GPD WIN review – what to expect from the “laptop that fits in your pocket”

Gravatar Image

Portable gaming has been a demand for quite some time now. I fact, since Nintendo’s release of the Game Boy, pretty much every console manufacturer has made a “portable” version of their machine in order to play games on the fly. For PC’s, the portable solution has almost exclusively been laptops for the most part. And over the past decade, even the laptop has gone through some major overhauls in order to make it more portable.

Laptops these days are great for portable gaming, but I’ve always been a little interested in an even more portable solution. A few years back, I remember the Razer Edge having some potential to break into the portable PC gaming arena. In case you missed that one, the Razer Edge was a 10” tablet with a docking joystick controller. It ran on an ultrabook processor with 8 GB of RAM and Nvidia 640M LE graphics. For some time, it was the most powerful tablet you could buy.

Albeit very expensive, it was a pretty decent solution but it was still very bulky to carry around, especially by today’s standards. In fact, with advances in Intel’s integrated graphics, even the lightest, thinnest ultrabooks today can come close to matching the performance of that machine. So maybe with integrated graphics, why not try and push the portable envelope even further?

Well, a Chinese company called Gamepad Digital(GPD for short) has given it a shot with the GPD Win. They market it as a 5.5” “laptop that fits in your pocket”. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical of it when I saw it being crowdfunded on Indiegogo. I almost bought one then but they caught me at a bad time, fresh from two disappointments that I funded a couple months before.

But after seeing the initial feedback, I decided to take the plunge and try one for myself. My biggest concerns were how much that Atom processor could really handle and how durable the build quality is. I definitely wasn’t expecting it to play AAA titles, but I really wanted to see how far this little thing could be pushed. After about two weeks of use, here’s what I think about it.

Specs as reviewed

GPD Win
Screen 5.5 inch, 1280×720 resolution, H-IPS touchscreen
Processor Intel Atom x7-Z8700 quad core 1.6Ghz (2.4Ghz boost)
Video Integrated Intel HD Graphics 405
Memory 4 GB LPDDR3 1600Mhz
Storage 64GB eMMC 4.51
Connectivity Wireless AC, Intel Bluetooth 4.1
Ports 1x USB 3.0 Type-A, 2x USB 3.0 Type-C, 3.5mm earphone, HDMI Type C
Baterry 6700mAh(8.95Wh)
Operating system Windows 10(Also supports Android and Linux)
Size 155 mm or 6.1” (w) x 96 mm or 3.8” (d) x 20 mm or .79” (h)
Weight 300 g or .66 lb
Extras Dual Joystick, D-pad, controller buttons for multiple consoles, microSD(up to 128GB)

Design and build quality

Being a crowdfunded project, as well as a product from a virtually unknown company(at least in the US that is), the biggest question on everyone’s mind is probably how good the build quality is. I can tell you right now that if you’re obsessed with having only stellar build quality, you’ll want to look elsewhere. It’s not bad, but it’s far from great – merely average. There are just many little things that are off, which makes it really difficult for me to recommend the WIN to anyone who highly values build quality. But the good news is the design is actually pretty clever and it kind of makes up for it. So if you’re still interested, keep reading and I’ll explain what I mean.

Everything is pretty much made of plastic on this thing. With the lid closed, the GPD Win is just over .75” thick. It feels pretty solid, but that’s mainly due to the machine being so small. I think it could probably take a drop, but I wouldn’t want to see how that affects all the fragile components inside.

The GPD Win is a mini-laptop with a 5.5-inch screen and a multitude of input options

The GPD Win is a mini-laptop with a 5.5-inch screen and a multitude of input options

The main thing I see being a problem for longevity is the shoulder buttons. They stick out really far and kind of have some play to them. I’m pretty sure it’s by design, in order to make them work better, but I foresee one of them snagging on something someday and possibly breaking off. Given that GPD sells replacement components, I’m guessing some people have already had this issue.

The outer casing is a smooth ABS plastic, with a typical metallic black color to it. The lid itself is very plain, with no logo or anything. I kind of like it that way – keeps it simple. The underside has some text at the bottom, with the model name, and some regulatory stuff. There is also a single switch in the middle, which controls the fan. Yes, manually. Here you can set it to off, intermediate and high. More on that later.

On the edges, you have some intake/exhaust vents for the fan on the left and front sides. There’s also a vent on the underside as well, which can easily be mistaken for a speaker. The speaker is actually on the right hand side and looks identical to the vent on the left side. It’s adequate for channeling the sound but it’s sometimes a challenge to not accidentally cover it with your hand.

 

On the front right edge is a single LED indicator. I think I finally figured this thing out and it only took two full weeks to do it. There are actually two LEDs inside, red and blue. When the machine is on, the blue LED stays on. When the charger is connected, the red LED turns on. With the machine on and the charger connected, the LED is purple(because both are on). Even in sleep mode, the blue LED stays on though. So it can be very confusing on how to determine the status of your system sometimes.

On the back edge you’ll find the connectivity and a few buttons. I’ll cover the buttons in a little bit, but for the connectivity, starting from the left, we have a USB-C 3.0 port, mini-HDMI, microSD, USB-A 3.0 and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Besides the mini-HDMI, I can certainly say that all the connection options are absolutely necessary to get the most out of this machine.

 

Opening the lid is relatively simple, but definitely a two handed task. Who cares though, because this is a two handed device, right? Besides, we want that hinge to be stiff, which for the most part it is. The hinge has a built in angle which it soft-locks into at roughly 135°. I find this angle to be ideal for typical use and I almost never change it. If you want more though, the lid extends all the way to 180°.

While the hinge is mostly OK, I have to ding GPD on a couple things about it. Firstly, mine makes a little noise when opening and closing. It’s not excessively loud of anything, but it’s a small creak coming from the left hinge. Second is the hinge’s strength with the lid shut. It stays shut, but I’m not convinced it’s strong enough, judging by the gap and the fact that my machine sometimes mysteriously wakes from sleep while carrying it.

With the lid open, you’ll see all the input devices on the bottom half, including the keyboard, power button, volume buttons, 8 controller buttons, two analog joysticks, a d-pad and an input rocker switch. All these will be covered more in detail in the next section. Centered on the bottom is a modest GPD logo. Up top is a 5.5” IPS screen covered by a touchscreen.

Overall I’m OK with the build quality, mainly because I think I understand the design inputs that went into the device. The button locations pretty much dictated the rest of the design, so having some shoulder buttons that stick out are just something you have to deal with, otherwise they would be too difficult to press. Also, building it out of plastic is pretty much the only way to also keep the price and weight low, and I’m fine sacrificing a little build quality for that, considering this is already a mildly pricey toy.

 

Keyboard and inputs

The most unique feature of the GPD Win, which sets it apart from pretty much all other portable handhelds, is the impressive amount of input options, aside from the keyboard. Not only does it allow for a number of different gaming options, but also makes using operating systems such as Windows and Linux something feasible in such a small device.

Let’s start with the keyboard. If you ever owned a smartphone before the iPhone, you might remember that many phones had a flip out keyboard, such as with the HTC 8900 or 8925. This keyboard is actually very similar to those. It has a full key layout and even comes with some excellent supplemental keys on the right hand side, including dedicated volume buttons, a print screen key and a recessed power button. It’s a good layout, but the width comes at a cost.

The fact is, you should be happy the keyboard exists, but don’t expect to be using this thing for anything productive. It’s fine for games that require the additional keystroke or for typing things into a search engine. But if I decided to type this review on it (like with most other devices I test), it would probably take two to three times longer than normal. In fact, I took my typical typing test and scored a mere 25 wpm – less than half than typical for me.

It’s not because the keyboard isn’t centered, either. In fact, if it was, I think it would be just as or possibly more difficult to type on, because then both of my thumbs would be at their extremes. The device is just too wide to type on it quickly unfortunately. GPD says this is a laptop that fits in your pocket, which is true. But I have a hard time thinking I’d be anywhere near as productive with this over any laptop.

That aside, for the most part the keyboard works just fine. I never had a stuck key or anything and all my key-presses have been registered. The only criticism I have though is the noise some of the keys make. There are certain keys that click louder than others and it’s only when I hit them in certain ways. Kind of annoying but I deal with it, especially since I rarely use the keyboard. It might have something to do with the “metal dome of the keyboard”, which is an upgrade that came with the model I purchased.

Now onto the fun part. The “controller” buttons are probably the coolest feature about the device. I’ll be the first to admit that I was VERY skeptical of it before I bought it. I’ve had limited success with 3rd party controllers and the fact there was a rocker switch involved it really made me wonder how good of quality it was going to be. The fact is though, the controls were well thought out and they actually work very well.

So for the controls, you get a D-pad and an analog joystick on the left, while on the right you have another joystick, as well as an A, B ,X and Y buttons. Look closer on those buttons and you’ll see they are also marked with X, O, square and triangle. Obviously, they were thinking of Playstation and Xbox emulation when designing this controller. On the shoulders, you have R1, R2, L1 and L2 buttons. The joysticks don’t click like in Dualshock controllers, but they also included L3 and R3 buttons on the right of the keyboard, where you’ll also find the Start, Select and an Xbox button.

The A,B,X and Y buttons are actually very tactile, comparable to most modern controllers. I’ve been using them frequently and never have any problem pressing them. They are small, but well spaced apart, so distinguishing between them is no problem. The D-Pad, on the other hand, could be a little better. I find it useable, but a little mushy. It’s also a little small, which is probably the main reason I think it’s awkward to push diagonally. For the most part, I’ve been opting for the left joystick instead of the D-pad.

The shoulder buttons may look funny, the way they stick out, but their positioning is actually intentional and very clever. When holding the controller normally, your index fingers can be extended around the shoulders, with your fingertips resting right on the L2 and R2 buttons. If you have hands like mine, the L1 and R1 buttons will be right under the second segments of your index finger, close to the joint of the third segment. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to hit either or both buttons.

The shoulder buttons differ from the other buttons in the noise they make, which actually sounds exactly like a mouse click, so it’s safe to guess that the switches are similar. That’s a little unfortunate, because the other buttons are silent, but I think this is also a feature and not a flaw.

GPD most likely went with this type of switched because they can be actuated in multiple trajectories, instead of a straight approach of a silicone plunger (like in the other buttons). This likely helps with different sized fingers, which may push those shoulder buttons differently than others. The key is, they work well, which is all I can ask – I just don’t know for how many clicks. My only gripe is that they’re sometimes a little tricky to click and holds. Occasionally they would prematurely release the hold, even though I still had the button depressed. Not often at all, but it still happened.

In the top center is a 3 position rocker switch, which is used to assign what mode the controller is set to. The left option is D-input, which is mainly going to be used for retro gaming and emulation. The center option is “mouse mode” which is probably going to be the most commonly used for navigating Windows, but also can be used for some games that need the mouse. The right position is basically an Xbox controller emulator. Most newer games on Steam are already designed for this, so no button mapping will be required.

Mouse Mode

I’ll start with mouse mode since it’s probably the most used for me. The right analog stick becomes your mouse pointer. It takes getting used to, but I’ve gotten very good with it over the past couple weeks. In fact, even a friend of mine has commented on how much quicker I am with it. Moving the joystick in any direction will move the mouse pointer in that direction. There is some sensitivity build into the joystick, so if you move it slightly, it will move slowly. Move it to the extreme still moves it slowly, but if you hold it there for .5 seconds, it accelerates. Again, takes getting used to.

The R1, R2 buttons are both mapped to right click and the L1 and L2 buttons are both mapped to left click. You can even use the L3 and R3 buttons too, which is very useful for when you are trying to use this while it’s on a table, because it’s pesky trying to use the shoulder buttons when not actually holding the device.

The left analog stick acts as scrolling, both horizontal and vertical. The D-pad is mapped to WASD. The ABXY buttons are mapped to the arrow keys. There are some very practical uses for these, both for productivity and gaming, and honestly, I couldn’t have mapped these buttons any better.

D-input Mode

Moving the switch to the left puts you in D-input mode. This basically makes all the buttons and joysticks “old school”. It’ll show up in settings as a 12-button, 3-axis joystick. If you want to use it for games, you’ll need to map all the buttons manually, either in-game or though third party software.

It’s certainly a time consuming task, but if you’re bent on retro gaming or emulation, this is probably your only option. For most things, you’ll only have to set it up once though. The key is to switch it before you’re running the intended program though. Otherwise you might get some unusual results, such as latency or stuck buttons. For the most part, I haven’t had any issues with this mode, as long as I switched it intelligently.

X-input Mode

As stated before, moving the switch to the right changes it to emulate an Xbox controller. This will undoubtedly be used for most modern games, since they are already set up for it in Steam. You won’t need to map any keys at all, but you might want to remap them other than the default, if necessary. This is the same as if you were doing it through Steam with a regular Xbox controller.

As with the other modes, I used this mode frequently over the past couple weeks. Mostly for Skyrim, but I’ve also played a couple other games with it. Overall it works well, but it definitely is more difficult to use than a mouse, which is what I’m used to for Skyrim. The buttons all work fine, but I did find it difficult to aim with the analog joystick. It might be I need to adjust the sensitivity.

Screen

The GPD Win packs a 5.5” 1280 x 720 pixel resolution touchscreen. It’s an H-IPS panel, so it has some pretty good viewing angles, but don’t expect a consistent image when turning the screen from one extreme angle to the other. H-IPS is pretty old tech and suffers from IPS glow. Unfortunately, the panel doesn’t seem to have a polarizer in this implementation, so the IPS glow is pretty apparent, especially at diagonal viewing angles. Still, this should be inconsequential to most, considering it’s a handheld device and you’ll be looking at it head on 99.9% of the time.

I don’t have any panel specs since I can’t seem to get a panel model from HWInfo. It’s listed using an older MS driver, so there are no details. It’s most definitely a repurposed cell phone screen though, so it’s no surprise there are no Windows drivers for it.

My screen doesn’t have any backlight bleed or any dead pixels, from what I can tell. The max brightness is pretty decent, topping out at 253 nits. I don’t have any values for brightness distribution though, since the sensor I use is pretty much bigger than the screen and it’s difficult to aim. I also had difficulty measuring contrast ratio because of the sensor size, so my brightness table is a little accurate. I remeasured it manually and got a contrast ratio of 938:1 at max brightness though – excellent result.

The panel is a normal gamut variety, with a decent color range. I measured 91% sRGB, 67% NTSC and 71% aRGB. This is about what’s expected from this type of IPS panel. The out of the box accuracy was a little off, but I did calibrate the screen for a warmer white, and the colors looked much better afterward. I also ticked down the gamma a couple notches in Intel’s settings, which seemed to help the IPS glow on the viewing angles. I also increased the saturation a little to make the colors pop a little more.

For the most part, text and images look reasonably crisp. This is no different than having a 720p cell phone, so if you can find a 5.5” phone out there, the image is going to be very similar. Sure a FHD screen would look a lot better, but that really would defeat the point of this device. It’s such a tiny, low powered processor, so 720p is really the maximum resolution you’d be wanting to run games at on this thing. Not only that, but the battery life would be worse. 720p was the right call by GPD.

Touch capability is also something you might be wondering, “why?”. I wondered that myself, because it’s not like I’d want to use touch capable apps on this device – a phone is much better suited for that. But after using it a while, there are actually some points where I really needed touch. This is especially true when in direct input mode and you lose all mouse capability. Sometimes it was too glitchy to switch back and forth to mouse mode, on the fly, so touch really saved the day in those cases.

 

The touchscreen itself is covered by a layer of Gorilla Glass (not sure which version) and I don’t think there’s an oleophobic layer, because my screen gathers fingerprints pretty easily. But the screen wasn’t tacky or anything – my swipes and drags have always been a pretty smooth glide. Besides that, my taps were pretty accurate for the most part, but it was sometimes difficult to tap the extremely tiny icons with a Windows layout on a 5.5” screen.

Since I brought up the tiny icons, let’s talk a little more about the pixel density. As far as reading text goes, it’s certainly fine. You might have to adjust some of the scaling settings in order to optimize it for you though. I’m not sure why, but the typical Windows 10 scaler is disabled on my unit. So I’m stuck at 100%. I found a way to manually do it, but this causes some apps to go off the screen and become unusable. I haven’t found a way around it this issue, but if I do, I’ll update this section for sure.

One thing that I’ll probably touch on later is Android support, which is another good reason to have a touchscreen. There are a number of people who have gotten Android emulators to work within Windows. More importantly, there is an actual image that you can boot with, which would work even better. I honestly haven’t done more than read about it and I probably won’t try it for a little while. I really don’t see a point in having Android on a device like this, considering it’s stuck in landscape, but it’s pretty cool to know it’s possible.

Small gripes aside, this is a pretty good screen for a handheld device. It’s not an iPhone or Galaxy S7 panel, but it really shouldn’t be if you want to keep the costs low and the battery life and performance high. It’s certainly better than what’s on the Wii-U controller or even the new 3DS. In fact, besides the Nvidia Shield Portable, I can’t think of any other handheld with a comparable screen.

Probably the only thing I would change is the screen size. 5.5” isn’t too small, but the size of this device could have supported a 6” screen easily(I measured). I get it though, cost and sourcing probably had a lot to do with it, so I give them a small pass there. The large bezels are not attractive though.

Hardware and performance

The GPD Win runs off of an Intel Atom X7 Z8700 processor. Originally it was launched with a Z8750, however GPD took a step back due to performance issues likely caused by overheating. The CPU is a quad core that runs at 1.6Ghz normally and 2.4Ghz boost. From what I’ve seen so far, the cooling system has no problems maintaining the boost clock speed indefinitely.

For RAM, GPD included 4GB of 1600Mhz LPDDR3. Unfortunately, it’s not upgradable, due to the small size of the motherboard. This really isn’t too big of an issue for the most part, because I really doubt people will be multitasking with this device. It is the bottleneck on some games though, such as Skyrim Special Edition. Because it requires more than 4GB of RAM, it starts using the SSD as swap space and the game throttles to an unplayable crawl.

 

For storage space, there are a couple options. Soldered on the motherboard is 64GB of eMMC storage. It’s version 4.51, which is reasonably fast, but nowhere near a SATA SSD, let alone a PCIe one. It matters not though, because the games and apps played on this machine won’t benefit all that much from having a faster SSD. At least not enough to warrant the added cost. In short, it’s a good pair with the CPU and RAM.

The second option is a built-in microSD card reader. It can handle up to an advertised 128GB card, which is good. I caution anyone from actually buying a card that big though, because those cards are actually slower than 64GB cards for the most part. They have fast sequential read/write speeds, but you’ll be wanting fast 4k and 512k speeds if you want to play games off the SD card.

Speaking of SD card speed, the GPD Win suffers in that department for some reason. The maximum speeds I measured in the SD card reader were a lot slower than if I used the card in a USB 3.0 adapter. The speeds were generally cut in half. It’ll affect which card you should spend your money on for sure because you’ll probably be wasting your money if you buy a top of the line card. I did a lot of research though and bought a 64GB Samsung Evo+. You can see the CrystalDisk benchmark results I got with it, above.

 

 

Below are some of the benchmarks I ran. I’ve never had this processor before, so I can’t really compare it to anything. The results are pretty decent, considering the size. All these were conducted with the fan on high.

  • 3Dmark 13: Sky Diver – 1289, Fire Strike – 294, max CPU 73C
  • PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 1530, Accelerated – 1873, max CPU 66C
  • CineBench R15: OpenGL 15.87 fps, CPU 136 pts, CPU Single Core 37 pts.

I also got to play a few games and log some benchmarks. Here’s what I got:

Title/Graphics settings fps (720p unless noted)
Tomb Raider – low 28-37
Knights of the Old Republic – high 28-50
Undertale 30 capped
Portal 2 – low 26-50
Skyrim Special edition – low 13-15, unplayable
Skyrim – low 27-35, playable
Skyrim – ultra low, 960×544 31-45
Galactic Civilizations 3 – low 30-37
Final Fantasy XIII-3(PC) – low 17-25, somewhat playable

I was pretty surprised with all that this little thing can handle. Especially Skyrim. Sure I had to turn it down below 720p, but it was definitely playable at that level(although using the joystick adds to the challenge). Don’t even bother with Skyrim SE though. It uses all the 4GB of ram and starts to use swap space, which is why my results were so awful. RAM is definitely going to be a limiting factor for most newer titles.

I’ll try to update this list as I play different games, but if you’re interested in finding out now, just do a Google search. There’s an entire community out there trying to get recent titles up and running on this machine and they all have their tweaks and benchmarks posted.

Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers

So it might be a surprise to some that the cooling fan has a manual toggle switch on it. I’ll admit, this is the first manual cooling system I’ve ever had to deal with in a portable device. I was a little taken back by it at first, but I totally understand why it’s the way it is now.

From what I understand, the GPD Win was originally designed without a fan. It was later upgraded with one, paired with the Z8750, for a short time. The full launch was downgraded to having a fan with the Z8700. It’s safe to assume that they added the fan to increase the overall stability and performance, but it wasn’t enough to stabilize the Z8750.

So for normal tasks and even light gaming, the fan can be left off. I personally don’t do this because it seems like it lets the heat build up for little or no reason, especially since the low fan speed is barely audible. It’s nice to know that the device will still operate if that fan did fail though.

I took some readings with a sound app on my S7 edge. Ambient sound in my room was 25dB. With the fan on low, it was barely audible. Holding my phone at ear level, it registered only 28dB. When I turned the fan to high, the noise level increased a lot more, reading 36dB. Even at the highest setting, it’s still not all that loud. The mono speaker certainly overpowers the fan noise.

As for heat, the maximum CPU temperature I recorded was 79C when pushing it with a game. Again, this is with the fan on, so I can certainly assume that it will come closer to the thermal limits without the fan. I don’t plan on testing those limits. 🙂 I did take some temperature readings during light and heavy gaming though. Here were my results:

  • Light Gaming, fan on low, Ambient 24.9C

Top

36.3 39.3 36.1
38 38.2 38.5

Bottom

34.4 37.6 33.2
40.3 40.2 40.1
  • Heavy Gaming load with fan on high, Skyrim, normal 720p for 45 minutes, Ambient 25.1C, Max CPU temp 79C

Top

42.0 48.1 45.1
42.9 45.1 46.2

Bottom

44.1 48.5 39.7
48.3 47 43.5

There is an onboard Wifi/Bluetooth module, which is a Broadcom Wireless AC. At approximately 20 feet from my router, I was maxing out my download speeds of 90.0Mbps, with a ping of 20 ms. I went out on my pool deck, which is over 50 feet away and separated by two walls and got only 22Mbps with a pin of 84ms. I’ve scored better with recent laptops, but this connection is still pretty decent and certainly useable. At no point in my use of the device did I experience any drops in Wifi or Bluetooth.

This aside, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the connectivity options. Having a USB type A and type C to compliment the microSD slot really opens up some doors for external storage. It also helps in the day to day tasks. I’ve frequently used all three spaces at the same time, for example with imaging my system, I booted from USB to copy to the microSD while using a mouse through the Type C with a dongle.

As I just indicated, the USB-C port is more than just the power connector, it’s also a functional USB 3.0 port. I tested the speeds on both USB ports and they are the same. The included USB-C cable they gave be felt like it had a rough spot, making it hard to insert, but all my other cables work fine. USB-C thumb drives might be an issue, though. There’s a small notch to the upper left that is in close proximity to the USB-C port, which interfered with one of my connections.

So the only thing missing from this “laptop” is a webcam. If you want to make Skype calls, you’ll be able to do so, but only through a microphone, unfortunately. You could always hook up a webcam to the USB port, but I can’t think of any reason I would want to do that over just using my cell phone or a normal laptop.

Speakers

There’s not a whole lot to say about the speakers. Or should I say speaker. Yes, there’s only a single mono speaker and it’s located on the right hand side, right where your palm would touch.

Like I mentioned before, it’s sometimes a little tricky to not accidentally cover up the speaker with your palm. And if you do, you won’t hear a thing – it’s well sealed. I’ve learned how to hold it without covering it, but I still accidentally block it from time to time, especially when using the right shoulder buttons a lot. The good thing is even though the speaker is rear facing, the sound is redirected towards you, assuming your hand is cupped around the opening while holding it.

The speaker is very loud, reaching a maximum reading of 80dB, while playing my test song. The bass is audible as low as 110dB – nothing special. Loud is good, but it’s still a mono speaker and it lacks bass. This is another department that needs some improvement. If it bothers you, just use the headphone jack in the back. There’s also Bluetooth, if you want to go wireless.

Battery life

My battery test consists of using the stock “Balanced” power profile with battery saver mode on, 0% brightness, WiFi off, Bluetooth off, fan on intermediate and running a 720p movie in a continuous loop at full screen with the volume muted. I start the clock when it’s unplugged and stop it when the unit performs a self- shutdown. The GPD Win lasted 14 hours and 22 minutes before shutting down. Pretty awesome, if you want to watch a movie that long.

In the following tests, I’ve set the screen’s brightness at 40%, which is about 100 nits. Also, the fan was set to maximum.

  • .48 W (~ 16 h 38 min of use) – idle, Battery Saver mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
  • .93 W (~ 9 h 37 min of use) – light browsing and text editing in Microsoft Word, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 1.12 W (~ 8 h 0 min of use) – 720p full screen video on YouTube in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 1.07 W (~ 8 h 22 min of use) – 720p full screen .mkv video in Movie App, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 2.1 W (~4 h 15 min of use) – heavy browsing in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 2.2 W (~ 4 h 4 min of use)– heavy gaming in 720p, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;

These tests were a little strange because HWInfo was not automatically calculating the discharge rate for me. So you can see from the screenshots that discharge rate appeared constant, when it actually fluctuated. I manually calculated the values based on the battery level and the duration of the test, so the above estimates are based off of those instead of the graphs in the screenshots.

The battery life is actually a little better than I thought it would be. Gaming is going to be the most common benchmark that applies to you and 4 hours is actually pretty darn good considering the size. You can easily stretch that number, based on the game you play. I was playing Skyrim, which is pretty demanding on this little machine, so you’ll probably see better results with lighter games.

The only other benchmark that is practical for this machine is watching movies and 8 hours is also a pretty decent result. Keep in mind that this can be stretched even further by lowering the screen brightness, cutting off the fan and turning off Wifi/Bluetooth.

Price and availability

If you want the latest version of the GPD Win, the cheapest depot is to get it through GeekBuying.com. At the time of this review, the price is $340, which is a pretty decent deal. I’ll warn you, it’s worth it to pay the extra couple dollars for DHL – I paid $10 for US Priority and it took nearly two weeks to arrive.

If you’re not comfortable buying from that site, you can also get it on Amazon, but you’re going to pay a premium for it. Currently prices are hovering around $450, but most of the options are from US sellers and should arrive in a couple days.

Final thoughts

The GPD Win is quite a unique gadget, making it difficult to grade and compare with everything else. It’s really in a class of its own, honestly. I’m giving it a thumbs up, but the decision to purchase really needs to come from yourself. The biggest question you should ask is what you plan on using it for.

It’s not a laptop, contrary to what GPD advertises and wants you to think. I don’t think I could ever use it for editing Word documents or even casually browsing the web. If this were 3-4 years ago, it might make more sense. But these days, my mobile phone is much better suited to do any of that stuff without hassle.

I could potentially see myself using it for watching movies on the road or a plane though. It’s a little nicer than a phone since it lays down and much simpler to handle than a laptop. It also has very good battery life on top of not using my mobile phone battery, so that’s a big plus. But $340 is a lot to spend to just watch movies.

The GPD WIN is such a niche product that it's hard to say who is it actually meant for

The GPD WIN is such a niche product that it’s hard to say who is it actually meant for

I think the main factor for most people is if you plan on playing a lot of games on it. And if you do, you need to ask yourself what type, how many and is the device even capable of handling them. If you have a big backlog and/or are nostalgic and want to replay some of the older titles, this little machine is definitely something you’ll want to try. If you plan on emulating, this is an obvious choice as well.

In the end, this is a niche device geared towards gamers, so if that’s not you, you’ll probably want to avoid it.

For me, it’s pretty much all of the above. I kind of wish I had this two years ago, because then I wouldn’t have spent so much time designing my own handheld. The GPD Win blows that one out of the water. Sure it costs a little more, but the Win is a lot more polished and has much more potential and versatility.

The main highlight of the machine is the controller options, obviously. All three options work very well for the most part. Sure I’d like the D-pad to be a little bigger but honestly, it works pretty well and the analog stick is a really good substitute if it really bothers me. Combining the controller with the keyboard and screen, you really see the value in this machine and $340 doesn’t seem like such a bad price.

The only negatives I can speak of are the mono speaker quality, the RAM limitation and the decade old build quality. I can overlook these because there, frankly, are no better options out there, but if these are pet peeves of yours, you might be disappointed.

After initially writing this review, I found out that GPD is already crowdfunding another laptop that fits into your pocket on Indiegogo. It’s basically a 7 inch version of the Win with more storage and RAM but without all the controller options. On paper, the build quality should be better with the metal enclosure. I’m still not sure I could type on a keyboard that small though…

That wraps up this review. I have some more info below, but it’s pretty specific to those that decide to buy. If that’s you, read on. Otherwise if you have any questions, please scroll down and ask in the comments section below.

Getting Started Guide

Because this device is so different, there’s been a lot of unusual things I’ve had to do which contrast with what I typically do with laptops. There’s also a number of things I’ve learned, which might be very helpful to the new user. I wanted to make this small section to help with that. Not all of this stuff is necessary, but I think it might be worth the read in order to know what to expect if you decide to buy one. Don’t confuse this as being necessary in order to use the GPD Win – it works fine out of the box. This is mainly to optimize your experience if you want to get the most out of it.

First things first, if and when you decide to buy one, make sure you know which version you are getting. If you’re buying from eBay, you might be buying one of the original fanless versions. Or maybe even the Z8750 version. I would recommend buying it new from the manufacturer so you have all the latest components, as there have been a number of small improvements since launch.

When you get your device, you’ll notice the packaging has your Windows product key in it. Don’t lose this, or write it down somewhere safe. You might notice that they included a getting started guide in the box. I personally didn’t use it at all, as I initially found the directions to be…well…a little shady. I get skeptical when someone directs me to disable Windows Defender and my firewall. But it legitimately is a guide on how to maximize your performance, by disabling all the things that use up valuable CPU utilization. I ended up doing some of the things in that guide, as you’ll see below.

Once you power it on the first time, it’ll ask you for your product key. Chances are, Windows will try to update to the Anniversary edition, which pretty much reinstalls Windows at this point. I chose to go this route, but others on the forums have not, for whatever reason. Just know that there is no recovery image, so going back isn’t all that easy. The good news is I think the product key becomes registered to the device, because I never had to enter it when I reinstalled Windows.

By the way, this is a phone screen, so the default viewing mode is portrait. So when you first turn it on, everything will be sideways. Don’t worry though, once you slide over the notification panel and lock the viewing mode to landscape, everything is pretty much fixed from there on out. The only place you have to just deal with it is if you enter the bios. It’s stuck sideways and there’s no fixing it, so you have to just hold it awkwardly until you do what you need to do.

I’ll cut right to the chase on a fresh Windows install – I don’t recommend it. It’s VERY involved because there is almost no default driver support with Windows. So no Wifi, no controller and you’ll be struggling just to get those to work. There are some ways to import and export your drivers, which I think I got to work when I tried it. The bottom line is, I don’t think all the effort is worth it. GPD doesn’t include bloatware and the Windows Anniversary install is pretty much a fresh install anyways. On top of that, my benchmarks with a fresh install were all lower and I couldn’t figure out why. I eventually restored it to the stock image.

Speaking of a stock image, either before or after the Windows update, I highly recommend doing an image of your device. I used Macrium Reflect Free, which you can further use to create a Windows PE thumbdrive to boot to and copy your image. Doing this uses all of your connectivity, so be prepared. I booted from a thumb drive containing Windows PE/Macrium Reflect and used a USB-C to USB-A dongle to attach another thumb drive to copy my image to. Touch isn’t enabled and there’s no mouse driver, so you’ll need to disconnect your boot thumb drive and attach a mouse in order to navigate Windows PE. On top of that, this is also in portrait, so you have to tilt your device sideways. I’m sure there is a way to fix this, but I just made it work. Don’t be afraid to hit the enter key if you feel a button is off screen. I think the “Finish” button was that way with me, when it came to creating a backup(might have been a restore).

The backup is going to be your bailout if you screw anything up down the road. I think GPD has a factory image on their site but I prefer having my own. I eventually made another one after I worked out all my customizations that I did below. My thought is I’ll have something to fall back on so I don’t have to do all this over again.

My first tweak was my bios, but this is another thing that I highly recommend against unless you absolutely need it. The fact is, I couldn’t see ANY improvements in benchmarks with all the bios options I meddled with and some options made things worse. The latest version of the bios(that the unit comes with) barely has any options, but I think it’s safe to assume GPD has optimized it for performance already. Some on the forums claim that downgrading the bios helps, which is why I tried it, but I personally can’t validate that claim. The only thing a downgraded bios gives me is added functionality for boot options, which might help with Android if I try it in the future. I’m not sure if the newer bios supports it. If you want to downgrade your bios, see here(http://boards.dingoonity.org/gpd-windows-devices/gpd-win-performance-guide/) and read the directions fully before proceeding. You can brick your device so read carefully!

Another excellent resource is this Reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/gpdwin/comments/5c9duk/gpd_win_general_faq/

This will help you with some key updates and will give you directions on how to optimize the performance of your device. I personally did the disk cleanup, optimized the microSD for Steam, disabled Steam broadcasting and disabled Windows Defender. I did not mess with the Windows graphics settings or try the beta driver, because I didn’t think they helped with the tests I ran.

Note that if you do choose to disable both Defender and your Firewall, you probably won’t want to have your MS account active. I keep my firewall active, but I still leave my account generic. To me, it’s more of a convenience thing over trust because I don’t want to have to enter a password every time I use it and I definitely do not care to have Onedrive since it takes up so many resources.

Once you’re set up the way you want and you have your storage space optimized, I’d recommend reimaging your device and keeping that handy for your “fallback image”. I kept the original image in case I ever sell it down the road.

Some other things I noticed were some issues with sleep mode. For some reason, my unit would randomly wake up from sleep. It drove me crazy because it shouldn’t generate a lot of heat while idle, but if you have the fan on, it pretty much creates heat. So I’d go to grab it from my bag and the device would not only be hot, but also have a depleted battery from the screen and fan being on the whole time.

I eventually worked through the issue by unchecking the “allow wake” box in the power management tab of all the input devices in device manager. For example, in device manager, right click on your mouse, go to properties, click the pwr management tab and untick the allow wake button and hit apply. I don’t know which input device was the culprit, but this has happened far less frequently since I did that. You need to do this with the keyboard and the “gamepad” functions as well.

I think also the hall sensor might be a little sensitive if you have the device in close proximity to another laptop’s sensor. One time mine switched on when I put it on top of another laptop. That could also have been the case in my bag or it could have just been a coincidence.

The last thing I’ll note is the charging circuit. It pretty much tops out at 1.6amps, no matter which charger you use. The good thing is I’ve used multiple chargers and they all work fine. I even use the charger for the HP x2 since the adapter supports multiple voltages. The original cable I got from GPD was not that great quality so I threw it out.

That wraps this section up. If I add more later, I’ll post it here with a date stamp at the bottom. If you have anything to share, please let me know. In the comments section below.

In addition to being a tech enthusiast, Derek has a career as a biomedical engineer. He enjoys taking things apart, figuring out how they work and finding ways to make them better. His other hobbies include spending time with his family, “Do it yourself” projects such as home automation and running.

Source