The LapBook 12.3 is the latest in a series of Windows 10-powered laptops and two-in-one laptop-tablets from Chuwi we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, but only the second in the ‘LapBook’ line. Also see: Best budget laptops 2017
Chuwi has proven itself to be a great option for obtaining a budget Windows 10 device that isn’t necessarily the fastest machine around, but is reasonably well built and offers capable performance.
Typically, Chuwi devices also offer great screens, and this LapBook 12.3 is no different with a super-high-res 2736×1824-pixel or ‘2K’ display that offers a higher pixel density than even the MacBook Pro.
Chuwi LapBook 12.3 UK price and availability
Despite offering a smaller screen than the Chuwi LapBook 14.1 we reviewed previously, the LapBook 12.1 comes in at a slightly higher price.
Keep in mind that since these laptops are sold in China you will likely be asked to also pay import duty, which is calculated at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11. Even so, Chuwi devices offer staggering value when compared to their UK-sold equivalents.
That’s it for hidden costs, since delivery to the UK is free and, unlike the Xiaomi Air 12 we recently reviewed, you get an English version of Windows 10 preinstalled.
Before you jump in head-first, though, check out our Chinese tech buying advice.
Chuwi LapBook 12.3 vs Chuwi LapBook 14.1
Given the higher price and the first impressions its more premium design gives out of the box, we had expected the smaller LapBook to be the more interesting of the two.
Whereas the larger LapBook has a white plastic outer casing and 14.1in full-HD screen, this LapBook 12.3 has an aluminium build with an attractive brushed-metal surface and a 12.3in 2K screen.
On the inside it’s less impressive, though, with chunky screen bezels that mean it’s much larger and heavier than it should be. By comparison the LapBook 14.1 has slim bezels that allow it to fit into a chassis only a few centimetres larger. Neither device feels particularly unweildy, nor as if it would cause too much discomfort carted around in a backpack.
You’ll find exactly the same hardware inside, although the LapBook 12.3 has an extra 2GB of DDR3 RAM, at 6GB rather than 4GB. Both have 64GB eMMC storage and support storage expansion through microSD, though this smaller model also has a flap on the bottom that accepts an M2 SSD.
Where it really matters, though, is performance. While the larger Chuwi starts up almost instantly, you’ll be waiting around 15 seconds for this 12.3in LapBook to start up. And that is a real noticeable difference to the end user – much more so than the small differences in our benchmark testing (the 14.1 was superior in PCMark8 Home and GFXBench, while the 12.3 came out on top in Geekbench 4). See all laptop reviews.
Chuwi LapBook 12.3 design and build
From the outside the LapBook 12.3 is a great-looking laptop with strong build quality: it’s hard to believe it costs less than £250. Its tapered edges makes it appear slimmer than it really is at 15mm, while the shiny chamfered edges give it a touch of class. In one corner of the lid is a small silver Chuwi logo, which we didn’t find at all offensive.
From below the laptop isn’t quite as appealing. Four large rubber feet help it stick to the desk, though they detract from the overall aesthetic appeal. There are also two small grilles for sound to emanate from the stereo speakers, plus a flap that can be opened up to insert an M2 SSD. We like the idea, but not the design: it’s a nasty, plasticky flap that is a slightly different shade to the rear and, as such, sticks out a mile.
A small groove is carved out of the bottom half of the Chuwi to ease opening the lid, but the hinge is rather stiff and the groove not quite big enough, so we tended to need two hands to open it. And once opened, we were less impressed: thick, ugly screen bezels that would look more at home on a tablet than a Windows 10 laptop.
It might look a bit like a tablet panel, but this isn’t a touchscreen. And though we really like the crystal-clear 2K (2736×1824-pixel) screen resolution, we’re less keen on the 3:2 aspect ratio. At its native resolution you’ll want to scale up the size of text and icons to make them readable.
This is an IPS display, which promises excellent viewing angles and natural colours. It isn’t the brightest screen we’ve seen – we measured it at 217cd/m2 – but neither is it glossy, which should make it easier to read in direct sunlight. It tips back far enough to make it usable on a lap, without unsteadying itself on a desk.
There is a large and responsive – overly responsive – trackpad below the keyboard, with integrated left- and right-click buttons. When scrolling you must be careful to move your finger across the trackpad in a vertical movement, because if you err to one side the cursor jumps off course and you end up in a completely different place to that you intended. The trackpad itself has the same shiny chrome surround as the laptop chassis, which is a nice touch.
The keyboard is made up of reasonably quiet flat tiled keys in a US layout (UK is not available as an option). The keys are smaller than you might like but they are well-spaced, so we didn’t have any issues hitting the wrong keys when typing quickly. There’s no separate number pad, as you would expect given the size of this laptop.
Around the edges you’ll find various ports, including two USB – one 2.0 and one 3.0, but no USB-C. It’s a shame that the Chuwi uses a proprietary port for charging – albeit fast-charging – since you’ll need to carry around the power supply. This uses a two-pin European plug, so you’ll also need an adaptor.
Also on the side is a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSD card slot, mini-HDMI and a lock slot. There’s no ethernet jack, but connectivity includes both dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Above the screen is a 0.3Mp webcam, down from the 2Mp model found on the Chuwi LapBook 14.1. Neither will offer amazing quality, but both are useful for enabling video chat.
Chuwi LapBook 12.3 core hardware and performance
On the inside the LapBook 12.3 is nearly identical to the 14.1, with the same 64GB of eMMC storage and Intel Celeron N3450 dual-core processor. This is an Apollo Lake chip built on the 14nm manufacturing process; it’s integrated with the Intel HD Graphics 500 GPU and paired with 6GB of DDR3 RAM.
It’s not going to blow more expensive Windows 10 laptops out the water, but it’s more than up to the job for a bit of web browsing, emails, social media and video playback.
Despite having only 4GB of DDR3 RAM, in two of our three performance benchmarks we found the Chuwi LapBook 14.1 faster – and, as we mentioned earlier, it’s significantly faster to start up. That it did so much better in our graphics test is likely down to the fact we use the onscreen variants of this test, and the 14.1in model has a lower-resolution screen.
We recorded 1290 points in PCMark8 Home for the 12.3in LapBook, against 1411 for the 14.1in model. The larger LapBook also beat it in GFXBench, where it scored 28fps in T-Rex and 13fps in Manhattan against the LapBook 12.3’s 15fps and 7fps.
The smaller LapBook did put in a better showing in Geekbench 4, though, recording 4292 points (multi-core) against the 14.1’s 3664.
Runtime is not especially impressive, despite what sounds like a generous 8,000mAh (36.48Wh) battery inside. We ran our usual video-looping test at 120cd/m2 and recorded just shy of six and a half hours. This wouldn’t get most people through a full working day, so be sure to take your charger and UK adaptor with you.
By comparison the LapBook 14.1 has a slightly more generous 9000mAh battery, while the lower-resolution screen will also aid longer lifetime. Also see: What’s the best laptop 2017?