Hands on with the Linx 12V64
A few weeks back I got my hands on the new 12" 2-in-1 from Linx. For a very attractive £200 I received a Surface-esque tablet and (included!) folio keyboard with the following specs:
- 1920 x 1200 FHD display
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB eMMC storage
- Quadcore Atom x5
On top of this, it benefits from a full-size USB 3.0 port, micro-USB port, micro-HDMI and a microSD slot.
For a while I've hunted for a decent, portable device; my primary laptop has for years been a 17" HP which feels and looks like a pavement slab, one which I loath to take with me when I travel. Prior to finding the Linx I've been using a 10" Asus Chromebook Flip and while that has some uses (certainly more recently), I ultimately find it a tad too small most of the time.
Too many budget devices have been following the Chromebook line of devices, shipping with 2GB/32GB (RAM/Storage, respectively) by default. I appreciate Microsoft have worked hard at making the experience not suck on devices with poor specs, but it's refreshing to see a 4GB/64GB model for the people who expect to do more than browse the web without breaking the bank.
So on paper the Linx sounds fantastic. But how does it fare in day to day usage?
The tablet is well built, boasting a solid metal frame and glass front covered by a factory-fitted screen protector (thank you Linx!). The bundled keyboard has a material feel to it, similar to that of the Surface Pro. The keys are well spaced and the touchpad isn't too small to be usable.
On the back is a dual-position kickstand below an unapologetic Linx logo. Unlike the several-hundred pound more expensive Surface Pro, the kickstand is limited to two pre-set positions which I found to be fine in a lot of circumstances, but also entirely impractical in others.
Above the kickstand is one of two cameras, this back one pictured is 5MP while the front sensor is 2MP. I often feel with tablets this is the wrong way around; I, like many, won't take photos on a tablet for a few reasons and therefore don't make use of the better rear sensor, while video conferencing with family and colleagues tends to suffer by comparison.
On top of the tablet to the left are the power and volume keys which have a premium feel to them. Down the left hand side is a USB 3.0 port, a MicroUSB port (for charging, primarily), a microSD slot, a miniHDMI port and a 3.5mm jack. The tablet has stereo speakers situated on either side towards the bottom, and pogo pins on the base for the supplied keyboard.
I found the speakers to be a little on the quiet side, however by no means the worst I've ever encountered. In a quiet room they are more than adequate though in an office setting or a room full of family/friends with the TV on it's worth making use of the headphone jack instead.
A trend borrowed from many tablets on the market in recent times is the use of a MicroUSB port for charging; unlike the Surface Pro or MacBook (until recently) with their dedicated proprietary charging ports and cables, the Linx can be charged via any reasonably powerful USB charger, of which naturally one is supplied! Linx also supply a microUSB to USB A adapter, which is excellent since the 3.0 port - as pictured at the beginning - is being used for a 5GHz WIFI dongle, a WIFI band sorely missing from the 12V's 2GHz-only WIFI module.
On to the screen, the 1920*1200 resolution is impressive for a budget tablet with excellent viewing angles from all directions. The display isn't as bright as the Galaxy TabPro S for example (then again, what is?), but it's more than adequate for most situations.
Where it falls short, however, is the horrendous light bleed as pictured. It's comparable to the Yoga 300 I bought and returned earlier in the year.
In addition on my unit there are a couple of areas around the display where the backlight shines through without obstruction - a defect, according to Linx, where the tablet may have been bumped in transit. It's not a major issue but it feels a little cheap.
Finally, lets talk about the keyboard.
It attaches to the Linx with strong magnets and can be used either flat or at a slightly raised angle, similar to that of the Surface.
As mentioned already the keys are well spaced and the touchpad is a decent size. Using it however is not quite as pleasant.. I find the keys will occasionally stick causing repeated characters in text - possibly one of the most annoying things a keyboard can do for someone who types quite quickly. In addition and possibly related, the keyboard is mounted to the tablet in the same ergonomic, angled fashion as on the Surface Pro, though unlike the Surface it succumbs far more to flex during use.
Worse still however is the touchpad. Although it's a decent size, Linx in their infinite wisdom decided to impose permanent, impossible to disable (without 3rd party software and/or hackery) gestures on every side but the bottom. Because the touchpad isn't registered in Windows as a Precision Touchpad, it's impossible to tweak touchpad settings, relying instead on mouse settings to make minimal adjustments to the experience.
Here's what a precision touchpad settings screen looks like:
Here's what the Linx offers:
Two-finger scrolling (in the opposite direction to what I prefer, since I can't change it) is fraught with frequent "share" dialogues after a screenshot is taken from swiping down from the top of the touchpad. It's infuriating.
Having spoken to Linx, there's no plan to change this in the future. There's also no alternative to the supplied keyboard, unlike with the smaller Linx 10 devices in which a nicer looking, dock-like keyboard exists. I asked if a similar would be developed for the 12V however that also is not on their roadmap.
Ultimately I chose to put the supplied keyboard aside and opted for one of my many bluetooth keyboards with touchpad instead. Problem solved.
It's no secret I'm a bit of a power user which is why I tend to burn through hardware quite quickly. While cumbersome, my 17" HP has the power of a desktop (i5, 16GB RAM, Dual SSD) and as such will likely always be my primary machine away from my desktop (Hex-core, 32GB RAM). My experience of the Linx is therefore from the point of view of someone used to quite powerful, capable systems. Of course, I also loved the Surface Pro 3 which was the primary driver to picking the Linx up.
Unlike many of the tablets offered by Linx, the 12V64 is a 64bit computer with 64bit Windows 10. Admittedly Windows 10 Home edition, but 64bit all the same. This means the tablet can make full use of the 4GB RAM this model has.
Day to day usage, such as browsing the web, working with Office or reading emails works very well with no hiccups as would be expected with a quad-core (even if low-powered) CPU and the aforementioned RAM. Too many programs running however and the cracks start to show.
This is mostly due to the eMMC storage Linx have opted to use. In testing I noticed it was really quite easy for the disk I/O to become something of a bottleneck for the system with a little effort. This in turn results in a laggy, jarred experience when using the tablet despite the otherwise decent spec. Unfortunately it's not possible to upgrade or replace the eMMC in any way as it's soldered to the board, so it's instead something of a permanent Achilles heel. The use of eMMC is clearly a cost-saving measure, though at the expense of performance; had it been replaceable it would have been the first thing I did!
Of course being a lower-powered CPU it's pretty easy to run it at 100% utilisation too, though that doesn't affect the system quite as much when the disk is otherwise relatively quiet. Ultimately Linx should have chosen one area for cost savings, rather than both CPU and storage, that way one could compensate for the other.
Linx advertise 6 hours of battery life. In testing I found it to vary quite considerably, with the average being about 4 hours between charges.
Unfortunately the tablet doesn't charge quickly at all. Relying on a USB charger for a large, meaty tablet with no quickcharge support results in spending hours waiting for the tablet to reach 100%. On this basis I found myself using it sparingly and often waiting until bedtime to put it on charge, ready to use the next morning. Usage also impacts charging times significantly, so leaving it alone to get it over with was definitely my preferred course of action.
Again, I'm a big fan of MicroUSB charging, just because it's so simple. I'd have preferred USB C but at this point I can understand why MicroUSB was chosen instead. A higher-rated stock charger would have been a nice addition, with the option to use other chargers if necessary.
Admittedly this review has leaned more towards the negative points of the Linx, and I'd like to stress for light use - particularly travelling or a simple couch device - it's a capable machine. I love that a keyboard was included in with the price and commend Linx for all of the ports available on the device in an industry that's increasingly decreasing the number of ports available.
However, the cost-cutting is more than apparent to me when I pit it against devices like the Asus Chromebook Flip (4GB/32GB), Dell Venue 8 Pro (2GB/32GB) and naturally the generally more expensive tablets on the market.
For £200 during Black Friday sales I can't really complain, though with a typical retail price of around £330 I can think of many other tablets and laptops that I'd pick before the Linx 12V64.