The Alldocube Thinker i35 is a surprising laptop, showing that Chinese manufacturers are bold enough to try new things. The combination of a Core m3 CPU and a 6-megapixel display is lethal, at least for the competition.
- Stunning display
- Powerful graphics subsystem
- Great price
- Poor battery life
- No HDMI port or card reader
- Keyboard not backlit
- SSD is SATA3
The last time we reviewed a product from Alldocube (formerly known as Cube), we noted that the iWork 1X 2-in-1 tablet PC in question was an average performer but with a shockingly low price. At the time of the review, it was the cheapest Windows convertible device to offer 4GB of RAM and 64GB on-board storage until it was discontinued.
But with the Thinker i35, the Chinese startup is aiming higher with components, build quality and a price tag that are squarely aimed at the more lucrative mid-market segment.
The Thinker i35 reminds us of a more posh version of the Chuwi LapBook 12.3. Alldocube’s designers opted for a magnesium alloy for the laptop’s chassis; open it up and you will come face to face with a massive 13.5-inch LCD panel, the same as Microsoft’s Surface Book.
It is a touchscreen model with a 3000 x 2000 resolution, the highest on any non-branded laptop we’ve tested to date, quite a feat given the relative anonymity of Alldocube. Pushing almost triple the amount of pixels of a Full HD panel is likely to mean the on-board graphics subsystem will suffer.
What makes the laptop a bit more peculiar is its 3:2 aspect ratio, which means that vertically, it almost matches the resolution of a 4K display (2K vs 2.16K pixels). You end up with a squarer shape than a traditional widescreen, of course, with the display and the surrounding black bezels covered with glass, looking a lot like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
That translates into a larger-than-average footprint. At 313 x 237 x 14mm and with a weight of just under 1.7kg, this notebook is chunkier than we’d expect. ‘Dense’ is the word we’d use to describe what one might feel when lifting this model up, partly due to the full-metal body.
The screen is a touch model which explains why the display is so reflective. Other than the Thinker logo on the outside of the display panel, there’s no allusion to the Alldocube brand anywhere on the i35’s chassis. The dual speakers are located underneath (or behind) the long hinge that welds the panel to the base unit.
There’s one USB 3.0 port on each side with a Type-C connector available as well (plus an audio connector). The USB Type-C connector can be used for charging and for display/data as well. There’s no HDMI connector or card reader, an aspirational move more in line with Apple’s minimalist approach than Microsoft’s.
Note that there are no fans as the entire underside of the laptop acts as a heatsink, although Alldocube has positioned four rubber feet on the bottom to elevate the base and facilitate air circulation.
The fully laminated IPS display remains the star of the show: it is bright, and jaw-dropping in all its crispiness – thanks to a high pixel density (267ppi) – plus it’s great at color reproduction. As expected, it supports the Microsoft Surface Pen N-Trig since it shares the same digitizer technology as the Surface Book.
However, six million pixels requires a significant amount of graphics firepower and that’s the reason why something a bit beefier than the usual Pentium CPU was adopted. Behold the Intel Core m3-7Y30, a processor that carries a $281 suggested retail price, and packs an Intel HD Graphics 615 video subsystem.
There’s also 8GB of system RAM (low power DDR3) and a 256GB SSD, albeit a SATA3 model rather than PCIe. Wireless connectivity (Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi) is handled by another Intel chip, the Wireless-AC 3165, and there’s a 2-megapixel camera on the top bezel, located between two microphones.
The 50Whr battery is powered by a 12V/3A (white) power supply unit. It would have been great if the latter was designed as a monoblock, similar to the Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro.
Usage and performance
The i35 was never going to perform as well as a fully-fledged Core i3 or Core i5 powered notebook. The fact that it uses a PixelSense display means that some compromises had to be made when it came to the choice of components: for example, there aren’t a lot of processors with a powerful graphics subsystem and a low power consumption.
The fact that this laptop employs a SATA SSD, as well, weighed down some of the benchmarks we tested the i35 on. All in all though, it should be powerful enough for office productivity tasks. Just be careful about the battery life since six million pixels will eat through the battery fairly quickly.
We managed 3 hours 34 minutes in our standard count-up YouTube video test, not the most gruelling of benchmarks, but one that nonetheless requires Wi-Fi connectivity and pushes brightness to 100%. Decreasing the screen resolution and the brightness will definitely help eke out more longevity.
The keyboard is not backlit and provides decent feedback with the right level of spring and travel. The power button is located on the keyboard, just below the backspace key, with three tiny status lights placed above the F2 and F3 function keys.
We loved the touchpad: it is tall enough, making full use of the extra width provided by the 3:2 aspect ratio screen, plus single and multi-finger gestures work great with no lag detected. Note that the touchpad integrates a fingerprint reader which does come in handy.
Using the stylus with the i35 was a doddle but bear in mind that this is not a convertible device, which means that you won’t be able to draw properly on the screen unless you hold it firmly (or put something behind it to stop the display from wobbling).
There isn’t any real competition to the i35. The Surface Book costs several times more than the Thinker, and the Chuwi Hi13, a potential rival, suffers from an underwhelming set of components (Celeron CPU, eMMC storage, only 4GB of RAM). The same weaknesses afflict Chuwi’s LapBook 12.3, another entry-level laptop with a 3:2 aspect ratio.
To put it succinctly, we have yet to find a laptop that is portable with a high screen resolution and a low price tag. The Asus ZenBook UX510UW and the Microsoft Surface Laptop remain our recommended choices for those looking for a safer UK-based option.
Why would you go for the i35? Well, if you want to embrace the sort of experience that the Surface Book delivers, then the Alldocube Thinker deserves a chance. The real question is whether customers will be ready to fork out £450 ($590) for this Chinese-sold notebook – and potentially around £550 ($720) if they’re stung by import fees.