Due to some equipment reshuffles, I found myself needing another Windows laptop, and one thing and another led me to HSN’s special price of $350 for an unknown “Avita Pura” 14 inch machine. Obviously, given the venue and the price, this is aimed at non-technical buyers, probably as a computer for kids, but I am nothing if not a value shopper.
I say “unknown” but in fact the Avita brand has had quite a bit of exposure in Europe and India, and there are lots of reviews of it (This review by Geekyranjit is representative. Pay close attention to the Cinebench scores he shows… OpenGL 46.40fps, CPU 588cb). They are not, however, reviewing the US-spec budget model – and this model is significantly different from the others. The basics of the form factor are the same, but the internals are very different. Even the chassis are not completely identical – the sleep/power LED is on the upper right of the keyboard on the US model, and seems to be on the upper left of the keyboard on the India models. You can see from the AA cell in my picture below that the machine is, indeed, very thin – and because it’s made entirely of plastic, it’s only about 2.5lbs.
What your $350 buys is:
- AMD A9-9420e CPU (“5 compute cores 2C+3G”, which means two CPU cores, no HT, and 3 GPU engines, 1MB shared L2 cache and no L3)
- 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD – this is a real replaceable M.2 2280 SSD, Sandisk X600 SD9SN8W128G1122, not a soldered eMMC
- b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2
- 1920×1080 14″ IPS LCD and VGA webcam (!) – the multiple holes around it suggest that it has multi-mic noise cancellation
- Backlit keyboard
- Mini HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, USBC, 3.5mm headphone jack and MicroSD card slot, also a proprietary charger port. Some info on the Avita support site suggests that the laptop may also be charged over USBC if you have a USBC-PD compliant charger and the proper E-Mark cable
- Rated at “up to 8” hours of battery life
Let’s get the performance news out of the way first. Cinebench R15 gives it OpenGL 15.13fps, CPU 92cb. There’s no typo here. If you look at Geekyranjit’s review of the Ryzen 2500 version of this laptop, you’ll see lovely smooth window zooms and transitions – trust me, the experience on the 9420e is nothing like that slick. It’s totally usable, but you’ll want to disable all unnecessary UI chrome. Unless your idea of hardcore gaming is Minesweeper, you won’t be gaming on this machine. WinUAE runs fine, though :). It would appear that all the compromises have been made in the direction of power consumption, and to be fair they’ve achieved approximately their stated 8 hour goal for light usage.
Ergonomically, the device is super plastic and flimsy, as you’d expect – but the keyboard, surprisingly, has fair travel and an acceptable feel. The trackpad is likewise adequately sized and performant, with good palm rejection. The screen is also fine, visually, in terms of color gamut and brightness. The camera is completely worthless. The speakers are just okay; netbook quality.
Assuming you take good enough care of the machine to avoid having the plastic case crushed in a bag (do NOT put lumpy objects alongside it in your bag!) the biggest durability worry for me is the screen hinge. The chassis flexes visibly as you open and close the lid, and from experience (particularly with the old vpr matrix series from Best Buy) once the hinge starts to get older and bind up a little, it is going to burst the entire hinge assembly apart as you open or close it. There’s terrific leverage and a lot of force concentrated into a small area there; this will be the first point of failure from normal use.
Is this a good laptop, or one I’d recommend, say, as a kids’ machine? Well… Frankly, no. Its storage and RAM are adequate, and the CPU/GPU are the okayest. So it’s functionally usable as a basic school machine, and for web browsing, Netflix and the like. But the apparent physical durability vs performance of the laptop is such that there may be no truly sweet spot where the user is both old enough to take good care of it, but young enough not to need or want anything better. If I’m being overly paranoid about the durability, the calculus changes a bit – it would be an acceptable machine (at its current $349 discount price, not at $499 MSRP) and I suppose a decent stocking-stuffer.