Onda Xiaoma 21




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Hands-On First Impressions Of The Onda Xiaoma 21

Hands-On First Impressions Of The Onda Xiaoma 21

The Onda Xiaoma 21 is very much like the Civiltop Air or Tbook Air it’s known as I reviewed. Celeron N3450, 4GB LPDDR3 RAM, wireless AC. A 12.5″ 1080p screen, a really bright anti-glare IPS with decent calibration out of the box. it weighs only 1.09 kilos and 12.8mm thin, making it super lightweight and portable. But this one has more ports, but sadly it’s still missing one important one. For some reason, I thought not only did it have, 2 x USB 3.0’s, MicroHDMI, but also a 3.5mm headphone jack. Nope! No 3.5mm, it’s handled via the USB Type-C port which is audio out and in, plus charging only. And Onda doesn’t even include an adaptor in the box.

Wait a minute! Where’s my 3.5mm audio port Onda!

Performance seems great for an Apollo lake. Either power limits, bios tweaks or fast RAM results in much better iGPU performance and all the others. My Half-Life 2 Lost Coast benchmark resulted in 69.17 FPS average default settings 1080p. Yet the Jumper EZBook 3 Pro, gets only 42.44 FPS with the same settings and it even has 2GB of RAM more. Quite puzzling. The Civiltop Air (It’s also the same laptop) has similar results of around 70 FPS.

But if I run Geekbench 4, the results are the more or less the same. 1380 single core and 4000 multi-core. So only the Intel 500 HD GPU is benefiting from whatever settings or RAM tweaks Onda have used. Which is why I think it’s RAM related or the power limit. As seen in the Core M’s if the power limit is increased the GPU can hold much higher clock speeds without clocking itself down. RAM speed and if configured dual band and not single also offers similar performance differences on the integrated graphics.

First impressions & After 3 days:

  • Like the Civiltop Air the build is great, all metal. Well finished.
  • The laptop has an access port for the SSD, this is a great move and more should do this.
  • Wireless AC speeds are great and range seems good. (Dual antennas)
  • The speakers aren’t very loud at all. When charging they cut out as the type-c port is outputting the audio. At this stage, I haven’t found no way to charge and listen to music or even use the internal speakers at the same time. So quite a design flaw!
  • The USB 3.0 ports are in fact one USB 2.0 on the left and USB 3.0 on the right. Both power external hard drives, but the right port sometimes disconnects which is annoying.
  • The keyboard is good to type on, the touchpad is decent and fingerprint unlocking works well.
  • Thermals are great as seen in the unboxing video, there is a nice large heatsink and it does the job well. Gaming after 1 hour, temps were 74 degrees C max. Very good!
  • The 10,000 mAh battery offers great battery life, in my testing at 25% brightness (Still bright for indoors) internet use wifi always on.  I was able to get over 8 hours of use on a single charge. An excellent result.
  • Linux runs on the laptop. Wifi, sound, touchpad, and brightness all working.
  • The power button away from the keyboard is a great move. Not where others have it where the DEL key normally is.
  • The MicroSD slot is via a USB 2.0 hub, and card stick out by about 2mm. Easy to insert or remove but could click out in a bag.

The laptop can be picked up for $239 at Geekbuying here with coupon ONDAXM21 My full review will be coming soon.

Chinese tablet news, hands on videos and reviews of the latest Chinese tablets. I don't review or cover just anything, only tablets I think are good enough and worth the attention.


  1. With help from linuxium.com.au I have done a respin on linuxmint-18.2-cinnamon and installed it on the 256 Gb SSD. It boots rEFInd and then linuxmint. Within 30 second the XM21 is up and running.

    One can download ubuntu-17.10 from the linuxium site and this works from the SSD without the use of rEFInd. Works like a charm if you like Ubuntu, I prefer Mint-Cinnamon.

    The following instructions lead to the working Ubuntu download:
    Regarding the booting on your laptop I’ve just issued an revised version of my ‘isorespin.sh’ script with a new way of booting and installing Linux on Apollo Lake devices (see http://linuxiumcomau.blogspot.com/2017/11/running-and-installing-ubuntu-and.html). I’ve uploaded an ISO (see Apollo near the bottom of the post) which I recommend you download and try first as a liveUSB and then if it boots successfully go ahead and install on your M.2 SSD. If you then still have a long delay after installing and booting from the SSD we can look at debugging the cause. Either way let me know how you get on with the new Apollo ISO and if you have any issues.

    My conclusion is that it is the distro and the notebook.
    A working live USB does not mean that it works from the SSD.

  2. Has anyone else got the reversed settings for screen brightness? I noticed on battery that when i slide the bar for screen brightness, the closer i go to the left side, the brighter the screen. And then I noticed that when Im on power from the cable that the screen is black. Aha, I thought, the screen brightness settings – when on the power cable it is set for max brightness, which is minimum brightness, because the settings are reversed! But of course the onda 21 has no keys for that – you have to use the slider. Which I cant see as soon as I plug in… I think, that this is what is going on, when I get home I will attach a monitor and see if I can work out if that is what is going on.
    I have buggered around with the BIOS trying to get a usb to boot (noticed a setting under ‘southbridge’ of all places) so this may be a self inflicted problem. Onda seem to have a limited BIOS, boo to that, Onda!
    [sorry about the double entry, thought this deserved its own post]

  3. Just got mine, it is very nice though the gold is so chintzy, especially with the gaudy highlights in the edges – would have been nice to have an option for silver! Any ways, is there anything to note with the live usb for ubuntu? I’m trying so far with no success to boot into a live usb session. Tried unetbootin and rufus. There also seems to be no way to press a key on boot and boot into a device, you have to go into the bios… Just wondering if anyne has done this?

    • Has anyone else got the reversed settings for screen brightness? I noticed on battery that when i slide the bar for screen brightness, the closer i go to the left side, the brighter the screen. And then I noticed that when Im on power from the cable that the screen is black. Aha, I thought, the screen brightness settings – when on the power cable it is set for max brightness, which is minimum brightness, because the settings are reversed! But of course the onda 21 has no keys for that – you have to use the slider. Which I cant see as soon as I plug in… I think, that this is what is going on, when I get home I will attach a monitor and see if I can work out if that is what is going on.

    • Am going to post in forum. Got my bios back after the longest time – it was outputting screen to hdmi, only after i selected linux intell, as the target OS. Also i got around the screen dimming by holding the mouse curser over the dimming option, plugging in power, and blindly tapping the screen. Still a million miles from booting linux, secure boot is spawn of satan.

  4. Really impressed with the tiny size and weight of this laptop! Build seems good and the screen is lovely and bright.

    However, the EMMC is faulty on mine. The laptop will often not see it in the BIOS and therefore not boot. I have instead fitted a cheap SSD from AliExpress which works perfectly (and quickly!) and have disabled the SATA port for the EMMC in the BIOS. Installed Windows 10 from a USB stick and copied the drivers folder over from the EMMC before disabling it…no worries at all.

    One disappointing thing…the SSD hatch screw had been tightened too much at the factory. I tried to unscrew it but the screw was of such poor quality, it stripped! Ended up having to remove the entire bottom of the case to fit the SSD!

    Laptop works fairly briskly for most tasks, although I use an ad blocker plugin with Chrome to deal with particularly as heavy sites which can really slow it down.

    Impressed so far (for the money), but I have a Jumper Easybook 3 Pro V4 on order too, and only one will stay…

  5. Some of the spec sheets for the Xioma 21 indicate the ram can be expanded to 8gb. Is there a spare ram slot hiding somewhere? The main logic board seems to have some kind of cover, is there a slot under there by any chance?

  6. By the sounds of it then its a good one, you just have a duff one, the type C does works for charging and audio. Price is around £300.
    All it lacks is a type C/3.5mm adapter, and the speakers are not great(a problem with laptops generally).
    I would argue that given the weight saving over the ezbook 3 pro(300g), and a better battery life, the Onda is the best bet for carry round. Sound like a winner, just need to get a silver one!!

    • $300, not £300!!

    • Yes if the port on mine wasn’t faulty or wired wrong when it comes to audio its a great laptop for sure. Came very close! It still gets a good out of 10 scores from me.

  7. Hi Chris, i’ve heard some rumors that the onda 21 can charge and have audi.
    any confirms on that?

  8. Hello.

    “USB Type-C port which is audio out and in, plus charging only. ”

    Is is really? Not working for data?

  9. The days of the 3.5 mm jack are numbered, we’re all supposed to go to Bluetooth.
    Which raises the question, does this thing support the AptX codec?

  10. Any idea when your onda obook 11 pro full review would come online Chris?

  11. They bump up the price to $300 then knock $30 off, you then need to add $40 for postage..

    • That’s rubbish, not sure why the postage is so expensive. On the Tbook4 I just ordered I didn’t have to pay extra.

  12. The link shows the price of 279 $, not 239 $.

    • Oh if you use the coupon I found it should take $30 off the price. It worked for me, maybe it expired now?

      • Yes, they have increased the price now. Tbao tbook 4 has lower price but will have to wait for your unboxing video to have an idea about its quality.

        • Yes, like I always say. Best wait for my unboxing video first to see if there are any issues or problems, for example, the USB ports don’t power hard drives or bad dull screen and really bad speakers etc.

  13. Looks like a nice light 1kg machine and linux support is great. The color is horrible.

    • Yes, the color is bad, I’m tired of the champaign gold the Chinese love so much. The lack of 3.5mm and then audio when charging is a major.

    • Hi,
      Wonder what you did to be able to state that Linux support is great. Have tried several Linux distros like Ubuntu, Mint Cinnamon, Manjaro XFCE/KDE/Cinnamon, Antergos, Zorin, Fedora, Solus and Netrunner. The only distros which gave me a bootable live USB were Manjaro Cinnamon, Antergos and Solus. Antergos and Solus failed to install on the M.2 2242 SSD. Manjaro Cinnamon installed with a warning that the hardware is not fully compatible with the Xiaoma 21 hardware but further it installed on the SSD.
      However, the UEFI detects the OS on the SSD but it will not boot. All I get is a black monitor with a dead cursor top left of the screen.
      So the question is, what did you do to make Linux work on this laptop?
      Regards, Carel.

      • Hey there – I have the onda 21, yeah i hate the color, and linux support is terrible! Even worse than my old chromebook ; and my old mac! What the hell did the company do to make it so hard???
        I got there in the end (kind of) with the linux [ running ubuntu with MATE ]
        key website = linuxium. I gave the guy a donation because it has improved this machine [except I do think windows does better with battery life]
        http://www.linuxium.com.au/how-tosaSo linixium has a script that you can run on the iso from ubuntu. that script takes the iso, and takes away Grub and replaces it with Refind. There are a million switches that you can employ and one of them is ‘–apollo’. That is essential for us. Then you must burn the disk with the ‘DD’ method!
        It might sound like I knew what I was doing – I didnt, dont, and totally cheated. I found, on linuxiums blog, a link to a downloadable iso that had already been treated by his script, with the right switch employed for the Apollo chipset. I downloaded that and just burned it in windows with Rufus. The FULL version of Rufus not the portable one. I chose ‘dd’ as an option, searched for the iso downloaded from linuxium, changed it so that the file picker could see ‘all files’. Also at the top there are 3 options – I had to try all of them, reboot, etc – before it worked- might have been gpr instead of mbr(?)
        Then one more thing – go back into windows and install refind from windows [you can choose only do this if the machine reverts to going straight into windows too] – there are some command line instructions on the refind website.
        I love my little onda – but: it is not built to the same standard as a Mac – an all metal body doesnt automatically do that! A pad has fallen off, bits are clearly just glued on, the bevel has a barely noticeable separation from the screen near where my left hand rests on the keyboard. But so light, such a nice screen… I am waiting for a 2240 ssd card [I bought the wrong card from samsung, it had screwholes on the corner not the middle - look out for that - i dont think the samsung evo 850 even comes in a 2240]

        • Simon,
          Do you remember the link to the proper Linuxium iso?
          Will save me some time. Have spent a lot of time on trying all different options but still no success.
          My unit is built quite well, no gaps, hinges are ok, keyboard exept for shift keys quite solid and as you mentioned a nice display.
          I have installed a TEAM M.2 SSD (2242) with 256Gb capacity. Managed to install Manjaro Cinnamon on it but does not boot.
          With a Usb stick in the USB 2 port with rEFInd on it I can boot into rEFInd and then select Manjaro vmlinuz which boots Manjaro. Alas Manjaro is showing problems like not updating, installed progs not working etc.
          So I want to install a proper working Linux distro on the SSD and select Win10 from the eMMc or Linux from the SSD by changing it in BIOS.
          Hope to hear from you soon.

          • I am sorry to hear that, particularly as I plan to try to get a boot going from my ssd; whenever it arrives. At the moment I am running fine, With dual boot on a partition on the internal drive. But am running out of space, obviously.
            Is it plausible to boot from the internal hard drive, but actually install onto the ssd? Probably not. Dammit!!

            This is what worked for me:
            The links seem to be on his blog. Every so often he writes about a variaiation of Ubuntu, and half way down the page he has two links: 1) atom ; 2) apollo – you want to choose apollo.

            Here is an example from Linuxiums blog:

            My plan is to choose a light ubuntu and then install a desktop on top of that (currently running MATE on top of the straight ubuntu 17.10 alpha.

            But in case none of that works for you here is a direct link from my browser history from when I got Ubuntu straight ; 17.10 alpha:

            Hope that works for you…

      • Tails runs awesome straight from the USB drive!

        So it’s the distro and not the notebook.

        • Interesting – I will have to give tails a go. Don’t forget though that problems also come up after installation.

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