Products may evolve over time due to parts becoming phased out (EOL), so company often issues PCN (product change notices) to the company for example to replace eMMC flash that’s not manufactured anymore by a new one. They won’t change any advertised features, so the product specifications should remain the same. Reviewers normally get product from one of the first batch of production, and if you purchase the product a few months later, after carefully reading reviews, you may end up with a device slightly different.
But in some cases, the company makes major changes, while still delivering the same advertised hardware specifications. That’s apparently the case for CHUWI LapBook 14.1 laptop. The photo below shows how it looked internally for the sample I reviewed.
If you zoom on the photo, you’ll find an M.2 slot on the bottom of the right PCB, potentially allowing you to add an SSD internally. At the time, I could also install Ubuntu 17.04 to the eMMC flash. None of those features (M.2 SSD and Linux) were officially supported by the company.
I installed Ubuntu on February 2017, and I had recommended this $250 laptop as a decent inexpensive Linux laptop. But in May, I started to get reports that Linux would not find the eMMC flash. Several people had the same experience even after following the same instructions. So it was likely the company just changed the part.
But at the end of September, I had another person telling me the M.2 slot was gone too, and the company dramatically changed the hardware design with new batteries, motherboard, and so on, as shown in the photo below. The shell looks exactly the same, and connectors are placed at the same location, so I’d assume this is indeed the same model.
Beside the different eMMC flash, missing M.2 slot, and completely different motherboard, he also pointed out other differences / issues in the model he bought in GearBest (the same seller I got my sample from):
- Keyboard issues for some keys that need to be pressed harder.
- Battery changed, and issue with charge controller, so the battery is not usable below 20% charge level
- Different BIOS with few options
- Doesn’t run Linux without considerable effort. systemd-boot worked on Arch. It can’t boot Ubuntu boot disk (without isorespin.sh/refind see below)
- The USB touchpad replaced with a cheaper I2C touchpad, not working in Linux. (He wrote his own driver for it to make it work).
Some of the changes are confirmed in one of the customer reviews on GearBest (Search for user BearGest):
- No m2 slot in 3rd revision
- Linux users need to use isorespin.sh to replace grub with a compatible bootloader \’refind\’.
- Touchpad not supported yet in latest Linux Kernel
Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.
A silent respeccing of a decent product into a lower grade one. Yay!
Maybe the only reasonable way to deal with the ‘buy always as cheap as possible’ target audience? Better specced first batch for good reviews then adjust BOM costs accordingly to retail price?
It surely is a cunning business plan (works great in the food industry!), I just wonder how well consumers will take it..
Well, in this case some things that changed were neither part of specs nor advertised (Linux and M.2 slot) so consumers hopefully differentiate who’s to blame (manufacturer or themselves for making naive assumptions). And IMO no one can help consumers anway who buy laptops online if there exists not a ‘no questions asked’ return/refund policy.
I have to say I’m really surprised at the complete hardware redesign. Changing a few components here and there is likely common in many products, but it’s like a different product.
Not directly related, but CHUWI has often touted “upcoming” Ubuntu/Linux version, but it never came out. It helps them getting more coverage on Linux related websites…
I received my Chuwi 14.1 LapBook two weeks ago. I wanted to mount a m.2 SSD 2280, but after installing Win10 clean iso I had no problem with disk speed.
my BIOS has less options than I saw in Chuwi forum helpdesk.
youtube information: display size is 1536×864 maybe because of Windows 125% font size!?
anyway I need this LapBook for streaming or 2nd screen.
190€ good invest!
Is it a case of cloth cut to reflect lower sales or part price rises.
Thank you for posting this article!
@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft), this is an important revelation to Linux ppl out there looking to buy a budget laptop to run Linux.
Chuwi lost all such buyers i guess. This article needs more promo!
Typical ploy. Even the biggies like ASUS do this. ASUS selectively releases a Zenfone model with decent hardware and a low price so it gets great reviews. Then a couple of months later the very same model Zenfone shows up in my country but you realize the SoC is slower, there’s less memory, and/or the display is lower resolution, but the price is unchanged.
I took delivery of a Jumper EZBook 3 pro recently, it came with the intel ac3165 wifi, Samsung CJNB4R, IPS fullHD. I was pretty impressed with the build quality.