Review of the GPD Win Max Mini Gaming Laptop – 7 Things You Need To Look For!

This Review of the GPD Win Max Mini Gaming Laptop will be provided to you today.

Probably the most powerful handheld gaming computer to date is the GPD Win Max.

Considering there haven’t been that many portable gaming PCs in the past…

…and most of the ones that do exist are also made by GPD, it’s an easy claim to make.

The GPD Win Max is far more powerful than anything that has come before.

It is also much larger as well.

Despite the GPD Win Max’s 8-inch display and touch-sensitive keyboard…

…it’s surprisingly small for a laptop. However, you won’t be able to slip it into a pocket.

With the GPD Win Max, you can play PC games on the go.

The built-in game controllers let you comfortably hold the computer…

…in two hands while playing a wide range of games that work with controllers.

You could also theoretically play games that use keyboard and mouse input…

…but the ergonomics would be more challenging.

While the computer does not have discrete graphics…

…it does have an Intel Core i5-1035G7 processor with Iris Plus 940 graphics…

…which is the most powerful integrated GPU Intel offers in mid-2020.

That chip is powerful enough to play many recent PC games…

…when paired with the laptop’s 16GB of RAM, 512GB of PCIe NVMe solid state storage…

…and 8-inch display with 1280 x 800 pixels.

It would be easy to consider the GPD Win Max a general-purpose computer.

This laptop has specs and performance that are sufficient to make it the only laptop you need.

However, the GPD Win Max’s small keyboard…

…and unusual layout can make it hard to use for tasks that require a lot of typing…

…so I’m not so sure I would recommend it as a laptop replacement unless you plan…

…to connect an external keyboard, display, or other accessories.

Furthermore, the two cooling fans on the little computer are quite loud.

It is very much a niche device for people who want to be able to play PC games anywhere.

Additionally, you can watch movies, surf the web, edit documents…

…and do just about anything else you’d do on a computer.

It would be easy to consider the GPD Win Max a general-purpose computer.

This laptop has specs and performance that are sufficient to make it the only laptop you need.

However, the GPD Win Max’s small keyboard and unusual layout can make it hard…

…to use for tasks that require a lot of typing, so I’m not so sure I would recommend it…

…as a laptop replacement unless you plan to connect an external keyboard, display, or other accessories.

Both of the little computer’s cooling fans are quite loud.

It is very much a niche device for people who want to be able to play PC games anywhere.

Additionally, you can watch movies, surf the web, edit documents…

…and do just about anything else you’d do on a computer.

Do you think this mini gaming laptop is worth the price?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been testing a pre-production model that GPD sent me.

I’d like to share some observations with you.

Because I am testing pre-production hardware, this is a preview rather than a review.

There have been a few performance issues…

…but I cannot say at this point whether they will be fixed in the final version…

…of GPD Win Max that will be released this summer.

A few words from Jason…

I like this thing. It has only been in my possession for about a week…

…but so far it has performed as expected. Is it perfect? No.

In case you need a multi-purpose portable gaming/work/school/productivity device…

…this probably isn’t the best option

Let’s jump right in!

Brief History

For years, Chinese device maker GPD has been manufacturing gaming handhelds.

However, they all ran Android until a few years ago.

While the company still offers a few Android-based handhelds…

…it launched its first Windows-based model in 2016.

The original GPD Win had a 5.5-inch touchscreen display with 1280 x 720 pixels…

…a Cherry Trail Atom x7-Z8750 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage.

It came with a QWERTY keyboard designed for thumb typing and built-in game controllers.

GPD Win looked very much like a handheld gaming device…

…but since it ran Windows, you could play PC games on it, as long as they weren’t too demanding.

There is only so much you can do on a computer with an Intel Atom processor,…e

…ven with a relatively low-resolution display.

This lead to GPD launching the Win2 model two years later.

With a larger 6 inch display, a faster processor (Intel Core m3-7Y30 at launch…

…but later upgraded to Core m3-8100Y), 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB M.2 solid state drive…

…the 2nd-gen model could handle games that you wouldn’t be able to play on the original.

However, it was still too small for anything but gaming.

In the meantime, GPD released a parallel line of products that weren’t designed for gaming at all.

The GPD Pocket and GPD Pocket 2 were mini computers with 7-inch displays…

…keyboards that were large enough for touch typing (with a little practice)…

…and cases so small you could fold them up and slide them…

…into your pants pocket (if you wear men’s jeans, anyway).

GPD released its heaviest laptop to date in 2019, the GPD P2 Max.

It weighs 1.4 pounds, has an 8.9 inch display, supports an Intel Core m3-8100Y processor…

…and boasts the best keyboard of any GPD device so far.

The webcam is also the first one on a mini laptop from the company.

However, game controllers are not included.

That brings us to the GPD Win Max. In terms of design…

…the latest computer from GPD resembles a cross between the GPD Win and Pocket/P2 families.

The screen is bigger and the keyboard is larger than any other GPD Win device to date.

In addition to the game controllers, GPD chose the laptop’s processor based on its gaming capabilities.

Still, the keyboard is more cramped than the one on the GPD P2 Max…

…which makes typing a little less comfortable.

The notebook is larger and heavier than the GPD Win 2…

…which could make it more uncomfortable to use for extended gaming sessions.

However, the performance more than compensates for those limitations.

You will have to decide whether it’s worth the $780 and up price tag…

…based on how much you want a gaming PC that can be played on your lap.

Here’s the main part…

Review of the GPD Win Max Mini Gaming Laptop

Review of the GPD Win Max Mini Gaming Laptop

How to Hold

That’s because I think playing games on your lap is the best way…

…to use this computer. It weighs 1.8 pounds, which is pretty light for a laptop.

However, it weighs twice as much as a Nintendo Switch with Joy-cons attached.

Even though you can hold the Win Max with two hands while you play…

…it’s much more comfortable to rest the front of the laptop on your legs or a table while holding the back.

When you slide your hands under the back of the laptop…

…the screen rises a bit and you can place your thumbs over the analog sticks,

D-pad, and X, Y, and A buttons while wrapping your fingers around the rear buttons.

You may hold the Win Max this way primarily to play games…

…but you can also switch the came controllers to mouse mode with a switch on the laptop’s side.

You can move the on-screen cursor using the right analog stick…

…and you can click using the left and right shoulder buttons.

Holding the laptop this way is much more comfortable…

…than stretching your thumbs over to the touchpad or reaching up to touch the display.

However, if you put the computer down on a table, desk, or lap…

…you can use the touchpad (it supports multi-touch gestures for scrolling, right-clicking…

…and other Windows functions) or reach up to tap and swipe the touchscreen display.

On the GPD Win Max, because the touchpad is above the keyboard rather than below it…

…I actually use the touchscreen more than I do on most laptops.

It may be because if I’m going to move my arm forward anyway…

…I might as well go an extra inch or two and touch the screen.

It should be noted that the Win Max is essentially a laptop, not a tablet.

The screen opens to a 180 degree angle, but it does not go any further than that.

The screen can be pushed back as far as it will go while you hold the button like a game controller.

However, I generally find it more comfortable to use the computer in clamshell mode.

You can certainly use the Win Max as a normal laptop computer.

However, you may need to spend some time getting used to the keyboard first.

There are 75 keys on this tiny laptop.

The company however had to shrink a lot of those keys in order to do that…

…and some of those keys are located in unusual places.

The apostrophe, quotation mark, colon, and semicolon keys are located…

…on the right side of the keyboard rather than next to the L key….

…(where they would be found on most keyboards).

Instead of being to the left of the Q, the Tab key is above it.

The tiny Caps lock key is practically attached to the A.

There are only half-height number keys, and they’re all off by about a row from where they should be.

So I often find myself hitting 1 when I mean to type 2, (or ! when I mean to type @).

Above the number keys are a set of Fn keys that are also half-height.

Even after getting used to the location of the number and Fn keys…

…I still have to look at the keyboard occasionally to make sure I’m pressing the correct key.

Therefore, this is not my favorite mini-laptop keyboard.

This computer is easier to type on than the GPD Win or Win 2.

The GPD P2 Max or One Mix 3 Yoga keyboard would be better suited to a laptop the size of the GPD Win Max.

There is a bright (somewhat) side to the GPD Win Max keyboard: it is backlit.

Since the lighting isn’t very intense, you’ll probably only notice this in dark or dimly lit environments.

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Keep reading…

Hardware and Design

Review of the GPD Win Max Mini Gaming Laptop

In addition to its dark grey plastic body…

…the computer has a bronze-colored magnesium-alloy lid…

…that matches the color of the keyboard deck.

While plastic cases may not feel as premium as metal…

…GPD says the Win Max body is made from LG-DOW 121H aviation-grade…

…anti-shock ABS synthetic resin for a thin yet sturdy shell that feels quite nice in the hand.

According to GPD, the material was also chosen for its high temperature resistance…

…since gaming laptops can get quite hot.

GPD put some heavy-duty cooling in the Win Max to prevent the computer…

…from getting too hot and throttling the CPU. However, it is incredibly loud.

On the bottom of the computer is a large air intake vent…

…and on the back of the computer is a smaller air outlet vent.

When the fans inside the PC are spinning, you will feel a strong gust of hot air…

…if you place your hand by the outlet, but you would have to go out of your way…

…since the vent isn’t near the shoulder buttons.

If the computer is idle, you might not notice the fans very much.

Nevertheless, they spin up hard under heavy load and make a loud whirring sound.

Even if you turn the speaker volume up all the way, you may still hear the fans.

You might want to use headphones or external speakers when gaming.

You may get funny looks if you use the Win Max in a library or other quiet place…

…since the fans alone are very loud.

You’ll find most of the ports on the back of the laptop, aside from a vent.

At a time when many larger laptops are dropping legacy ports…

…and going all-in on Thunderbolt 3 and/or USB-C ports…

…the Win Max has a full-sized HDMI 2.0b port (with support for 4K60Hz output)…

…two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a USB 3.1 type-C port…

…and a Thunderbolt 3 port (which means you can use external graphics cards…

…or multiple displays with the Win Max).

There are more ports on the computer’s back, but that’s it.

There is a headphone jack (and a microphone) on the front.

The audio jack is not in the best place, because your headphone adapter may dig…

…into your leg if you’re holding the Win Max on your lap with the back raised…

…(which is the most comfortable way to hold the computer while gaming).

The right side has a microSD card reader and a full-sized Ethernet jack.

While the laptop supports WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0…

…I connected an Ethernet cable one day when copying some large files…

…from a network attached storage device, and it ended up halving the file transfer time.

Is there anything this laptop doesn’t have? Perhaps a fingerprint reader or webcam.

There aren’t a lot of fingerprint readers on laptops yet…

…but they are handy in small devices like the Win Max…

…where logging in with a tap of the finger would be a lot faster…

…than typing in a PIN or password on the computer’s small keyboard.

GPD probably saved a few bucks by omitting a feature…

…that most people didn’t use on their laptops anyway, until recently.

The decision was made before a global pandemic made webcams a hot commodity.

The laptop’s 8-inch display has plenty of space for a camera…

…the bezels around the display have plenty of room for one.

Regarding the display, it’s a 1280 x 800 panel.

There are many other gaming laptops that have 1920 x 1080 pixel or higher resolution displays…

…but keep in mind that those laptops usually have larger displays as well.

A laptop with a lower-resolution screen will have half the amount of pixels as one with a full HD display…

…allowing its Intel Iris Plus graphics processor to run as efficiently…

…as it would on a device with a 1080p or higher-resolution display.

According to GPD, the display supports up to 500 nits of brightness and a 90 percent DCI-P3 color gamut.

However, I don’t have enough tools to verify these claims…

…but the screen seems to support a good range of brightness options…

…that make it easy to view in brightly lit rooms…

…as well as easy to dim so the screen isn’t blindingly bright in darker environments.

However, since the display is glossy, I wouldn’t recommend the Win Max for outdoor gaming…

…even indoors on a sunny day, it can create a lot of glare.

“The interface of the GPD Win Max stands out compared to today’s laptops. It has a trackpad above the keyboard, and on the sides next to the trackpad are gaming controls in the form of twp joysticks, a D-pad and ABXY keys. The rear of the notebook even has four triggers (two on each side).” Niels Broekhuijsen – Tech Writer

Go on…

Using it

Review of the GPD Win Max Mini Gaming Laptop

People who are interested in the GPD Win Max are likely looking to use it as a gaming machine…

…and for good reason. It is best suited to gaming.

I’ve been fascinated with tiny laptops since the days of the Psion Revo and HP Jornada.

My first use of it was for work. In order to see if the GPD Win Max could replace a laptop…

…I researched and wrote a few short news articles for Liliputing using only the Win Max.

In a word: maybe?

On the one hand, it has more than enough power.

In fact, it’s faster than my HP Spectre x360 13.3 inch laptop…

…with an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor.

However, the 8 inch display doesn’t give you much room…

…to view a lot of applications or web pages simultaneously.

In addition, my awkward keyboard layout caused me to make even more typos…

…than usual (long-time readers know what that means).

You could certainly use the Win Max for real work in a pinch.

If you don’t do a lot of multitasking or type a lot, then this might be sufficient for you…

…to use as your primary laptop.

If you use your phone for the majority of your tasks…

…and just need a PC for gaming and occasional other tasks, this might be the right option for you.

Personally, I don’t see this as a replacement for a laptop.

However, it is an excellent gaming PC. I have probably played PC games more…

…in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years…

…partly because I wanted to test the GPD Win Max at the task it was designed for…

…and partly because I find I enjoy gaming more on a portable device than on a stationary PC.

In spite of the fact that it’s not a pocket-sized device, it’s a lot more portable than most gaming PCs.

When you start a game in your bedroom or kitchen, you can easily bring it to the living room.

Because the controllers are integrated into the PC, there is no need to plug them in.

The display is located just above/between the controllers…

…so it feels as if you’re holding a portable into a virtual world…

…where you can position it however is comfortable.

Although I am not much of a gamer, I will actually be a little sad…

…when the Win Max has to go to its next owner, since I started a few games that I’d like to finish…

…something I rarely do these days.

Even though this is not a pocket-sized device…

…it’s a heck of a lot more portable than most gaming PCs.

You can easily carry a game you started in your bedroom or kitchen to the living room.

It’s not necessary to plug anything into the controllers, since they are built into the PC.

Since the display is above/between the controllers…

…it feels a bit like holding a portable into a virtual world in your hands…

…where you can position it however you like.

Although I’m not much of a gamer, I’ll be a little sad when the Win Max goes to its next owner…

…because I’ve started a few games that I’d love to finish – something I rarely do anymore.

It looks like GTA V was tethered to 30 frames per second…

…whereas Darksiders, Hob, and LEGO Batman ran at nearly 60 frames per second…

…on the same system (which is overkill on a 60 Hz display).

In addition to making a decent portable media player, the GPD Win Max can also run for a long time on one charge.

On this mini laptop, it looks like you’ll get around 2-4 hours of run time when playing PC games.

The battery level of the Win Max dropped about 10-percent per hour…

…(with the screen brightness set at 50 percent) when I set it up to stream a long video from YouTube.

Since video streaming is something the laptop can handle well…

…not only does the battery drain slowly, but the fan doesn’t kick in as much…

…(or as loudly) as when you’re playing games.

Therefore, the Win Max is a reasonable option for media consumption.

You should keep in mind that the computer’s stereo speakers aren’t very loud and don’t have a lot of bass.

You may want to wear headphones.

You can charge the battery with the included 65W USB-C power adapter…

…or any other charger that supports USB Power Delivery and provides enough juice for the Win Max.

A 45W adapter for an HP Spectre x360 13 inch laptop or a Dell XPS 13 was able…

…to charge the laptop without any issue.

However, I couldn’t get the laptop to charge using a 45W USB-PD power bank.

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Notes for Power Users

Review of the GPD Win Max Mini Gaming Laptop

Would you like to upgrade the storage, overclock or underclock the system…

…or run an operating system other than Windows? Yes, yes, and maybe.

SSD Replacement

GPD Win Max’s processor cannot be upgraded or replaced, as it is the case with most laptops.

Additionally, you cannot replace the RAM since it is soldered to the motherboard.

Nevertheless, you can replace the 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid state drive that comes with the computer.

In order to fully open the laptop, you will need to remove all the screws from the bottom…

…pry open the case (ideally with a plastic prying tool designed for this purpose…

…so you don’t damage anything), and then carefully detach the battery.

I skipped that last step, but I did get far enough to find the solid state drive…

…and see that you’ll also have to lift up one of the fans in order to remove it and replace it.

This isn’t the simplest SSD replacement job I’ve ever seen, but it certainly looks doable.

Adjusting CPU and GPU Settings in the UEFI/BIOS/Setup utility

Holding the Del key during startup will bring up the GPD Win Max Setup utility…

…where you can view system information and adjust many settings.

I am testing a pre-production prototype of the mini laptop…

…so some or all of the settings below may not be available in the retail units that ship to customers this summer.

Aside from enabling or disabling fast boot, quiet boot, and secure boot…

…you can also adjust thermal settings, CPU settings, and GPU settings.

The only ones I took the time to play with were the TDP configuration settings…

…which control how much power the processor can use.

Most laptops with an Intel Core i5-1035G7 can run at 15 to 25 watts…

…but the GPD Win Max ships with the TDP set at 25-30 watts.

Intel considers this to be the TDP-up configuration for this processor…

…which should offer a small performance boost but degrade battery life.

But if you’d rather sacrifice a bit of performance for longer run time (and maybe less fan noise)…

…you can go into the TDP configuration and change from the “Up” TDP boot mode…

…to “Nominal” to change to 15/25 watts.

The “Down” option allows you to save even more power by switching to 12W/20W.

Alternatively, you can manually change the power limit settings using the plus and minus keys on the keyboard.

In theory, that could allow you to go beyond 30 watts…

…but you risk making the laptop less stable if you do that.

Although I haven’t thoroughly tested the differences in performance…

…and battery life that you can get by changing these settings…

…I’m glad to know that you have that choice.

From the Setup utility, you can also tweak the following settings:

  • Enable/disable hyperthreading
  • Enable/disable turbo mode
  • Select the number of active CPU cores
  • Set the maximum GPU speed
  • Adjust WiFi settings

It’s best to proceed with caution and note any settings you change…

…since the “Restore Defaults” option in Setup Utility seems a little finicky…

…at least one time, when I manually changed a configuration…

…and then tried to restore the default setting, nothing happened.

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Sum Up!

Even though you can build or buy a cheaper machine that runs games better…

…there really isn’t anything on the market that delivers this kind of power and portability.

If you have some downtime, you can pull this laptop out…

…and play Tactics Ogre or do your book report on it.

It literally fits in your back pocket (JNCO jeans).

In addition to Thunderbolt, it has a ton of USB ports…

…so it can be the heart of a full desktop setup.

For anyone who enjoys collecting unusual technology or clever engineering…

…the Win Max certainly scores well.

It’s no secret that GPD haven’t been resting on their laurels…

…a new project is already in the works, the GPD Win3.

The idea is to create ‘the first handheld AAA games console’…

…by switching from a laptop-like design to one that is 100% focused on gaming…

…complete with a slider keyboard and a USB-C charging port.

GPD could never be called boring!

Conclusion

The GPD Win Max is an impressive portable gaming laptop.

Though it might not be the most powerful gaming PC on the market…

…it has enough power to handle many fairly recent games…

…plus plenty of options for power users who want to customize performance.

Additionally, the built-in game controllers give the system the feel of a console that plays PC games.

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