GPD’s latest mini laptop is a little less mini than usual. But the GPD P2 Max is also a lot easier to use as a full-fledged computer than the GPD Pocket or GPD Win lines of handheld computers while continuing the trend of being incredibly small compared to most laptops on the market.
The GPD P2 Max weighs just 1.4 pounds, measures 8.4″ x 5.9″ x 0.6″ and features the largest keyboard of any GPD notebook to date, making it much more suitable for touch typing. It also has a real touchpad instead of an optical touch sensor, and a webcam.
GPD is launching a crowdfunding campaign for the P2 Max today, with prices starting at $529 for a model with an Intel Celeron 3965Y processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage and $705 for a version with an Intel Core m3-8100Y processor, 16GB of memory, and 512GB of solid state storage.
The company loaned me a pre-release demo unit, which I’ve been using since last week while preparing this preview.
These are the specs for the mini laptop I’m testing. Keep in mind that this is pre-release hardware, so it’s possible that some things may be different on the final production units set to ship in September.
|Display||8.9 inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels|
|CPU||Intel Core m3-8100Y processor|
|Storage||256GB PCIe NVMe SSD|
|A/V||Micro HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, stereo speakers|
|USB||1 USB 3.0 Type-C, 2 USB 3.0 Type-A|
|Keyboard||5 row, 56-key keyboard|
|Touch||Touchscreen + multitouch touchpad|
|Biometrics||Fingerprint sensor in power button|
|Charger||30W USB-C power adapter|
|Dimensions||8.4″ x 5.9″ x 0.6|
|Price||$705 (crowdfunding) / $842 (MSRP)|
There are a lot of things to like about the GPD P2 Max. It’s smaller, lighter, and more portable than most laptops which means it’s a device you might be willing to take places you might not normally want to carry a notebook PC.
But it’s also larger than last year’s GPD Pocket 2, which means there’s room for a vastly improved keyboard and a real touchpad. On the down side, it means that the P2 Max is also virtually impossible to fit into your pocket. But I think plenty of folks would prefer a slightly-larger (but still pretty small) laptop that’s a bit easier to use than the GPD Pocket.
The P2 Max has larger keys and better spacing than its predecessor. It took me a few minutes to figure out where some keys were, but once I got used to a few quirks (like a Backspace key that serves double-duty as a Del key when you hold down Fn), I was able to type at around 70 to 80 words per minute when using a text-heavy typing test.
Things slow down a bit when I have to hunt for special character keys. It’s easy to forget that you have to hit Fn+i for a hyphen, or Fn+o for a + symbol, for example. I would also prefer full-height number keys instead of the half-sized ones included on this little computer, and the half-width comma, period, question mark and apostrophe keys are a little too small for me to reliably hit without looking down at the keyboard.
But the more time you spend typing on the GPD P2 Max the more you get used to its quirks. And I can type nearly twice as fast on this laptop as I could on the 7 inch GPD Pocket 2, making this a better mobile productivity machine.
There are a few things I really wish GPD had done differently with this keyboard though.
It’s not backlit, which can make typing a little tricky in dark environments — especially if you’re hunting for a Fn key (the blue on black color scheme can be hard to see in dim lighting).
There are only single Shift and Alt keys (on the left and right, respectively). And with only 56 keys on the keyboard, a lot of them have to take on 2-3 functions (when you hold the Shift and/or Fn) key. And even with all of those compromises, there are some keys that just don’t exist — GPD included keyboard shortcuts for volume and screen brightness, but there’s no mute key.
Likewise, the touchpad is much easier to use than the optical touch sensors found on the GPD Pocket, Pocket 2, and similar devices. It supports multi-touch gestures including two-finger swiping and tapping and makes it much easier to interact with Windows (or other operating systems) without connecting a mouse or reaching up to touch the display.
Speaking of the display, it’s big and bright, supports multitouch input, and offers wide viewing angles. Oh, and if you don’t want it to be too bright, GPD’s got you covered — the lowest brightness setting for this laptop’s LCD display is one of the lowest I’ve seen in a while.
When I first booted the GPD P2 Max, the Windows 10 display settings were set to 250 percent scaling. I’ve been able to slide that down to 200 percent or even as low as 175 percent to make better use of the screen real estate by shrinking the size of text and graphics. Anything below that gets difficult to see without squinting.
The P2 Max does not have a 360-degree hinge, so you can’t use it as a tablet. And it doesn’t support pen input. But it’s nice to have the touchscreen so that you can either reach up and poke the screen when using it on your table or your lap, or even if you want to use it while holding the computer in your hands — it’s small and light enough to do that should the urge strike you.
GPD also added a fingerprint sensor to the P2 Max. It’s built into the power button.
Press the button to turn on the computer, and once the Windows login screen occurs you should be able to tap your finger against the sensor to login… although I’ve found this to be a little finicky and the power button to be a little squishy rather than clicky.
So it’s not always easy to know if you’ve pressed the button and/or if the computer is taking a moment to register your fingerprint or if it just didn’t detect it at all.
Hopefully any fingerprint issues can be resolved by the time the GPD P2 Max ships to customers. But I would have at the very least appreciated some sort of status LED to let you know whether the computer is powering up. As it stands, the only way to know is to either wait for the screen to light up or until you hear the fan start to spin if you’re in a quiet enough room to hear it (it’s inaudible in my office when my window air conditioning unit is running).
Another new addition is the webcam — while this has been a must-have feature for full-sized laptops (and even old-school netbooks) for years, the GPD Pocket and Pocket 2 did not have cameras.
The P2 max does… although it’s not a particularly good one. Not only is it a low-resolution camera (GPD says 2MP, but the Windows camera app only offers to snap photos up to 0.9MP), but it’s also in a horribly awkward location — on the hinge that connects the lid to the body of the laptop.
When the lid is at a 90 degree angle to the keyboard, the camera is completely blocked by the body of the laptop, which means you’ll only see a black screen.
You can tilt the display backward so that the camera points up and gets a chance to actually see what’s in front of the laptop, but since the camera is looking upward from a low angle, it has a wonderful view of your nostrils… and possibly your knuckles if you type while using the camera.
It’s generally better to at least have the option of using a camera to snap photos, record short videos, or make video calls than not to have one. But if you’ve got a smartphone handy you’re probably going to be better off using its camera most of the time.
The port selection on the P2 Max is decent, with two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, a micro HDMI port, and a headphone jack. But there’s no SD card reader at all, so you’ll need an adapter if you want to use one with the computer.
And unlike some compact computers, the GPD P2 Max has stereo speakers. They’re not particularly loud, but they sound decent.
This little computer… feels like a computer. Unlike some other mini PCs, I’m perfectly comfortable using it on the go for real work. As a blogger, that means I spend a lot of time writing and doing research on the web, often with a dozen or more browser tabs open simultaneously, typically with two displayed at a time in side-by-side windows. I also do some light image editing and often stream music while I’m doing that.
In fact, I spent most of one day using the GPD P2 Max as my primary work machine by hooking it up to a USB-C docking solution that allowed me to connect an external display, mouse, keyboard, and speakers. For the most part, the little computer was able to keep up and only occasionally felt a little more sluggish than my usual work machine (an HP Spectre x360 13 inch laptop with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor).
Of course, things look different if you try to run software that taxes the hardware a bit more.
I haven’t extensively tested gaming performance, but I did spend a little time playing some lightweight titles including the puzzle game Whispering Willows and the point-and-click adventure game, Oxenfree. Both ran just fine on the little laptop, but neither requires a lot of horsepower.
If you want to know how more resource-intensive titles run check out some of the GPD P2 Max videos posted to YouTube by The Phawx. He was able to play DOOM and run Wii and Gamecube emulators without any real problems.
And I ran a series of tests too see how the P2 max stacks up against the competition when it comes to CPU and GPU performance in synthetic benchmarks.
As expected, the P2 Max scores lower than my Spectre x360 in most tests, but it comes surprisingly close in some.
And despite having the same processor as the One Mix 3 Yoga 8.4 inch laptop I’m currently testing as well as last year’s 7 inch One Mix 2S, it outperforms both of those little computers in just about every benchmark I’ve run.
Part of the reason is likely that GPD’s new laptop is the only one of the bunch that I’ve tested with 16GB of RAM, and it also seems to have one of the fastest SSDs.
But another reason may be that GPD increased the TDP for the processor — instead of running at 7 to 15 watts, the processor in the P2 Max can run at 8 watts to 15 watts. That’s not a huge difference, but it does seem to have an impact on performance… at least when it comes to synthetic benchmarks.
That said, the spec bump doesn’t seem to take much toll on battery life — I was able to stream video from Netflix for 5 hours and 10 minutes with the screen before the computer shut itself off. That was with screen brightness set to 50 percent and the Windows 10 power slider set to “better battery.”
While just over 5 hours isn’t a stellar showing, it’s 20 minutes longer than the One Mix 3 Yoga lasted in the same test despite having a similar-capacity battery.
Note that streaming video isn’t exactly the most power-hungry thing you can do with this laptop, so don’t be surprised if real-world battery life is shorter depending on what you’re doing with the laptop. I’d expect anywhere from as little as two hours while gaming to as much as 6 hours or more while reading eBooks with the WiFi turned off, with casual web browsing or document editing probably falling somewhere in the middle.
Need more battery life? You should be able to charge it from just about any power bank that supports cranks out enough power. I can confirm that both my RAVPower 5V/2.4A power bank and my 45W ZeroLemon JuiceBox portable battery were able to power the laptop on the go.
I didn’t scientifically test how long it takes to recharge the battery, but after it ran down completely I connected a power adapter and turned the computer on again. Windows 10 reported that it would take about 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery while I was using the notebook, but that means it should charge a little more quickly when the PC is in sleep mode or shut off.
Or you could opt for the cheaper version of the GPD P2 Max with an Intel Celeron 3965Y processor. That chip is much less powerful than the Core m3-8100Y, but it also uses less power, consuming just around 6 watts. That means you’ll lose some performance, but you should gain some battery life in exchange.
Upgrades and repairs
It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Well in this case I guess that means an M.2 PCIe NVME SSD that you could remove and replace as well as an Intel 726502W wireless card.
And… that’s about it. I suppose you might be able to replace the laptop’s dual batteries if you can find a compatible replacement, the RAM appears to be soldered to the motherboard.
You may have also noticed a fan and heat pipe in the pictures above — unlike some computers with Intel Core m3 processors, this is not a passively cooled, fanless device. In fact, I heard the fan running almost constantly when I was using the GPD P2 Max in a quiet room.
The fan isn’t all that loud most of the time, but it is audible if there isn’t enough other sound to distract you — turn on an air conditioner or play some music and you probably won’t notice the fan noise at all.
Interested in running something other than Windows? I tried a few different operating systems, and the results are a bit of a mixed bag.
Note that in each of the cases described below, I booted from a USB flash drive, poked around a bit to see if key features worked properly, and then rebooted into Windows. So I haven’t tested battery life, sleep, the fingerprint reader, or some of the other things you might want to know about if you plan to actually install an operating system to local storage.
I also didn’t spent any time exploring possible fixes for some of the issues I encountered… something I expect advanced Linux users may be more comfortable doing.
With that in mind, here’s what I found.
The operating system booted without any difficulty. The user interface was displayed in landscape orientation at 100 percent scaling, but I was able to open the Display settings and switch to 200 percent scaling to increase the size of text and graphics without any problems.
The touchscreen did not work, but audio, video, and keyboard shortcuts for things like volume and screen brightness all seem to work out of the box.
The display resolution was set to 800 x 600 by default, and there was no way to adjust it from the Display Settings menu. The touchscreen didn’t work, and on startup, I was greeted by a note that said the operating system was running in software rendering mode, since hardware-accelerated graphics weren’t available for some reason.
While the volume shortcut keys worked, the screen brightness keys did not. Audio and video playback seem fine.
Google’s Chromium OS is the open source operating system that’s the foundation for Chrome OS. And since it’s open source, developers can fork and tweak the operating system.
That’s what Keith Myers has done with his ChromiumOS for the GPD Pocket 2 operating system, optimized for GPD’s smaller laptop with similar hardware.
The software is in beta and doesn’t officially support the P2 Max yet, but when I booted it from a flash drive, the screen orientation was correctly set to landscape orientation, the display scaling looked good, audio playback was supported, and volume and display brightness keyboard shortcuts worked.
The cursor is sideways, but most other things seem to work properly.
This is another operating system designed specifically for GPD hardware… but not this GPD hardware.
It’s a custom version of Ubuntu MATE that should take some of the pain out of installing the operating system on the GPD Pocket 1 or Pocket 2. I suspect eventually it’ll be updated to support the P2 Max, but for now the display scaling is stuck at 100 percent (with tiny text and graphics), and the touchscreen does not work.
Wondering how easy it is to boot from a USB flash drive and try out one of the operating systems listed above or something else? Pretty easy.
Just turn off the computer, plug in a bootable drive, press the power button, and hammer the Del key until you get to the UEFI/BIOS settings menu.
From there you can tab over to the boot options menu and adjust the boot device priority so that when you save and exit, the computer should automatically try to boot from your USB device — you’ll probably have to repeat this every time you try using a different USB device.
Oh, and while we’re talking about software, I suppose I should point out that the demo unit GPD sent me was running an unactivated version of Windows 10. The models that ship to customers should have Windows licenses that are activated when you first set up the PC, but that was not the case on this pre-released review unit.
That didn’t really affect my review very much, aside from preventing me from customizing the Windows taskbar and tweaking a few other things that I usually adjust on a new Windows install.
Update: I took some time to shoot a video showing what works and doesn’t work out of the box with Ubuntu 19.04, Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS, Pop!_OS, Linux Mint 19.1, and Chromium OS:
There’s a lot to like about the GPD P2 Max. It’s a compact, lightweight laptop that’s more portable than most… but which still has a keyboard, display, and touchpad that are large enough to let you get work done on the go (depending on the work you need to do, I suppose).
With plenty of memory, speedy storage, and a surprisingly capable processor, this is kind of the netbook I’ve been waiting many years for.
But it’s also a device that sells for $705 during a crowdfunding campaign and which could sell for $840 or more after that campaign has ended. That’s a lot of money to spend on a device that I suspect most folks would use as a second PC rather than as their primary computer.
For a similar price, you can probably buy a pretty good 13 inch or larger laptop with a faster processor… but you probably won’t find one in this price range that weighs 1.4 pounds and has 16GB of RAM.
For the sake of comparison, I picked up an HP Spectre x360 13 inch convertible laptop about six months ago. I spent $800 (it was on sale) and got a model with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage.
By most standards, my HP laptop is a better computer than the GPD P2 Max. It has a faster processor (see benchmarks above), a backlit keyboard that’s much easier to type on, a bigger display and a 360-degree hinge that lets you use the computer in tablet, tent, or stand modes, a better webcam, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and about twice the battery life.
But while the 2.8 pound HP Spectre x360 is pretty light for a 13.3 inch laptop, it weighs twice as much as the GPD P2 Max and has a substantially larger footprint. It’s a notebook I bought because it would be easy to slip into a backpack and take with me when I leave the house… but the GPD P2 Max is a notebook small enough to fit comfortably into a purse.
For about the same price as I paid for my HP Spectre, the P2 Max also has twice the RAM and storage (although the storage isn’t quite as fast).
So if you’re going to prioritize portability over performance, the GPD P2 Max may very well be worth the asking price.
Another way to think of tiny laptops like the GPD P2 Max may be to compare them with tablets like Apple’s iPad Pro — which sells for $799 without the optional keyboard or other accessories.
Compared to Apple’s tablet, this little laptop is a lean, mean, productivity machine that runs a full-fledged desktop operating system that you can use to run just about any app… although the relatively low power processor and small screen probably make it a less-than-ideal device for workstation-class tasks like professional video editing.
From that standpoint, the asking price for the GPD P2 Max looks pretty good.
But I still can’t help but wish it had a backlit keyboard, a better-placed webcam, and maybe a 360-degree hinge that would let you use it as a tablet.
For $760, you could also pick up rival One Netbook’s One Mix 3 Yoga. That mini-laptop does have a backlit keyboard, a 360-degree hinge, digital pen support, and what I consider to be a better keyboard.
But there are some tradeoffs: that laptop weighs more, has a mono speaker rather than stereo, lacks a touchpad, gets slightly shorter battery life, and takes longer to charge.
So it’s not that easy to decide which of the two provides more bang for your buck. But what I can say that while the GPD P2 Max is the biggest laptop from GPD to date, it’s also the one that feels the most like a machine you could actually use to get work done on the go.
It just probably won’t fit in your pocket.
The GPD P2 Max is up for pre-order through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for $529 (Celeron model) or $705 (Core m3 model). It should ship to backers in September.
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