Kogan Altas – a cheap 13.3” convertible notebook

Kogan has announced a low-cost 360° convertible notebook at A$399 (pre-orders only).

Price will always influence sales decisions but as is often said, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.”

With that mantra in mind, GadgetGuy has had a close look at the specifications to see what if any compromises you may have to make for a “Never mind the quality, feel the width” a.k.a. cheap purchase.

While we have not received the notebook for review, there are a few no-name Chinese ODM’s offering very similar configurations (and there is a strong likelihood that Kogan has sourced from one of these) so we can comment on them.

Kogan Atlas 13.3″ C300 Convertible Notebook

Kogan claims, “Powered by 64GB flash storage, 4GB RAM and the impressive Intel Celeron Processor N3450, the Kogan Atlas 13.3” C300 Convertible Notebook guarantees spectacular performance for even the most demanding tasks.”

Processor: Intel Celeron Processor N3450

This is a four core, 1.1GHz (turbo mode 2.2GHz), Apollo Lake (technically 5th generation), 14nm processor first seen in mid-2016. It has a small 2 x 1MB L2 cache and was designed for lower cost mobile devices. According to my sources, it is the cheapest mobile processor still in production that will run Windows 10.

This runs a lot hotter than later 7th gen 12nm and 8th gen 10nm processors. Burst mode (2.2GHz) is heat dependent, and a decent cooling fan is recommended.

Passmark rates it at 1824, about half the speed of 5th generation Core i3 (we are now up to the 8th generation Core Processors).

RAM

It has 4GB of shared, 1600, DDR3 ram with somewhere between 1-2GB available for program execution after Windows 10 has loaded. While Windows 10 will run in 4GB, far slower swap memory using the eMMC storage is used when RAM is full.

Storage

It has 64GB of eMMC (embedded Multi Media Card – a low-cost flash memory-based drive). About 20GB is taken up by Windows 10, Office 365 takes 3GB, and you need a few more GB for memory swap space and temporary files. It will fill quickly.

eMMC is very slow – a typical 64GB card will achieve between 10-20MB/s data transfer so it will be slow to boot and for disk intensive tasks.

There is a microSD card slot – Kogan sells a 128GB card for $85, but you can find these elsewhere from $57.00.

There is an internal SATA3 2280 M.2 slot which can be expanded by up to 512GB SSD but remember that this will cost over $300 (the 64GB eMMC must remain as the Windows boot drive so the SSD will not give any system performance boost).

Kogan claims the M.2 slot will take 512GB but the ODMs say the total storage cannot exceed 512GB, e.g. including the 64GB eMMC and any microSD card.

Kogan claims “Stunning clarity and rapid performance. Stream your favourite shows and films, and view photos and browse the internet in greater detail thanks to Intel HD Graphics 500. The Kogan Atlas 13.3” C300 Convertible Notebook offers an immersive, Full HD experience that you will simply fall in love with.”

Graphics Processor

It has Intel HD Graphics 500 with a base frequency of 200Mhz. It uses shared system memory (about 1GB of the 4GB system memory).

It supports mini-HDMI out at 1080p (higher resolutions require more system memory), DirectX 12 and hardware video decoding of HEVC H-265 or earlier.

Performance is only in the low-end segment and is not sufficient for modern games. In a RallyCross benchmark, it achieves 5.6 frames per second at 1080p. Older and simpler titles like Counter-Strike: GO, or Diablo 3 will run adequately.

Screen

It is a 13.3” IPS 1920 x 1080 screen – the colour gamut and sharpness depend on the panel manufacturer. If it is one of the current ODM offerings is will have a limited horizontal viewing angle, a warm white cast and low sRGB. It is a 10-point touch screen – the minimum required for Windows Ink support.

Keyboard/stylus/touchpad

There is no mention of the keyboard type, throw distance or actuation force. The ODM’s all use a low-cost membrane (versus the more durable Chiclet), 1-1.2mm throw and an actuation force of 100g. This is nowhere near the perfect 2mm throw and 45-65g actuation force.

Having used this style of keyboard before keyboard flex (pressing one key means the others flex as well) will be noticeable. It is not a typist keyboard.

A stylus is provided, but there is no information on type or resolution. It is micro-USB chargeable (active).

The touchpad appears largish, but we don’t know if it supports two or more finger gestures.

Ports and connectivity

The Intel processor supports the configuration’s 1 x USB-A 2.0 (max 60MB/s) and 1 x USB3.0 (max 640MB/s). USB typically achieves less than half the rated speed, and I would be surprised if they achieved even that.

Intel AC 3165 (around since mid-2014) supports Wi-Fi AC dual band, 1 x 1 Antenna (no MIMO) to a maximum speed of 433 Mbps. In theory, this supports 54MB/s transfer rates, but in practice, it is 5-10MB/s. It also has Bluetooth 4.2.

Chassis

Kogan advertises a “Durable, sleek premium metal body design”. The ODM’s all provide a metallic finish plastic chassis. The 360° design puts more pressure on the hinges and chassis.

It is 320 x 211 x 15.8mm and 1.56kg –  – let’s hope there is at least a metal frame there.

Speakers

There are two down-firing speakers in the base. There is no mention of watts RMS, maximum dB (volume) and THD (distortion). Given the slim design, it is unlikely that they provide any bass and favour voice (upper mid and treble).

Webcam

Front facing 2.0MP will do video conferencing at 720p/30fps but not much more. It does not have Windows Hello or biometric login.

Battery

There is a Li-ion battery 5,000 mAh at 7.4V with a 12V 3A external charger. It should achieve 3-4 hours use and take about 4 hours to recharge. A far larger battery would make this more usable.

GadgetGuy’s take

The article does not comment on Kogan business practices or the pre-order system where you pay in advance for the goods that are delivered at a future date after manufacture and shipping – using your money!

It is cheap because it uses older, superseded, entry-level technology – there is nothing leading-edge or premium about it giving advertising copywriters a challenge to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

All it has to do is what a cheap notebook is supposed to do – to passably perform Windows 10 tasks albeit slowly.

I repeat this is a no-nonsense look at an A$399 (sell price), white label (not made by Kogan) notebook that ODMs sell to companies like Kogan from about US$200.

ODM Voyo offers a strikingly similar product to Kogan’s, but it recommends a 12,000mAh battery (at extra cost). It says that total storage supported is 512GB including the 64GB eMMC and micro-SD.

Acer made the Spin 1 convertible using the N3450 Celeron released early last year. It was critically panned for slow speed etc. It was not a commercial success and was later re-released under the guise of Spin 11 Chromebook.

Lenovo had a US$279 N3450 Celeron product for the education market, and it morphed into a Chromebook too.

Dell used this processor for an entry-level notebook but quickly went to the Intel m3 6th generation series that use half the power, twice the cache, have better graphics and can run fan-less.

Caveat Emptor

1 Comment

Write a comment
  1. Khodd
    February 21, 10:53 Khodd

    Wow. That was about the best laptop review I’ve ever read. Some really useful, detailed information, good insights, and presented in a way that I can relate to my needs. A very refreshing break from the gushing puff-pieces that seem to predominate these days. And you didn’t even have the product!
    If you’re searching for a future blog topic I’d love hear more about the cheaper brands of Chinese laptops and ultrabooks out there, esp as the Australian prices for the travel notebooks I’d like to buy are all way out of my league. (I did see somewhere that their operating systems can be dodgy but itend to run linux if I can anyway.)
    Thanks again for the great post.

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment

view all comments

Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person. Required fields marked as *