Do you want a modular laptop? InFocus has been dabbling with the idea beginning with their mini desktop, and it was only a matter of time that they would apply it in clamshell form. The Kangaroo Notebook is such a device that tries to solve the problem of separating work and personal usage by way of two swappable modules.
It’s fair to ask the question of who the Kangaroo Notebook tailored for, and does its uniqueness actually pay off. Basically, this setup comes in three parts: first of which the laptop dock. The look and feel makes no qualms about its workaday purposes, made of black plastic that attracts fingerprints like a magnet and a lone Kangaroo logo on the upper-right corner of the lid. Opening it up reveals an island-style keyboard and touchpad surrounded by more plastic, and a non-glossy 1366×768 display. External ports such as a headphone jack, full-size SD card reader, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and battery status LEDs are situated on the right side.
But the physical laptop is merely a shell since the two mini modules themselves that are the real “brains” of the device. These gray sticks look similar to business cards and have the thickness of a USB flash drive, interestingly each one houses its own processor, memory, wireless chipset (802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.2), and expandable MicroSD storage slot. They’re also proprietary and make use of a port on the left side of the machine, where it snuggly fits with a outward protrusion. It all weighs in at 2.86-pounds and dimensions of 11.4 x 7.7 x 0.4 inches, normal for most 11-inch laptops.
Kangaroo won’t win any awards in aesthetics with the Notebook, and vigorously leans on being utilitarian. The initial touch of the keyboard itself is built to a price, with a vertical travel of 1.3 millimeters that requires breaking-in before getting acclimated. Power typists who live and die by their keyboards will immediately resent the smaller footprint and stiff feel, forcing a less aggressive style — everyday users (less than 80 words per minute) and college students will find less to complain about despite the flex. The touchpad is just as basic, offering accurate tracking and decent left/right click response, but leaving out the gesture controls entirely.
The display gets the job done as an also-ran being usable for those with eyeballs in general. There’s nothing I can praise or detract from this screen because the hues, while less vivid and overwhelmed when subjected to highlights looks presentable when viewed straight-on. The audio is equally passable but can sound fairly muffled and misses the low-ends, you either need turn to up the volume or bring your own headphones. The webcam is one surprise despite being front-facing and limited to 2MP, the quality is fairly good with light and colors coming in pleasantly balanced.
At Popzara we drool over all types of crazy and extreme laptops we happen to cross upon, but we also value the splendor of practicality when it’s time to get some work done. The Kangaroo Notebook doesn’t exactly set my heart on fire with its Intel Atom x5-Z8350 1.44GHz CPU, 2GB of LPDDR3, and an anorexic 32GB of eMMC internal storage. If you’re one of many who’s cheap then you’ll already know what you’re getting here: something necessary for the typical office grind or academic slog, and will be able to survive months of getting banged around in a carrying case. Ultimately, a laptop you won’t get upset about when it inevitably meets some kind of calamity.
For what it’s worth, the Kangaroo Notebook has scant traces of genius thank to the removable modules that incorporate all the important vitals. If the worst should happen when the Fisher-Price dock gets crumpled into plastic shards you’re not totally screwed, as the sticks themselves come with individual copies of Windows 10 Home. This also happens to be the most barebone laptop I’ve used in a long time, and doesn’t like web tabs being carelessly left open (things slowed to a crawl with five on Firefox) or YouTube streaming above 720p, running at a sizzling 112°F from the bottom under duress.
Luckily (if it’s any consolation), the Kangaroo stays cooler for the strictly productive or light tasks that it was meant for. Microsoft Office exhibited little signs of system stuttering, with similar results on Google Docs, OpenOffice, and OneDrive clients. Of course, anything related to gaming is an bone-fide ‘no-no’ while doing graphic work in Photoshop or GIMP is feasible on an absolute minimum level, I really can’t stress that last part enough.
The module approach is mildly clever if you ignore the proprietary nature behind it, and allows users to keep their important files and activities physically free from unsavory computing muck (Facebook) or a burner unit (Ashely Madison, Pornhub). I find the concept hard to grasp considering how little horsepower you get; a quick Geekbench 4 rundown gave us respective scores of 939 (Single Core) and 2404 (Dual Core). Thanks to that eMMC storage, Read/Write speeds were some of the lowest I’ve seen this generation when copying a 4.01GB file, taking about three minutes (3:02) at 141.4MBps (read) and 26MBps (write). You’re better off saving to a external drive by default or relying on the cloud for large amounts of data. Battery life was okay at 7:45 hours, just enough for a normal work day.
I’ve been intrigued by the Kangaroo Notebook for a while now. With so many existing choices such as the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S and HP Notebook 15, it’s admirable for InFocus to try to be different by technically offering two computers for the price of one. It’s doable as a no-frills office machine.
But there are obvious handicaps with the reliance of an underpowered Atom processor. The Cherry Trail CPU is a poor fit and gets asthmatic when browsing the internet under tabs. I would have happily given up the second mini stick for something better in the box (Anything from the Celeron or Core lineup would suffice), and give people the opportunity to buy an extra module if need be.
I still appreciate that Kangaroo tried something potentially innovative with their first notebook, and has me pondering on what could be next — a larger model or even a gaming variant with a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card perhaps — if they’re willing. For now, it wouldn’t hurt Kangaroo to take this concept back to the lab for necessary tweaking.