Home / Opinions / We've backed the Superbook on Kickstarter – here's why you should too

We've backed the Superbook on Kickstarter – here's why you should too

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Every week, we scour Kickstarter, Indiegogo and more to find the best crowdfunding projects around so you know which ones to consider backing – and what to definitely avoid.

This week's pick is a clever device called the Superbook, which turns your smartphone into a laptop. And our one to avoid? One person wants you to fund their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Las Vegas. Seriously.

What is the Superbook?

The Superbook is a laptop, just without the whole laptop bit. While it looks like a standard notebook, it's simply the shell of one. Plug in your phone, however, and it comes to life as a fully functioning portable computer, letting you browse the web, edit documents, email, play games and more – all using the power of your smartphone.

Related: Wolffepack Capture is a photographer's secret weapon – fund it today

Why is it interesting?

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Because it solves a real problem: why pay for two computers (a laptop and a smartphone) when one can do the job just as well, and for a fraction of the price?

Prices for the Superbook start at just $99, which is about £75 before allowing for potential UK taxes. That's far cheaper than the outlay for any decent laptop, and since there are minimal innards – it weighs only 0.9kg – it's lighter than premium devices like the 2016 12-inch MacBook to boot.

It works with most modern Android phones, as long as they meet the basic spec requirements (Android 5.0, dual-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM, 25MB of free storage) and is designed to support future iterations of Google's mobile OS, including Android 7.0 Nougat.

In other words, it'll almost feel like you're getting a new laptop every time you upgrade your phone, which you no doubt do much more regularly than you buy a new laptop. Double-win.

Best of all, there's no complicated firmware to install, and no technical know-how required. Just install the Andromium OS app from Google Play, and it will scale up your smartphone screen to fill the 11.6-inch display.

Then it's just like using a notebook, complete with mouse cursor and multi-touch trackpad, keyboard shortcuts (plus Android-specific buttons such as Home and Overview), desktop-class browsing and easy file management. It will even charge your smartphone for you while it's plugged in.

The Superbook also features a greater number of connection options than most laptops, since it can use your phone's data connection without the need to tether as well as supporting Wi-Fi. Handy.

What are the challenges?

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As with all hardware, the threat of delays is the main challenge. These could come in the form of certification issues, whereby the agencies that have to test and approve the components take longer than expected, or production line problem.

But Andromium – the firm behind the Superbook – has partnered with Cambridge, MA-based Dragon Innovation, which has helped bring to market devices such as the Pebble smartwatch, MakerBot 3D printer and Lifx smart light bulbs. The creators are pretty confident that the Superbook will be delivered on time, and we see no reason why it shouldn't.

Related: How to turn an Android phone into a PC

Is there anything similar available?

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Yes. Microsoft's Windows Continuum is probably its biggest competitor – it's a piece of software that performs identically when you plug your phone into a monitor. However, it does mean switching to Windows 10 Mobile – something that, honestly, we're not too keen on.

Regardless, the idea itself isn't new. Back in 2011, the Motorola Atrix was sold alongside a special laptop dock. Instead of plugging in via a USB cable, the phone sat in said dock behind the main laptop screen. Apart from that, it was nearly identical to the Superbook.

Of course, smartphones are way more powerful than they were back in 2011, so the Superbook should offer a significantly more refined and PC-like experience.

Should I crowdfund this?

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We would. In fact, we have. TrustedReviews deputy editor Andy Vandervell, for one, has pledged his support – don't say we never put our money where our mouth is.

Plus, the Superbook works as a handy second monitor for Windows tablets, laptops and PC sticks, as well as Macs, so it's useful even when you don't plug in your phone.

You shouldn't be put off by lack of software support, either. Andromium has released an SDK to let developers make their apps compatible with the Andromium programme. We're expecting a flood of apps soon.

At time of publication, the Superbook had already passed $1.5 million in funding, meaning it's unlocked some stretch goals. These include a customised sleeve with a pocket for your smartphone, a 1080p displayoption (which will cost $30, or about £23, extra), a bigger battery and an extra USB port.

Further stretch goals are also on offer, so with pledges starting at just $99, there's only one real question left: what are you waiting for?

Check out the Superbook Kickstarter page here.

Disclaimer: While we're confident enough in this project to back it ourselves, crowdfunding always entails risks – you're not buying an existing product, rather helping to create a new one. If you're unsure of what you're signing up for, read Kickstarter's Terms of Use before you support the Superbook.

And one to avoid this week...

Journey to CES 2017. Yes, someone wants you to pay for them to go to CES, the world's biggest technology trade show that takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada. They're after $8,000, which is about £6,000.

And what do you get in return? They'll write about it, and take pictures and videos, all of which you can view online. Excellent. Of course, you could just check out TrustedReviews for all the latest news instead, and save yourself the money.

Watch The Refresh: The best tech gossip and reviews every week

Will you back the Superbook? Tell us why (or why not) in the comments below.

Michael Garry

August 10, 2016, 6:54 am

I was wondering why you weren't mentioning the screen details, then at the end we find out 1080p is an *additional* cost. What? 1080p has been the *minimum* res on a laptop (and phone to be fair) for quite some time now.

Then we consider the apps. How many are any good to do any work? A cut down MS Office, ok, not bad. Google docs via a browser - well I'm not a fan, but many are. Most things outside of those - next to nothing, or severely limited. You are expecting an avalanche of apps to use their API? I'm not - and I'm a developer.

I can see the benefit in this, but once again something that appeals more to journalists (who travel a lot and just need to put together documents or web pages) and not so much for most other people. Please also see the iPad Pro.

pablouk

August 10, 2016, 8:15 am

Didn't ASUS have something like this

gilahacker

August 10, 2016, 8:35 am

Asus Padphone. A phone that docked into a tablet to give it a bigger screen.

gilahacker

August 10, 2016, 8:42 am

I *wish* 1080p was the minimum resolution for laptops. My Core i7, 16 GB RAM, SSD-rocking work laptop has a 15-point-something inch 1600x900 screen. My previous work laptop only had a practically unusable (for my job) 1366x768 px screen, which I think is what the base Superbook is. Here's hoping I can get something better in the next round of upgrades because when I checked about a month ago they were still only offering the model I currently have.

I have to hook up my own higher-res monitors to be able to do actual productive work. 1080p would at least be somewhat usable for the times I only have the laptop (e.g. out and about while on-call).

gilahacker

August 10, 2016, 8:45 am

Something I don't think was specifically mentioned in the article: this uses DisplayLink via USB OTG. It's pretty much the same thing as a USB monitor, except in laptop form.

Arel

August 10, 2016, 3:09 pm

I've backed it as well, but I'm anticipating disappointment. The prices listed for the base model ($99) mean that build quality is going to suck, leaving me with a nagging feeling that I'm going to receive a netbook which has had the cpu, storage and connectivity stripped out of it.

Hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised though.

Michael Garry

August 11, 2016, 12:20 am

My commiserations - what brand and model do you have? Is it Lenovo?

gilahacker

August 11, 2016, 12:49 am

This one is an HP EliteBook 8570p. Previous one was a Dell something-or-other.

Looking at the "traditional laptops" (non 2-in-1) section on Amazon.com, filtering for "new" laptops only, it's a 57/43 percentage split with not a whole lot more 1080p+ laptops than sub-1080p ones. If you limit to sub-$500, which I think is fair enough to call entry-level, only 11.4% have 1080p screens, while 80% of them are 1366x768. The cheapest 1080p laptop is a 14" HP 14-an013nr for $220.

For the $99 (+shipping) asking price, I'm not surprised by the default sub-1080p screen on the Superbook but it's still disappointing that anyone is making sub-1080p screens still. I didn't back their Kickstarter until they offered the 1080p option and it was confirmed that I can use this as an extra monitor for my work laptop. My 15.6" Asus MB168B+ 1080p USB monitor was $200 and thats just a monitor, so $150 shipped for a 1080p Superbook really isn't all that bad.

cane prevost

August 11, 2016, 7:34 pm

This makes sense now. The higher end Android phones are now powerful enough to function as a laptop. I can probably do about 80% of what I'd ever want to do with a laptop with this. When I upgrade my phone my laptop is automatically upgraded. I can also plug this into my Surface Pro and use it as a second monitor with keyboard. Perfect for photo editing. It works with Raspberry pi as well as computer sticks. Lots of practical uses. It'll be a great travel laptop as it's lightweight and cheap.

Josef Schlehofer

August 11, 2016, 8:53 pm

Shipping (40$) is killing it :(

Team Yellow

August 28, 2016, 4:35 pm

1080p definitely is not the accepted minimal res. Depending on screen size and ppi lower resolutions can be just as crisp as 1080p.

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