Review: winbook tw110 (11.6" 2-in-1)
The WinBook TW110 resembles a netbook in many ways. In 2008 a netbook with a hinged 1080p touch screen would have been revolutionary. However, a decade might as well be a century in the fast-moving environment of personal computing. In 2018 a netbook is as relevant as a diskette drive and inadequate for all but the most basic tasks.
If you were to peer back into the hazy mists of time, all the way back to 2007, you would see the laptop industry at the time Asus released the Eee netbook. The Eee was the first commercial netbook and it set a standard that emphasized mobility and price over everything else. The humble netbook wasn’t great at anything except convenience and being light on the wallet when even a modest laptop was a relatively large investment. But that was enough to be special.
Tablet computing and cheaper laptops in 2011-20012 killed off the netbook market. It was hard to justify the weak Atom processors and treacly onboard eMMC storage, both of which bottlenecked any task that required computing muscle or disk activity.
But when netbooks came out, they were revolutionary, and I fondly recall the Asus Eee 701 I purchased as soon as it became available. I did things with that netbook that seemed revolutionary at the time. When I look back, I am still impressed I could do so much with so little.
With the WinBook TW110 it’s the other way around. I am surprised, and disappointed, that I can do so little with a tiny laptop I had big hopes for.
Winbook TW110 Specs
|CPU||Intel Atom Z8350 (1.44GHz)|
|Physical Dimensions||Width: 10.95 in (278.00 mm)
Depth: .71 in. (18.00 mm)
Height 7.83 in (199.00 mm)
Weight 3.09 lbs. (1.40 kg)
Poor Performance with Basic Usage
The TW110’s resemblance to a netbook begins with the hardware. The heart of the TW110 is an Atom x5-Z8350, a close relative to the Atom N270, the CPU that brought the early netbooks to life. The Atom’s strength is small power draw, coupled with low heat. Everything else is a weakness when compared to other CPUs. Comparable Celerons and Pentiums are powerhouses compared to Atoms.
The TW110’s Atom is not a new chip. It started production in 2015. Even then it was not a fast processor. In the TW110 it barely moves. It has the urgency of a sloth and the power of a titmouse. Opening a browser takes seconds. Many excruciating seconds. Trying to enter text in a document or search field is torturous. The cursor would hang for long, drawn-out stretches before the characters would march onto the screen, even though I had given the order via keyboard in what seemed like distant minutes ago, but was closer to 5-8 seconds.
5-8 seconds doesn’t sound like that long but stop and think of all the things you can do in 5-8 seconds. Think of your expectations for a computing device in 2018 once you open a browser or enter text. 5-8 seconds feels like forever when you are waiting for results you are used to getting in less than a second.
I can’t be sure if the processor is the sole culprit because the 32GBs of eMMC memory surely helped hinder performance. After unboxing the TW110 the first thing I did was to check available storage. There were 9.39 gigs free, and that was before I applied waiting system updates.
The primary reason I can’t pinpoint what hardware bottlenecks were crippling the TW110’s performance was an inability to run benchmarking software to check basic things like CPU and storage performance. I spent several hours trying, with no luck, to run Sandra and Cinebench. Both applications crashed the TW110 without outputting results.
I eventually turned to UserBenchmark. As expected, the TW110 received bad marks. In fact, it had the worst score I have ever recorded.
The bottom line is this: Outside of the screen and the battery, both of which are impressive for the price point, the internal hardware of the TW110 does not perform well, at least with Windows 10.
As a Writing and Productivity Laptop
I would like to say the issues with malfunctioning applications stopped with the benchmarking suites, but that was not the case. There were numerous instances of the TW110 crashing. I could not run portable apps from a reliable USB drive. I tried to read an ebook in tablet mode, and the machine locked up. I tried to run Windows Update, and the TW110 froze. I could not get the mouse to work, which stopped me from getting past the lock screen. I fixed this, eventually, by entering BIOS and resetting BIOS to the default settings. This was odd, as I had changed no BIOS settings, but at least it worked. When I rebooted Windows applied the update and the TW110 was more stable going forward.
But system stability is not very helpful when a user can’t do basic things, like use the keyboard. The TW110’s keyboard is a major let-down, and out of the all issues I encountered, the TW110’s keyboard is the biggest disappointment and deal-breaker. It’s mushy, cramped, and unusable for serious typing. It’s hard to get a simple password entered, much less use it as a writing tool.
The TW110’s battery life is one of the few high points. The 10000 mAh battery is the only component that benefits from the Atom processor. I watched a 1 hour and 40-minute Netflix movie at 1080p with the brightness set to 50 percent and used 18 percent of the battery. It took a little under an hour to charge back up to 100%.
I wanted to test Scrivener and workflow with Google Docs but abandoned that line of thought after a disastrous session in Libre Office. I struggled to type basic sentences. I spent more time backspacing out inadvertent uppercase occurrences and other typos than I did writing. The left shift key is so small and positioned in such a way I hit the Caps Lock key almost every time I was trying to use Shift.
The trackpad did not exhibit any significant problems. It worked well, except for the left mouse button in Linux. But that was likely a simple driver issue and not a hardware defect.
Frustrated with the Windows performance, I tried a Live install of Linux (Mint, Mate flavor). I had no issues beyond the trackpad button’s failure to register. I didn’t go beyond the live install, but I think there is potential for the WinBook TW110 to transform into a LinBook for any writer adventurous enough to kill their Windows installation and install Linux over the 32GB internal drive.
Reading and Media Consumption
The TW110 shows more promise as a reading and audiobook device. The screen is nice though not dazzling. It’s not so dim to impact the experience of reading an ebook or pdf or comic, but there is little noticeable difference between full brightness and 50%.
The touch aspect works well. I had no issue browsing websites in tablet mode or turning pages in an ebook or comic. I tested audiobook playbook. The internal speakers provided adequate sound. The Bluetooth worked fine connected to an external Bluetooth speaker and to Bluetooth headphones.
One unexpected advantage was from the large bezel of the display. When the TW110 is in laptop mode, the bottom bezel of the display is noticeably larger than the other bezels. When the TW110 is held in hand in tablet mode, the large bezel is oriented to the left or right and is a natural place to grip the tablet without fingers or thumb coming into contact with the screen. The three-pound weight of the TW110 seemed less of a burden with the extra grip the enlarged bezel afforded.
Should You Buy a WinBook TW110?
If the resemblance of the TW110 to a netbook starts with the components and size, it ends at the price, and the price is compelling. MicroCenter dropped the price on the TW110 from $179.99 to $139.99, which is less than HALF what the first netbooks cost 10 years ago. Once you factor in inflation, you are paying a third of the price for what you would have paid for a decade ago. A netbook with a 1080p IPS display, touchscreen and full hinge.
The flip side is that the first netbooks had meager specs…but they also ran on a relatively undemanding operating system. The first netbooks were running on Windows XP. The TW110 is running on Windows 10, and it might be nostalgia but I really do feel like the original netbooks brought more power and functionality for their time and OS then the TW110 does in the here and now. What good are a nice display and decent battery if the computer itself barely runs?
If you have the patience, interest and technical experience to install and maintain Linux, this could be a good buy. But for the audience I primarily write for, those looking to get the best deal and the most use out of a device for reading and/or writing…this is not a good fit.
There are better options in the tablet space for readers and while the price is very attractive from a laptop perspective, as a writer’s tool, the TW110 fails because of the keyboard.
For those looking for a reading and media consumption device, the value is there but it is marginal. For writers, please take a hard pass, there is nothing here for you but frustration.