Cheaper isn't always better. But sometimes it is good enough. At least that is what I have discovered in my first two weeks of using the Chinese-made Chuwi Hi-13 Windows tablet.
A number of tech sites and podcasts have been discussing the huge increase in the number of inexpensive Chinese made Windows tablets, laptops, and two-in-one computers. Many of these are knock-offs of Microsoft's premium Surface Book and Surface Pro devices. Both of those devices, at least if you include a keyboard cover with the Surface Pro, and going to start at over $1,000 and can go up to double or triple that price depending on the configuration. So what can you expect from an imitation device that sells for just a few hundred dollars?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. I decided to order the Chuwi Hi13 tablet along with its magnetically attachable keyboard and active stylus. The entire package, through online retailer GearBest, was a few dollars over $400. The specs are nowhere near the range of my Microsoft Surfacce Book with its Core i5 processor, 256 GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM, and dedicated GPU. But even with my academic discount from my law teaching gig at Stetson University College of Law, the Surface Book was 4.5 times more expensive than the Chuwi Hi13.
Upon arrival from China, I unpacked the Hi13, charged it for a few hours, attached it to the magnetic keyboard which connects physically to the tablet, not via Bluetooth, and ran it through its paces. I set it up using my existing Microsoft account and installed Office 365, Chrome, and a few other essentials. Once it synce my active case folders via OneDrive, I was ready to work.
For a device in this price range, the screen is drop-dead gorgeous. It is the same 3000x2000 pixel display as in my Surface Book, but without a Gorilla Glass top ayer. Instead, Chuwi factory-installs a cheap and way too reflective plastic screen protector. I have a tempered glass screen protector ($12) on order, but it has not yet arrived.
The display is so bright and sharp that I can easily work at 50% brightness. That is a good thing, because reduced screen brightness saves on the battery, which is not overly powerful and gives me about 6 hours of working time. That is a few hours less than my Surface Book.
I also really like the keyboard, It feels and sounds cheaper and more plastic-y than the keyboard on my Surface Book, but I actually like typing on it just as well. That was a real surprise. The downside is that the touchpad is way worse than the excellent on on the Surface Book. Even the slightest errant touch on the pad would send my cursor flying while typing in a document. I hated that - until I discovered and installed a free utility called TouchFreeze. I set it to Automatic Mode, which means it senses when I am typing and temporarily disables the touch pad, preventing errant touches from jumpming my cursor all over the screen.
Performance wise, the low-end Apollo Lake Quad-Core Celeron-class processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage actually gets all of my productivity tasks done without lag. I can browse the web using Chrome with multiple tabs open without a slowdown. I can work in multiple Word documents without a problem. And the wi-fi radio in the Hi13 seems particularly strong, giving me a fast and solid connection in locations a decent distance from my router.
Now don't get me wrong. The Chuwi Hi13 could not be your main or only Windows machine on which to run your law practice. However, If you have a fairly powerful desktop computer as your main machine, but you want an inexpensive (cheaper than an iPad with a keyboard) portabe device that will run all of your familiar Windows applications (the Hi13 comes with Windows 10 Home), this is a good choice. It is a bit heavy for its size, being around 3 pounds. But I didn't mind the extra heft. Others may find it bothersome.
One caution about ordering directly from China. Quality control is not nearly as good as with a premium Microsoft (or HP or Dell) product. The H3 active stylus arrived DOA. I could not get it to power on, even when supplying a fresh AAAA battery to replace the one that came in the box.
I am still battling with GearBest to get a replacement H3 stylus, but their support crew seems determined to frustrate me at every turn. So there are risks associated with buying inexpensive Chinese goods online. Fortunately, the tablet and keyboard are functioning fine so far. Given that the stylus is only a bit over $20, I found another supplier and ordered a replacment. It has not yet arrived. I will let American Express battle it out with GearBest over the charge for the defective stylus.