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Chuwi Hi12 budget convertible Windows 10 tablet review

Earlier we unboxed the Chuwi Hi12 budget convertible Windows 10 tablet. Now, it’s Hi time we get on with the full review.

Sorry I’ll go sit in the corner now.

There are two colors you can purchase the Hi12 in. A two-tone white and gold, and a two-tine black and gray. Chuwi provided us with the black and gray model, which is pleasant, if not striking to look at.

The chassis is a reasonably svelte, with an 8.9mm thickness and a weight of 1.88 lbs; just a tad heavier and thicker than the Surface Pro 4. On the front of the device is a 12-inch touch screen display with a pitifully thick bezel. At least it has a start button on the side.

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One truly fantastic element of this tablet’s design is its selection of ports. It features everything you could reasonably expect from a fully functional, ultra portable laptop, including two full-sized USB ports (one of which is a 3.0 port), a microHDMI port, a microUSB port (for charging), a headset jack, and a microSD card slot. All this is easily accessible and in a body that’s competitive in mass to a Surface Pro 3/4.

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One rather abysmal (though somewhat understandbly so) element of this tablet’s design is found not in the tablet itself, but in the keyboard attachment. It adds an immense amount of weight and thickness to the overall device, completely killing whatever sense of “portability” it once had. With the keyboard, it feels about as heavy as a 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro, which of course isn’t necessarily “heavy” in absolute terms, but far from the canonical idea of “svelte”. The weight is, of course, understandable considering it needs to be balanced against the weight of the tablet. But it still kind of ruins the appeal of the device.

On the bright side, the keyboard attachment adds two more full-sized USB ports, making it competitive with full laptops much larger in size.

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As for the connection between tablet and keyboard, it is quite stable, if a bit cumbersome to attach. As I mentioned in the unboxing, the maximum angle at which you can adjust the tablet can leave a bit to be desired, but this concession is not terribly surprising given the fundamental nature of how heavy the tablet is relative to the attachable keyboard.

Unfortunately, given this top heavy nature, I’ve found the laptop form of this tablet virtually impossible to use as a, well, “laptop”. It topples over way too easily. Again, not really surprising, but also disappointing given how heavy the keyboard attachment is.

The 12-inch display carries a 2160×1440 resolution: the same as the Surface Pro 3. That, in addition to reasonable color accuracy and supple lighting power, makes it a competent display to look at. This is made even better when you consider how cheap this tablet is.

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One area of the display I found a bit jarring was the coating used on the glass. It’s not particularly pleasant to touch, and dragging your finger on it is not a very smooth experience, unlike say an iPad or Surface. Even though this is a tablet first and foremost, the touchscreen almost feels like an afterthought.

The Hi12 is powered by an Intel Atom x5-z8300 with 4GB of RAM. As such, you shouldn’t be expecting any miracles in performance. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a reasonably competent performer. It found itself stuttery on many occasions, but it was never frustratingly slow. I got a lot of work done on this device in a pretty enjoyable fashion.

Particularly pleasant is the abundant 128GB of eMMC storage. While not the fastest solid state storage tech available, the 128GB gives users us ample breathing room, and I am pleasantly surprised at how they’ve put so much storage in such a cheap tablet.

Not that great, especially when you consider the Hi12’s bargain performance credentials. I got an average battery life of between 5 to 7 hours, which isn’t abominable, but far from admirable. I suspect a lot of the battery drain can be chalked up to the high resolution display. Either way, a portable tablet like this really ought to go at least into the 8 hour range, and although that’s what the company advertises, I had to be extremely conservative with how I used the device just to get anywhere near that point.

Absolute garbage. Clicks are painfully hard, and is loud enough to make children scream and send birds flying in panic. Tracking is imprecise, and use of multi-touch gestures is virtually impossible.

Absolute brilliance. In stark contrast to the trackpad, the keyboard is a fantastic piece of kit. I like me some satisfying tactile clicking in my keypresses, and the Hi12’s keyboard accessory delivers on that front, while also being very quiet; a combination we don’t usually see. Key travel is also very deep and satisfying: and it should be considering how thick the accessory is.

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The keys are spaced out, not cramped at all. After getting to know the device for a bit, the keys may be spread out just a tad too much, but it’s so insignificant that it’s far from a nuisance.

The keys are made with what feels like the cheapest of cheap, hard plastics, but that’s perfectly okay because the typing experience is so good. It’s been a while since I’ve been so pleased with a portable typing experience.

While an all around solid performer, the Hi12 comes with a number of weird goofs that just make the device a bit uncomfortable to live with.

When powering the device on from being completely off, for instance, just pressing the power button doesn’t really work. You have to actually hold the power button down for a solid 5 seconds or so before the device gives any sign of life. And in my experience, the device won’t actually power on until after you’ve actually let go. But only after the 5 second give-or-take threshold.

When in clamshell form, the tablet seems smart enough to wake up from a sleep when you flip open the laptop lid. Thing is, normally if you don’t interact with the device for a few moments, the tablet will just go back to sleep. In the Hi12’s case, it just stays on the lockscreen forever. I’ve gone and left it alone for about 15 minutes before I got reflexively frustrated at the unnecessary battery drain and put it back to sleep manually.

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Perhaps this is just my particular unit, but when I adjust the hinge angle in laptop mode, at a certain threshold there’s a loud “snapping” sound, as if I had broken a pin or something inside the hinge. It’s disconcerting not because of the sound itself, but because the sound seems to have no correlation with the hinge action. The sound can be “heard”, but not felt, as the hinge movement feels smooth all the way through. There’s no “tap” feeling in the device’s sternum. Nothing about the snapping sound suggests it even originated from the device itself. I can’t really tell if this is a good or bad thing.

The tablet form of this device is quite competent. Great even. There’s little to complain about.

The laptop form of this device however, isn’t. Almost every complaint I have about the Chuwi Hi12 can be traced back to the attachable keyboard.

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As such, my recommendation is this: if you’re looking for a tablet with solid specs, great display, and a generous helping of ports for a very agreeable price, the Chuwi Hi12 is a great candidate.

If you’re looking for more of a laptop that can double as a tablet, then you’re better off elsewhere. We’ve seen this dilemma before, haven’t we?

You can buy the Chuwi Hi12 and its keyboard attachment through the company’s website here.

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