The X5 Pro is, on paper, a fantastic product pitched at a hard-to-believe price. However, a great device is more than the sum of its parts, and this 2-in-1 sadly lacks some of the finesse you get with the big-hitting Tier-1 manufacturers.
- Great value for money
- Top-notch performance
- Superb screen
- Touchpad should be better
- Aftersales likely to be an issue
It was only a matter of time before Chinese vendors decided to go upstream towards more lucrative market segments where profit margins are higher.
What started as a flood of cheap knockoffs has gradually transformed into a steady stream of better quality products that tend to get their inspiration from Microsoft instead of Google or Apple.
Chinese vendors are now bolder and they no longer hesitate to take on the big names with expensive, high-end products. The Xiaomi Air 12 is one of many devices that have attempted to carve a niche at the top-end of the market with mixed results.
But that won’t prevent others, like Teclast, trying something. This little-known manufacturer impressed us earlier this year with the Tbook 16 Power which took on the Surface 3, delivering a convincing performance at a fraction of the price of its rival.
But the Tbook 16 Power is not the top of the range model from the company – that badge of honour belongs to the X5 Pro, a Kaby Lake-toting tablet that goes head-to-head with another Microsoft device, the Surface Pro 4.
However, at £474 (around $585, AU$760) at the time of writing at Gearbest, this 2-in-1 is not cheap, and the price tag may give you pause for thought (that said, we’ve seen it available for as low as £380 – around $470, AU$605 – during one of the retailer’s numerous flash sales).
These costs are exclusive of any taxes that may be levied by HMRC or the courier companies on behalf of the vendor. Want to buy tech from online Chinese retailers? Read this first.
A quick look at what Microsoft offers shows that the cheapest Surface Pro 4 costs around 60% more with a worse set of components – although it does come with a free Surface pen and Windows 10 Pro.
The X5 Pro embraces a tried-and-trusted design, one made popular by Microsoft: it’s a large slab of glass and metal.
You get a massive 12.2-inch display with a thick black frame, and a Windows logo that betrays its origins, while the rear of the device consists of a magnesium alloy enclosure with a kickstand that opens at up to 90 degrees (in 22.5-degree steps).
Like the Surface, the edges of the device are slightly tapered, which helps stability when held in your hand or placed on a surface.
The power button is located on one edge of the tablet; next to it on the shorter edge there’s a volume rocker, an audio port and a microUSB port.
The latter is the odd one out. It is electrically active and we managed to successfully read a microSD card using an adaptor, but couldn’t charge a phone. It cannot be used to charge the laptop.
The keyboard connector is located on the other longer edge with a proprietary power connector, a mini-HDMI port, a full-size USB port and a USB Type-C connector.
There’s a front-facing 2-megapixel camera and a rear 5-megapixel one. All in all, it feels solid and very well made – the choice of magnesium alloy for the chassis makes sense since it is light, scratch-resistant and an excellent heat conductor.
Our sample also came with a type cover, an almost perfect copy of the one that accompanies the Surface Pro 4, an active stylus and a 24W (12v, 2A) power supply unit. The proprietary keyboard, which is magnetically docked, costs £34 (around $42, AU$55) while the active stylus pen retails for £12 (around $15, AU$20).
The X5 Pro is powered by an Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor which has a 1GHz base speed and can turbo up to 2.6GHz on demand. Based on the Kaby Lake architecture, it has two cores and four threads, and reaches a TDP of only 4.5W in normal usage.
Unlike entry-level processors, the 7Y30 offers two memory channels which should improve memory bandwidth. The integrated graphics have been beefed up as well with the 24 EU (Execution Units) of the HD Graphics 615 hitting anywhere between 300MHz and 900MHz.
The GPU is powerful enough to drive three separate displays including the one that comes with the tablet, a 12.2-inch IPS screen that boasts 1920 x 1200 pixels, a slightly unconventional 16:10 aspect ratio.
The rest of the specification includes 8GB of RAM (dual-channel LPDDR3), a 240GB SSD (M.2) from Forsee, an Intel Wireless-AC 3165 Wi-Fi module with Bluetooth 4.2, a microSD card slot (located under the stand) and a 38Whr battery.
Note that there are two speakers (located near the hinges of the kickstand) and a microphone. Don’t expect any miracles from the speakers, although the sound was average (and undistorted) on maximum volume. It did sound muddled at times though, lacking clarity.
The tablet on its own is a tad smaller than an A4 sheet (299 x 202mm) and is only 8mm thick with a weight of 911g. Adding the keyboard cover bumps that up a fair bit, though.
Surface-like detachable models are perfectly usable when you have a flat surface (which is usually how they’re depicted in adverts, by the way), but using them like a laptop (i.e. actually on your lap) is best described as an awkward experience, not least because of the discomfort caused by the kickstand.
If you can live with that, the Teclast X5 Pro is a perfectly capable computer. The hardware shines brightly (as does the screen) and this device is even faster than the Xiaomi Air 12 (which itself was no slouch). The benchmark results (below) leave no doubt as to how powerful this convertible tablet is.
Battery life was more than decent with the X5 Pro hitting about 5 hours 20 minutes playing a count-up timer on YouTube with brightness set on 50%.
The keyboard cover is a good compromise between the basic models that are usually bundled with entry-level tablet convertibles, and the beefier (and more feature-laden) ones that accompany higher-end models.
The keys are surprisingly springy and provide a nice bit of ‘oomph’ for your typing experience, especially with big Shift keys and reasonably-sized function keys. The touchpad was a completely different story though – in fact, it almost seems like an afterthought.
The keyboard attachment of the X5 Pro is based on the Microsoft Surface Type Cover. The Surface tablet itself has a 3:2 aspect ratio and is therefore less rectangular than the X5 Pro and its 16:10 ratio.
That translates into a smaller available space for the touchpad. As such, this input peripheral felt cramped, with a lack of adequate feedback from the left-click area being a major downer.
When you spend the best part of £500 (around $620, AU$800) on a tablet, you expect near perfection when it comes to the delivery. The Teclast X5 Pro is battling against some serious competition at this level: the Core-M-powered HP Pavilion x2 12-b100na costs far less (£449 – around $550, AU$715 – at the time of writing) and includes a keyboard and an active pen.
It’s the same story for the Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700 (£599.99 at the time of writing – around $740, AU$960) which comes with a 3D camera and a keyboard case. Sure, the hardware specifications of both are sub-par compared to the X5 Pro but they are both backed by global, recognised brands (Dell stopped selling detachable 2-in-1 tablets, opting instead for Yoga-like models).
That said, there’s a lot to love about the X5 Pro. It is good value for money and delivers the sort of performance we’d expect from a mid-to-high-end Core M device.
But there are also a few things that irritate, the touchpad being the biggest culprit here. For the end user, the default Chinese Windows 10 installation is a no-no and while it can be easily resolved, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.