If you look closely at Chuwi devices released in recent years, you can identify several patterns. The company has made a fairly well-known name in the tablet market, offering tablets with competitive features but good design and expensive body materials. After that, Chuwi entered the laptop market, starting with the most basic and very affordable Lapbook model. After it, Chuwi decided to move up — primarily in the matter of laptop design — and released such «stylish things» as the Lapbook Air. At the same time, “atomic stuffing” remained inside these laptops, not far removed from inexpensive Windows tablets.
Meanwhile, competitors have already mastered the release of laptops with low-voltage processors of the Intel Core M series. These SoCs consume no more energy than the available «atomic» SoCs, but at the same time, Core M is one and a half to two times faster. Chuwi also decided to bring the characteristics of their devices to the level of their design and released a convertible CoreBook tablet. But not all users are suitable for a soft detachable keyboard, they need full-fledged laptops without a touch screen. For such people, the new Chuwi AeroBook is designed. Before its release, Chuwi launched a fundraising campaign, and judging by its results, the laptop has every chance of becoming popular. How does Chuwi Aerobook live up to expectations? Let’s find out.
SoC: Intel Core m3-6Y30 (two 64-bit cores with a frequency of 0.9-2.2 GHz, GPU Intel HD Graphics 515 with a frequency of up to 850 MHz, 24 execution units);
RAM: Single-channel LPDDR3-1600 8 GB;
Storage: Netac N535 256GB SSD SATA 6Gb/s;
Memory card: microSD slot;
Display: 13.3 inches, 1920 x 1080 pixels, IPS, matrix model BOE CQ NV133FHM-N62;
Camera: front 2 MP;
Communications: Intel AC3165 adapter, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac 1×1, Bluetooth 4.2;
Battery: built-in, 38 Wh, 7.6 V;
Connectors: two USB 3.0, one USB Type-C, microHDMI video output, headset jack;
Dimensions: 308.5 x 209 x 15.2mm;
Weight: 1.25 kg.
Packaging and equipment
The laptop comes to the buyer in a box made of thick and durable cardboard, on the end of which the main characteristics of a particular instance are indicated, including the serial number, color, pre-installed OS and memory sizes. The box opens unusually: from the side, and the laptop itself is placed in a thick protective «cocoon» of elastic polyurethane foam. So the risk of damage during transportation is minimal.
In addition to the manual, warranty card and SSD mount, the package includes a Cull Power CGSW30-120-2000II power adapter. Its output power of 24 W (12 V / 2 A) is, as practice shows, sufficient for laptops of this class. The power supply meets the requirements of the most modern, sixth level of energy efficiency and is designed for supply voltage in the range of 100-240 V.
Appearance and design
«ThinkPad, is that you?» — when I first met Chuwi AeroBook, I had just such thoughts. The design of the laptop differs from other Chuwi devices, the device has clearly become more mature and solid. To a large extent, this is the merit of a gray-graphite aluminum case, the color reminiscent of Apple products with Space Gray coloring. The beveled edges of the bottom cover look stricter than the “remnants” of other imitators of the MacBook style, in addition, they are more convenient to take and lift the laptop from the table. The flat cover of the screen block with a barely noticeable manufacturer’s logo complements the overall austerity of the exterior. The laptop looks organic, without foreign design elements. Stylish, but not pretentious working tool.
But the working tool must also be unpretentious and practical. Here, the Chuwi AeroBook is inferior to the condo ThinkPad: fingerprints and dust are clearly visible on a dark metal laptop. But thanks to the magnesium-aluminum case, Chuwi AeroBook is very light: according to my measurements, only 1266 grams, and this is for a laptop with a screen diagonal of 13.3 inches (not 11-12 inches). In 2010, the norm for a laptop of this diagonal was 1.8-2.0 kg, this difference is very noticeable when you hold a laptop in your hands.
Chuwi Aerobook also boasts good durability. The screen cover is pressed through slightly, as well as the keyboard unit. The laptop generally resists squeezing and twisting quite well; when opened, the screen unit does not play and does not walk. The Chuwi Aerobook “Macbook test” fails, it needs to be opened with both hands; it can be done with one hand, but very slowly. The lower part of the laptop is assembled from two halves and the joint between them (along the perimeter of the ends) is felt by hand, in the touchpad area, you can even stick a nail into the joint. It’s more of a nitpick to the minor flaws in the assembly, which are forgivable for an inexpensive laptop.
Chuwi AeroBook seems small compared to many other 13.3-inch laptops, and all thanks to thin screen bezels: 7mm left and right, 12mm on top. The screen unit opens to a good angle. The key travel on the keyboard is small, but the pressure is well felt. The keys have enough space for engraving, but more importantly, the keyboard is backlit. You can adjust two brightness levels, parasitic light leakage from the ends of the keys is only for the functional range. It’s nice to see a backlight in an inexpensive laptop, this is a necessary thing. In Chuwi AeroBook, we again see the power button in place of the Del key. This is a controversial decision, out of habit at first, you can confuse the keys and turn off the laptop when it is not required. Chuwi engineers highlighted the power button with a red border for better visibility, in addition, it requires more force to press than other keys. The touchpad is large and pleasant to use.
All ports are displayed on the left and right sides of the laptop. Among them are two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, one USB 3.0 Type-C, a microSD card reader, a microHDMI video output, headphone jacks and a power adapter. The power connector is not very well located, the connected cord may block access to the USB port. At the base of Chuwi AeroBook there are four round and soft rubber feet for a secure grip on the table. Also below is the serial number of the laptop and there is a bay cover for a SATA M.2 SSD.
I was not able to disassemble this laptop as a whole, something interfered in the area of screen hinges. But you can see an unpretentious passive cooling system with a copper plate, without heat pipes and not too large an area. For everyday tasks, its capabilities should be enough, but let’s find out how the laptop behaves under heavy load. The SSD is easy to replace, you just need to unscrew the two screws on the bottom of the laptop.
Screen and sound
The screen with thin frames has become one of the main decorations of the Chuwi AeroBook laptop. A 13.3-inch diagonal is already sufficient for most office tasks and home entertainment, and the IPS matrix of the BOE CQ NV133FHM-N62 provides good viewing angles, an order of magnitude better than older laptops with TN matrices. True, the glossy coating of the screen not only makes colors more juicy, but also worsens the readability of the display if light sources are reflected in it, which is important for offices, cafes in shopping centers and so on.
The screen does not flicker at any brightness level, even at the minimum; this is rare for Chinese laptops. My test sample had adequately adjusted gamma, and the color quality is not bad for an affordable laptop. At the same time, the details in the brightest and darkest areas are lost, there is a slightly pronounced aliasing in the gradient tests and, in general, the picture is slightly “cooling”. The backlight uniformity is above average, there are light spots in the corners, but during normal use they are not striking. The matrix used has good contrast and a maximum brightness level.
Two loudspeakers are brought to the end of the case under the screen, but they are located close to each other, so the stereo effect is not very pronounced. Audio quality is modest, but to be expected from a compact and lightweight laptop. The headphone output shows itself better: the volume margin is not high for demanding full-size headphones, but no noise or distortion is heard even at maximum volume, the sound detail is good.
OS and interface
Chuwi AeroBook is based on 64-bit Windows 10 Home version 1803. Before installing updates and drivers, it takes up only 15 GB on the system drive, leaving the user 222 GB of free space. As with most Chinese laptops, there is no pre-installed third-party software from the manufacturer. I used the Intel Driver & Support Assistant to install the drivers, which worked flawlessly. In the Device Manager, all devices are detected from the very beginning. If you think that such a hassle-free operation is a matter of course, then in the world of Chinese laptops, things may be different.
In this laptop, the UEFI BIOS is called by the Esc key, it just has a huge number of engineering settings that should be hidden from the average user. For example, the nominal frequency of RAM with 1600 MHz can be [попытаться] increase to 4133 MHz, which, of course, should not be done. There are many fine-tuning options for USB, PCI-e, and SATA buses, throttling (including cut-off temperature) and power saving settings, maximum multiplier for one or two cores, thermal package, GPU peak frequency, CPU and RAM voltages, and RAM timings.
Hardware platform and performance, heating, actual use
The hardware basis of the Chuwi AeroBook laptop is the SoC Intel Core M3-6Y30. This is no longer the newest offering for Intel’s 2015 ultra-mobile platforms (Skylake). Given Intel’s current supply difficulties, it’s entirely possible that more modern SoCs go to larger customers first, and Chuwi, with its order volumes, is not yet one of those. On the other hand, if we focus not on conditional SoC generations (which Intel has changed very often in recent years, but without a significant improvement in performance), but on real indicators, then the Intel Core M3-6Y30 is doing very well even today. This SoC consumes energy at the level of «atomic» counterparts (Apollo Lake, Gemini Lake), while it is one and a half to two times faster. There are only two physical cores with a frequency of 900-2200 MHz, but Hyper-Threading is supported, and a light laptop usually does not need a large number of cores, it was created for other tasks.
Where the age of the SoC stands out is in the support for RAM standards (only LPDDR3 or DDR3L), which is why the Chuwi AeroBook PCB has 8 GB of Micron LPDDR3 memory soldered. According to the UEFI BIOS, the frequency and timings of the RAM are 1600 MHz and 12-15-15-34, respectively, according to CPU-Z, the frequency is either 1600 MHz (with the timings specified in the BIOS), or 1066 MHz with the timings 10-10-10- 28-1T, and the memory operates in single-channel mode. CPU-Z readings about RAM are often wrong, unfortunately Thaiphoon Burner refused to read the RAM data, and Aida64 also indicated that the memory is single-channel, despite the fact that Chuwi claims dual-channel memory.
As for the integrated video core Intel HD Graphics 515, it has the same number of execution units (24) as HD Graphics 615, which is used in the newer (one year newer) Intel Core M3-7Y30 SoC. But besides a slight increase in frequencies in the newer generation of GPUs, hardware decoding of H265 and VP9 video is more fully implemented even at high bitrates. Therefore, Chuwi AeroBook can expect higher CPU usage when playing modern video formats, as well as higher power consumption. Whether it will be noticeable, tests will show.
The Chuwi AeroBook laptop originally came with a disk system consisting of an eMMC drive and a separate 128 GB SSD. Moreover, eMMC was bootable and with a pre-installed OS, so the owners of such laptops had a question how to make a bootable SSD to gain performance. Chuwi decided to meet new customers halfway and remove the eMMC module from the laptop, but at the same time increase the SSD capacity to 256 GB. A smart move, the system works faster this way, and it’s easier for users to partition one large disk into sections at their discretion than two small ones.
By the way, the combination of RAM and SSD (not eMMC) with a capacity of 8/256 GB is quite decent and for laptops twice as expensive, so Chuwi has a very good offer from this point of view. Of course, some compromises had to be made: so, you should not expect a flagship SSD from well-known companies here, this is a Netac N535 drive with an M.2 2280 SATA interface. It’s good that Chuwi chose the popular 2280 size instead of the exotic 2242, so find a replacement An SSD will be easy. The drive uses a single-core controller SMI SM2258XT — a popular chip with support for four channels of flash memory and no cache support. This is the most entry-level SSD controller, but there are also branded offerings like WD Green among them. So in terms of reliability with this controller, most likely there will be no problems. But the 64-layer 3D TLC flash memory used, although produced at Intel / Micron factories, is devoid of branding, it has the symbols N1TTE1B1FEB1 01911. Likely this marking is from Netac, which buys substandard flash memory from Spectek and tests it itself. During the review, the SSD behaved impeccably, but still, its resource during prolonged use may be lower than analogues from A-brands, you need to be prepared for this and make backup copies of important data.
CPU heating in idle mode is moderate, the temperature fluctuates within 40-45°C. Under the stress load of the Linpack 2019 test, the temperature gradually rose to 81°C, this process took exactly a minute, after which the CPU frequency dropped from 2 GHz to 1600-1700 MHz. A few minutes later, the frequency returned to around 2 GHz, this time the temperature briefly rose to 90 ° C, after which throttling began again to 1600-1700 MHz with a decrease in temperature to about 80 ° C. It can be seen that as the cooling system warms up, both the peak and average temperatures increase. After a couple of hours, the temperature sometimes reached 90 ° C even with throttling. During the four (almost) hours of the test, the maximum temperature was 95°C, in the OCCT Power Supply test it peaked up to 99°C.
From the tests, we can conclude that the efficiency of the passive cooling system of the Chuwi AeroBook is on par with its counterparts, but the frequencies do not drop so noticeably, so there is no significant drop in performance. At the same time, the average temperature in stress tests is quite high, it rarely drops below 85°C. Of course, stress tests are not a typical load for a light laptop, ordinary users most likely will not encounter such a temperature regime for the entire life of the laptop, so there is nothing to worry about.
The results of synthetic tests are logical: Chuwi AeroBook outperforms most Chinese laptops with «atomic» SoCs, but also significantly outperforms them in performance. This is a device of another level, with short-term a performance margin comparable to an inexpensive but full-fledged desktop PC. Synthetic tests are sensitive to changing SoC generations, so here Chuwi AeroBook (with SoC Core M3-6Y30) is on average 10-15% inferior to its counterparts with the newer SoC Core M3-7Y30. Single-channel memory access does not affect the results as much as one might expect, except that in the Aida64 RAM test, the performance drop becomes obvious. SSD Netac N535 does not graze the rear: it is noticeably faster than many budget models with a capacity of 128 GB, lagging behind only market leaders like Samsung. SSD does not like long loads, performance is expected to decrease, but even in this case, any eMMC modules installed in inexpensive laptops are left far behind. My copy of the SSD did not have a thermal sensor, the temperature was constantly displayed at 40 ° C.
To test video playback, I used the current version of the K-Lite Codec Pack Standard and the MPC-HC player, which is also included in this assembly of codecs, which was current at the beginning of July. All settings were set by default, the test files were videos from the Jellyfish set.
The Chuwi AeroBook does an excellent job of hardware decoding HEVC files at 1920×1080 pixels at any reasonable bitrate: I tested files with a bitrate of 50 and 100 Mbps, in each case the CPU usage fluctuated between 20-30%, and playback was smooth. But with 10-bit HEVC videos, the situation changes dramatically: the load on all CPU cores rises sharply to 100% (at the same time, GPU load decreases), and playback remains smooth only with bitrates of 10 and 20 Mbps, already noticeable at 40 Mbps twitches. This applies even to 10-bit FullHD video, not to mention 4K. Even if you enable support for HEVC10 hardware decoding in the codec settings, in fact it will remain software. Perhaps such restrictions apply only to the Intel HD Graphics 515 GPU, while the slightly older 520th GPU can already cope with 10-bit video. In any case, this is a limitation of not the newest Intel Skylake platform, which must be considered when choosing a laptop.
Interestingly, Gemini Lake SoCs, which are lower (but newer) in the Intel hierarchy with support for 10-bit HEVC video, do much better, with any reasonable and unreasonable bitrate. The readings of the DXVA Checker utility also confirm this. YouTube at 1080p60 (60 frames per second) plays videos smoothly, at 1440p60 resolution there are noticeable twitches, and at 2160p60 (4K) the video is no longer watchable. YouTube videos at a standard frame rate in 4K resolution also slow down, at lower resolutions they play smoothly.
There is no wired network, you will need an external USB-to-Ethernet adapter to connect to it. The Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 is 2nd generation and should provide better connectivity and speed than the 1st generation (AC 3160). Supports Bluetooth 4.2 and dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac 1×1 networks, which gives a theoretical throughput of up to 433 Mbps.
The wireless network was tested in conjunction with a TP-Link TL-WR1043ND router (first revision), which has Gigabit Ethernet ports and a Wi-Fi 802.11n module (up to 300 Mbps). For testing, I used only iPerf, each sample lasted for 60 seconds, which allowed me to get an average throughput that can be expected in real conditions. The server in all cases was a PC with a wired connection.
At the first measurement, the laptop was one meter from the router, in direct line of sight. Conditions can be described as ideal, but the bandwidth graph is markedly indented with regular drops and spikes in the range of 30-70 Mbps: peak mark 72.5 Mbps, average 46.6 Mbps. Somehow not impressive, other laptops with this Intel adapter and the same router took the mark of 100 Mbps. At the second measurement, the laptop was already in the kitchen behind a closed glass door. There was already no direct visibility, but in a straight line it was about five meters to the router. Speeds dropped to 67.5 Mbps and 40.5 Mbps respectively.
In games, the laptop shows itself as expected for a device with integrated Intel graphics of the younger series: modern projects are launched, but they either require lowering absolutely all graphic settings to a minimum, or they force you to look at the “slide show”, and sometimes both.
The online session MMO War Thunder belongs to the first category, “at minimum” the laptop gives out 20-30 FPS, but the frame rate hardly drops below. As a result, it is not comfortable to play, but with a strong desire, you can, having got used to it, you can even show good performance in battle. During the game, the lower left side of the laptop gets very hot, it is better to play holding the laptop on the table and not on your knees.
World of Tanks needs no introduction, this game turned out to be very supportive of the Chuwi AeroBook laptop. When installing the game SD client and lowering all settings to the minimum, but at 100% render resolution, the FPS stays around 40-60 and the frame rate is almost always stable and comfortable. «Almost» because FPS can drop while aiming through grass. In any case, after the hardware-demanding War Thunder, the smoothness of the gameplay in World of Tanks pleased.
In the online shooter Fortnite, with minimum settings and a render resolution of 50% (960×540 pixels), the frame rate at the beginning of the match is kept at 30-40 FPS, but closer to the end of the match, in open spaces with many custom buildings, FPS drops to 20-30 , so the situation is reminiscent of War Thunder — technically you can play, but it’s hard to win. If you lower the render resolution all the way (480×270 pixels), then you can remember the dense pixelated times of keyboard shooters before the release of the first Unreal, which links a common gene with Fortnite. Small details become illegible already at an average distance, but the FPS rises to 35-50, but with periodic “freezes” and frame rate drops that spoil the impression of shootings.
The reviewed laptop is equipped with a lithium-polymer battery with parameters of 7.6 V, 38 watt-hours. According to Chuwi, the battery life should be enough for 7-8 hours of battery life.
Unfortunately, this is not the case; in ordinary office and home tasks, you can count on 3-4 hours. The result in synthetic tests is below average, one could expect more autonomy from a laptop with an economical platform. Tests were performed with the screen brightness and volume set to 50%, with the «Optimum Performance» power saving profile.
Chuwi continues to delight with well-designed devices at an affordable price, the Chuwi AeroBook laptop is no exception. Stylish and strict design is its strongest point, it is also worth noting a good screen with small frames, a backlit keyboard and a rather powerful SoC, but reservations already begin here. The SoC of 2015 is still very powerful (more powerful than any Atom), but in 4K video playback it is inferior to more recent samples, as well as in economy: in fact, you should count on 3-4 hours of battery life, this is very different from the declared Chuwi 7-8 hours. The Wi-Fi adapter did not please with its performance; you should not count on records in games either.
At the same time, Chuwi was able to fit in a very modest price of this laptop not only a metal case and a powerful SoC, but also a good amount of memory: the 8/256 GB formula is the norm for significantly more expensive laptops. At the same time, 256 GB is a completely full-fledged SSD, and not the leisurely eMMC modules common in the budget segment. Add here silent operation, a thin and very light body — it becomes clear that for a price of about $ 400-500 compromises are inevitable, and how much you are ready to put up with them (or pay more) is up to you.
Chuwi AeroBook laptop prices in stores:
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