Chuwi Hi12 Windows 10 tablet review: All-day computing under £200

Windows tablets that can double up as a laptop when required are becoming increasingly popular, but Microsoft’s Surface line is expensive. Alternative Windows 10 tablets such as this Chuwi Hi12 can meet most user’s needs, and at a much lower price. Also see: Best Windows tablets 2016 and Chuwi HiBook review.

The Surface Pro 4 is incredibly fast, especially in its Core i7 incarnation, but some users really don’t need that much power. For general computing tasks such as reading email, browsing the web and completing basic productivity tasks, it could be considered overkill. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016.

The Chuwi Hi12 has a spec more in line with the entry-level Surface Pro 3 with which it shares similar specifications and dimensions. There’s a quad-core fifth-generation Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 processor (Surface Pro 3 has a fourth-gen Core i3, i5 or i7), 4GB of DDR3L RAM and 64GB of flash storage (plus support for an additional 128GB via microSD). In common with the Surface Pro 3 the screen is large and high in resolution at 12in and 2160x1440 pixels, but the Chuwi’s battery is higher in capacity at 11,000mAh (Surface 5,547mAh) – you’ll easily get a full working day and plenty of juice to spare from the Hi12.

You might also like: Surface Pro 4 review, Surface 3 review, Surface Pro 3 review

Chuwi Hi12

Chuwi Hi12 review: UK price and availability

The Chuwi Hi12 is available from GearBest for £194.71 (a version that dual-boots Android 5.1 Lollipop is slightly cheaper at £180.28). GearBest also sells the optional keyboard with trackpad, which costs £33.47. GearBest offers free shipping to the UK, but when importing goods from China you may be required to pay import duty. Read our advice on buying grey market tech.

By comparison, the cheapest Surface Pro 4 tablet starts at £749, and even the standard Surface 3 costs upwards of £419. These are both faster and have a more premium design, but as we’ll explain below the Chuwi is a great budget alternative.

Chuwi Hi12 review: Design and build

It might have a super-low price tag, but Chuwi hasn’t skimped on the build materials. The Hi12 has a tough grey (also available in gold) metal case with a large and high-resolution 12in, 2160x1440-pixel (216ppi), 3:2 IPS display that is sharp and offers great colours and viewing angles. From the front the Chuwi looks good, although a tendency to attract fingerprints and various logos on the rear weaken the overall design. See all Windows tablet reviews.

The Chuwi is large and heavy for a tablet, as you’d expect given the screen and battery specs, and the keyboard adds another 600g to the 852g package. It’s still just as portable as most 12in laptops, though, and shouldn’t weigh you down too much when carried in a bag.

Stereo speakers sit at the bottom left and right edges of the device, so you have to be careful you don’t muffle them with your palms when holding up the tablet, but the volume goes reasonably loud. For volume we found it about level with our iPad Air 2, although the Chuwi gave a slightly tinnier sound.

Various ports and connections sit along the device’s left edge. There’s Micro-USB for charging the tablet, mini-HDMI for plugging it into a big screen, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mic and a microSD slot that can accept up to 128GB. There are also front- and rear cameras, rated at 2- and 5Mp respectively.

Chuwi Hi12

As we’ve mentioned the Chuwi can be either tablet or laptop, with a magnetic, plug-and-play keyboard dock sold separately. If you’ll be doing a lot of typing then the keyboard is a lifesaver, holding firm to the tablet and charging itself from the Chuwi’s battery. The keys are generously sized and well spaced, and typing isn’t the chore it is on many Bluetooth keyboards.

You can tilt back the screen for more comfortable typing - although not quite far enough in our opinion, an extra 15- or 20 degrees would be ideal – or flip the tablet round to conceal the keyboard when used in tablet mode. A USB port sits at each side of the keyboard (for left- or right-handed use), but it doesn’t have enough power to drive much more than a mouse. In our opinion the keyboard itself is fine in use, although we’d prefer a UK- to US layout.

We do have a gripe with the keyboard, though: its built-in trackpad is horrendous, far too easy to inadvertently touch and move the cursor and, as we found, use to accidentally zoom in or out onscreen and even resize the desktop icons. A button on the keyboard let's you turn off the trackpad, although you will need to plug in a USB mouse.

Chuwi Hi12

Chuwi Hi12 review: Hardware and performance

Core specs for the Chuwi Hi12 include a fifth-generation Intel Cherry Trail 64-bit processor (the Intel Atom X5-Z8300), clocked at 1.44GHz and able to boost to 1.84GHz, 500MHz Intel HD Graphics Gen8, 4GB of DDR3L RAM and 64GB of flash storage (plus 128GB via microSD).

In testing the Chuwi I passed it over to my partner who runs a building firm, and would normally use a combination of a mid-range Windows 10 laptop and an iPad Air 2 to write quotes, check drawings, manage accounts and such like. In his opinion the Chuwi is much better suited to the task than either his laptop or his iPad, portable and plenty fast enough for use with basic productivity tasks, and the long battery life is a killer feature. The only time he saw any signs of lag was when he had several apps open at once.

In my own experience with the Chuwi, I’d suggest that for most users it is more than powerful enough for everyday computing tasks. Intensive games and creative applications will be a no-go for the Hi12, but for checking your emails, having a nose at Facebook and such-like it will play just fine.

We ran the Hi12 through Geekbench 3, AnTuTu and PCMark8 to get an idea of how its performance compares to other Windows 10 tablets.

In PCMark8 Home the Chuwi recorded 1010 points. That’s about half the score of a proper budget laptop, such as the £300 Asus X555LA-XX290H which scored 2028 points, but it’s fair to say most Windows 10 tablets wouldn’t do so well. For example, the £279 Asus Transformer T100HA scored 1338 points in PCMark8, while the £549 Acer Aspire Switch 11 turned in 1916 points. It’s difficult to get excited about the Chuwi’s score, but given the price difference it’s really not all that bad. Although the Surface Pro 4 turned in 2682 points, this was the mid-range Core i5 model.

The Chuwi gave a better showing in Geekbench 3 and AnTuTu. It recorded 792 points in Geekbench 3 single-core and 2309 points in the multi-core component, then 75,055 points in AnTuTu. For a cheap tablet these scores aren’t bad, although compared to the Windows competition they look low. The Asus laptop managed  1906- and 3981 points respectively in Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests, while Asus’ tablet was capable of 948- and 3095 points. The Acer Aspire Switch 11 turned in 2208 points single-core and 3975 points multi-core. An entry-level Surface Pro 4 with a Core m3-6Y30 processor  is capable of around 2495 single-core and 4811 multi-core according to the Geekbench database. Also see: Best tablets 2016.

Battery life is outstanding, and the 11,000mAh cell should last all day and then some. It’s quick to charge, too, able to accept a 3A input – we found it took around 8 hours to refill the battery with a fast charger.

We had an issue with the built-in microphone not being recognised by the tablet, but this was solved by uninstalling the Intel audio driver and rebooting the Chuwi. 

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Chuwi Hi12: Specs

  • Windows 10 64-bit tablet with optional keyboard dock
  • 1.44-1.84GHz Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 quad-core
  • 4GB DDR3L RAM
  • 64GB flash storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 12in (2160x1440, 216ppi) IPS display
  • Intel HD Graphics 8th-gen
  • 1x USB 2.0
  • 1x USB 3.0
  • Micro-USB
  • Mini-HDMI
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • OTG
  • 5Mp rear camera
  • 2Mp front camera
  • 11,000mAh battery (charges over 3A in around 8 hours)
  • 296.7x202.8x8.9mm
  • 852g
  • Windows 10 64-bit tablet with optional keyboard dock
  • 1.44-1.84GHz Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 quad-core
  • 4GB DDR3L RAM
  • 64GB flash storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 12in (2160x1440, 216ppi) IPS display
  • Intel HD Graphics 8th-gen
  • 1x USB 2.0
  • 1x USB 3.0
  • Micro-USB
  • Mini-HDMI
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • OTG
  • 5Mp rear camera
  • 2Mp front camera
  • 11,000mAh battery (charges over 3A in around 8 hours)
  • 296.7x202.8x8.9mm
  • 852g

OUR VERDICT

At under £200 the Chuwi Hi12 is a fantastic Windows 10 tablet with a large, high-resolution screen and capable – if not fast – performance. Battery life is excellent and the design is mostly good, but if you plump for the optional keyboard consider yourself warned about the trackpad.

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