Tech review: GPD Pocket – ‘world’s smallest laptop’ is a great little device, as long as you don’t have to type

The Pocket is an impressive feat of hardware engineering that looks and feels premium, but the cramped keyboard holds it back from being a true portable work machine

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 August, 2017, 9:47am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 August, 2017, 9:47am

Ever since laptops became mainstream consumer products in the mid-1990s, tech companies have worked hard to make them smaller and slimmer. Now, a Shenzhen company called GPD (Game Pad Digital) has made what it bills as “the world’s smallest laptop”, but has it gone overboard?

Design and hardware

The best way to describe the GPD Pocket’s exterior is like a shrunken MacBook with the glowing Apple logo removed. It has got the same smooth silver metallic finish and a similar hinge.

Open it up and you are greeted with a seven-inch IPS LCD display and a weirdly cramped keyboard with a “pointing stick” (a rubber nub to control the mouse arrow, like on Lenovo’s ThinkPad laptops).

The keyboard is packed like a rush hour train because the device only measures 180mm wide by 106mm long (closed). This makes it smaller than a standard (B-format) paperback book, and roughly the size of a typical woman’s clutch bag.

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GPD’s mission was obviously to make a tiny laptop that doesn’t sacrifice anything its larger counterparts offer. Usually with a “pocket” computing device (like a netbook) you would expect the internals to be lacking, but not here.

The Pocket is powered by an Intel Atom x7-Z8750 chipset clocked at 1.6 GHz, which is good for a mid-tier device, and an impressive 8GB of RAM. It also has 128GB of eMMC storage and a full selection of ports including USB-C, USB-A and micro-HDMI. The 1,920 x 1,200 resolution display is covered in Gorilla Glass 3 (a scratch-resistant type of glass usually reserved for smartphones) and even supports multitouch.

Overall the GPD Pocket is a very well-built device that feels and looks premium.

Software and features

The Pocket runs a full version of Windows 10 Home and the aforementioned I/O ports lets it do, in theory, anything a desktop PC can do. You can output display to an external monitor via USB-C at up to 4K resolution, and with USB-A and Bluetooth 4.1, you can pair or plug in a keyboard and mouse to complete the desktop experience.

Performance and battery life

I found the Pocket able to handle most tasks I do on a PC. Chrome ran smoothly even with six or seven tabs open, including one streaming a YouTube video. Apps from the Windows store all ran without problems, though graphic intensive games like Asphalt 8 will run at a lower frame rate than on a flagship laptop. The device’s internal fan does get quite loud when you work it too hard, though.

Getting around Windows 10 via touch screen can be hit or miss. Although the Pocket registers swipes and taps accurately without noticeable input lag, Windows 10 just isn’t optimised for touch screen devices the way Android and iOS is. Expect plenty of tiny icons and buttons that are hard to hit accurately.

The pointing stick that controls the mouse arrow, however, works surprisingly well. After a few days of use, I developed a hybrid system of using both the mouse arrow and my finger to activate things on-screen.

There is, however, one big flaw: the keyboard is ultimately too cramped to offer a comfortable or accurate typing experience. In multiple tests on typingtest.com, my average words per minute using the Pocket was in the low 40s, whereas my speed on a proper keyboard is about 100.

To be fair, I am a fast touch typer, so the cramped keys, especially the extremely narrow symbol keys, really threw me off. If you are a two-finger typer who has to look at what they press, the keyboard may not bother you much.

The battery life is good for a device this small. It will last eight or nine hours under normal computer use; streaming YouTube or Netflix at 75 per cent brightness, it will last about 4½ hours.

Conclusion

The Pocket is an impressive feat of hardware engineering, but the compromised keyboard really ruined the device for me as a true portable work machine. Increasing the width and length by just 30mm or so would have drastically improved the typing experience, and bumped the screen size up another inch.

The Pocket will come in handy in certain situations. Its size and form factor makes it a far superior film watching device while travelling than a traditional laptop or smartphone. And if you don’t need to type much then it is worth considering.

For most people, though, they will be better off just using a larger laptop.

Key specs

Dimensions: 180mm x 106mm x 18.5mm

Weight: 0.48kg

Display: 7-inch IPS LCD, 1,920 x 1,200

Battery: 7,000 mAh

OS version reviewed: Windows 10 Home

Processor: Intel Atom x7-Z8750, clocked at 1.6 GHz

Cameras: none

Memory: 128GB ROM, 8GB RAM

Colour: silver

Price: HK$3,998