September 25, 2022

GWSM-Tech

Digitally Yours

Chuwi CoreBook XPro review: A solid laptop with great keyboard for $600

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Image: David Gewirtz

Here are the specifications of the Chuwi CoreBook XPro I’ve been testing:

  • Model: Chuwi CoreBook XPro
  • Display: 15.6-inch IPS FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Processor: Coffee Lake Intel i5-8259U, 2.3GHz with a turbo boost up to 3.8Ghz
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 GPU
  • Memory: 8GB DDR4
  • OS: Windows 10 Home (nicely upgraded to Windows 11)
  • Storage: 512GB NVMe
  • Webcam: 1 megapixel
  • Ports: 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB-C, 2 x USB 3, 1 x SD card reader, 1 x Ethernet port, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11a/ac/b/g/n,Bluetooth 4.2
  • Dimensions: 14.15in x 9.5in x 0.31in
  • Weight: 3.75lbs
  • Price: $569

Chuwi is a Shenzhen-based manufacturer that started by making MP3 and MP4 playback products back in 2004. Today, they make laptops, small form-factor PCs, and Android tablets. Recently, the company reached out to me about reviewing their CoreBook XPro laptop, so I brought it in for testing. One quick note: the company has a video showing its production facilities. The marketing copy is a bit rough, but the visual tour of their facilities is fascinating.

The machine I was sent has a Coffee Lake Intel i5-8259U, running at 2.3GHz with a turbo boost up to 3.8Ghz. It shipped with a 15.6-inch IPS display rocking an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 GPU, 8GB RAM and 512GB storage on an NVMe flash module.

Like

  • Comfortable, backlit keyboard
  • Expandable RAM and storage
  • Beautiful screen
  • Good price
  • Small power brick

Don’t Like

  • Unfortunate webcam
  • Poor GPU performance for triple-A games
  • No touch screen
  • Battery not replaceable

The machine shipped with Windows 10 Home. Since I’m standardizing on Windows 11 here, I immediately upgraded it to Windows 11 Home. The upgrade took a few hours but went very smoothly.

I found the build quality to be solid enough. The outer shell is sheathed in aluminum alloy, but there are also quite a few plastic parts and fittings. If you’re gentle and careful (as you should be with a laptop), this should hold up quite well. If you toss it like a gorilla in an old luggage commercial, then your mileage will definitely vary. 

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Image: David Gewirtz

There are access hatches built into the bottom of the machine that allow you to upgrade RAM and dual-channel M.2 hard disk expansion storage. Upgradeability is always a win.

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Image: David Gewirtz

As for ports, I have no complaints. On the right side, it has an SD card slot, a full-size gigabit Ethernet jack, and an old-school USB 2.0 port.

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Image: David Gewirtz

On the left side, there’s the power adapter port, an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a switch that lets you turn on and off the webcam. You might as well leave this off. The webcam is… unfortunate.

Let’s talk about the webcam because it’s one of the only major negatives in this review. It’s a 1-megapixel camera with mediocre image quality. Yes, it will function in a Zoom meeting, but if you’re doing Zoom meetings for work and want to use this machine, I recommend installing an external webcam. There are a ton, like the Logitech C920x, that will do the job with much better quality.

Screen and graphics quality

The 15.6-inch IPS screen is a standout feature of the XPro. The bezel is only 6mm thick, making for a display that fills nearly all the available space. At the 16:9 aspect ratio, the display is ideal for playing movies and videos. The display resolution is only 1920×1080 (1080p), but the quality of the display is just gorgeous. Combined with the surprisingly clear and powerful dual speakers, movie playback is a joy.

The screen is also quite pleasant for traditional office work. It’s clear and easy to read, and I didn’t get any eye fatigue using it for a few hours at a time.

So, let’s be clear: this is a great productivity and video playback machine. It is not, however, a gaming or video production machine. The Iris Plus Graphics 655 GPU isn’t up to very much. Games like Cyberpunk 2077, God of War, and Halo Infinite are just too intense for this GPU. That said, you could play games like Farming Simulator and Forza Horizon 5, but you’d have to set the graphics options to the lowest possible. To give you an example, running the Final Fantasy XV benchmark resulted in 15 frames per second, far too slow to be comfortable for gaming.

But if you want to do casual gaming (I’m addicted to Microsoft’s Solitaire Collection), this machine is fine. Another of my favorites, Cities Skylines, was initially choppy, but when I dialed down the effects, it became quite fun to play.

As for video editing in something like Adobe Premiere Pro, you could get by with 1080p single-camera editing, but multicam editing, even with proxies, is too weighty an application for this machine — at least in its base configuration. The machine ships with only one RAM slot filled. If you added a second RAM stick to bring the system up to 16GB, you’d enable dual-channel performance as well as more RAM for editing. That might allow for 1080p multicam editing or a single camera 4K edit (as long as you don’t layer on the effects too intensely).

Battery life and keyboard

Battery life is okay. With screen brightness turned down a bit, I was able to get through a two-hour movie, but just barely. Honestly, if you want to watch movies, it’s best to plug the unit in. The charger for this machine is nice and small, so it’s not too much of a hardship to bring the power brick with you when you travel. The battery is not removable or replaceable.

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Image: David Gewirtz

When doing normal productive work, like writing this article, I found I got somewhere around four hours on battery alone. My work pattern was such that I tended to mix in some video with Web and writing, so the video probably sapped the battery of some of the life it would have had if using nothing but office-style applications.

Speaking of writing, the keyboard is quite pleasant to use. It’s backlit, which is very helpful when working in a dimmer environment. The keys have a nice, comfortable travel. The keyboard isn’t tilted or particularly ergonomic, and yet I found the keyboard nice to use.

Benchmarks and fan noise

Here’s a bit of an interesting result. Upgrading to Windows 11 may improve your single-core performance — at least it did in Geekbench. In Windows 10, single-core CPU performance got a score of 956, while multi-core got a score of 3601. In Windows 11, single-core performance got a score of 973, while multi-core got a score of 3510. Likewise, in Windows 10, the compute benchmark produced an OpenCL score of 3570, while in Windows 11, the same benchmark produced a score of 3848.

Now, let me inject a little reality into these statistics. First, 973 is only 1.78% faster than 956. OpenCL results were a bit more impressive, a difference of 7.79%. Both of these could be flukes. To be fully sure, the tests should be run over and over, probably at least ten times. But we’re not doing a scientific paper here, just a normal review.

The bottom line is that the XPro is sporting an i5. That’s its performance level. It’s the middle of the road, by design. To be fair, however, Windows 11 may have some optimizations that will allow you to get a bit more performance. I’ve been quite happy with how all my Windows 11 machines perform.

Oh, and fan noise. The fan really cranked up when running the Windows 10 benchmarks. The noise went from 38 to about 52db. That’s not bad for a few minutes every so often, but if you’re running something that generates a lot of heat, it could be annoyingly loud. By contrast, running the same benchmarks on Windows 11 only cranked the fan to 43db, not very noticeable at all.

Overall usability

At 1.7kg (about 3.75 pounds), the XPro has some heft to it. It’s thin enough to not overwhelm but thick enough to provide a full Ethernet jack. Overall, I found the machine to be eminently usable, as long as you know its limitations.

All Microsoft’s full Office applications ran with no problems. If you’re an Office user, you’ll be pleased. Photoshop and Illustrator were fine with smaller photos and designs, but the programs begin to bog down once the resolutions get up there and the layers increase.

I found a similar pattern with Fusion 360. Smaller models and modeling smaller objects proved to be smooth and responsive. But when I tossed in one of my biggest models, Fusion just wheezed and stopped responding. Adding more memory would undoubtedly help, but the i5 does have a top-end performance limit that the very big models were pushing.

Coding with Visual Studio Code was also smooth and responsive. I had multiple projects open, each with a bunch of files. I also had a XAMPP install running for debugging and testing, and it all ran without any hesitation.

I did try running some VMs in VMware Workstation, and while I was able to get Ubuntu to run, I couldn’t allocate much RAM to the VM, and everything slowed down. This is not a machine for using VMs on, at least without a lot more RAM — and even then, the i5 is the i5.

Pricing on the XPro varies. From the company directly, it is listing at $569 (plus shipping). Sold by AliExpress, it’s $619 (also, plus shipping). Amazon has the unit for $679, but if you have Prime, shipping is free. For what is, essentially an under-$700 laptop, there’s a lot to like.

At this point, I can’t talk about long term reliability and robustness, and warranty repairs have to be returned to the factory in Shenzhen. Still, if you’re in the market for a mid-level machine capable of doing office work with all the ports and a comfortable backlit keyboard, you should definitely give the Chuwi CoreBook XPro a look. It’s a fine little machine.  

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.