Every now and again, we come across a product or company so surprising, it makes us wonder how we’ve gone so long without knowing about it. That’s been the case with Chuwi, a tech brand out of China, producing some of the most budget friendly, high quality tablets on the market. We’ve already looked at the Hi9 Air and were impressed, but let’s dig in and find out what you get with a flagship tablet from Chuwi.
- MSRP: $231.42 (base), $266.13 (keyboard case), $277.70 (keyboard case, pen) (AliExpress Store)(GearBest)
- Operating System: Android 8.0 (Oreo)
- Screen Size: 10.8-inch
- Screen Resolution: 2560x1600
- Screen Type: Fully Laminated IPS
System on a Chip: MediaTek Helio X27
- CPU: MTK6797X Helio X27 Deca Core
- GPU: ARM Mali-T880 875MHz
- Micro SD Expansion: Supports cards up to 128GB
- RAM: 4GB
- Battery: 7000mAh
Network: WiFi and Cellular
- WiFi: 2.4G/5G 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
- GSM: 2/3/5/8(PCS1900, DCS1800, GMS850, GMS900)
- WCDMA: 1/2/5/8(2100MHz, 1900MH, 850MHz, 900MHz)
- LTE: 1/2/3/5/7/8/20(FDD:2100MHz, 1900MHz,1800MHz, 850MHz, 2600MHz, 900MHz, 800MHz)
- Dual SIM Standby
- Camera: 8MP (front/back)
- Dimensions: 266.4 x 177 x 8.4mm
- Weight: 550g
The Hi9 Plus is Chuwi’s latest and greatest and boasts some of the best performance we’ve seen on an Android tablet from Chuwi so far. It also features a refreshed design built around portrait orientation. This is a big change as many of Chinese tablets were seeing imported in all feature very similar landscape designs whereas this feels modern and closer to something like an iPad. It also features a new keyboard dock and pressure sensitive pen, allowing it to be used as a laptop, art pad, or note taking tool for students.
For our purposes, we tend to look at tablets like this as “second screen” devices, but it’s hard to put the Hi9 Plus in any kind of box. While I thought I would use it for keeping track of email, watching Netflix, and the occasional mobile game, I found myself wanting to take it everywhere with me.
When it comes to email and browsing the web, it’s far more convenient than a laptop that needs to boot up or a phone that has you typing with your thumbs. Even compared to other tablets with bluetooth keyboards, the Hi9 Plus has an edge thanks to the keyboard case and dock. There’s no fussing around with wireless connecting, charging, or input lag. They keyboard is always there, ready to go, unless you don’t want it to be. Before now, I wouldn’t travel with a tablet; I liked them but they always wound up needing too many steps to really use well. Now, if I don’t have a computer on hand, this is the device I want.
Like the Hi9 Air, the Plus is a well built piece of kit. The back is metal and the edges are beveled to give it a bit of shine. The screen is also improved, now featuring a fully laminated screen which makes for rich, vibrant colors and reduced glare. Combined with the 2560x1600 resolution (280PPI), it looks great for any kind of content consumption and is bright enough to do well even outdoors. In sheer PPI, the Hi9 Plus beats this year’s iPad Pro.
Gone too is the removable plastic plate previously used to hide the SIM and expansion card trays. The Hi9 uses a much more traditional slot system that makes the entire device feel better. Interesting, it uses plastic buttons which do feel a but cheap compared to the rest of the unit. I’d love to see this made uniform in a future version, though they work perfectly well.
The device is also thin and lightweight. It’s 8.4mm thick and 550 grams. This does make it marginally larger than the comparable Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 but, honestly, I’ve never been one to push thinness at the expense of durability. The screen here is also nearly an inch larger than the S4, which accounts for some of the weight difference.
Under the hood, it’s rocking a Helio X27 system on a chip and Android 8.0 (Oreo). The CPU boasts a whopping ten cores, each of which are clocked to run at higher speeds than the X20 found on the Hi9 Air, leading to better, snappier performance in games, browsing, and even content creation apps. It also features 4GB of flash memory and 64GB of built-in storage, expandable by another 128GB with a MicroSDHC card.
Like the previous Chuwi tablet we reviewed, you’re also looking at a fairly stock Android experience. There isn’t tons of bloatware, in fact, there’s none. After years of carrier-provided hardware, that alone feels like a godsend. This device is free to be customized as you see fit and you won’t need to worry about uninstalling a dozen apps that all want to steal your performance.
If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can also pick up the keyboard case and pressure sensitive pen. I would recommend getting at least the keyboard case. Like I mentioned above, it’s a great addition that dramatically increases the usefulness of the Hi9 Plus. The pen is also neat, though perhaps a bit more limited than some competitor options on the market today. Still, for my purposes 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity is more than enough. The larger issue, I think, is that so few apps support pressure sensitivity. Still, for taking notes or doing quick sketches when you’re supposed to be taking notes, it works great.
Side note: Check out Art Flow for a great pressure sensitive art app on Android.
The real question many of us are wondering is how Chuwi manages to sell their tablets for so little. What’s on offer here for a $231-278 (depending on your accessories) is honestly surprising. The answer, it seems, is by avoiding being on the cutting edge just for the sake of being there. You won’t find the latest SnapDragon here and for this price you wouldn’t expect to. The X27 has stood up to anything I’ve asked it to do, from adding layer upon layer in my art apps, to editing small bits of recorded video, to playing new mobile games like Lineage 2: Revolution at smooth frame rates. It’s not the absolute fastest at any of those things but I’m pretty demanding of my tech - I go through a lot and have high expectations - and I never felt hindered with this tablet, which is why it’s become my daily sidekick.
That’s not all, though. You’ll also find that the cameras are passable but not amazing, as are the speakers. Put succinctly, they’ll get the job done but you’re not going to be showing them off as the major selling point here. Want to video conference for your podcast? Sure thing. Facetime Aunt Ethel? You bet. If you’re planning on doing more than casual photography, you’ll probably want to pull out your point-and-shoot or cutting edge smart phone.
Aside: Do people use tablets for more than casual snapshots? I’m guessing most don’t, which is why I think this is probably fine.
The point is, you don’t go into a $278 dollar tablet expecting the moon. I didn’t, but instead got way more than I expected. I picked up this device as a secondary, a tool I’d use alongside something else. Instead, it’s in my briefcase with me at work. It’s propped open on my lap as I relax in the evenings. It’s sold me in a big, bad way. If they swap out the plastic power and volume buttons for metal and touch up the speakers and cameras a bit, they’ll have a devices that’s virtually indistinguishable from its big budget counterparts. If you’re looking for a tablet that can double as a more functional laptop, look no further: the Hi9 Plus is it.
- Beautiful, fully laminated screen
- Solid construction of metal and glass
- Keyboard dock case is a game changer
- Improved Helio X27 chipset boosts performance
- 4GB RAM, 64GB of storage pairs with SoC to make for snappy performance for games, streaming, and even content creation
- Cameras and speakers are unremarkable
- Plastic side buttons
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.