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.