A well-equipped Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre 13, or Apple MacBook Pro will cost well north of $ 1,000, and it might be overkill if you care about styling but only need a sleek ultraportable laptop for drafting emails and watching the occasional movie on your plane or a couch. Enter the Avita Clarus ($ 649), a 14-inch ultraportable that promises adequate if unimpressive processing power packaged in a sleek aluminum body. I got a chance to check it out at CE Week in New York City, and you will too at WalMart starting this summer. It’s got an undoubtedly attractive price for such a sleek machine, but it’s not without drawbacks.
It’s a Skinny Clamshell
The traditional clamshell laptop design has been around forever, and it’s hard to imagine that a manufacturer could completely reimagine it, certainly not for a machine that costs $ 649. Avita, part of an electronics startup based in Hong Kong, wisely decided not to reinvent the wheel with the Clarus. Apart from the sleek aluminum exterior, which comes in your choice of silver, matte black, or gold, it’s a mostly unremarkable laptop.
I noted standard-size bezels (borders around the screen), a traditionally-placed webcam, and a rather ho-hum-looking keyboard that nevertheless has sturdy, full-size keys. At 3.3 pounds and 0.7 inch thick, the Clarus is on the heavy side compared with competing 13-inch ultraportables, but it’s not unwieldy.
The 14-inch glossy full HD (1080p) display is, unfortunately, lacking touch support. That said, colors look great, and it uses In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology for wide viewing angles. These features are all perfectly acceptable, but it’s not like you’re getting outsized value for your $ 649 here.
The one remarkable physical attribute of the Clarus is its incredibly wide touchpad. A few other manufacturers are making wide-format touchpads to match the 16:9 aspect ratio of a traditional wide-screen laptop. But Avita takes it a step further with a touchpad that is not only oversize but also sturdy in build.
The pad has a very comfortable-feeling click action, to boot. I was able to click nearly anywhere on the pad during my brief demo and have the input register on the screen. It’s a welcome change from the sometimes-finicky pads that I’ve seen on laptops such as HP’s Spectre X360 15.
Inside the laptop are components that you’d expect to find on a sub-$ 500 laptop, which suggests that Avita has devoted a significant portion of its development costs to styling and the chassis build rather than packing in impressive specs. That’s not to say that I noticed any sluggishness as I alternated between the Microsoft Edge browser and the Windows video player, but you likely won’t want to use this laptop for gaming or multimedia editing.
There’s a seventh-generation Core i5 processor, already showing its age now that eighth-generation “Coffee Lake” and “Kaby Lake R” chips have been on the market for several months. Also inside: 8GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). These specs are generally the bare minimum that we recommend for an ultraportable tasked with everyday computing chores, especially since Windows itself takes up a noticeable portion of graphics and CPU power just to run OS functions such as the Aero display.
Unfortunately, there’s currently no option to upgrade the processor, memory, or storage.
A “Liber” on the Horizon
Clarus is Avita’s first model for sale in the United States, but the company is already planning on bringing another laptop to America by the end of the year. Called the Liber, its specs are nearly identical, apart from a larger (256GB) SSD, but they fit into a much smaller 12-inch form factor, reminiscent of the netbooks that were popular a decade ago.
The Liber has several additional color options, too, including Angel Blue, Peacock Green, Lavender, and Blossom Pink. It’s 0.59 inch thin and weighs 2.6 pounds, measurements that put it in competition with the thinnest and lightest ultraportables on the market. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but as long as you can tolerate the 12-inch screen size and the fact that it’s USB-C only, it looks to be a slightly more compelling offering than the Clarus.
We’re expecting to get both models into PC Labs for review soon, so check back soon for our complete opinions and ratings of the Avita Clarus and Liber.