GPD Win Max Review (For Productivity)

By on October 14, 2020
GPD Win Max Review for Productivity

The GPD Win Max is an ultra-mobile PC aimed at gamers. It’s also what I believe to be one of the most powerful productivity devices available on the market right now. In this GPD Win Max review, I’m going to explain why I believe that to be the case, while also going over some of the specs and features.

GPD Win Max Review: The Concept

For those not familiar with the term, an ultra-mobile PC is a computer that is smaller than a laptop. In this case, the GPD Win Max is device with a 1,280 x 800p 8” screen that is just too large to fit in a pocket (unlike many of GPD’s other tiny computers, such as the GPD Pocket and Pocket 2). That said, this device is also mega thick (one inch), which is to accommodate some rather hench batteries (3 x 5000mAh) and some seriously beefy cooling (2 x fans and 2 x heat pipes).

The dimensions of the GPD Win Max make sense when you consider that it is positioning itself as a handheld gaming system. As well as a full QWERTY keyboard (with a number of compromises in terms of key placements and sizes) and touchpad, the system also has built-in game controls up top to provide X-Input. While the device is a little heavy to hold in the hands for long periods (1.8lbs), most footage shows the front of the device being propped up on the lap while the back is held like a controller.

GPD Win Max Thumbsticks

GPD Win Max Specs

Display8”, 1280x800p, touchscreen, 500 nits
CPUIntel Core i5-1035G7 (quad core)
GPUIntel Iris Plus 940 64EU
Storage512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 2280, MicroSD Slot
I/O1 x TB3, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A
Battery3 x 500mAh (57 Wh)
Connectivity802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 6, Gigabit Ethernet
Dimensions205mm x 140mm x 24.5mm, 800 grams

Hardware and Oomph

I’m not going to lie: although it’s not the focus of this GPD Win Max review, I also use this thing for gaming and it’s actually incredible in this capacity. The GPD Win Max is powered by an Intel Core i5-1035G7 CPU with integrated Intel Iris Plus 940 64EU graphics. While most gaming laptops feature external graphics as a minimum requirement, the Win Max does just fine without them. That is partly due to the gaming-laptop-style cooling, which does a great job at preventing overheating.

A significantly larger and more powerful laptop that hasn’t been built with this in mind is going to be forced to throttle more often and therefore won’t be able to handle demanding games without chugging.

Moreover, Intel’s integrated graphics have come a long way since I last used them and are now surprisingly capable. Finally, due to the limited resolution, the Win Max has to push significantly fewer pixels. Then there are other nice gamer-features, like the adjustable TDP that has been set to 25 watts by default. This thing makes incredible use of what’s available to it, in other words.

It also comes with an impressive 16GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage. Ample for installing games and emulators.

GPD Win Max in Hand

How You’re Meant to Use It: The GPD Win Max for Gaming

The result is that I can comfortably play Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on this thing. Or even Devil May Cry 5 (if I crank the resolution and graphical settings right down). That’s immense for me as a parent, as it means I can grab 5 minutes to game between work/changing nappies. I finally have the opportunity to work through my library of Steam games. I just pause the game and shut the lid, then open it up to continue where I left off.

The controls are great for the most part, too. Though the weight can be a little bit much. And it does get tricky knowing exactly where to place my fingers on the triggers! The thumbsticks – which are way better than the Switch’s thumbsticks – also click to give you L3 and R3. That said, the L1 and R1 are digital, not analogue (also like the Switch), which is a bummer.

GPD Win Max Gaming Nier

Still, this is by far the most powerful handheld gaming device on the market. It’s also the only device that will let you play the latest AAA games wherever you are.

And, for some, that would be all you’d need to know for a GPD Win Max review!

But I promised that my review would be about productivity. And why this is such a game-changing device in that department. As long as you’re the right kind of person!

Why Ultra-Mobile PCs Matter for Productivity

Many of you are probably already wondering what the point of a small laptop like this even is!

After all: at only 8”, opening a web page next to a Word Document already feels extremely cramped. The mouse is a little slow and awkward too. Both those factors mean that video editing in Adobe Premiere or image editing in GiMP feel awkward and even headache-inducing.

Typing is a bit of a pain too, seeing as the keyboard layout is largely… well, insane.

GPD Win Max Keyboard

It’s not just that it’s small! I came from the aforementioned GPD Pocket, which is an even smaller laptop. I managed to type on that thing just fine. As I did using Microsoft’s “Universal Folding Keyboard” (which I adore).

The issue is that some of the key placements are bizarre. In particular, the caps lock has been shrunk to a fraction of its usual size next to the A. This brings the second letter row to the left, meaning that the WASD keys are out of whack. That’s an odd choice for a gaming laptop, but also makes touch-typing pretty strange at first. The number keys are even stranger as they have been halved to share space with dedicated function keys. This is completely uncalled for, as far as I’m concerned and only serves to make typing numbers a chore.

GPD Win Max View From Top

In its defense though, you can largely adapt, and I’ve already written some fairly large documents on it. Linus from Linus Tech Tips said in a throwaway comment that he could “type faster on his phone” and that’s complete and utter nonsense.

Still, the point is that this isn’t quite “no compromises” as far as productivity goes.

Unique Use-Cases for a Tiny Laptop: Writing, Editing, and More

So why do I insist on writing this GPD Win Max review about productivity?

The answer is that having a small device like this liberates you when it comes to work.

For me at least, the GPD Win Max is to productivity, what the Nintendo Switch is to gaming. What I mean by that, is that it creates opportunities for work that weren’t there previously. And more importantly to me: it makes work feel less like work.

The GPD Win Max is to productivity, what the Nintendo Switch is to gaming.

I love writing. I especially love writing for The Bioneer. Writing articles like this has become my job, but it’s also my passion. Which is to say that, after a busy day working for other people, I would very happily relax on the couch with a mug of tea and do some more work on the site.

The problem? It feels like a chore! To do this, I’d have to boot up my Dell XPS 15, sit it on my lap, and have it almost completely envelop my senses. It wouldn’t be very social, either (I tend to relax with my wife in the evening).

GPD Win Max Productivity Tool

The Ideal Lifestyle Design Companion

But with the GPD Win Max, I have something much smaller and easier to work on. I can open the lid, do 10 minutes of typing while the wife makes tea, then close it again. Or I can type away absent mindedly while watching TV. It’s feels more like browsing the web on a mobile phone actually working.

I can put the Win Max under one arm and bring upstairs to bed to do a little typing before I go to sleep. Then I can leave it on the bedside table, in case of flashes of inspiration.

I wouldn’t want to do any of those things with a massive 15” laptop!

Most portable laptop for video editing

If I’m waiting to pick my wife up from trampolining, I can bring the GPD and do some writing in the car.

And I’ve not even touched on the potential benefits for digital nomads!

Why the GPD Win Max vs Other Small Laptops

So, that’s why I love small laptops and it’s why I think more people could benefit from a device like this.

In short: if you are the sort of person who has always wanted to start a side hustle but never seems to have time, an ultraportable PC could change that. For anyone that runs their own online business (like yours truly), it could reinvigorate your progress.

GPD Win Max vs GPD Pocket
The GPD Win Max next to its predecessor: GPD’s first stab at a fully-fledged laptop, the GPD Pocket

Okay, but why this laptop? Why the GPD Win Max versus the GPD P2 Max – which is actually designed to work as a laptop? That would give you a better keyboard, pen input, and a bigger 8.9” display with thinner bezels.

The simple reason? The power!

GPD Win Max Hench Cooling

Thanks to the cooling and the Iris graphics, this thing is not only great for gaming but also video editing. It can even handle 3D game design in Unity. Yes, the screen is a little cramped. But the fact that I can video edit at all without burning a hole in my lap is insanely awesome. Now I can finish off that video without feeling tied to the computer. I could put together an outtake reel for Instagram just because I feel like it. I could work on a programming idea I’ve had to see if it has legs.

The opportunities for creativity increase exponentially.

It changes the very meaning of “upright computing.”

Upright Computing

The built-in analog sticks are also surprisingly handy in this scenario: doubling as mouse controls in a handheld position. This feature was available on the GPD Win 1 & 2 but is far more useful here. That’s thanks both to the larger screen and more sensitive analog sticks (previous models offered far less granular control). You use L2 and R2 as the mouse buttons, while R1 can be used to increase the mouse speed. The left analog stick mimics the WASD keys in this mode (though I’d have preferred it to act as a scroll wheel, as I believe it did for the Win 2).

See also: Online business lessons from my new book: Thriving in the Gig Economy

This is genuinely accurate enough to get real work done. It changes the very meaning of “upright computing!” You can genuinely handle video editing or file management while standing in a queue, or even sitting on a toilet…

(This makes for a total of three different methods for controlling the mouse, seeing as it also has a touchscreen!)

GPD Win Max I/O

More Features

The I/O on here is also nuts. The Win Max has a thunderbolt 3 port (which means you can plug in an external GPU), an additional USB Type-C, and 2 x USB Type-As. PLUS an Ethernet port for faster internet AND a full-sized HDMI 2.0 capable of handling 4k. That means you can plug this thing into an external monitor or TV and use it as a full-blown computer.

Or, thanks to the WiFi 6, I could stream my big computer upstairs!

It’s perfect for grabbing files off of a camera when filming in the middle of nowhere (something I have done). Or use it to record audio on location through Audacity (again, something I have done).

It’s perfect for grabbing files off of a camera when you’re filming in the middle of nowhere.

The bigger battery/batteries on the GPD Win Max is another big selling point for me. It will only manage around 2 hours of heavy gaming or video editing. But if you turn the TDP down and lower the brightness for some word processing, you can manage closer to 8-10 hours. The versatility is off the charts.

GPD Win Max Review: Conclusion

You may be reading this GPD Win Max review still thinking I’m crazy. Why not just get a laptop?

And if you feel that way, that’s fine. I get it.

GPD Win Max and Batman

But if anything I’ve said here resonates with you, then I wouldn’t hesitate to invest in something like this. If you’re a creative, then having powerful creative tools with you wherever you go is an amazing advantage.  

I love having a single device I can bring with me everywhere, with access to all my ideas and projects. The fact that I can also play my entire back catalogue of games is just a nice added bonus.

Honestly, I could be locked in a room with this thing for years and I don’t think I’d ever get bored.

Sure, it’s a little fiddly. Aspects such as the keyboard could have been done better. And it’s expensive for such a niche product (between £600-£850).

But there’s also nothing else like this little guy. And if you’re looking for a way to fit creative work around your day, I don’t think there’s anything better.

GPD Win Max Review Bioneer

So that concludes my GPD Win Max review for productivity. What do you think about ultra-mobile PCs? Will you be picking one up?

What unexpected devices do you find to be surprisingly good at productivity?

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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