A truly unique gadget, the Gole1 is difficult to classify. The device's 5-inch touch screen, built-in battery and lightweight, 4-ounce chassis suggest that the Gole1 is a tablet. However, its relatively chunky, 0.78-inch thick frame and nine ports make it look and feel more like a mini desktop PC. The fanless, 9-ounce computer also comes with ability to dual-boot Windows 10 and Android 5.1, a capability we've never seen before.
The small Chinese company that makes this device refers to it as the "world's smallest all-in-one." But no matter what you call it, the $99 Gole1 ($129 as tested) is an incredible bargain that works best as a portable server, home theater PC or mobile mini desktop.
The Gole1 has a very distinct look that is both retro and premium at the same time. Encased in an attractive gold-colored aluminum chassis, the chunky 5.33 x 3.55 x 0.78-inch device looks a bit like a pocket TV or an old-fashioned portable media player, thanks to a large Wi-Fi antenna that juts out of the top and a thick bezel below the screen, which contains the power, volume and home buttons, along with some speaker holes. However, its closest ancestors are MIDs (mobile internet devices) from 2009, like the Viliv S5, which also ran full Windows on its tiny, 5-inch display, but carried a hefty $799 price tag.
Weighing just 8.25 ounces, the Gole1 is so light that I didn't feel it in my bag and barely noticed its weight in my pocket.
No matter what you think of its aesthetic, the Gole1's use of aluminum makes it look anything but cheap. Normally, you don't find any device with an aluminum chassis for under $500, let alone one that costs under $100. The Intel Atom-powered computer is completely fanless so the aluminum, along with an air vent in the bottom, helps dissipate the heat.
Ports and Connectivity
Even when compared with full-size laptops and mini desktops, the Gole1 has a lot of ports. The left side houses a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, a microSD card slot and a micro USB port. The top surface contains an Ethernet port, HDMI out, a 3.5mm audio jack, a proprietary power port and two more USB 2.0 ports. The Wi-Fi antenna also lives on this surface.
Though the Gole1 comes with a proprietary 3-amp charger and power port, it can also get juice via its micro USB port. That means that not only can you use any 3-amp or higher USB charger with the device, but that you can power it with any portable battery that offers that level of output. Imagine sticking the Gole1 in your backpack, connecting it to an external battery and letting it run as a wireless file or video server all day long as you walk around.
The microSD card slot is also particularly useful, because it allows you to expand the internal storage with very inexpensive microSD cards that range in price from $15 for 64GB to $150 for a 256GB unit.
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The device supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which makes it fast enough to use in-network streaming applications such as XBox Live and Steam In-Home Streaming. There's also a Bluetooth 4.0 radio for pairing with peripherals such as wireless keyboards and mice.
The Gole1's 5-inch, 1280 x 720 touch screen provides surprisingly bright, rich images and accurate touch response. When I watched a 1080p trailer for Ghostbusters, colors like the blue in a glowing ghost and the red in some graffiti really popped. Fine details like the grout in a brick wall were sharp and prominent.
Some light bounced off the display's glossy surface at wider viewing angles, but colors stayed true when I put the Gole1 flat on a table and stared at it from a distance, or when I glanced at it from 90 degrees to the left or right.
According to our colorimeter, the Gole1's screen can reproduce a strong 87 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That's a little below the tablet category average of 97 percent, but really quite strong overall, especially considering the price. The $150 Lenovo IdeaPad 100S laptop has an 11.6-inch screen that manages only 62 percent of the gamut, the $50 Amazon Fire tablet manages only 66 percent on its 7-inch display, while the $300 Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 310 got a similar 84 percent.
The device's colors are extremely accurate. The screen returned a very strong Delta-e error rate of 0.53 (0 is perfect), nearly five times better than the category average (2.58).
The Gole1 is more than bright enough for indoor use, but it registered a mediocre 200 nits on our light meter. That's far less than the 356-nit category average, the IdeaPad 100S (243 nits), the IdeaPad Miix 310 (255 nits) and the Fire Tablet (284 nits).
Though the Windows 10 icons and widgets were fairly small on this relatively tiny screen, I had little trouble tapping on them or dragging them with my finger. Multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom worked flawlessly, and I was able to draw with five fingers at once in Windows Paint.
The dual, front-facing speakers are just loud enough to fill a small room at maximum volume. When I listened to DNCE's "Cake by the Ocean," the vocals were clear but the percussion and guitar were extremely tinny.
With its low-power Intel Atom x5-Z8300 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage for the high-end model we reviewed, the Gole1 isn't a particularly fast computer for multitasking but it's adequate for simple web surfing and good enough for running a media or web server. When I was surfing the web with half a dozen tabs open in Windows 10's Edge Browser, I noticed some lag switching between pages, and typing in Google docs wasn't completely smooth.
I was able to use the device with dual monitors thanks to my USB docking station, but the system was more laggy with multiple desktops than with one. Presumably, the base model that has just 2GB of RAM would have more issues with multitasking. When I booted into Android 5.1 instead of Windows 10, the lightweight OS seemed a bit more responsive, allowing me to play the intense first-person shooter N.O.V.A 3 without any hint of lag or graphics degradation.
Running Windows 10, the Gole1 scored a modest 1,609 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That's well below the 2,797 category average, the Atom Z3735F-powered IdeaPad 100S (2,195) and the Atom x5-z8300-enabled Intel Compute Stick (2,189). However, in Android mode, the Gole1 managed a more respectable score of 2,155.
Don't use this device for crunching huge spreadsheets. It took the Gole1 20 minutes and 5 seconds to match 20,000 names with their addresses in OpenOffice Calc. That's about double the tablet average (10:25) and noticeably slower than Intel Compute Stick (18:00). However, it's still faster than the IdeaPad 100S (22:05).
The Gole1's integrated Intel HD graphics chip provides solid video playback and output that's good enough for casual gaming, at least on Android. The system scored a strong 18,251 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, besting the 17,571 category average. That number dropped to a below-average mark of 16,249 in Windows 10, but still beat the Intel Compute Stick (15,329) and the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S (15,081).
When you first power on the Gole1, the BIOS gives you a choice of entering either Windows 10 or Android 5.1. If you tap the Windows icon and wait a few seconds, you're booted into a full install of Windows 10 Home. By default, the preinstalled Windows was set to show everything in tablet mode, but I changed that to desktop mode so I could multitask more easily.
Despite the tiny icons and window widgets, navigating around the desktop and entering small amounts of text with Windows 10's virtual keyboard was a breeze. For doing serious data entry, such as writing a document in Google docs or setting up a complex piece of software like a web or media server, I recommend attaching a keyboard and mouse or logging into the Gole1 remotely from another PC. During my tests, I frequently used TeamViewer, a free remote desktop app, to control the Gole1 from a window on my main Windows laptop.
Though our test device had 64GB of storage, I had difficulty installing the Windows 10 Anniversary update, because the system kept telling me it was out of space. Users may need to run that update off an external USB drive, if it doesn't come preloaded.
With its ability to expand storage via micro USB, its strong connectivity options and its HDMI-out, the Gole1 makes an excellent media server. I installed Plex, a popular, free media server, on the device and had no problems streaming a 1080p trailer for Ghostbusters to my laptop from it, over my home network. However, the quality of your network has a great effect on the output. On our busy office network, I had to drop the video down to 720p to prevent stuttering. In both locations, a 4K video stuttered too much to watch.
If you attach the Gole1 to your TV using the built-in HDMI port you can output directly, without any network limitations. A 4K video of Tears of Steel played flawlessly on the Gole1's 5-inch display, so the system should be able to output it comfortably to higher-resolution screens.
Xbox Live Streaming
With Windows 10's XBox Live feature, you can stream games from your XBox One console to the Gole1 tablet. You'll need to pair an XBox controller with the tablet and you'll probably want to attach the device to a TV or large-screen monitor rather than playing on its 5-inch display.
When we played the fighting game Killer Instinct, using this feature we noticed a small amount of lag, which was likely due to traffic on our network. We had no problem kicking our NPC opponent's butt.
You can get to the Android 5.1 environment on the Gole1, either by selecting Android at boot up or by double-clicking the Android switcher app that lives on the Windows 10 desktop. The environment is a completely stock install of Android 5.1, which comes with a handful of apps for email, browsing and the calculator, along with the Google Play store. Surprisingly, other Google apps such as Gmail and Chrome browser are not preinstalled, though you can download them for free from Play.
Unfortunately, the Android install has only 4.82GB of available space, so you can't load a ton of apps. You can, however, use the microSD card slot for additional storage. I found surfing the web, gaming and navigating the OS much smoother on Android than Windows 10, though the latter OS offers more serious apps for productivity. I wish that the screen supported haptic feedback so I could get a tactile feel when typing, but most tablets don't have that capability.
With a 2,600 mAH battery on board, the Gole1 should last for 3 to 4 hours of regular use, perhaps longer if it's just acting as a server with the screen off. However, we were unable to battery test our preproduction-level review unit, which had an 1,800 mAH battery and would not charge to 100 percent capacity. No matter how long we had it plugged in, even overnight, the capacity never increased beyond 90 percent and, during many occasions, it stopped charging at just 35 or 65 percent and stayed in place with the message "plugged in, not charging" in Windows. The makers of Gole1 assured me that shipping units would not have these issues.
No matter how long it lasts on a charge, the Gole1 has the distinct advantage of being able to draw power from any standard external battery that outputs at least 3 amps via USB. That means you could carry a large battery in your backpack, hook it up to the Gole1 and use the device as a wireless media, file or web server as you walk around all day.
Other Use Cases
The Gole1 is filled with potential, particularly when you think of it as a server or node of some kind. Imagine running a web server like WAMP on it and using that to host your company intranet. With the device attached to your TV and Plex, Xbox Live or Steam in-Home Streaming running, the Gole1 makes an excellent home theatre PC. Using the freeware app iSpy and a webcam, you can also turn the Gole1 into a home-security system.
Because of its battery power, you could turn the Gole1 into a portable, wireless file server. Imagine working with a group of colleagues and wirelessly reading and writing photos and videos to it as you cover an event. If you attach a camera to it, you can have the Gole1 connected to Facebook or YouTube so you can live stream as you walk around. You can also use a phone for live streaming, but because it runs full Windows and can attach to a hard drive, the Gole1 can use more complex streaming software and save high-res copies to local storage while it goes.
While you can perform some of these tasks -- home media server, web server, security camera -- with a typical mini PC like the Intel Compute Stick, the Gole1's built-in screen gives it a huge advantage. Instead of having to attach a monitor and mouse to find out whether Plex is loaded on your theater PC, all you need to do is tap the built-in display.
Currently available only on Indiegogo and GearBest, a site that sells a lot of Chinese products, the Gole1 starts at $99 for a model with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage. Our $129 review unit comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. For $20 more than that, you can get a model that comes with a free SATA hard-drive enclosure, which attaches to the bottom magnetically and allows you to use any standard 2.5-inch drive with the Gole1.
The Bottom Line
With a price and feature set this compelling, you can buy the Gole1 first and figure out how to maximize its potential later. While we wouldn't use it as a tablet or a replacement for our main PC, it can serve a lot of special needs in your home or business. Whether you're looking for a secondary device to connect to your TV for home theater use or turn into a mobile server for computing on the go, the Gole1 can open up a whole new world of possibilities.