The Linx 12X64 looks like a cut-price Microsoft Surface Pro, but that’s not the best way to approach it. Instead, think of it as an upgrade on the sort of ultra-cheap Windows 10 machine that you should probably discourage your friends and family from buying.
Linx built its name selling cheap 7-inch and 8-inch tablets, then 2-in-1Windows machines like the Linx 1010, 1010B and 1020. In the UK, these retail for around £150 or sometimes less, including taxes. But while they are good value, their limitations are all too clear.
The Linx 1020’s drawbacks – which are common at this price level – include a touch screen with a resolution of 1200 x 800 pixels, 2GB of memory, and 32GB of eMMC storage. This is OK for casual use, and even for everyday Microsoft Office tasks. However, there’s not enough memory to support a lot of browser tabs or much multi-tasking, and there’s probably not enough storage for several years of Windows 10 upgrades.
The Linx 12X64, in contrast, has 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, which is fine for the 64-bit version of Windows 10 Home that comes pre-installed. Further, the 12.5-inch IPS screen has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, so you can see plenty of text on screen as well as play Full HD movies.
The Linx 12X64 even has an aluminium back, which gives it a feeling of solidity, and its companion keyboard is stiff enough not to flex.
The 12X64 also has a better processor than the Linx 1020, but it’s not much of an improvement. It has a 1.44GHz quad-core Atom x5-z8350 instead of an x5-Z8300, but the performance is almost exactly the same.
Yes, you get a keyboard
Unlike Microsoft, Linx includes detachable keyboards with its Windows tablets, and the one shipped with the Linx 12X64 is very usable, once you’ve adapted to it. Indeed, I’ve used worse keyboards on some traditional laptops.
The keyboard makes its connection via a set of five small pins, and is held in place by strong magnets. There are also small magnets to keep the keyboard/cover closed when you are carrying it around.
Unlike the older 12.2-inch Linx 12V64 version, the keyboard doesn’t tilt up like a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or 4.
The UK keyboard layout is good, with two large shift keys, though the Enter key is a little small. The Function keys work primarily as function keys, in the traditional style. The minor drawbacks: there are no Page Up/Page Down or Home/End keys, and the Caps Lock key doesn’t have a light indicator.
Obviously you wouldn’t expect backlit keys at this price…..
Yes, you get ports
The Linx 12X64 has a good set of ports, for a tablet. These include a full-size USB 3.0 port, microUSB, HDMI and mini-HDMI. The smartphone-style charger plugs into the microUSB port, which leaves the USB 3 port free. You can therefore attach a USB keyboard, or a hub, or a USB-to-Ethernet adaptor, and use the Linx while it’s charging. This is a Good Thing because it doesn’t have fast charging.
The 12X64 also has a micro-SD memory card slot. A 128GB card should hold all the data you’re likely to need on a little 2-in-1, unless you have a large music collection.
Both Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth wireless are included, which is handy for using Bluetooth mice and speakers.
As you’d expect from the Atom x5-Z8300, the Linx 12X64 is an adequate but not a snappy performer. It scored 336 on the free NovaBench benchmark – the same as my two-year-old £150 Lenovo Miix 3. It lags the Asus T1010HA, which scored 408, though there’s really not much difference.
I don’t have any benchmarks for the Linx 1020, but I’d expect it to perform about the same. Given that the Linx 12X64 could cost up to twice as much, this is disappointing. However, the extra RAM and storage should ultimately provide better real world performance.
My Linx 12X64 loaner worked well on Wi-Fi. It never had a problem connecting, and broadband speed tests revealed that it worked slightly faster than my Miix 3 and Lenovo Yoga 700.
Screen and sound
The screen and the sound quality are quite good for this class of machine. The multi-touch screen offers high resolution, as mentioned, and the colours are not washed out. The screen is bright enough, and IPS provides good viewing angles. It’s shiny rather than matt, but that’s common nowadays.
The Linx 12X64 has two speakers that point out of the sides of the screen, providing a noticeable stereo effect. They don’t go very loud, but they are quite listenable at full volume. I found I could watch YouTube videos and catch-up TV at home without using earbuds or headphones, though there’s a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack to cater for those.
Linx quotes a battery life of “up to 7 hours (depending on usage)”, but I seemed to get more than that in everyday use. In the one case that I tracked extra carefully, it lasted more than 8 hours.
I assume this was because I was using it indoors with the brightness set at 52%. Turn the brightness up and the battery obviously won’t last as long.
In my case, “normal use” comprises email, web browsing, Microsoft Word and Excel, and occasional short videos. However, I did leave Wi-Fi with the instruction to “stay connected” even when the machine was off. This appeared not to drain the battery.
Still, the battery tracking was a bit weird. I typically used it for short periods – from 30 minutes to 2 hours – and I often had more time remaining when I switched it off than when I’d opened it up. Perhaps the 12X64 was making a guess when I turned it on, and then calculating a time based on my usage.
To give some examples, when I turned it on at 7.40pm, the battery was at 89%, and the Linx said I had 5h 30m left. When I turned it off an hour later, the battery was at 80% but the time left had grown to 9h 25m. During a half-hour lunchtime session of email and Twitter, the battery went down from 59% to 55% but the time remaining jumped from 3h 5m to 6h 29m – more than twice as long.
In the end, I just assumed the Linx would use around 10% of its charge per hour and ignored its estimated times.
Oh, the horror
My major problem with the Linx 12X64 was its trackpad, which proved to be much more sensitive than my fingers. At first, I inadvertently invoked several gestures, causing windows to magically appear or disappear, or get bigger or smaller, or change magnification, for no apparent reason.
I’ve had similar problems with other machines, too. I’ve solved them by turning off tap-to-click, disabling gestures, and so on. Unfortunately, the 12X64’s settings app only had an entry for the (non-existent) mouse, and no entry for a “precision trackpad”. In sum, the usual touchpad controls were not available, and I couldn’t figure out a way to add them.
“Lapability” is also a problem with tablet/convertibles/detachables that use a kick-stand to support the screen, and the Linx is no exception. You can balance this kind of device on your knees, and some people manage it better than others, but I’ve never found it comfortable. Sometimes it’s better to detach the keyboard and use the on-screen version instead.
The Linx 12X64 is a good second machine for casual home or business use, and it could work as a primary device for a child. At 930g, it’s light enough to carry around all the time, robust enough to survive being dropped on a carpet (I accidentally did that once), and cheap enough that you won’t spend much time worrying about it.
But it’s not easy to assess its value, because the Brexit-induced fall in the value of sterling is still pushing up market prices.
My initial impression was that at the normal retail price – around £299.99 – it was a little expensive. However, at £249.99 it’s good value, and Currys PC World is currently selling it for £249.98 inc VAT.
One rival is the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA, which has the same CPU, RAM and storage for £289.99 (which is “£160 off” – John Lewis is charging £449.95). However, the Asus has a 10.1-inch screen with 1280 x 800-pixel resolution, and a USB 2.0 port instead of USB 3.0. Also, keyboards on 10-inch machines are inevitably smaller and more cramped than the one that ships with the 12X64.
The Linx 12X64 also competes against the 10-inch Lenovo Miix 320, which has the same CPU and RAM but increases the eMMC storage to 128GB for £299.95. Again, however, it’s limited by its 1280 x 800 screen.
Of course, buying a computer always involves compromises, and at this sort of price level, the compromises are significant ones. The Linx 12X64 is no exception. However, it does provide reasonable compromises for the price, and it worked reliably for the month I used it.