Let’s not mince our words here: the Teclast X5 Pro is obviously a Microsoft Surface Pro clone. But at a cheaper price point, it actually manages to pack more power than the original. So is it worth it?
Specifications and Design
- Intel Kaby Lake dual-core Core M3-7Y30
- Intel HD 615 graphics
- 12.2″ multitouch IPS display, WUXGA (1920 x 1200px), 16:10 aspect ratio
- 8Gb RAM
- 256Gb Solid State Drive, expandable via microSD slot
- USB-C, microHDMI, USB3, microUSB, headphone jack
- 12v 2A DC charging cable
- Tablet only is around $530 from GearBest; the keyboard an additional $50 (prices correct at time of writing)
For comparison’s sake: the low end Surface Pro 4 with the same CPU costs around $150 more, but has only 4Gb and 128Gb SSD.
Despite the presence of a USB-C port, a firmware upgrade is required to enable charging with it. Since the instructions are all in Chinese, I didn’t attempt to replace the firmware for that feature. By default, you’re limited to charging using the standard DC power cable. In what can only be considered an exceedingly stupid design choice, the size of the DC cable is such that it’s about the same as a 3.5mm headphone cable, and the ports are in the exact same position, just on the opposite side. You will put the cable into the wrong hole at some point, and wonder why it isn’t charging.
The IPS display is gorgeous, but like all glossy displays it struggles to be visible outdoors, even on an overcast day. The photo below was taken directly in front at a typical viewing angle, with no direct sunlight, at full brightness.
Kickstand and Keyboard
The X5 Pro features the same iconic kickstand design and low profile, soft-touch keyboard as the Microsoft Surface. Underneath the kickstand – which has two spring-loaded angles it can sit in securely – you’ll find the micro-SD expansion slot. The stand is really sturdy, and I never found the device wobbled around, even when using the stylus in that position.
Despite being particularly low profile, the keyboard wasn’t actually too bad – nor is the tiny, but functional trackpad. It doesn’t offer much protection at the edges compared to the chunky metal keyboard that attached to the Chuwi Hi13, but it will protect the screen, and snaps on or off really easily. The soft velvet-like covering was quite prone to stains and dirt however, I found.
Pointless Passive Pen
The touchscreen is where comparisons to the Surface must end. Although it functions as a perfectly fine general purpose multitouch display for your fingers, the stylus isn’t active. The stylus they provide does require charging and must be turned on for use, but curiously doesn’t connect over Bluetooth and doesn’t provide any pressure sensitivity, nor does it offer palm rejection features. When I asked why it even needed a battery then, I was told that it was to enable the use of a fine nib tip.
Since Windows doesn’t recognise it as an actual stylus, you’ll need to enable “use touch as pen input” in any applications you want to write in. If you really want good drawing capabilities and to use all the Windows stylus features, don’t buy this. The Chuwi Hi13 isn’t nearly as powerful, but their pen input is superb compared to this. The X5 Pro can certainly jot down notes, and use handwriting recognition, but you won’t have any pressure sensitivity and may need additional configuration in drawing apps.
What I find most impressive about this machine is that despite being a fanless design with no discrete graphics card, you can actually some real games! They’ll be last generation perhaps and not on highest fidelity, but that’s nonetheless an impressive feat. I tested with Civilization 6, and it ran just fine. The intensive benchmarking ran at around 20-30 FPS.
GeekBench 4.1 64-bit scored the CPU at 2820 for single and 4954 for multi-core operations, with Intel HD 615 GPU clocking in at a whopping 15587 (compare that to 1377 / 3925 / 8088 for the Chuwi Hi13) – so you can clearly see the difference that the latest Intel HD 615 graphics and core M processor make. Nothing in Windows felt laggy at any point, and web scrolling was smooth.
Reliability and Battery Life
Here’s where it all starts to fall down, I’m afraid.
After running a recommended Windows 10 update, the device lost sound. No driver appeared to be loading. At this point, I headed to the official Teclast site to find a driver, but they don’t make individual drivers available for download – only complete system images. I turned to DriverBooster, an unofficial driver utility that claimed to find the right driver for the built-in Realtek card, but after updating that, it still wasn’t working. At this point, I went on to Teclast’s site again to find the full system image for restore, but typing in the product ID resulted in an error (in Chinese), about the model number not being found. I enlisted the help of my Chinese wife to see if the English site was just lacking, and sure enough, the model was listed with some firmware downloads, but the only download URLs for the 8Gb firmware restore image were either expired, or hosted on a particular site that requires verification through a Chinese phone number before you can download it using their proprietary desktop software.
So I turned to Window’s own built-in “reset my PC” features, which also failed for unknown reasons. I almost gave up, but after an entire afternoon of restarts and reset attempts, the driver kicked in and sound was back. At this point, I ran a battery test by streaming BBC news at full volume and maximum brightness, and the X5 Pro managed a respectable 4 hours.
Unfortunately, the tablet also developed a nasty habit of randomly clicking things on the desktop when the keyboard is docked and closed, despite the screen being off. This results in (all the) apps being opened (multiple times) and icons copied all over the desktop – the only way around it appears to be shutting the system down completely when you’re done. This could be a bug introduced either by DriverBooster or the failed Window’s resets, but given that every other method has failed, and our PR contact stopped responding, I don’t really see another way around it.
I can’t tell if this is indicative of what everyone’s experience will be, or if our test device had some specific hardware issues, but considering we also nearly bricked our last Teclast device just by running their own official over-the-air Android update process, I wouldn’t be surprised if the problem of general unreliability was endemic to Teclast tablets. Other readers in the comments noted similar issues in obtaining firmware to reset their machines. Suffice to say, I doubt we’ll be reviewing a Teclast device again.
Should You Buy the X5 Pro?
So long as yours doesn’t break, there’s a lot to love about the X5 Pro. You’re getting a lot of machine for your money – much more so than you would with a slightly more expensive low end Microsoft Surface. But you’ll be sacrificing aftercare support and general reliability. If that’s a risk you’re willing to take with $600 dollars, go right ahead. Personally, this has been one of the most frustrating devices I’ve ever had to review.
A powerful Surface clone that can even hold its own for some light gaming, but let down by reliability concerns and lack of support, as well as a poor stylus input.