The GPD Win 2 is positioned as a handheld gaming PC… and it is. But it’s also a fully functional computer that ships with Windows 10, 8GB of RAM, and the same processor used in the entry-level Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Laptop products.
GPD plans to ship the computer in a few months, and it’s up for pre-order for $649 right now through an Indiegogo campaign. But the company sent me a demo unit to test and when I posted an unboxing video yesterday some of the top requests were for tests showing how well the system works for things other than gaming.
I’m not ready to post a full review yet. But I spent much of the day tinkering with the GPD Win 2 and it turns out it’s a pretty capable machine that you can use for a wide range of tasks… as long as you don’t mind fan noise. There’s so much fan noise.
Sorry for the abrupt end to the video, but I decided to shoot in 4K, and my camera can only save 4GB files, which means that videos get cut off at 11 minutes and 19 seconds (something I found out the hard way after trying to shoot a 15 minute version of this video earlier today).
Anyway, the first thing I did was install a bunch of games, although I’ve only played a few so far.
Rayman Origins, Psychonauts, and Deadlight all played smoothly, and worked perfectly with the GPD Win 2 controller. I also installed StarCraft II, a game that caused the Eve V tablet to crash every time I tried to run it. The real-time strategy game had no problem running on the GPD Win 2… although it’s a game that works better with a mouse than a gamepad.
So I connected a wireless mouse and keyboard, plugged in an external display, and spent more than an hour working through the opening campaign of StarCraft II.
The fan whirred loudly the whole time, but the game ran smoothly.
But enough about gaming. While I had the tiny computer hooked up to an external mouse, keyboard and display I decided to do a little work: I wrote today’s “Deals of the Day” post on the GPD Win 2. If you look closely, you can see I had 17 browser tabs open in Chrome, and the computer didn’t slow down at all.
When you first plug in an external display you’ll probably see the same content on both the small screen and the big one. But the GPD Win 2 has no trouble working in extended desktop mode, so I was able to view two browser windows on a 1920 x 1080 monitor and watch a video streaming from Netflix on the Win 2’s 720p screen at the same time.
I also installed LibreOffice for editing text and spreadsheet documents and Irfanview for doing some light photo editing (mostly cropping, resizing, and color correction).
And while I plan to delve into Linux performance on the computer when I have more time, I dipped my toe in the Linux waters today by installing the Windows Subsystem for Linux. After that was done I was able to install Ubuntu from the Microsoft Store and open a bash terminal to run some basic commands. Just for kicks I even installed the Lynx text-based web browser with a simple “sudo apt-get install lynx” command. Everything worked as expected.
The Windows Subsystem for Linux isn’t designed to run desktop GNU/Linux applications, (although some people have found ways to make that happen anyway), but if you just want a simple way to access Linux command line tools including SSH and Git from a Windows PC without rebooting, this is a simpler way to do it than installing a virtual machine.
So the GPD Win 2 can do all of those things. But would you really want to?
The tiny keyboard is certainly good enough to use for entering usernames, passwords, URLs, and search terms. But typing more than a few words at a time feels like a chore. Even entering complicated passwords can be tedious.
GPD made a keyboard which provides tactile feedback, and there are even little bumps on the J and F keys so that touch typists can find their place without looking down. But the keys are much smaller than my fingertips, and while I suppose with practice it might be possible to thumb-type without looking down at the keyboard, it’ll never be anywhere as fast as 10-finger typing on a full-sized keyboard. I’m not even sure it’ll ever be as fast as typing on a touchscreen phone’s virtual keyboard.
In other words, you’re probably not going to type your memoirs using the built-in keyboard. But having that keyboard will certainly let you login to games, websites, or other services. And if you find yourself needing to jot a note or send a quick email and the GPD Win 2 is the only device you have handy, you could certainly try to do a bit more typing.
Folks have also asked me if you could use it for programming. I’m not a programmer, so I didn’t install Visual Studio or Eclipse. But based on everything I’ve seen, it should be fast enough to run those programs, and if you just need to edit a few lines of code on the go, the keyboard might not be too frustrating.
This is not a laptop replacement though. It’s a handheld gaming PC with a tiny screen and a tiny keyboard. If you want a laptop you should probably get a laptop.
But if you want a game console that can also do laptop-like things on an occasional basis, the GPD Win 2 is much more versatile than a Nintendo DS or PlayStation Vita. Not only can it run a wide range of Windows games, but it can run virtually any Windows program that you’d run on a device like the entry-level Microsoft Surface Pro.
And… you can hook up that external mouse, keyboard and display. This is not a desktop computer either. But it’s easy to forget that when you actually start using it with external accessories. It handled multitasking like a champ, had no issues working with a 1080p display, and felt nearly as fast as my primary computer (an Acer Aspire S 13 with an Intel Core i7-6500U CPU and 8GB of RAM) when using it to research and write articles for Liliputing.
Just keep in mind that the fan will not stop whirring, particularly if it’s lying flat on a table or desk (so that the bottom vent is covered).
If you’re playing games you might want to crank up the volume to mask the sound, and if you’re using the GPD Win 2 for something else then you might want to put on some music while you work.
Update: I’ve also posted a few more Gameplay videos to YouTube. Rather than write a new article for each, I’m just going to keep adding GPD Win 2-related videos to a playlist, which you can check out below. Stay tuned for more details about the Win 2 and our upcoming review/preview (this is still a prototype, after all).