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Chuwi Hi13 review: The tablet that thinks it's a laptop

Written by Eileen Brown on

Chuwi Hi 13

  • Great stylus and soft keyboard performance
  • Great camera images
  • Optional keyboard performs superbly
  • OEM install slowed performance
  • Non-unicode characters display in Chinese

(Image: Chuwi)

The Chuwi Hi13 is a beast of a tablet. It has a 13.5-inch Surface Book screen with up to 3000x2000-pixel resolution in 3:2 aspect ratio. It looks lovely.

It is a sleek, all-metal body with CNC and dimensions of 334mm by 222mm. It is large enough to be a fully-featured laptop -- if fitted with the optional keyboard, yet the tablet shouts high-quality mobile device.

The tablet itself is about 8.8mm thick (or 16.5mm when the keyboard is attached). It weighs 1080g, which does seem heavy compared to other tablets.

The Chuwi Hi10 Plus only weighs 686g without the keyboard, and the Hi12 weighs 850g.

The keyboard can be attached with the keys facing the screen like a normal laptop.

It can also be attached with the keys facing the back of the tablet, which means you can use the keyboard as a horizontal stand for the tablet or vertically like a tent.

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Under the hood of the device there is an Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3450 quad core processor up to 2.2GHz burst frequency and 14nm process technology squeezed into the form factor.

I expected great performance here with no lag or memory issues. The N3450 processor is also fitted to the Chuwi Lapbook 14.1 and newly released 12.3.

With 4GB DDR3L memory and 64GB eMMC storage, Windows 10 Home should fly. There is also support for an additional TF card of up to 64GB.

The tablet has a 10,000mAh battery that delivers up to eight hours of usage. I found that processor intensive usage reduced this to around five hours, more than other laptops I have tried.

It has a micro USB slot, a micro HDMI slot, a docking port, and 35mm headphone jack down one edge.

The Hi13 has a 2MP front facing camera and a 5MP rear camera. The front-facing camera takes much better pictures than other tablets I have tried, and the auto adjustment lens takes great selfies.

I like typing on a 'proper' keyboard, and always use the hardware keyboards when they are available. The additional keyboard for the Chuwi has a better look and feel than the keyboard on my office laptop.

I love the positive click of the keys, and the keyboard more than keeps up with the speed of my typing. A stylus is an optional extra for this tablet. I tend to use the stylus when in keyboard mode instead of my fingers, trackpad, or external mouse.

The stylus for the Hi13 looks almost identical to the stylus for the Surface Pro. The Surface Pro stylus is magnetised, and the HiPen H3 has a switch near the tip. In all other respects, they are the same.

Chuwi Hi 13 review The tablet that thinks its a laptop ZDNet

The optional stylus works really well with the Hi13. (Image: Chuwi)

The HiPen H3 stylus has a battery instead of a micro USB charger. Although there is a tiny pin hole, I cannot see a light, so I have no idea if the stylus is switched on or off.

There is a switch on the body of the pen that does not seem to do anything. However, every time I touch the stylus to the screen, it works.

One niggle I had is that the tablet was built with Windows 10 languages in Chinese and US English. Non-Unicode characters such as the date on the login screen were displayed in Chinese.

The Vietnamese language was also installed by default. In order to use Cortana with UK English, I had to download the extra language pack and configure speech settings.

The tablet also felt a little 'clunky' changing apps and generally navigating round the OS. I had expected a more sleek performance from the device. I went into settings and reset the device, removing all information and letting the tablet reinstall.

This took about three hours, but my goodness, it was so worth it. The rebuilt OS, free from any OEM add-ons, delivers magnificent performance.

I love the way that the interface switches between stylus and touch. If I touch the keyboard icon on the taskbar with the stylus, the handwriting UI appears instantly.

Its handwriting recognition is excellent. It recognised almost all words in my cursive scrawl. If I touch the keyboard icon with either my finger or the mouse, the soft keyboard appears so that I can type directly on the tablet. Its seamless and very fast.

For an extra $50, I would definitely buy the keyboard for the tablet, and I would also spend another $20 on the Chuwi HiPen H3.

All in all, the Hi13 is something I would use to replace my aging Lenovo laptop. It is lighter than my laptop, sleeker, and looks a heck of a lot more stylish.

Chuwi will release its 6GB RAM Lapbook 12.3 at the end of the month. At the moment, I would prefer the larger screen and lighter weight of the Hi13 (the Lapbook weighs 1442g).

But it would be really hard to choose between them.

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