With tech advances making gadgets increasingly capable (and more affordable), there’s never been a better time to be a so-called “digital nomad.”
Personally, I cringe at the “digital nomad” term, but I can’t deny that it quite succinctly sums up people like me, who only needs solid internet connection and a digital device to do work. In the past year I’ve written articles under every circumstances imaginable: on a proper desktop computer at home; on a Chinese budget 2-in-1 tablet at the airport; on an iPad while standing in line to enter an event at MWC; on a smartphone while sitting at the beach in Phuket on Christmas Day (it was a breaking leak that needed to be posted ASAP); and right now — on a comically tiny laptop over brunch.
People gave me some weird looks when I pulled out the device.
This petite device is the GPD Pocket, a fully functional clamshell style Windows 10 laptop that measures about 7.1 X 4.3-inches in width and length, and about 0.8-inches thick. That’s only a tad larger than some phablets, or roughly the same size as my girlfriend’s clutch. Like its name implies, the device can indeed fit inside my pant pocket.
GPD, which stands for Game Pad Digital, is a small Shenzhen-based company that has released a series of mobile gaming devices, and in terms of physical build, the GDP Pocket doesn’t stray too far from the company’s previous device, the Win. The Pocket, however, is the company’s first laptop and thus has a full QWERTY keyboard in place of what used to be gaming buttons and D-pads.
With an all aluminum body, a sturdy clamshell hinge that opens up to almost 190-degrees and a 1080-p screen, the hardware and overall build quality is top notch, and the specs under the hood are solid too. The Pocket has an Intel Atom X7 Z8750 chipset on 8GB of RAM. The former is decent — the Atom chipset is for mid-tier devices — but the latter is impressive, considering that even new iPads and MacBooks, as well as some Microsoft Surface Books, don’t have 8GB of RAM.
The GPD Pocket can handle multiple apps at once without problems.
Basic laptop functions like word processing and watching videos operated flawlessly, and the device even handled several games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne and Dinosaur Assassin without a hitch, albeit the framerate stutters from time to time and the Pocket’s fan gets really loud.
With a device this small, GPD obviously couldn’t implement a trackpad into the device. Instead there’s a “pointing stick,” aka those rubber nubs that are found on ThinkPad devices. The nub here on the Pocket works surprisingly well — I’m able to navigate around with the mouse arrow somewhat accurately and quickly. Besides, the Pocket’s display is a touch screen, so you can scroll and tap to move around anyway. But because Windows 10 wasn’t meant to be used on a screen this small, some icons , particularly the “X” at the upper right corner of web browsers or the Windows Start Menu icon on the lower left corner are quite hard to hit accurately with my finger.
The touchscreen on the Pocket is responsive, but a lot of icons are very small and thus hard to hit accurately.
Now, onto the bad news, and a pretty major one at that. The keyboard is just a bit too cramped (the device only measures about 7-inches across) for typing comfortably or accurately. On typingtest.com’s Aesop test, I managed to score only 41-words-per-minute (adjusted for errorenous words) on the Pocket, and this is after four days of use to get used to the keyboard. I took the same test with Apple’s iPad Pro keyboard case (not even a real keyboard), and I scored 106-words-per-minute. Check out the (sped up) video below if you want to see the typing test in action.
Now to be fair, the Pocket is tough for me to type on because I am a fast typer who types by touch. If you type with your index fingers only and have to look at the keyboard as you type, then the Pocket’s keyboard won’t affect you much. Perhaps the most damning thing I can say about the Pocket’s keyboard is this: I couldn’t finish this article working on it. About two paragraphs up I changed to my smartphone.
The keyboard is just a bit too cramped; but the pointing stick works fine.
You do get a lot of ports.
I can solve the keyboard problem by using an external keyboard over Bluetooth or USB connection — the Pocket, impressively, has most major ports (USB-C for charging, data transfer and display output; a standard USB-A 3.0, and Micro-HDMI) and can even handle display output to a full 30-inch monitor — but needing to carry an extra accessory would defeat the purpose of using the “world’s smallest laptop,” right?
I do see some scenarios where the Pocket can come in handy though. Its size and solid 1080p display make for a good media consumption device; if you rarely do word processing, then the one flaw of the Pocket isn’t a big deal. Often times I try to use a laptop on a plane only for the person sitting in front of me to recline their seat back, making the laptop fit nearly impossible. With the Pocket, that shouldn’t be a problem.
But with a MSRP of more than $550 — though Gearbest has it right now for HK$3887/US$496 — the Pocket isn’t cheap. You can get some really solid Chinese laptops for less, and you wouldn’t have problems typing on those.