The GPD Pocket 2 is a handheld computer that looks like a laptop, but which is small enough to fold up and slide into your pocket. As the name suggests, it’s a follow-up to last year’s GPD Pocket, and the new model has a faster processor, an updated keyboard layout, and a sleeker design.
The Pocket 2 is now available for pre-order for $529 and up through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and it should ship later this year for a retail price of $729 and up.
GPD sent me an early prototype for testing, and so far I’m very impressed with this little computer. It’s certainly a niche device: the keyboard and display are both too small to make this a dream machine for video editors or spreadsheet pros. But the Pocket 2 is fast enough to handle most day-to-day tasks and small enough to take with you everywhere you go, which could make it a nice secondary PC for a little work or play at any time.
The first thing that sets the GPD Pocket 2 apart from the handful of other devices in its category is that it’s powered by an Intel Core M3-7Y30 processor. That’s the same chip Microsoft uses for its entry-level Surface Pro tablet, and the same one GPD tapped for its Win 2 handheld gaming PC.
Intel designed the Core M3-7Y30 to be a low power processor designed to offer long battery life for devices with thin and light form factors. It’s one of the least powerful members of the Intel Core family… but it’s way faster than the Intel Atom chips used in devices like the first-gen GPD Pocket or the One Mix Yoga.
Not only does that allow you to perform tasks more quickly on the Pocket 2, but it also makes multitasking feel smoother and allows you to run some applications you wouldn’t ever want to run on a slower machine including some games and multimedia editing applications.
You can also use this machine for viewing or editing documents, a little coding-on-the-go, for watching movies, or really for anything else you would expect to do on a PC. Just bear in mind that you’ll probably have to type more slowly than you would on a larger machine, and the small screen doesn’t provide a lot of room for multiple windows.
The other thing that sets the Pocket 2 apart is the keyboard and optical touch sensor. The keys are tiny, but they’re better spaced and offer better travel than the One Mix Yoga, which makes typing a little more comfortable on this laptop.
Some keys are in awkward locations. The F11 and F12 keys are above the F9 and F10 keys, for example. And the command and comma and period keys are placed to the left and right of the up arrow.
It can take a little hunting and pecking to find keys you don’t use frequently. The ones that always throw me are the colon/semicolon and the apostrophe/quotation mark keys, which are in the bottom row rather than to the left of the L.
But overall this is totally a keyboard you can learn to touch type on… it will probably just take a little more practice than a full-sized laptop keyboard.
GPD made sure to let me know that a few of the keys on the prototype they sent me are mislabeled. The key marked with a tilde is actually the tab key, for example. But that issue should be resolved by the time GPD is ready to ship the Pocket 2 to customers.
Since there’s no room for a full-sized touchpad, GPD put an optical sensor in the row of keys above the keyboard. You can swipe your finger over it to move an on-screen cursor, and then use the two buttons on the left side of the row for left and right clicks.
The touch sensor isn’t my favorite thing about the little laptop, but it does offer a little more precision than you would get just by reaching up to use your fingers with the touchscreen display. Unfortunately you’ll probably need two hands for touch input: one for moving the cursor and another for clicking the buttons.
You can tap or click the sensor itself to register a left-click. But doing so has a nasty habit of making the cursor jump as you click. And if you want to use a right-click, you’ll have to use the buttons on the other side of the keyboard.
When playing games that require both keyboard and mouse input, there’s no comfortable way to use the touch sensor and the W, A, S, and D keys. So you may want to connect an external mouse if you plan to do any gaming… or just buy a mini PC designed for the purpose.
If the touch sensor feels like an afterthought, that’s because it was. GPD had originally planned to ship the Pocket 2 without any sort of mouse or touchpad at all. But potential customers didn’t like that idea, so GPD delayed the launch of the mini PC until it was able to add another form of touch input, for better or worse.
Also in the row of keys above the keyboard are volume, brightness, and power buttons, along with a fan button. Press it and the computer’s fan will shut down, enabling you to use the PC in silence… but performance may suffer in fanless mode if the computer gets hot enough for CPU throttling to kick in.
There are also LED status lights next to the power and fan buttons to let you know if the fan is disabled or the power is on.
Oh, and one other thing that wasn’t obvious to me at first: you have to hold down the brightness keys in order to adjust the screen brightness. Clicking and quickly releasing them doesn’t do anything.
Design and specs
The GPD Pocket 2 features a 1920 x 1200 pixel touchscreen display, 128GB of eMMC 5.0 storage, and GPD will offer the laptop in two versions. The entry-level model has 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, but you can pay an extra $50 for an 8GB model.
I’m testing the 8GB version, so I can’t remark on the performance of the 4GB model.
The laptop has a 6,800 mAh battery (or rather, two 3,400 mAh batteries), a microSD card reader, and a headset jack. And there’s a USB Type-C port for charging, data, and video and two USB 3.0 Type-A ports for data.
It comes with a USB Type-C charger that looks more like a smartphone adapter than a laptop power brick. It also charges the notebook pretty quickly.
The Pocket 2 measures 7.1″ x 4.4″ x 0.55″ and weighs about 17.7 ounces. That makes it about .15 inches thinner than One Mix Yoga or first-gen GPD Pocket. But it looks even thinner than it is, thanks to rounded edges that give the illusion of a laptop that’s thinner at the front than the back, even though it’s pretty much 0.55 inches thick all the way around.
Place the GPD Pocket 2 side-by-side with a One Mix Yoga and you’ll see that there’s not really that much difference in size.
While the original Pocket had all of its ports on one side, the Pocket 2 has ports on both its left and right sides.
And while the original had a bunch of half-sized keys (including the Caps Lock, Fn, arrow, and punctuation keys,” most of the alphanumeric keys on the Pocket 2 are uniform in size, which makes typing easier.
The Pocket 2 has a 180-degree hinge that allows you to fold the screen flat. It’s not quite the same as a 360-degree hinge that would enable tablet functionality, but on a device this small, it is actually fairly comfortable to tilt the screen all the way back and hold the computer in one hand while watching videos or reading web pages.
Probably the most impressive thing about the Pocket 2? It really is small enough to slide right into the front pocket of my blue jeans:
Using the GPD Pocket 2
I’ve only been using the GPD Pocket 2 for a few days, and it’s too early to make claims about battery life. I’ve also only had time to run a few benchmarks. But I can say that the system has handled most tasks I’ve thrown at it with ease.
That’s something I wish I could say for some other PCs I’ve tested recently.
Unlike the One Mix Yoga, it doesn’t start to feel sluggish when I open more than a few browser tabs in Google Chrome. I installed LibreOffice and created a few documents. I loaded Irfanview and GIMP for image editing. And I installed Twitch and Steam to test some light gaming.
While the keyboard and touch sensor make gaming with just the built-in controls a little difficult, the computer’s internal hardware is able to keep up with casual games pretty well. You may just want to add a mouse or game controller if you plan to do more serious gaming.
The computer gets very warm at times, which is why you’ll probably want to keep the fan turned on when gaming or doing any heavy work. Even then, the right side of the laptop can get hot to touch. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using the Pocket 2 on your lap while wearing shorts.
There’s an intake vent for the fan on the bottom of the laptop, and a vent by the hinge that connects the lid to the base of the laptop, where hot air is released from inside the chassis.
If you do disable the fan, the computer may get a little slower in some situations if the PC gets hot enough for PC throttling to kick in. But in synthetic benchmarks, I didn’t see much difference.
When I ran Geekbench in fanless mode, I got a single-core score of 3035 and a multi-core score of 5777. I turned on the fan and ran the test again, and the scores were lower, probably because the system was warmer than it had been when I started.
So I turned off the computer for a few minutes to let it cool down, started it up again and ran the test again. This time the single-core test score jumped up to 3159, but the multi-core score was 5755, a little lower than it had been with the fan disabled.
Keep in mind that Geekbench is a test that only takes a few minutes to run. I suspect the differences may be greater for benchmarks or applications that require a lot of horsepower for a longer sustained period of time.
Update: I took the time to run some more benchmarks in order to get a sense of how the GPD Pocket 2 compares with other devices featuring low-power processors. Unsurprisingly, it’s nowhere near as fast as a computer with a 15 watt Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor like the Dell XPS 13.
But it’s 2-3 times faster than the One Mix Yoga when it comes to video transcoding or folder zip operations. Overall, the GPD Pocket 2 isn’t quite as fast as a device like the Eve V tablet with a Core i7-7Y75 processor, but it’s much closer to the Eve V in terms of performance than it is to an Intel Atom Cherry Trail device like the One Mix Yoga or Intel Compute Stick.
The laptop’s 1920 x 1200 pixel display looks pretty great, but you may have to adjust the DPI scaling if you want to fit more content on the screen at once… or if you want to fit less content and make text and images large enough to see without squinting.
GPD set the default scaling to 175 percent on my demo unit, and that seems to be a pretty good compromise… but some applications still handle scaling in Windows 10 better than others, so don’t be surprised if every now and again you encounter software where all the menus and icons look incredibly tiny.
One thing the GPD Win 2 isn’t good for? Recording video: there’s no webcam. That means you won’t be making any Skype or Hangouts video calls, broadcasting any Twitch or YouTube live streams, or recording any videos on this device unless you connect a USB camera.
Given how horrible most laptop cameras are… and how ubiquitous smartphone cameras are, I suspect this is a feature most people won’t miss. But it’s still probably something you should be aware of.
While the GPD Pocket 2 ships with Windows 10, it’s perfectly capable of running alternate operating systems. I haven’t found the magic key combination that lets you get a boot menu or UEFI/BIOS menu during startup. But I plugged in a USB flash drive loaded with Ubuntu 18.04, went into the Windows 10 advanced startup menu, and chose the option that lets you boot from the flash drive when the computer reboots.
Ubuntu loaded pretty quickly and the only problem I encountered was that the screen was rotated at a 90 degree angle and the default scaling was set to 100 percent, which made everything look pretty tiny.
I fixed the screen rotation issue by opening a terminal and typing “xrandr – o right” (without the quotes) and the display orientation switched from portrait to landscape.
Update: I ran some more Linux tests, this time with Debian and Fedora. Ubuntu seems to be the operating system that works best if you stick to the default settings.
Debian didn’t recognize the WiFi card, and Fedora wouldn’t allow me to rotate the screen to landscape orientation.
Advanced users may have more luck overcoming these hardware limitations. But it’s good to know that it’s certainly possible to install an alternate operating system.
Want to upgrade the memory or storage? Tough.
It’s relatively easy to open up the GPD Pocket 2. Just remove the 6 Phillips head screws on the bottom of the laptop and you can pop the cover off and see the insides. But most components aren’t going to be easy to upgrade or replace… and the eMMC storage and LPDDR3 memory are soldered to the motherboard.
The Pocket 2 has eMMC 5.0 flash storage rather than a faster SSD, but it still has a few advantages over a hard drive. There are no moving parts, so it’s quieter and less likely to break if you drop the computer. And according to CrystalDiskMark, the storage is surprisingly speedy for flash memory:
Let’s call this a concluding section rather than a verdict. I’ll be providing some updates once I’ve spent more time with the GPD Pocket 2 and have had time to run some benchmarks and other tests. And it’s worth keeping in mind that I’m testing a prototype, not the final version that will ship to customers later this year.
That said, I kind of love this little laptop… and I kind of don’t.
On the one hand, it’s everything I ever wanted from a mini PC when I started writing about netbooks 10 years ago. It’s a full-fledged computer in a pocket-sized package. It has a high-resolution display that looks great, a decent processor and plenty of RAM so that multitasking is no problem and most Windows applications should run just fine.
But it’s also very much a niche device. Some people are never going to be happy typing on a computer with keys this small. The display is too small to comfortably fit a lot of information at once. And GPD’s choice of placement for the optical touch sensor is less than ideal.
Unfortunately it doesn’t have some of the premium features some people had been hoping for such as a backlit keyboard, an active digitizer for pressure-sensitive pen input, or a 360-degree hinge for tablet functionality. If those features are more important to you than speedy performance, you might want to check out the One Mix Yoga… which is also a little cheaper.
So is the GPD Pocket 2 something you want to spend $529/$729 on? Maybe.
If, like me, you’ve always been enamored with the idea of an ultraportable secondary PC that’s not supposed to replace your primary computer… but which you can use to take notes, surf the web, or do other basic tasks from anywhere, the Pocket 2 is currently the device with best-in-class hardware and performance.
It’d just be nice if it were a little more affordable and/or made a few less compromises.