Thursday 14 March 2024



Three years ago (doesn't time fly?) I bought a used notebook to take with me out in the field and it's served me well, but it's not the fastest thing in the world and it's not the smallest or toughest, so I gifted it to my mother-in-law and it suits her low demands perfectly.

So I wanted to replace it with something very small, light and pretty tough. I didn't need blisteringly fast performance, but I certainly wanted something with an above average GPU, fast ram and an SSD. I own a very fast Gaming Laptop, but it's just way too big to be lugging around with a radio.

I looked all over and was pretty shocked at the prices of things, so I turned to the second hand market. It was there that I came across something for sale right here in my hometown. It's something I'd heard about before when I was searching for my gaming laptop, but it didn't appeal due to its small screen.

The PC I'm referring to is the tiny hand-held GPD WIN MAX. Looking at the specs and the construction, it seemed like it might be the perfect device for my needs, so I started to find out more about it on the internet and I read a whole bunch of very complimentary reviews.

It's approximately an 8"x6" clamshell design with nice rounded corners and it's about an inch high. Under the lid is an 8" Touch-Screen - perfect!  I can't tell you how many times I find myself prodding dumb-screens with my finger, lol. The screen also benefits from the use of Gorilla Glass which is pretty darned scratch-resistant.

Despite the small dimensions, the GPD WIN MAX features a full QWERTY keyboard including F1-F12 function keys and number keys.  Above the keyboard is a Touch-Pad which supports multi-finger gestures and clicking.

In the upper corners are a number of gaming pad controls, plus two very high quality James Alps analogue sticks which are robust and work incredibly well. For gamers, there's the familiar L1/2 and R1/2 buttons on the outside edges. 

Under the covers lives an Intel i5 cpu and Intel Iris Plus 940 graphics processor, which makes this a great little performer! In fact, it's primary role is gaming - including the ability to emulate other platforms such as Xbox and PlayStation. Not something I'll be doing, but I'll certainly benefit from the added ooomph!

This is backed up with 16Gb of DDR4 ram running at 3733MHz and an M.2 PCIe 512Gb SSD.  If 512Gb storage isn't enough 😂 you can also take advantage of the built-in SDCARD slot which is A2 compatible - mine had a 256Gb Sandisk A2 Extreme Pro already fitted. Of course it's also extremely easy to add an external drive in the form of a plug-in USB SSD (if you work with large video files, etc).

Connectivity is great - there's Wi-Fi 6 built in and Bluetooth 5, along with an Ethernet RJ-45 socket for direct connection. The good news is that that the PC recognises my AirPod Pros and that includes full and proper use of the Airpod's microphone!

Other connectors include a full-size HDMI, two USB-A, one USB-C and one ThunderBolt 3. The USB-C port acts as the charging port and the Win Max comes with a 65W charger.

One of the very best connectors is the Thunderbolt 3. With this, it is easy to expand your machine and make it even faster and more convenient by adding a Thunderbolt Docking Station.

This allows you to have a single cable from your PC to the dock and have all the other connections provided at the hub, including ultra-fast transfer speeds, multiple external monitors and more. This is fantastic if your GPD WIN MAX is your only machine and you use it as your home-base computer as well as your portable.

Anyway, for me it's just a compact PC to take out in the field. On it I will have all my radio-related software and little else. It comes in a faux leather pouch and will easily drop into my RuckShack.

Battery-Life is claimed to be over 10 hours, but we all know that's a load of nonsense. For that to work, you'd have to switch on every single power-saving function and avoid running anything which caused the cpu to speed up. In real-life terms it seems to be around 6 hours, which is plenty for a day out playing radio.

I managed to get a free upgrade to Windows 11 and everything is running fine. All my regular Ham Software is installed and I'm extremely happy with this tiny marvel.

Connecting to the FlexRadio 6300 remotely was no problem and running two panadapters was effortless - no glitches or stuttering at all. It was all very fluid and enjoyable.

Up to now I've not hit any problems with anything, so it's all good. I'm not sure if the top bank of gaming controls can be configured for other uses - it would be handy if they could! 

So in summary, I reckon this will be a pretty darned handy device for SOTA/POTA work. It's very light and compact and yet powerful and fully featured. On the secondhand market you can buy them for around £350, which is a bit of a bargain.

73, Tom, M7MCQ

1 comment:

John AE5X said...

Small, SSD and capable - sounds like the perfect laptop for motorcycle travel. Thanks for the info.