Chuwi is a smaller Chinese laptop maker that offers a couple of different
budget laptops and ultrabooks, mostly in the $250 to $400 price segments. We’ve partnered with them to announce their new products when available, but I wanted to properly review their laptops as well, so I could share my in-depth impressions with you.
That brings us to this article, a detailed review of the Chuwi LarkBook, which is a 13-inch ultrabook selling for $399 as of early 2021. Chuwi sent this to us about a month ago, I’ve been using it ever since, and I’ve gathered my thoughts about it down below.
In just a few words, this LarkBook punches above its weight in terms of design, construction, screen, audio, and even inputs, but is motorized by an older lower-power Intel platform, so it can only handle lightweight use, such as casual browsing, text-editing and video streaming. It also gets a fairly small battery by today’s standards, as well as a non-backlit keyboard, all these being the tradeoffs you’d have to accept when going with this sort of a computer for less than $400.
Disclaimer: Chuwi sent us this laptop for review, and they also sponsor our news announcements when they launch a new product. However, this article is not sponsored in any way, it includes my complete and honest opinions about the product, and Chuwi do not get any saying in what I’m sharing with you here, just like with every other review on the site. Just to me things perfectly clear!
Specs as reviewed
Chuwi LarkBook ultrabook
Display 13.3-inch, 16:9 format, touch, glossy
FHD 1920 x 1080 px IPS 60 Hz, 90+% sRGB, 250-nits
Processor Intel Celeron N4120, 4C/4T
Video AMD Radeon Vega + Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q 35W 4 GB GDDR6 – with ActiveSync (??)
Memory 8 GB LPDDR4 2133 MHz (soldered)
Storage 256 GB SSD (Kingston RBUSNS8180S3256GJ), 2x M.2 2280 mSATA slots
Connectivity Wireless 5 (Qualcomm Atheros QCA9377) 2×2, Bluetooth 4.1
Ports 1x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C 3.1 gen2 with data, DP 1.4 and charging, mini HDMI, micro SD card-reader, headphone/mic
Battery 33 Wh, 24 W barrel-plug power adapter, USB-C charging support
Size 307 mm or 12.08” (w) x 201 mm or 7.91” (d) x ~14 mm or .55” (h)
Weight 1.08 kg (2.4 lbs) + .13 kg (.29 lbs) for the charger
Extras non-backlit keyboard, HD webcam and stereo mics, quad speakers
Design and first look
Aluminum is used for this laptop’s entire construction, and it feels and looks a lot more premium than I would have expected from this price class. There’s no give or flex or squeaky noises anywhere in this LarkBook’s chassis, and the matte finishing feels very nice to the touch.
It also does a good job at fending off scratches and smudges, in this darker gray color. The beveled edges will show of some marks and dents over time, especially from your watch buckle, if you’re like me and keep your watch on all the time.
Branding is also kept at a very minimum here, with just a small Chuwi logo on the lid and a DTS logo on the arm-rest. They did place the status LED’s under the screen, which I’m not a fan of, but they’re blue and dim and hardly visible even when watching movies in a dark room.
Design and build aside, I find this to be a practical laptop. Chuwi put some small rubber feet on the bottom, which provide a good grip on the desk. They also put a nudge on the screen so you can easily pick it up, but you’ll need both of your hands to do it, as the hinges are fairly stiff, at least on this new product. They do keep the screen well in place and make sure the display doesn’t wobble with everyday use.
BTW, the display goes all the way back flat, something I truly care for in a portable laptop, and is covered by a layer of protective glass, but it doesn’t support touch.
One more aspect I should mention here is that the beveled aluminum edges are a bit sharp for my liking, and can be aggressive on the wrist in certain conditions. Didn’t bother me much though, as the laptop’s very slim profile surely helps the overall user experience.
Speaking of, this LarkBook is compact, slim, and lightweight for an all-metal device with this sort of build quality. It’s helped by the fact that there’s only a small battery inside, though.
As for the IO, you’ll find two USB-A slots on the side, an USB-C with data, video, and charging, a microSD card reader, and a mini-HDMI port, as well as an audio jack. The laptop charges via a standard barrel-plug charger, with the DC-IN connector on the left side, but it also supports USB-C charging. I noticed NBC’s review claims this doesn’t’ charge via USB-C, but my unit charges just fine.
Keyboard and trackpad
If you can look past the fact that you’re not getting a backlit keyboard here, the inputs on this LarkBook can rival the ones on much more expensive laptops.
Chuwi went with a standard full-size layout and a solid typer, with the right amount of travel, surprisingly good feedback, and quiet clicks. It’s weird though that the letters are not centered on the keycaps, but only slightly aligned towards the left side, and also not a fan of the Power button being placed in the top-right corner. It’s not stiffer to press than the other keys, and it puts the laptop to sleep by default, so make sure to disable that.
I’ve already typed a couple of thousands of words on this keyboard, and I can say this is better than many other ultrabook keyboards available these days. If I were to find it a match, I’d probably put it close to the keyboards on the 2017-2018 Acer Swift 3s.
It’s not backlit, though, as mentioned already, and that could be a deal-breaker for some of you.
The clickpad is fair-sized and made out of plastic, with a beveled edge around its surface. It’s sturdily made and doesn’t rattle with taps, and it handles everyday swipes, gestures, and taps fine. It does feel a bit slow, though, even when you adjust the speed up in the settings, especially with precision moves. This further adds to the slight impression of sluggishness this laptop leaves with daily use.
As for biometrics, there aren’t any on this laptop.
This is where most budget laptops compromise, but not so much this LarkBook.
Chuwi went with a fine IPS panel with middling brightness levels and contrast, good viewing angles, and 90+% sRGB colors in our tests.
There’s no touch support, and the panel is covered with glass, so reflections and glare will be an issue in brighter environments, but for indoor use, this is a good screen in a $400 laptop.
Here’s what we got in our tests,
with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
Panel HardwareID: Unkown manufacturer, code M133X56 ;
Coverage: 89.3% sRGB, 65.3% AdobeRGB, 71.2% DCI-P3;
Measured gamma: 2.18;
Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 234.02 cd/m2 on power;
Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 6.52 cd/m2 on power;
Contrast at max brightness: 816:1;
White point: 7200 K;
Black on max brightness: 0.28 cd/m2;
PWM: Yes, 1 KHz.
Calibration is required in order to address the blue-tilted out-of-the-box White point. Once calibrated, we end up with a uniformly lit/colored panel, but the process takes a significant toll on the maximum brightness, which ends up at sub-200-nits.
PWM is used for brightness modulation at anything less than 100% brightness on this panel, but at a frequency of 1 KHz (
source), above what most people would consider bothering. I didn’t notice any flickering during my time with the laptop, but I’m generally not sensitive to flickering anyway.
Hardware and everyday-use experience
The Chuwi LarkBook is built on an Intel Celeron N4120 processor, with 8 GB of LPDDR4 memory and 256 GB of SATA SSD storage out of the box.
The Celeron processor is pretty much this laptop’s Achilles heel, as it’s a slow performer for a Windows laptop these days. It’s 4C/4T, but is designed with efficiency in mind and runs at reduced power compared to the beefier Intel Core processors of later years. As a result, this LarkBook is only alright for basic casual use, such as light browsing with a couple of active tabs, music/video streaming, text-editing, email, and the likes. Just make sure you’re keeping multitasking at bay and don’t mind a somewhat feeling of sluggishness, as your actions do not happen instantaneously on this sort of hardware.
Now, I’m surely biased here, as I’m used to much faster laptops and have a minuscule tolerance for any kind of lag on my laptop. Even so, I’ve actually used this computer in the past months for watching Netflix and Youtube video, and while it takes a bit to get everything going, the experience is completely satisfying once it does. Even 4K content on Youtube runs fine on my unit, without skipped frames, but come on, why would you watch 4K clips on this anyway? FHD is adequate on a 13-inch screen.
The experience is further helped by the fact that this laptop is passively cooled, so completely quiet. There are no electronic funny-noises on my unit, yet that’s not a guarantee yours will be just as good. Furthermore, the laptop merely gets merely warm with daily use, so temperatures will never be an issue during your time with this little machine.
The speakers are adequate for this class. They get loud at max, at 80+ dB at head-level, but they lack bass and slightly distort at this level, so you’ll want to keep them at around 60% tops, which is fine for daily use.
Chuwi also put a camera on this laptop, at the top of the screen, where it should be. It’s rather muddy and washed out, but it does what it’s supposed to. The mics are placed on the main chassis, above the keyboard, so make sure not to type during your calls, as these would pick up a lot of the key’s chatter and muffle your voice if you do.
I will add that my unit struggled with poor wireless speeds out of the box, with the default drivers. Chuwi doesn’t have a drivers page for the LarkBook on their site, but you can get in touch with support by email (
) or Facebook/Instagram. It’s not ideal and something they should work on in order to be more trustworthy in the eyes of potential customers, but I was nonetheless referred to a driver that fixed the issues for me. Weirdly, it was an Intel driver, even if the WiFi chip used is reported as a Qualcomm QCA9377. [email protected]
Now, I’m not going to get in-depth on the performance numbers in the same way we do with most of the other laptops tested here, simply because this LarkBook doesn’t stand any chance against the modern platforms available these days. It’s slow, especially when it comes to multi-threaded loads, so don’t get this if you’re planning on running anything else than the very basics on it.
I did put up a couple of benchmarks results for you down below:
PassMark 10: Rating: 955 (CPU mark: 2775, 3D Graphics Mark: 310, Disk Mark: 4461);
CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 227 cb, CPU Single Core 73 cb;
x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 259.35 s.
In comparison, a 10th gen Core i3 is 1.5-2x faster in both single and multi-threaded loads, as well as significantly more capable in terms of graphics.
I will add that Chuwi puts two SSD slots on this laptop, one already populated with a 256 GB mSATA drive, and another easily accessible through the service bay on the back.
Getting to the rest of the components requires taking out the entire back, which is held in place by a bunch of screws, including some hidden under the rear-rubber feet. Chuwi also puts a warranty sticker on all the screws, so overall I wouldn’t open this up, there’s no point in doing it anyway, as everything is soldered.
There’s only a 34 Wh battery side this laptop, small by today’s standards on a 13-incher, so even if paired with the efficient hardware, there’s only so much you can squeeze out of it.
Here’s what we got on our review unit in terms of battery life, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~70 brightness).
7 W (~4-5 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
5.5 W (~6 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
5 W (~6+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
9 W (~2-4 h of use) – browsing in Edge, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON.
Chuwi bundles the laptop with a compact 24W charger that plugs-in via a barrel-plug input on the right side. The laptop takes a long time to charge, around 2 hours, despite the small battery.
USB-C charging is also possible via the USB-C slot on the left edge.
Price and availability
The LarkBook is currently available
on Chuwi’s webstore for $399, in the exact variant tested here. It sometimes goes for less, with occasional discounts.
Chuwi also sell their products
on Amazon, but this newer laptop is not yet listed there.
As far as I can tell, they either ship their products from China or from localized warehouses in Europe (Spain?)/UK/US. Make sure you’re asking where this comes from, as you might have to pay import taxes if it ships from China. Shipping is free for orders above $150, via DHL/UPS, and you can pay via card or PayPal. I don’t normally add these details in our reviews because you can find those other products locally, but not in this case.
The laptop comes with 1 year warranty. Chuwi’s website says you will have to ship this out to their logistic centers in Spain/Hong Kong for any repairs, and the costs are on you, the potential buyer. This needs to change, they should at least support the shipping costs if the product ends-up failing within this 1 year period. I’d be reluctant to buy from them otherwise, especially in this part of Europe where we’re used to 2 years of default warranty and the 14-30 days right to send the product back no-questions-asked, if not satisfactory.
Having used this laptop for the last couple of weeks, I feel that this rather unbalanced mix of features ends-up making the LarkBook only suitable for a tight niche of potential buyers: those of you who put a major price on how your laptop looks and feels with daily use, but don’t have a lot to spend for and don’t expect much in terms of performance or even battery life.
And that because this notebook punches way above its class in terms of construction quality, choice in materials, and design, while not compromising on the screen or inputs either. However, it’s only built on a Gemini Lake-R Intel platform, the kind it can barely handle basic-chores in a Windows laptop, and that’s why there’s only so much you can do with it: light browsing, music/video streaming, text-editing, and little multitasking.
Furthermore, with only a 34 Wh battery inside, this LarkBook will only last for 3-4 hours of daily use and 5-7 hours of video, which might suffice for some of you, but might also not for others.
Now, all these are available for $399 on Chuwi’s website, which is a competitive price for a brand new laptop of this kind, even with the lack in the performance and battery life. It’s unclear to me whether that’s the final price I would have to pay though, and whether there would be extra import taxes. The site says the laptop comes in with DHL, and I know they take care of all the import taxes at the destination, so you might end up paying more for this.
Furthermore, I think Chuwi should work on their Support, Drivers, and Warranty pages and make the information clearer for potential buyers, especially the part about having to send the product to a different country if it breaks during the 1 year warranty period, and who’s supposed to handle the charges for it. All these combined act as a warning for someone like me used to the much clearer and friendlier shopping conditions here in Europe. Of course, all these won’t matter as much if you end up buying the laptop on Amazon or another trust-worthy local store, but so far the LarkBook is not available there.
That’s about it for this article. I feel that the LarkBook is an interesting choice at $399, as long as you care about a nice compact laptop that you only plan to use casually. It would be more competitive with snappier hardware, though, and I also think Chuwi need to refine the shopping experience on their website in order to earn the trust of potential buyers looking into their products. What do you think?
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Andrei Girbea Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief
. I've a Bachelor's in Computer Engineering and I've been covering mobile technology since the 2000s. You'll mostly find reviews and thorough guides written by me here on the site, as well as some occasional first-impression articles.
February 2, 2021 at 10:09 pm
Ya… this seems updated/sexier version of the Apollo Lake-based Chuwi LapBook 12.3 I purchased about 4 years ago – albeit for only $330 from GearBest. The LapBook has similar premium materials and build quality plus excellent IPS panel. Slightly better battery life – probably because of just standard Intel Graphics. Absolutely zero problems with the LapBook and, for what it is, I remain very satisfied with it even today. But agree Chuwi's nearly non-existent technical support is a concern/issue/risk… and for that reason I'm leery of spending much more than $300 for Chuwi kit.
February 3, 2021 at 10:29 am
Thanks for the feedback. I'm trying to pass this back to them as well, the fact that they need to further improve their site and their support/post-sale services.
November 28, 2021 at 2:11 pm
I bought surbook mini a few years ago. I was quite satisfied (notably by overall build quality and screen) except the little misadventure I had when tablet dropped from bed to flour and screen glass broke.
Recently I tried to change the top but it got worse, as it completely broke it.
So I recycled the motherboard to make it a small fanless mini PC which I'm still using.
Regarding the tested unit, they released a newer model LarkBook X, with improved hardware based on N5100 CPU.
With regret they still use jack as main charging means (you can use USB-C but I find it absurd including depreacted jack charger nowdays).
BTW, it is advertised 40W charging which I presume should be faster than you unit?
N5100 is probably the best improvement (even if N6000 would have even been better).
Do you think these improvements will be enough to overcome the weakness you noticed on this model?
November 28, 2021 at 3:03 pm
I haven't tested the updated LarkBook X, but the upgraded hardware and battery should address some of my complaints with this older model. Don't expect much in terms of multitasking performance, though, with the Jasper lake N5100. Also, the X goes in a price segment where you could also find more powerful options from previous years, if you're willing to sacrifice somewhat on built quality and design. So its worth it would depend on your specific needs.
November 28, 2021 at 4:58 pm
Thanks for your useful advice. After seeing recent YT video test, just ordered it today from EU warehouse (Spain).
I hesitated a bit because, as you said the price can offer better performance..
I thought my main usage would be chromebook like (movies, light tasks and remote desktop)
so important criteria were good screen and quietness (fanless design as my previous surbook mini).
I'm also planning to use it later in combination with a more powerfull miniPC (something in 15-30W TDP range) so I can run some games and more demanding apps remotely.
Decent wifi connection will be required, so I will pay attention to drivers as you mentionned some troubles.
Regarding warranty… this is also somehting to consider I agree.
Based on my previous experience with chuwi surbook mini, if it wasn't for the screen which broke too easily to my taste, I kept a positive opinion of the overall build quality.
November 28, 2021 at 5:02 pm
If you have the time, let me know how you feel about it once it arrives and get to use it for a bit. Curious about your feedback.
November 28, 2021 at 5:08 pm
Yep, will let you know. Hopefully France to Spain delivery time will be reasonable..
December 4, 2021 at 8:05 am
I received my unit yesterday. Very fast delivery from Spain to France (and not the other way as I wrote before).
Right from the start, I noticed some noise in the hinges so for my first impression wasn't particularly reassuring.
But you barely forget it when you start and see the outstanding screen. I knew it was good but didn't expect it to be that good!
This makes me wonder why they chose such an high-end screen on this device, when the rest is unfortunately not as good.
The thing I knew could be a downside, was the limited performance of N5100.
While it is definitely not a powerhouse, surprinsingly this isn't what bothered me most on this device.
I find it decent for lots of tasks such as browsing, movies, which is usually 90% of what we do.
Being annoyed by the hinge noise, I did several open/close until I noticed something that definitely was worth worrying about.
There was a huge (at the point you jump when you hear it), cracking noise in the hinge.
This may be specific to my unit though. But previously hinges was weakest point on previous models. Here they changed the design but obviously issues still remain.
The other thing which gave me a very mitigated impression was touchpad experience.
Contrary to MBP where glide and accuracy are so perfect that you could do without mouse.
Here the experience is quite opposite: the surface feels too grippy, the click too hard and I find it too intolerent. You often accidentally trigger zooming when using 2-3 fingers gestures.
On the other less important downsides I noticed:
– slow charging: although it is supposed to support 40W charge I couldn't reach this .
I got 30W power at most (and this wasn't even pure charging, but while both charging and powering).
When charging only (while device is off), I only got 18W (which is same as my phone..)
– battery life: while not being bad, I would say it is only average especially for an ultra low powered CPU (6W) which you would expect to last longer.
– possible graphics throttling: I'm not sure about it but on some graphics demo I observed framerate drops after some seconds. In the meanwhile it seems CPU immediately switch to lower freq when graphics are used heavily
It seems strange as this doesn't happen when stressing the CPU only which contrary to GPU It is quite able to sustain power . This need to be further investigated as T° on the other hand always remains beyond 70°C so
– connections don't give an impression of great sturdiness: you see USB-C is a bit flimsy and the normal USB too tight, probably not a big deal though.
To conclude, for the reasons I mentionned, unfortunately I won't keep this laptop.
The issue with the hinge is really weird, especially for a device of this price (nearly 400€) that you expect to be exempt from such defect..
Also for my intended usage, touchpad input has to be much better and beyond reproach.
My own view, but afterward I wondered if after all putting twice the price on discounted MB Air M1 for instance wouldn't be more interesting to have similar awesome screen, much more power, impressive battery life, outstanding sound and inputs.
The ability to sell it much more easily later while benefitng from service, warranty…
Nevertheless, I don't think it lacks a lot to this laptop to be near perfect for its price notably if Chuwi
– solved the issue with hinges
– enhanced touchpad experience
– improved connections: removing the jack and adding another usb-c + normal usb
– switched to a slightly more powerfull CPU such as N6000 or even 10W jasper lake with efficient passive cooling to prevent throttling
To keep price low, they could eventually remove touch and maybe lower a bit screen resolution to FHD which is still acceptable on 14".
As final word, the screen once again is really impressive.
It is pleasant to see a Chinese brand offering premium screen on their devices when you see so many other brands still putting lower screen on more expensive device.
I would say they have a solid base to improve upon and I think they can provide near premium experience if they keep on improving on their weak points including service, warranty.
If you get a unit without the hinge defect, if you don't pay too much attention to touchpad, and you can do with limited power, average battery life, I would say this laptop is probably still interesting though.
December 5, 2021 at 10:43 am
Thanks, much appreciated. The craking hinge is problematic.
As for spending more and go up to an MBA, that's put to you. There are however a couple of other options in between, based on your budget. An IdeaPad 5 Pro 14 or a ZenBook 14 OLED might be worth a look, but I'm not sure of the prices over there.
I still find that CHuwi to be pretty good for what it costs (if not for the faulty hinge), although a little unbalanced. As you're saying, they put too much effort into the chassis and screen quality, and as a result, some aspects are compromised, such as the touchpad and hardware.
December 6, 2021 at 11:28 am
Yep I'm not a mac user at all, but given the limited power of the chuwi, I thought it would still be possible to emulate windows or run linux on the MB air and still have better performance + all benefit from apple's hardware (except the screen in 13" which is a bit too short for me).
Regarding the Ideapad 5 Pro, this is indeed the one I'm looking for.
I made an order during BF but canceled it and took Chuwi until I'm decided.
Unfortunately now prices have jumped above 1000€ on Lenovo's website, so will need to wait until they get low again and I can order it…
After using a bit more the Chuwi, I could accomodate a bit with touchpad and in Linux, I find it quite (much) faster than on windows, which makes it definetely usable for everyday tasks.
If there wasn't this hinge issue, I might have kept it…
I would say to Chuwi to keep up on screen quality and build materials, improve the rest, even if price get a bit higher.