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GPD Pocket 2: First impressions

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GPD Pocket 2 I’ve been using the original GPD Pocket for a year now. When its successor was announced, my initial reaction was lukewarm, mostly because GPD decided to get rid of the Thinkpad-style pointing nub - or any pointing device other than the touch screen1. Then GPD listened to customer feedback and included a touch sensor as a replacement for the nub. So I decided to give the Pocket 2 a chance and backed the high-spec model (that is, the model with 8GB RAM).

I received the Pocket 2 a few days ago. I haven’t had that much time to use it yet, but I thought I’d jot down my first impressions while they are fresh. I’m not sure I’ll do a full review as I did for the original Pocket, but I’ll probably write a follow-up piece after using it for a while.

NOTE: after the initial Windows 10 setup I immediately installed Linux. I chose to use the “official” respun ISO provided by the Ubuntu MATE project. As such, all that follows is Linux-specific (in particular, Windows 10 should work better with touch screens).

Hardware/Build Quality

As with the original, the build quality is impressive. This one surpasses the original in fit and finish. The first Pocket was clearly inspired by Apple laptops. The Pocket 2 feels like something Apple might actually build. It’s that solid.

Unlike Apple, GPD graces us with USB-A ports. One USB-C port and two USB-A ports, to be exact. You could argue that 2-1 might be a more forward-looking ratio (I would disagree for now, but I can see the argument), but as much as I truly like the promise of USB-C, I firmly believe that laptops should come with built-in USB-A connectivity for the foreseeable future.

The Pocket 2 also comes with a Micro SD slot which I haven’t used yet, but which I could see as a useful way to expand storage when needed.

Keyboard

The key response is better (more consistent) than it was on the original. This was my main complaint about the Pocket, and I’m happy to see it addressed. It’s not as good as I’m used to from Apple computers, but it’s a step in the right direction. The keys have a little less travel than the original’s, but feel more stable and so far no key stands out to me as requiring special care to make sure keypresses register.

The keyboard layout is quite different from the first Pocket. Any keyboard this size will have to make compromises, but the compromises chosen by the Pocket 1 and 2 are quite different. I’m inclined to say that I preferred the original, but I may simply be too used to that layout by now. I want to spend more time with the new keyboard and give it a chance to convince me that it’s an improvement. For what it’s worth, the main things that annoy me are: the tiny space bar, the period and comma keys located to the left and right of the UP ARROW (and not distinguishable by size and shape), and the miniscule ENTER key (again, exactly the same shaped as ordinary letter keys). On the positive side, I don’t miss the right SHIFT key, and I’m downright ecstatic that GPD chose to ditch CAPSLOCK. Good riddance.

Mouse

The touch sensor is better than I had dared hope. Basic pointing and clicking work as well as with the Pocket’s nub, maybe better. The sensor is precise and you can press it to perform left clicks. You can even long press to simulate a right click. However, you can’t click and drag this way - that requires using the dedicated mouse buttons, which are located on the opposite side of the top case, so you need two hands to select text or drag a file. Not an ideal experience. There’s also the small annnoyance of the cursor jumping slightly when you lift your finger off the sensor.

The touch screen works under Linux (the image I am using has so far not had any issue with screen alignment getting out of sync etc), but Linux is clearly not as touch-optimized as Windows 10. On the distro I am running, I cannot use the touch screen to navigate menu bar dropdowns. I am not certain why, but I assume it is because those menus are designed around a hovering mouse pointer, not the binary nature of touch/no-touch.

Performance

I have not run benchmarks yet, but for my use cases (light coding, writing, and web browsing mostly) performance feels basically the same as on the original Pocket, or slightly better (I feel like I can keep more windows/tabs open at the same time, but this is not a scientific comparison). I imagine you’d notice a significant improvement in performance over the original if you work with images or video, or if you play games on the Pocket (I do neither - I play games on my Switch/GPD WIN 2/smartphone, and mostly edit photos on my phone).

Battery life feels slightly worse than the original, but I haven’t used the machine enough to be sure. In any case, the battery life is still great - I’m confident I can get 8 hours of productivity out of this computer.

The fan is much less noisy than on the first Pocket, and it can even be switched off. I have not found the need to do so yet, which should be a testament to how little it bothers me.

I get some graphical tearing when quickly scrolling web pages in both Firefox and Chromium. I have seen this on the original as well (in particular while I was on Ubuntu 16.04). Enabling chrome://flags/#enable-gpu-rasterization used to be a workaround on the original, but did not help here.


  1. Windows probably works fine without a precision pointing device these days. Linux, however, does not.