One Netbook One Mix 2S mini laptop review


Imagine a laptop. Now imagine it smaller. No, smaller. So small that it’s small enough to fold up and put in your pocket (assuming you have rather large pockets).

Now give it a touchscreen display, a 360-degree hinge that lets you use it like a tablet, and digital pen support so that you can write or draw on the screen.

That’s pretty much what you get with the One Mix Yoga line of devices from Chinese PC maker One Netbook. I tested the company’s first laptop with a 7 inch display earlier this year and while I found something charming about the design I was put off by the little computer’s incredibly sluggish performance.

Now One Netbook is back with a few new models: the One Mix 2 Yoga with an Intel Core m3-7Y30 Kaby Lake processor and the One Mix 2S Yoga with a Core m3-8100Y Amber Lake chip.

The folks at GeekBuying sent me a One Mix 2S to test, and after spending a few weeks with it, I can happily say that it offers significantly better performance. The CPU upgrade surely helps, but so does the move from eMMC storage to a speedier SSD.

Is the One Mix 2S the perfect mini PC? Not necessarily. It still has a cramped keyboard that can make typing difficult. And the new model has a noisier fan, shorter battery life, and a higher price tag. One Netbook also left out the backlit keyboard this time around.

Still, when it comes to pocket-sized Windows computers, the One Mix 2S might be the one to beat… for now.

The One Mix 2S Yoga is available from GeekBuying for $660 when you use the coupon liliput2s at checkout.

Overview

If the One Mix 2S looks familiar, that’s because its physical design is virtually identical to the original One Mix Yoga. The only differences are that the new model lacks a micro USB port (it uses USB-C for charging), has a fingerprint sensor next to the space bar on the keyboard, and doesn’t have a backlit keyboard.

Left: One Mix 2S Yoga / Right: One Mix Yoga

And if the One Mix Yoga looked familiar, that’s because it was a pretty blatant ripoff of the GPD Pocket, which launched last year. Both computers are tiny laptops with 7 inch displays and the keyboard layouts are virtually identical, although One Netbook opted for an optical touch sensor rather than a pointing stick.

GPD launched the Pocket 2 this summer, and it features a slimmer design, a faster processor, and improved keyboard… but it drops the pointing stick near the space bar and puts a touch sensor awkwardly in the upper right corner. The Pocket 2 doesn’t have a 360-degree hinge or backlit keyboard… which made some folks wish there was a laptop that combined the features of the Pocket 2 and the One Mix Yoga.

The One Mix 2S Yoga is… almost that computer. It has the most powerful processor available in a 7 inch mini laptop today. It’s a convertible tablet, unlike the Pocket 2. And it has pen support.

But it still has the same awkward keyboard layout found in first-generation devices and it drops the backlit keyboard. And while it outperforms every other mini laptop I’ve tested this year when it comes to benchmarks, it also gets rather warm and noisy during use — although you can enable a quiet mode that reduces the fan speed (and noise) in exchange for a bit of performance.

Interestingly One Netbook didn’t bother putting a new shortcut on the keyboard for that feature — you press Fn+Esc to enable quiet mode, and the graphic on the Esc key is identical to the one the company used for the keyboard backlight control on the original One Mix.

Design and specs

So just how small is this thing? It weighs about 1 pound and 3 ounces and measures 182mm x 110mm x 17mm (7.2″ x 4.3″ x 0.67″).

Compared to any normal laptop, it’s ridiculously small. But compared with the recent crop of similar devices, it’s pretty standard. In fact, the keyboard still looks like it was ripped off from last year’s GPD Pocket.

There’s not enough room for full-sized keys, and even with relatively small alphabet keys, there are a few additional compromises — the number keys and arrow keys are half-height, some of the punctuation keys are half-width, the Caps Lock key is stuck to the right side of the A key, and the colon and apostrophe keys are not where you’d expect them to be.

I can touch type on this keyboard. But it took a little while to get used to the keyboard layout, and I tend to type with 6-8 fingers rather than 10 and my top typing speed is maybe 50-60 percent as fast as it would be on a normal keyboard. Folks with larger hands may find typing even more difficult.

There’s also no room for a full-sized touchpad, so One Netbook opted for an optical touch sensor that hangs out in the middle of the space bar, plus left and right click buttons below the space bar. It’s not quite as precise or easy to use as a touchpad and there’s obviously no support for multitouch gestures (I don’t think it’s physically possible to put two fingers on the sensor at once). But it does mean you’re not limited to using the touchscreen or an external mouse to manipulate a cursor.

For the most part the keyboard is unchanged from the original One Mix Yoga. But there are a few things that set the new model apart — the Ctrl and Fn keys have switched positions. There’s a fingerprint sensor between the right-click button and the home key. And there’s no backlight anymore.

Now pressing Ctrl+Esc doesn’t toggle a keyboard light anymore. Instead if toggles quiet mode (which reduces the fan volume and slows the processor down a bit to keep the system from overheating while it’s running quietly).

The One Mix 2S Yoga has an aluminum chassis with a fan on the back, nothing on the left side, and a few ports on the right: a headset jack, a microSD card slot, a micro HDMI port, a USB 3.0 Type-A port, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port, which is used for charging and/or data.

The original One Mix Yoga had all of those plus a micro USB port that was used for charging. On the one hand I wouldn’t mind having one more USB port on the new model. On the other hand, the USB-C charger is much nicer (it comes with a braided cable and collapsible prongs) and charges the tiny laptop much more quickly. So I think it’s a decent tradeoff.

You can transform the laptop to tablet mode by pushing the screen until it’s back-to-back with the keyboard. The hinge is very stiff, so you’ll have to push pretty hard to do that, but that’s a good thing since it means the screen doesn’t tend to wobble when typing in laptop mode.

In tablet mode the keyboard automatically shuts off so you don’t have to worry about accidentally typing while holding the computer in your hands to read, watch, or play. Unfortunately there’s one key that doesn’t automatically turn off — the power button. It’s in the upper right corner of the keyboard and it is possible to accidentally hit it with a finger while gripping the One Mix 2S Yoga in tablet mode, so you’ll need to learn to get a sense of where the power button is and avoid it with your fingers if you don’t want to keep putting the computer to sleep while trying to use it.

Interestingly, while it’s easy to tap the power button and put the computer to sleep unintentionally, you have to press and hold the button for a few seconds to turn the computer on or wake it from sleep. Since there’s no backlight in the power button, you’ll have to peek at the status light on the side of the computer to know when you can lift your finger (or just guess… but then you might have to press the button more than once).

The computer has an active digitizer and if you get the optional pen it will support 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Under the hood the model featured in this review has an Intel Core m3-8100Y Amber Lake processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe solid state drive — although I couldn’t actually see the SSD when I opened the bottom of the laptop. You may have to remove the mainboard to find it, but I didn’t want to risk damaging the device.

The One Mix 2S Yoga has a 7 inch, 1920 x 1200 pixel display which looks pretty decent to my eye, a 6,500 mAh battery which keeps the laptop running (for a few hours at a time), dual-band WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0.

One thing it doesn’t have? A webcam. There’s not much room for one above the screen, and One Netbook opted not to put one below the screen or in one of the side bezels.

Notes on using a 7 inch laptop

The thing about a laptop computer with a 7 inch display is… that it’s a laptop computer with a 7 inch display.

The One Mix 2S Yoga can do just about everything a larger computer can. You can use it to create and edit documents, play games, watch videos, surf the web, read eBooks, or even edit videos. But the device’s compact size means that some things which are easy on a larger machine may be a little tougher to do on the One Mix 2S.

On the bright side, its small size also means that the little computer is easier to take with you everywhere you go.

I can’t type as quickly on the One Mix 2S Yoga as I can on a device with a full-sized keyboard. But I can type more quickly on the tiny laptop than I can on my phone.

The addition of a fingerprint sensor on this model is also a nice touch, since it saves you some typing. Logging in with a touch of the sensor means you don’t have to type a password or PIN every time you turn on the computer and I find that the sensor is fairly quick and accurate — I rarely had to touch it more than once to login.

The One Mix 2S Yoga’s 7 inch, 1920 x 1200 pixel screen actually has a higher display resolution than the 22 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel monitor I use on my desk. But it packs those pixels into a much smaller space. If you set Windows DPI scaling at 100 percent, text and images will look very, very small.

Out of the box, scaling is set to 200 percent, which means you have an effective display resolution of 960 x 600. You can’t fit as much content on the screen at once, but it’s much easier to see.

I found a nice compromise was 175 percent scaling, but you could also try 150 or 125 percent if your eyesight is better than mine (or if you don’t mind holding the One Mix 2S inches from your nose.

Left: One Mix 2S Yoga / Right: One Mix Yoga

Over the past few weeks I’ve written several articles for Liliputing using just the One Mix 2S Yoga and as far as I can tell those articles featured only my usual number of typos.

I also took the machine with me on a day trip to New York recently. It was the only PC I took with me and I was able to write several articles, take notes, upload some videos to YouTube, and generally do almost everything I would have done if I’d had a larger laptop.

That said, I think the keyboard is tolerable for typing out a few hundred words at a time, but you probably wouldn’t want to write a novel on this thing. The unusual keyboard layout means that even after several weeks of usage, I still find myself hunting for the apostrophe or colon keys when I need them. The keys are so close together that my fingers are bunched up tightly while I’m typing, which can get uncomfortable after a while. And the optical touch sensor is less precise than a normal touchpad — connecting a wireless mouse does help with that a bit though.

Theoretically you can also hold the computer in two hands and thumb-type. But I found the keyboard to be just a little too large to do that comfortably.

Of course, the One Mix 2S isn’t just a notebook. It’s also a tablet. The touchscreen display gives you another method of input and if you push the screen back and hold the computer in tablet mode you can use an on-screen keyboard to type or use Windows 10’s Windows Ink system for handwriting.

I have horrible handwriting and mediocre stick-figure drawing abilities, so I haven’t spent a lot of time using the pen, but it does seem to work for writing, drawing, or interacting with Windows.

You can hover the pen over the display to move an on-screen cursor, tap the pen tip to the screen to left-click, or hold a button on the pen while tapping it to the screen to right-click.

Since the computer doesn’t have a slot for storing the pen, you’re kind of on your own for coming up with a way to keep track of the pen.

In tablet mode it’s easier to use the computer to read eBooks or play touch-friendly games. It also makes a decent portable media player, and if you tilt the screen back 270 degrees or so instead of 360, you can use the keyboard as a sort of stand for propping up the system on a flat surface (like an airplane tray table).

While there are plenty of convertible tablet-style notebooks on the market, the One Mix 2S Yoga is one of the smallest and lightest. At just about 1.2 pounds, it’s very comfortable to hold in one hand while you read, watch, or play — something that’s not always true of larger convertibles.

But when you are using the computer for productivity-oriented tasks, the tiny keyboard and display can be a little uncomfortable. It’s also hard to view multiple apps or windows side-by-side on the 7 inch screen, making this a computer that might be better for single-taskers than heavy multi-taskers.

That’s not to say you can’t run background tasks though. Fortunately the Core m3-8100Y processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD keep things chugging along even when you’ve got multiple applications running.

In fact, the One Mix 2S Yoga is the fastest device I’ve tested in this category to date.

Performance

One Netbook’s first mini laptop was really, really slow. It would be easy to blame that on the computer’s cheap, low-power Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor, but I’ve used a lot of devices with Atom chips. The original One Mix Yoga was slower than most Atom-powered devices released in the past few years.

So it’s nice to see that One Netbook’s new model is one of the fastest devices in its class. It has an SSD with top read and write speeds that are literally 10 times faster than those for the eMMC storage in the One Mix Yoga. And the processor offers much better CPU and GPU performance.

The model featured in this review is powered by an Intel Core m3-8100Y processor, which helps the One Mix 2S Yoga outperforms the competition in most tests. That includes the GPD Pocket 2 (with a 7th-gen Core m3 chip), the Topjoy Falcon (with a Pentium Silver N5000 processor), and of course the original One Mix Yoga (Atom z5-Z8350).

The one exception may be the GPD Win 2. It’s a handheld gaming computer that was released earlier this year. Like the GPD Pocket 2, it has an Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor, but the version used in the Win 2 runs at a higher TDP. The One Mix 2S still beats that computer in most CPU tests, but the Win 2 comes out ahead in a few of the graphics benchmarks I ran.

Don’t get me wrong — neither of these devices is really designed for bleeding edge gaming. But you should be able to run some older games or even newer titles with graphics settings at their low or mid levels.

That’s something that was a lot tougher to do with the original One Mix Yoga. In fact, I shot a comparison video that shows, among other things, Devil May Cry running on both devices at the same time. The game looks like it’s running in slow motion on the One Mix Yoga, while it plays smoothly on the One Mix 2S. In order to get similar frame rates on the first-gen model I had to reduce the display resolution to 640 x 400.

In terms of real-world usage, the One Mix 2S Yoga has easily kept up with just about every task I’ve thrown at it. That includes researching and writing articles for Liliputing while opening as many as 10 browser tabs at once, streaming HD videos from YouTube and other websites, edited documents in LibreOffice, and played a little further in point-and-click adventure game Broken Age (which I started playing while testing the Topjoy Falcon).

For basic tasks it’s kind of hard to tell the difference between this computer with its 5 watt, dual-core Y-series processor and a model with one of Intel’s 15 watt, quad-core U-series chips.

The differences really do kick in when you try to do more resource-intensive things. For example, I fired up Handbrake to transcode a video using the H.265 codec and found that it took more than twice as long to do that on the One Mix 2S than it did on a Dell XPS 13 with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor.

This is not necessarily the computer you’d buy if you were looking for a machine for video editing or other demanding tasks on the go.

But it’s a small versatile device that you really can use for general-purpose computing… assuming you don’t mind stopping to charge the battery every now and again.

One Netbook says the One Mix 2S Yoga should get up to 12 hours of battery life. I think 3-4 hours is more realistic… although it definitely depends on what you’re using the computer for.

Gaming might run down the battery more quickly. Watching videos may offer up longer run time (assuming you’re not streaming videos while doing other things at the same time).

The computer’s USB-C power adapter is pretty small, so it wouldn’t be difficult to carry it with you. And it supports fast charging, so you don’t have to plug the PC in for very long to refuel the battery. But you’ll probably want to pack the charger if you plan to use the computer for more than a few hours.

It’s also possible that you may be able to use an external battery pack if you have one that supports USB Power Delivery, but I don’t have any compatible batteries so I wasn’t able to test that theory.

Another thing to keep in mind is that with a more powerful processor comes… a noisier fan.

The One Mix 2S can get pretty loud at times when the CPU kicks into high gear.

The fan basically seems to have three settings: low, medium, and high. You can toggle quiet mode by hitting Ctrl+ Esc to keep the fan at its lowest, least audible setting.

There’s no option to shut the fan off entirely, but it is pretty quiet at its lowest setting. Unfortunately the computer takes a small performance hit when you enter quiet mode. In order to keep the system from overheating, One Netbook’s quiet mode doesn’t just slow down the fan, it also slows down the processor frequency a bit.

I didn’t notice much difference while surfing the web in quiet mode, but I also didn’t test the computer extensively in this mode.

Can it run Linux? Can you upgrade it?

Yes and no.

I took Ubuntu 18.04 LTS for a spin on the One Mix 2S Yoga recently, and most features seemed to work fine out of the box. WiFi works. Sound works. The keyboard shortcuts for volume and brightness work. And when the computer is in tablet mode the keyboard shuts off to prevent accidental key presses.

Touchscreen and pen input are a little wonky, but that might be at least partly due to the fact that display scaling is set to 100 percent out of the box, which makes the touch targets pretty small.

Folks who spend more time tinkering with Linux than I do might be able to find solutions to those issues. But as a laptop, the One Mix 2S Yoga seems to handle Ubuntu Linux pretty well.

There are a few ways to boot Ubuntu or another Linux distribution from a USB flash drive.

One is by turning off the computer, inserting the USB flash drive, and then pressing the power button, followed by the Fn+F7 to bring up a menu that lets you choose to boot from the flash drive or built-in storage.

Another is to hit Del during startup to enter the BIOS/UEFI settings, where you can change the boot device priority. Secure Boot was disabled by default on the One Mix 2S featured in this review, which should help with some operating systems that may not support the feature. But you can also turn on Secure Boot in the UEFI settings.

Want to upgrade the RAM, storage, or other components? Good luck.

You can remove six screws to open up the bottom of the case and get a look at the computer’s insides. But the only component that looks even remotely easy to upgrade is the wireless card.

If you were really ambitious, I suppose you could try to swap out the 25 Wh battery if you could find another compatible model.

It’s also possible to use the One Mix 2S like a tiny little desktop computer. Plug in a micro HDMI cable and you can connect an external display. Hook up a USB hub and you can use a wireless mouse and keyboard.

Theoretically you can connect a bunch of accessories at once by using a USB-C hub, adapter or dock. The one I tested allowed me to connect a display, Ethernet cable, speakers and wireless keyboard and mouse dongle, using a single cable.

Unfortunately there’s no way to charge the laptop while using that adapter — while the hub has a USB-C port that theoretically supports USB Power Delivery, the One Mix 2S didn’t charge when I plugged in the charging cable.

Verdict

Is this something you should buy? That depends on whether you can justify spending $650 or more on a device that probably won’t replace your laptop.

A a secondary device, the One Mix 2S Yoga is a pretty neat little machine. You can use it as a Windows tablet or as a tiny laptop that’s capable of doing real work.

It offers decent performance, a compact and versatile design, and I can virtually guarantee you that people will stop to ask you about it if you use this little computer in public.

But odds are that you’ll end up telling them how cool it is to have a full-fledged PC that fits in a pocket… and also what a pain it is to type on the tiny (and awkward) keyboard and how difficult it can be to engage in your usual workflow on a 7 inch screen.

And while it offers suitable performance for document editing, web surfing, and other light tasks, I wouldn’t want to use this computer for heavy duty audio, video, or photo editing or other tasks that are likely to really push the hardware to the limits.

This isn’t a device that truly replaces a laptop or smartphone. It’s more of a companion device for folks that may already have one of each.

But with a price tag north of $650, it’s kind of expensive as a companion device.

Then again, you could easily end up spending that much money on an iPad Pro + keyboard or a Surface Go + Type Cover. The difference is that the One Mix 2S Yoga is smaller and has a built-in keyboard. Those differences are curses and blessings.

It’s a 2-in-1 computer that doesn’t require any additional hardware to use as a laptop. It’s small enough to take everywhere. But it’s also small enough to be kind of painful to use for some tasks. And it’s expensive enough that it doesn’t count as an impulse purchase.

For $400 or less, I’d be sorely tempted to buy one. For $650 I’m just glad I got a chance to use one for a few weeks, but I’d rather spend a little more money on a full-sized convertible.

If you feel differently, I really do think the One Mix 2S Yoga is probably the best 7 inch convertible you can buy as of December 2018. That may change in the not-too-distant future. Rival GPD is expected to unveil its next-gen hardware in time for the Consumer Electronics Show in January. And a One Netbook representative hinted to me recently that they’re already working on the One Mix 3.

For now, you can pick up a One Mix 2S Yoga for $660 from GeekBuying when you use the coupon code liliput2s during checkout.

Note that the coupon is only good for the the first 100 people that use it though, so if the deal runs out you’ll end up paying whatever the current list price is.

GeekBuying is also still selling the original One Mix Yoga. It costs less than $500, but I still wouldn’t recommend buying one. While it has a nearly identical design to the newer model, longer battery life, and a backlit keyboard, it’s so slow that I find it to be borderline unusable.

Thanks again to GeekBuying for sending Liliputing both of the little laptops.

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