I suspect anything Chinese would be found underneath your Don't Buy This. Whatta homer. Even though your own link shows the Chuwi is way brighter than MOST laptops, it is complained about several times. Obviously a bit of baracuda style journalism borrowed from Trump. Sad!

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