I’ve been fascinated by Porsche cars for years. Even as a teenager I would keep scrapbooks of the latest models, and visit car showrooms to see the exquisite 911 Turbo. While Porsche is known throughout the world as a sports car maker, its name can also be found on many other products, such as phones and headphones, thanks to a subsidiary named Porsche Design. The latest product from the firm is a computer, one of my other favorite fascinations.
Porsche Design’s Book One is designed to be an alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Book. Unlike Porsche Design’s Huawei Mate 9 phone, the laptop is unique in both its design and functionality. It flips like a Lenovo Yoga, and the screen detaches like a Surface Book. A strange hinge does all the work, while echoing the look of a gearbox that might be found in a sports car.
It’s a touchscreen, a tablet, a 2-in-1, and a regular laptop. I’ve seen so many wild tablet and laptop combinations that I’ve almost grown bored of them in recent years. The Book One stood out to me when I first saw it earlier this year, thanks to its unique approach.
At $2,500 for a Core i7 / 16GB of RAM model you’re paying a massive price premium for the ultimate laptop hinge and a Porsche logo, but uniqueness doesn’t always make things better. If I could ever afford to buy a Porsche car, then I’d expect performance and design to be perfect. I expected the same from the Porsche Design Book One. Unfortunately, this laptop doesn’t deliver. Porsche might have nailed the unique aspect, but the Book One is racing close to the finish line, and it needs a pit stop to fix some fatal flaws.
Porsche Design’s Book One looks and feels industrial from the moment you take it out of the box. The packaging is a work of art that I didn’t want to throw in the trash, and the laptop extends that even further. A brushed aluminum finish surrounds the entire laptop, and it feels great. The Porsche Design logo is prominent under the screen and on the lid. Bizarrely, there are Intel and Windows logos etched into the aluminum bottom instead of being removable stickers as is common on most PCs. It’s super tacky, but you don’t ever see them.
The edges of the laptop are sharp, almost harsh, and the hinge is designed to replicate a gearbox. It has teeth that squeeze together to let the display flip over like a Yoga laptop. Porsche opted for a 13.3-inch display with a 3200 x 1800 resolution, and it’s a fine-looking screen, but it doesn’t really stand out. The bezels are too thick at the top and bottom, and the Windows scaling is set far too high by default, so everything is huge.
It’s really this display that, like the Surface Book, is supposed to be the star of the show. You can also detach it from the keyboard base, thanks to a button on the side. Using the display as a tablet isn’t a great experience, however. The sharp edges are unpleasant and harsh feeling. Unlike the Surface Book, the bottom corners of the Book One aren’t rounded off, so they dig into your palms. It only takes a few minutes for this to get really uncomfortable.
I’ve been primarily using the Book One as a regular laptop, and setting it on my lap really highlighted a big design flaw: it’s far too top heavy. There have been times where the Book One would fall off my lap at certain angles, or I’d have to raise my legs to rescue it before it flipped onto the floor. I had similar issues with the Surface Book being top heavy, but the Book One is even worse. Around the office, I typically grab my laptop and run into meetings without closing the display, and a lot of the time I found the Book One display wouldn’t hold in place. It’s been a frustrating experience.
Inside the Book One there are some impressive specs, as you’d expect for the high price tag. Porsche has opted for the latest Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, Wacom pen support, and a Windows Hello camera. Despite these specs, I found the Book One suffered from some performance issues. The interface felt very laggy at times, and on several occasions, I’d resume from sleep and the keyboard, trackpad, and display would be non-responsive so I had to force a reboot. I asked Porsche Design about these problems, and the company says the resume from sleep issue is a Windows 10 problem that Microsoft will fix “within the next two weeks.” For now, you can disable a power setting as a workaround, but if you’re paying $2,500 for a laptop you shouldn’t have to worry about any of this.
The trackpad is a Windows precision one, and it’s accurate and responds well. The main complaint I have about the keyboard is that the backlit keys are hard to see if you’re searching for a function key. Otherwise, the keys have a nice amount of travel and are well-spaced out. Porsche has also thoughtfully placed the headphone jack at the bottom of the display, so the cables won’t dangle over the display or keyboard when you’re typing. You’ll probably want to use headphones a lot with the Book One, because the built-in speakers are terrible, and there’s a slight sound of coil whine that irritated me in silent rooms.
Connectivity-wise, the Book One has most of the ports you want on a computer in 2017. There are two USB-C (the one on the monitor is Thunderbolt) and two regular USB ports, alongside a microSD slot. It’s a shame there’s not a full SD card reader, but at least storage is expandable. The Book One can also be charged via USB-C, but I found it didn’t live up to Porsche Design’s battery life claims. I got around six hours of battery life during regular daily use, which isn’t enough for a laptop of this class and price.
Overall, the Porsche Design Book One is a disappointment. I had high hopes for this laptop, and assumed it would pave the way for Microsoft to produce a similar design for its next Surface Book. Porsche has one-upped Microsoft in features and ideas, but it falls flat in execution and functionality. There are some fundamental design flaws with the Book One, especially the top-heavy nature of it.
Porsche Design has rushed into the race with a laptop that looks unique, but a closer inspection reveals that it has some bad parts that need to be fixed. Quanta (a white-label device manufacturer), Intel, and even Microsoft have all helped Porsche Design create the Book One, but it’s not enough. I appreciate that Porsche has tried to push the boundaries with its laptop like it has with car design, but it has failed. I’m hopeful that the next iteration of a Porsche-branded laptop will fix all the problems I had. For now, the Book One stands as another demonstration of why laptop makers should focus on the basics instead of trying to cram too much into a single device.