Who needs a BlackBerry ! A MadBadGadgets look at the GPD Micro PC

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The GPD Micro PC has been released a little while now so we thought it was time we took a MadBadGadgets look at how its fared and whether you should consider this cost effective ($499) innovative little PC Gadget.

GDP Micro BlackBerry

First the tech specs:

CPU: Intel® Celeron® N4100 Quad Core processor (turbo frequency up to 2.4Ghz) 8GB LPDDR4 RAM.
Storage: 128GB NGFF M.2 SATA SSD storage (upgradable )
Display: 6 inch Display at 1280×720 resolution (protected by scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 4). Non-Touch.
Size: Size 6” X 4.4” x 0.9” when closed
Ports: USB Type-C (power), Ethernet: RJ45 Port Headphone/Microphone 3.5mm, USB 3.0 Type-A: 3 Ports , HDMI Port, Serial RS-232 Port
Wifi: 802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G Dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth: 4.2
Weight: 440g
Keyboard: Backlit
Trackpad: For navigation as device is non-touch

So let’s start with the summary, the GPD Micro PC really is a lovely little (with the emphasis being on ‘little’ !) machine that is very easy to use and that seems surprisingly fast in day-to-day use.

This has to be close to the smallest windows device I have used. Perhaps the Sony Vaio UX series or the Viliv devices had a smaller screen but there is not much in it.

Talking of the screen, it is very sharp, it has a 245 ppi density, corning gorilla glass for protection, and it presents a really good viewing experience. The height of the screen is taller than, for example the landscape Cosmo Communicator, making the comparative viewing experience akin to a BB Passport v a traditional size smartphone, and it really works. Additionally Windows 10’s new font sizing capabilities also makes it easier to keep the screen density size whilst only increasing the text size.

The screen is not touch which I guess was a way to keep costs down but I have to say you really don’t miss it, so good is the thumb touchpad and its location on the device that you end up getting a much more accurate way to navigate around the screen.

I did find myself occasionally forgetting I was on the Micro PC and rotating the device on its side as I would a phone but of course the device has no sensors so this does not work. I eventually ended up creating myself a solution whereby I could rotate it on demand using hotkeys.

The portability coupled with the vast array of ports, including unusually in modern PC times an RS232 interface, makes it very easy to connect external devices if desired. It is a perfect device for IT technicians who may need to connect to a Cisco console for example.

Small devices are often difficult to use but the GPD Micro is really great for thumb typing. The keyboard is of the clicking phone type and it gives a satisfying feel when a key is pressed. Imagine a yester-year HTC TyTn or a Motorola Droid 4. Also the backlit keys really are a joy particularly when you have been used to using a GDP Pocket or OneMix style device in a room with low light.

I quickly got into the habit of using the Micro PC instead of my phone for replying to emails and web browsing on the move. As a long time BlackBerry user I found I missed long pressing the keys to achieve a capitalization of a letter but this was easily rectified using Autokey. If you are interested you can use the script below to achieve the same long keypress capitalization:

#NoEnv ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.
; #Warn ; Enable warnings to assist with detecting common errors.
SendMode Input ; Recommended for new scripts due to its superior speed and reliability.
SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir% ; Ensures a consistent starting directory.
alphabet := "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz"
loop,parse,alphabet
hotkey,~%a_loopfield%,keyEvent,on
return

n:
return

keyEvent() {
delay := a_tickcount + 300 ;wait 300ms to cap letter, lower number = smaller wait
capped := false
stringtrimleft,key,a_thishotkey,1 ;hotkey is ~a etc, so remove the ~
while(GetKeyState(key,"P")) {
if (!capped and a_tickcount > delay) {
stringupper,l,key ;put uppercase into variable l
sendinput {backspace}%l% ;send backspace to remove uncapped letter and put in new capped letter
hotkey,%key%,n,on ;assign key to a nil event, so that windows doesnt spam it ie. Aaaaaaaaaaaa
capped := true ;capped set to true so that script does not spam
}
sleep 10
}
if (capped)
hotkey,~%key%,keyEvent,on ;assign key back to this event
Return
}

I found the battery lasted 4-5 hours with continuous use but real world use easily got me through a day of working on it without recharging. The battery is also possibly the biggest bones of contention for the device. Many users have complained that the battery bulges when it has been charged or that if it is left to go flat it is impossible to recharge. I experienced the latter myself and the only resolution was procuring and fitting a new battery, which was pretty straightforward, but should not have been necessary. That really is the issue with some of the devices coming out of China. They are innovative but some of the components are low grade to keep the price down.

GPD Micro Battery

GPD will provide a new battery FOC, just email kendyz@gpd.hk with either your contribution number from Indiegogo, or a copy invoice if your purchased it elsewhere, stating the problem you are having with the battery and GPD will send you another battery but you will need to self-fit it. If you don’t want to wait you can also purchase another from Dragonbox in Germany.

How widespread is the battery problem? It is hard to say. I saw one user on Reddit state that of the 5 Micro PC’s he purchased for his company only one had the problem so it does seem fairly random and perhaps dependent on the shipping batch. If it does/has happened to you, you may, like me, just be one of the unlucky few.

I note also that some users have also complained of a floppy screen hinge but I personally never experienced that and if you remove the back you can tighten up the hinge screws yourself.

Some of these mini PC’s, susch as the Chuwi Minibook, have a really loud fan and with the Micro PC there is an option when using the device to turn the fan off but I did not find the fan iloud in normal use but if you do turn it off I have not seen any noticeable slowdown in performance.

So what of the future of the Micro PC? Will there be a Micro PC 2? Well not in 2020 but GPD have committed to a revision of the current line with an upgraded motherboard, a new SoC and cooling for better performance. It’s a pity they did not build in a SIM slot because if they did this really would be close to the perfect device.

So a final summary. A very cool affordable device that is a lot of fun to use. Its not perfect and if you are unlucky you may experience the battery or hinge issue but that is easily resolved. All in all it is a hearty thumbs up and this is one of my favourite tech devices and one that is small enough for me to always fling in my bag, or even a pocket, when I am on the move.

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