GPD Pocket Review – A Liberating Device for the Laptop Lifestyle

By on July 19, 2017

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This is freedom. This is always what I wanted from a gadget. And I realise that this is a device that may have less appeal to many people… This is a device for me and for people like me. And maybe like you.

So, to bring you up to speed, the GPD Pocket is a UMPC – Ultra Mobile PC – that was brought to life after successfully raising significantly more than its funding target on IndieGogo. This is essentially a 7″ laptop with almost zero compromises. It comes with Windows 10 or Ubuntu and has a full QWERTY keyboard that you can actually type on.

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The specs are also surprisingly on point. You get an Intel Z8750 Atom processor, 128G of internal storage and an impressive 8GB of RAM. The battery is a 7,000mAh battery that is supposedly capable of giving you 8-10 hours of use on the go (which is pretty generous in my testing).

But this isn’t a tech review site. I’m reviewing this because I think it has incredible advantages for someone who like to work on the road as I do. For anyone living the “laptop lifestyle”, this is liberation in computer form.

Why a 7″ Laptop?

When I told people (incessantly) how excited I was for this device, many of them didn’t get it. Why would you want a laptop so small?

For someone with my workflow though, it’s a no-brainer. Consider this scenario: my friend invites me to meet him in London, so I hop on the train to visit and decide to work on the commute. That’s 40 minutes there and back, which is a decent amount of time for me to write some articles or get some coding done. But if I’m then meeting my friend and we’ll be going for drinks, maybe clubbing, do I really want to carry my laptop bag with me? With the GPD Pocket, I can just slip it into a pocket and then when I’m done working, I can forget all about it! Just recently, I took it on a stag party were we went on a cycling tour and I didn’t even notice it was there!

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Another scenario is that I can decide to go out for a jog to somewhere scenic around where I live with my new UMPC in a bag or pocket and then work outdoors before jogging back. This little guy is also small enough to fit in my locker at the gym, making it ideal for mornings when I want to head straight to Costa after a workout.

Of course, it’s absolutely perfect for taking on holiday, for going backpacking, or for working on a plane. I’m writing this in Sorrento right now, on a beautiful balcony overlooking some mountains and a secluded garden.

Better yet is how quick and convenient it is to use in an evening. I like writing. It is my hobby and it is my job. This website is a passion project that I do out of love. I’d love to spend evenings working on it but after spending all day working on the computer, the last thing I want to do is to get out my “big laptop” and sit down to what feels like more work. The same goes for coding.

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But conversely, on this device, working just feels far less jarring. It’s tiny, it pings to life instantly and it’s ready to go. In the same way that it feels socially acceptable to pull out a phone during dinner (but not open a laptop and start typing out emails), I feel like I can open up the GPD Pocket to start writing articles without killing the vibe.

And often, I find occasions where I haven’t quite finished my day’s work and I need to answer a few more emails. In the past, that meant waiting for Hannah to go to sleep (quality time with the wife is important) and then booting up to ruin my sleep-wake cycle. With the GPD Pocket, I can send invoices and finish short articles in the kitchen while I’m cooking a chilli concane. Or any meal really… it doesn’t have to be chilli…

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Then there are all the weird benefits to having a device this small I never predicted. Like being able to use this with my H4 recorder and Audacity to record audio for videos while I’m filming. Others will find more uses for it I’m sure. It would be ideal for network administrators for example. Or hackers/spies…

The Experience

So yes, the GPD Pocket has been as transformative as I hoped. It has come at an insanely busy time during my life and it has helped me to find pockets of time to be productive or creative that weren’t there before. It has blurred the line between work and play a little more, for better or for worse. I wholly recommend it to anyone who has a similar workflow to myself.

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But that is not to say that this has been a perfect experience. I would be lying if I claimed that were the case.

For one, the battery life seems significantly shorter than promised. Yes, I can possibly get around 10 hours with the screen fully dim and no apps open. But if I want to actually use the device, then I’m going to struggle to get much more than 4-5 hours. What also doesn’t help is that like all Windows devices, it struggles a little with power management and often wakes during sleep. It also doesn’t have fast charging (despite claims to the contrary) and it powers off at around 10%. This is not a device you can use and just forget about power management. Sadly. Switching to Ubuntu might solve this issue for some though.

In terms of the working experience, the keyboard is just about acceptable. I will often write 15,000-20,000 words in a regular day. Unfortunately, this just isn’t quite possible on the GPD Pocket’s small keyboard. But that’s not to say that it’s not close. I can definitely manage 8-9,000 a day with this keyboard alone and it’s fine for bashing out a big article in relatively short time (like this one!). Instead of a track-pad, you get a nubbin for rubbing a mouse around the screen. It’s not fast or elegant but combined with the touchscreen, there are enough options to keep you going until you find a Bluetooth mouse.

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Another weird issue is lapability. This is a traditional clamshell designed laptop, so I thought it would be fine. The problem is that it is so small, it doesn’t quite straddle both legs and tends to fall down the gap in the middle. This is not a big problem, it is by no means a deal breaker. You can work around it. But it’s just a consideration.

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The screen is also a little small and a little dim for something like development in Unity to be a pleasant experience, or for writing in direct sunlight to be problem-free. The air intake vents are on the bottom of the device, so if you sit this on a bed, it’s getting hot. And it does get rather hot.

But the fact that I can develop in Unity at all is still incredible. The device is surprisingly powerful and for those interested in gaming, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can get running. I’ve been playing Transistor, Bioshock and even Metroid Prime through the GameCube emulator Dolphin. I’ve seen people playing Batman: Arkham Asylum with acceptable frame rates.

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In the past, I have used netbooks and 10″ Windows tablets for the same purpose as this. Those have come with serious compromises (my recent Windows tablet only had 16GB storage, which is not enough for anything). That’s not what this is. This really feels like having a full computer that can just about fit in your pocket. It even looks and feels premium thanks to an all-in-one magnesium chasis. It has been likened to a tiny MacBook!

Even the port selection is good: you get a full-sized USB, a USB-C, a micro USB and a headphone jack. That’s more than my Surface Pro! (And certainly more than a MacBook.)

Conclusion and Tips

So, this little guy isn’t perfect but it is darn close. Like others, I’m very excited to see what the next generation brings and I hope that this heralds the return of the UMPC.

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Meanwhile, there are a few ways you can get around some of the slight limitations of the device. One of course is to carry an external battery and power through USB-C. Another is to invest the fantastic Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard. This is a slightly larger keyboard that folds completely flat, slips into a pocket or small bag and is even waterproof. It can’t be used on your lap, but if you’re at a desk, it offers a better input than the default keyboard. This is especially true if you pair it with a Bluetooth mouse, such as the Microsoft Arc Mouse, which also folds flat for convenience. (The GPD Pocket has Bluetooth 4.5.)

Finally, consider the apps and software you set-up on the device. My number one recommendation is to use DropBox. That way, you can sync all the files from your main work computer with the GPD Pocket and then pick-up wherever you left off.

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With all that in place, this device will prove to be a fantastic productivity aid for anyone that likes to work from rainy coffee shops overlooking the sea.

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About Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I’m an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self improvement, technology and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I’ll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business and technology.