The flow of MacBook-like laptops from China continues unabated. After the Teclast F6 Pro, the Chuwi LapBook Air and the Alldocube Thinker i35, we get to scrutinize the Teclast F7, which was launched earlier this year – but we received a refreshed model, one that comes with an SSD instead of the original slower (and smaller) eMMC storage.
(Note: At the time of writing, and for a limited period, Gearbest is providing a free sleeve and a wireless mouse worth just over $14 for every purchase of the F7).
Teclast’s F7 uses a tried-and-trusted chassis, one that we’ve seen a gazillion times before, which takes cues from the original Apple MacBook Air.
So, you get a large hinge, a brushed metal silver/aluminum finish, a matte display, a large touchpad with a notch underneath, a wedged profile, four black rubber feet and tapered edges.
It’s as if Chinese laptop manufacturers have been reusing Apple’s production lines after the firm changed the design of the MacBook. The only differences are smaller bezels, more ports, and Teclast’s name etched on the top cover (in white).
There are two USB 3.0 ports, one microSD slot, a microHDMI output, one audio port and a proprietary power connector. The F7 feels solid with little flex on the keyboard or display, but we’re not big fans of the bottomless USB port design.
Even with a 14-inch display, this laptop is reasonably thin and light, occupying a slightly bigger footprint than an A4 page with a thickness of around 16mm and a weight of just over 1.34kg. This notebook isn’t in the Dell XPS 13 category, but it’s close enough.
This is an Apollo Lake-based device with 6GB of non-upgradable RAM and a 128GB M.2 SSD which can be replaced by a bigger capacity model. As with the F6 Pro, this is one of Teclast’s own SSDs, the NS550-2242. Teclast is the only laptop manufacturer we know of that uses its own-brand storage.
Engineers have also incorporated a pair of microphones with noise reduction capabilities to deliver better performance when working with Microsoft’s Cortana.
The rest of the spec sheet includes a 50Whr battery, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 (thanks to the Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 3165 solution), plus Teclast judiciously bundled a white monobloc power supply unit, a 12V,2A (24W) affair, with a long cable. Impressive!
Usage and performance
The one big weakness of the F7 is its battery life. At just over two hours, it is simply not good enough and is about half what other devices based on Intel’s N3450 CPU managed to achieve. We retested the F7 several times using the same YouTube test (running a count-up timer at 100% brightness until shutdown) and got almost the same figures.
However, when it came to sheer performance, this laptop exceeded all the N3450-based devices we’ve tested on all benchmarks – and that is partly because of the speedy SSD used, one that easily outdid eMMC-based hardware. This is definitely the way to go.
The F7 is also one of the very few Chinese laptops that come with an unlocked BIOS, and we checked it to make sure that the Power Limit option was not disabled. Disabling it would bump up the speed of the CPU which would have a detrimental impact on battery life (but would improve overall performance).
The keyboard felt snappy, with decent travel and feedback. The touchpad was also very responsive and accurate, one of the best we’ve seen on value laptops. The display, a matte IPS affair, was similarly impressive with good color accuracy.
Jumper’s EZBook 3S is marginally more expensive but packs a much bigger SSD (256GB) which obviously makes it a better choice if you want more storage capacity. The rest of the specification (RAM, CPU, screen dimensions, connectivity) are exactly the same which makes the final decision easier. A cheaper version with 64GB of eMMC storage exists, but the savings to be made on the EZBook 3L Pro are a false economy. Foot the extra $30 or so instead.
The LapBook 12.3 from Chuwi is another slightly cheaper alternative. It uses the same CPU/RAM combination and has a smaller display but a much higher screen resolution (140% higher, in fact). The flipside is that it comes with slower eMMC storage, with less capacity, too. You can add an M.2 SSD to it though.
And if your budget can’t extend to $299.99 (£227), there’s the Yepo 737A which sports the same hardware (with a slightly smaller display and form factor) with a 64GB eMMC storage subsystem. However, you can use the savings (a substantial $80 – around £60) to add a much bigger M.2 solid-state drive for considerably smoother performance.
The dark horse of the competition remains the DeeQ A3 which costs the same as the F7 at the time of writing. It is peculiar in that it uses a Celeron J1900 processor, a desktop chip, plus it combines 8GB of RAM with a 64GB SSD and a 500GB hard disk drive. Expect it to be heavier and have a worse battery life than Teclast’s laptop.
We couldn’t find a similarly configured, brand new laptop (thin-and-light, Full HD display, 6GB RAM or more system memory, 128GB or more storage) for less than $500 or £500.
The business take
This is an excellent entry-level laptop. Windows 10 runs smoothly, it is portable, reasonably quick and has a good pair of input peripherals and an equally good quality display. The battery life is appalling, though, and is this device’s most glaring weakness.
We might have been unlucky with a dodgy unit as no battery-related issues have yet been reported (one reviewer mentioned a shorter battery life, but nothing as extreme as what we experienced). Businesses will like its clean, conservative design and balanced performance, while tweakers will appreciate the fact that this laptop’s BIOS is unlocked.
Bar the short battery life – which could be an issue pertaining to this being a preproduction model – this is one of the best sub-$300 laptops on the market. That said, there’s a new wave of Gemini Lake laptops around the corner – but for now, the Teclast F7 is the one to beat in this price bracket.
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