Years ago during pre Android 4 days, Chinese manufacturers were famous for producing cheap, under-powered and often poorly-made Android tablets for mass consumption. Although these tablets sold very well, thanks largely to their rock bottom prices, they left much to be desired.
Now things have drastically changed and many of these manufacturers have morphed into their own brand names, producing tablets and smart devices with far better quality and reliability than ever before. Emerging brands such as Onda, Teclast and Cube have steadily gained a strong following among discerning tech enthusiasts in the past two years. Though these new Chinese players are not quite mainstream yet when it comes to market share, they are definitely the brands to look out for in the coming years.
Chuwi is one such emerging brand with a wide range of popular tablets and ultrabooks. Its current flagship tablet — the Chuwi HiBook Pro has a very affordable price tag of $225 and has features comparable to models from more established brands that cost nearly twice as much. This review is about the latest version of the Chuwi HiBook Pro and its magnetic docking keyboard which is sold separately for roughly $40.
- Dual-boot (Windows 10 / Android 5.1)
- Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) Z8300 64-bit Quad Core 1.44GHz (1.84GHz Turbo Boost)
- Intel HD Graphic Gen8 GPU
- 10.1 inch OGS IPS display (2560 x 1600)
- 4GB RAM / 64GB eMMC ROM
- TF card slot (up to 128GB)
- HDMI output
- 5MP rear camera / 2MP front camera
- Bluetooth 4
The first thing that strikes you before you even power up the HiBook Pro is how well it is built. This is one tablet with a level of quality that is almost indistinguishable from big name models by brands such as Apple and Microsoft. The tablet has an aluminum body with a brushed aluminum surface at the back. Buttons and ports are all well-placed and the buttons have a nice tactile feel to them. There are also no signs of creaking, excessive flex or quality control issues.
One thing conspicuously missing on the tablet, though, is a USB 3.0 port. Only a micro USB port is available and charging is done via a Type C USB port which provides fast 3A charging. Extra USB ports are available on the keyboard. These are full-sized USB ports though none of them are USB 3.0.
The magnetic docking keyboard has an equally good build quality as well with a matching brushed aluminum finishing at the top surface. The bottom of the keyboard features a rubber coated surface and four anti-skid pads. There are also 6 smaller rubber pads at the top to prevent the screen from pressing directly against the keyboard’s hard surface. Like the tablet, the keyboard also has a body made of aluminum.
Overall, the build quality of the keyboard is top notch. There are no flimsy buttons and the swivel mechanism feels fluid yet solid.
Chuwi Magnetic Docking Keyboard
Mechanically, the Chuwi magnetic docking keyboard is the most complicated of the two items in this review. It is priced at $40 with shipping which is a decent price considering its good build quality. It houses a swivel mechanism that latches on to a range of compatible Chuwi tablets including the HiBook Pro, HiBook and Hi10 Pro using magnets. The keyboard communicates with the tablet via a set of pogo pins. Two full-sized USB ports (there are none on the tablet) are also available on the sides of the keyboard. At the front is a touchpad with two buttons.
With this keyboard, any Chuwi tablet can be instantly converted into a portable ultrabook. I highly recommend it to anyone who use their Chuwi tablets for work or simply anyone who needs to get a lot done on their tablets. With the keyboard, typing is a lot faster and you get two extra USB ports which can be used to connect devices such as a mouse or thumb drives.
Since the keyboard does not contain any other major electronic component other than the keyboard mechanism itself, the HiBook Pro feels top-heavy when mounted on the keyboard though this is not exactly a major problem. Rest be assured that the HiBook Pro will not topple backwards when you’re using it though a hard push will definitely cause it to fall.
The touchpad is very compact yet functional. It features buttons that have a good tactile feel. Touchpad sensitivity is reasonably good although I feel it is not as good as the touchpad on the Surface 4 Pro. Occassionally, the touchpad will fail to register my finger movements especially when touched lightly. This isn’t the case with the Surface 4 Pro which can detect even the lightest of touches.
One thing that can be annoying with the touchpad is that Windows Touch Gestures cannot be disabled. Since there is only a small space to work on, accidentally invoking gestures while using the touchpad can happen quite often unless you’re very precise with your fingers.
It is also important to note that if you’re used to using keyboards on 14″ notebooks or larger desktop keyboards, the Chuwi’s compact keyboard layout and touchpad can take some time to get used to since everything is spaced so close to each other.
Chuwi HiBook Pro
One of the key features of the HiBook Pro that isn’t quite obvious in its spec sheet is its fully laminated 10″ display that has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a pixel density of 299 PPI. The Panasonic-made display is probably one of the best tablet displays you can get from an emerging Chinese brand. Viewing angles are great with excellent contrast, sharpness and color saturation. Also, there is no air gap in between the IPS screen and digitizer glass which makes this tablet’s display indistinguishable from what you’d get on a Surface Pro 4.
The HiBook Pro is powered by an Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) Z8300 Quad Core Processor running at 1.44GHz with a 1.84GHz Turbo Boost. Designed mainly to be energy-efficient, the Z8300 won’t win any awards when it comes to processor benchmarks. It is adequate enough if you’re just web browsing, viewing videos and doing simple spreadsheet work but starts to struggle with more processor intensive tasks such as video editing or 3D rendering.
With Windows 10 and a 2K display, the Z8300 does struggle a bit and simple tasks such as navigating between windows and scrolling can feel a bit laggy. Things are a lot better on Android, though, thanks partly to its simplicity compared to Windows. As can be seen below, the HiBook Pro processor benchmark scores on Geekbench 3 aren’t exactly impressive. To put things into perspective, an Intel Core 2 Quad 2.50GHz — which is considered pre-historic by today’s standards, can garner better scores.
Gaming is an area where the HiBook Pro has mixed results. Demanding games that run on 2560 x 1600 resolution will almost certainly perform poorly while games that run on lower resolutions up-scaled to 2560 x 1600 were smoother and more playable. With that said, the HiBook Pro is not your typical gamer’s notebook, lacking the processing power needed to handle even games that are just moderately demanding.
The HiBook Pro has two side-facing speakers on the left and right. Volume level is adequate and the audio quality has decent clarity although lacking in any bass and sounding uninspiring. With that said, the only way to get truly good audio out of the HiBook Pro is to plug a good headset or earphones into its 3.5mm audio output. The tablet’s audio output performs much better than some other cheaper tablets that tend to sound tinny and weak.
The HiBook Pro is equipped with a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front camera. As expected, the rear camera produces much better image quality compared to the one at the front. Besides just having a higher resolution, images are reasonably sharp with adequate contrast and saturation. Below are sample images taken with the rear camera in various lighting conditions ranging from bright daylight to low indoor lighting.
Interestingly, images captured with the rear camera show very little purple fringing even on the edges of the frame. This is quite impressive for a camera equipped on a tablet of this price range.
The HiBook Pro has a 8000mAh battery which gives it about 5 to 6 hours of use. Battery life depends a lot on screen brightness, wireless connectivity and processor usage. With the screen brightness dialed down to 20% and with only light usage, battery life can stretch up to 7 hours or so. Max the HiBook Pro out with movies played at maximum screen brightness and the battery life will last a little over 2 hours.