If you’re in the market for a gaming tablet, the odds are good that you’ve seen just how widely prices vary. We had to know: can you get a good second screen experience without breaking the bank? That’s exactly what we’re out to find out in today’s review of the Chuwi Hi9 Air tablet. Coming in at only $179, it offers impressive specs but is there a hidden catch? Join us as we find out.
- Current Pricing: $179.99 (Amazon)
- 10.1 inch 2560*1600 IPS display, OGS fully laminated
- MediaTek Helio X20, 64-bit deca-core CPU
- 4GB of RAM + 64GB of onboard storage
- Android Oreo operating system
- WorldMode 4G LTE, CAT.6
- Dual SIM, Dual Standby
- 5MP+13MP cameras
- 8000mAh battery capacity
- Dual band wifi supported
- Warranty: 1-year
Chuwi has been on a roll this year, but here in the States, you could be forgiven for not having heard of them. Until their impressive HiGame mini-PC made the rounds in the tech press, I hadn’t either. But they seem on a mission to make a name for themselves in the U.S. and abroad, releasing tablets, laptops, and mini-PCs at a breakneck pace, each challenging the price to performance ratio in ways that you frankly don’t see in the U.S.-exclusive market.
When I reached out to them about the VEGA-powered HiGame mini-PC, samples were too limited for the kind of testing we like to conduct, but they were happy to send out their Hi9 Air tablet to give us a look at their design philosophy. Retailing for $179.99, it packs an impressive list of specs.
And... I’m pretty much blown away at how nice it is. I’m going to level with you, at this price I was worried the Hi9 would feel cheap but it’s just the opposite. The back is made of aluminum and not the plastic I was expecting (save the removable SIM/MicroSD tray panel). The screen is real glass and comes with a screen protector pre-applied. Along the edge, Chuwi has cut a nice bezel which looks good and glints in the light. It’s also thin and light, coming in at 7.9mm thick and 550g, both only slightly larger than this year’s iPad. It also comes with it’s own branded case.
It offers a very nice 2K IPS LCD display coming in at 2560x1600 resolution. It’s bright and vivid, with an impressive 400 nits of luminance. The picture above uses the ShaderPapers live wallpaper app on Android and looks fantastic rippling across the screen. The 2560x1600 resolution provides a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is perfect for mobile gaming, streaming Netflix, or browsing Reddit while grinding out XP at your PC. If you’re coming from a smartphone, the bezels feel a little thick but compared to other tablets, especially those at this price, they’re not bad at all.
Under the hood, it features a MediaTek Helio X20, 64-bit deca-core CPU and Mali-T880 GPU to form its “system on a chip.” This SoC also allows for WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac connectivity. It also supports LTE network connectivity and dual SIM if you’d like to add it to your cellular plan, which also allows it to send/receive calls and messages. For memory and storage we have 4GB of flash memory and 64GB of built in storage, expandable with MicroSD cards up to 128GB.
All of this combines to make quite the snappy tablet. Browsing and media are breezily fast. While my wife watched Grey’s Anatomy on the television, I took in episodes of Ozark on Netflix and cruised YouTube with zero lag whatsoever. Cranking videos up to their full 1440p resolution looked great on this screen.
Mobile gaming also worked very well. Old mobile MMOs like Order and Chaos performed seamlessly (which, boy, is that like stepping back into old school WoW). Even pushing the hardware with games like Lineage 2: Revolution - one of the prettiest games on mobile at the moment - the Hi9 Air was able to keep up a stable, playable framerate. The same was true of PUBG’s mobile version. The only time the framerate seemed to dip was when there were lots of particle effects on the screen but never “chugged” or became unplayable.
That said, I did find that I needed to calibrate it a little bit in the display settings. Out of the box, the brightness and contrast were a little out of sync, which made dithering (pixelated blocks in streamed videos) a little too apparent. With a quick tweak, these disappeared. Bonus points to Chuwi for allowing such detailed control of the screen settings. Coming from Samsung devices, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to get into the nitty gritty of display settings.
Soundwise, the Hi9 Air is pretty standard for this space. The speakers are decent but nothing mind-blowing. If you’re interested in high quality audio the old rule for tablets and smartphones till applies: use headphones or a separate speaker. No pair of tiny drivers built into a device like this is going to compete with a decent set of headphones or quality bluetooth speaker. These will get the job done at moderate volumes.
What is lacks in speaker, it makes up for in battery life. The tablet features a big 8000 mAh battery. It does seem to drain just a touch faster than my Samsung but only a touch. With a capacity of 8000 mAh, it’s able to deliver hours of uninterrupted gameplay and screen time.
The camera is also quite good. Now, as a rule, I don’t use my tablet camera for very much. I usually have my smartphone on me and find that much more convenient and, well, my experience with tablet cameras just hasn’t been very good. The quality here is much better when used at full frame thanks to a 13MP Samsung camera. Note that it requires a 4:3 ratio to use the full resolution, however. There’s also a 5MP front-facing camera for video calls and selfies. I don’t anticipate using it very often but it’s nice to see that you’re getting a decent shooter for social media built in.
So what’s the catch? Essentially, this is stock Android. In my opinion, that’s not much of a catch at all since you’re also free to change whatever you’d like without settings locked away because your provider said so. If you’re looking for something a little more flashy, you can easily download a third-party launcher and get all the flash you’d like.
It’s worth noting that I did experience one bug that at least some other users had and posted about on Chuwi’s forum. Out of the box, I wasn’t able to adjust the screen’s brightness. After installing an app specifically for this, suddenly the built-in control began working and has worked ever since. An odd problem with an easy fix but one I hope Chuwi fixes in a future update.
With the Hi9 Air, Chuwi has delivered a tablet that’s better than pretty much anything you’ll find at this price and screen size stateside. Looking at your local Walmart, a similar tablet will probably be made of plastic, have a 720p screen, and bottom-barrel specs. Chuwi, on the other hand, has kept the cost low by saving on software development and avoiding the absolute cutting edge in componentry. The Hi9 Air isn’t rocking the latest SnapDragon and, you know what, that’s okay. The deca-core system-on-a-chip and 4GB do the job very well for any kind of second screen experience you might be looking for and is quite capable even for mobile MMO gaming.
For $179, the Hi9 Air should definitely be on the radar of anyone looking for a high-res media and gaming tablet.
- Vivid, high resolution (2K) screen
- Deca-core processor, 4GB of flash RAM make for snappy performance
- Performs well even in demanding games
- Good metal and glass construction
- Quality rear camera
- Camera and other stock Android apps are lacking
- Odd screen brightness bug
- Speakers leave something to be desired
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.