In addition to notebooks and ultrabooks, tablets are also an integral part of Chuwi’s product range. The new Chuwi Hi9 Air is a very interesting device. The 10″ tablet is equipped with an LTE module and has a 2K display, which makes it perfect for multimedia use. The only question that remains is whether the “old” Mediatek Helio X20 will manage it or whether there will be a lot of jerks. The price varies between 200$ from China and 290$ from Amazon.
The hype about tablets has diminished, but still worthwhile devices come out. In the course of this, a few manufacturers have also turned down the prices. So did the manufacturer with the new Chuwi Hi9 Air! For the price you finally get mobile Internet and a 2K display including a 10-core processor at a reasonable price. In the test, we look at whether Chuwi has taken too much of the project or whether you can make a bargain here.
Design & build quality
One thing is certain with the Hi 9 Air: The price is hot! But do the sacrifices you have to make for the money hold up? The 10.1-inch tablet measures 241.7 x 172.0 x 7.9 mm and weighs 550g.
The rear of the tablet is made of one piece of metal and is only interrupted by a plastic strip at the top. This strip can be removed and gives access to the three slots for SIM and Micro-SD. It is only clipped and “simply a piece of plastic”. The CHUWI logo and the camera unit with sensor and flash are only discreetly visible on the rear. The camera is black and looks like anthracite due to the metallic look. The frame runs nicely round the display; the three Android buttons (power & volume) are located at the top right. At the top you also find two speakers as well as Micro-USB and 3.5mm jack connector. The transition to the display is marked by a shiny silver finish, while the display glass is also slightly rounded (2.5D). The front is as black as the rear and only the selfie cam is visible at the top in the middle. The glass used feels good and the gliding properties are also satisfactory, but fingerprints are quickly visible. There is no protection against scratches, which is unfortunate, as tablets are generally quite susceptible to scratches.
The 10-inch Chuwi Hi9 Air feels quite well in the hand: the edges are cleanly finished and beautifully round. Only the plastic strip looks cheap. The tablet looks more high-quality on the promotional photos than it actually is! The materials used are flawless, but there is no premium feeling. But for its price range everything is alright so far.
Chuwi Hi9 Air scope of delivery
The brown box contains a USB charger with 5V / 2A and a corresponding micro-USB cable in addition to the tablet. Besides there is only the usual equipment. They also included a cover in the style of the Smart Cover for the iPad, which can be clipped onto the tablet and with its help it can also be placed in two positions. A magnetic strip helps to keep it in position and the microfibre inside protects the display. The cover is solid and recommended for transporting the Chuwi Hi9 Air. However, there comes no premium feeling with the cover and when you remove it from the tablet, the top cover also comes off every time.
The 10.1-inch display is clearly the heart of the Chuwi Hi9 Air: the display has a 16:10 format and has a resolution of 2.5K, which corresponds to 2560 x 1600 pixels. This results in 299 PPI, which is the retina value. For a tablet this is already a very good resolution, which can also be used well for to the rising 4K UHD content – but only in 1440p. The IPS LCD display has a brightness of up to 260 LUX and the touch screen detects 10 points of contact simultaneously.
The reflective glass is not ideal for outdoor use. Direct sunlight should be avoided, but if you sit in the shade, nothing speaks against outdoor use. I was able to use the Chuwi Hi9 Air well in the car for casually watching an episode of a series: it was bright enough and with the 2K display is really fun, only the reflections annoy. The display is fully laminated, also known as OGS. Instead of a contact-intensive layer between display and glass, this is integrated directly into the display.
As with the Teclast Master T10, inputs are not quite as easy as they are with good smartphones. Gestures have to be really precise and typing on the keyboard requires a little more effort. In combination with the weak processor, this is a shortcoming and requires at least some getting used to during operation.
The colour representation is typical for an IPS panel. Xiaomi managed to get the most out of it (see Mi Mix 2S) – but you can’t say that about the Chuwi Hi9 Air. The white is yellowish and more contrasts would be nice, too. It’s difficult when you are used to AMOLED. For this purpose Mira Vision is available and you can adjust the parameters until the colour reproduction fits your preferences. The illumination is even, only if you tap on the lower left corner, then you can see halos on the screen.
The Chuwi Hi9 Air basically uses a premium class chip – but unfortunately it is from Mediatek and from the last generation. The Helio X20, or MT6797, has 10 cores and reaches a maximum of 2.3 GHz. The Deca-Core consists of 2 x Cortex A72 at 2.3GHz, 4 x A53 at 1.85GHz and 4 x A53 at 1.4GHz. Unfortunately, the production in the 20nm process ensures quite a high energy consumption. The ARM Mali-T880 MP4 GPU clocks at 780 MHz and ensures that even modern 3D games can be played smoothly on the high-resolution display. The main memory is also pleasantly big with 4GB LPDDR4 RAM and will not quickly become the limiting factor. With 4.3GB/s, however, it ranks quite far behind in the statistics. The same applies to the internal memory: 64GB is enough for many apps and you can also download a few hours of video material via Netflix / Amazon Prime. It can be extended via MicroSD card. Typically for an eMMC memory, it is somewhat slower in reading and writing: 150MB/s and 74MB/s reading and writing speeds are at best on average.
The performance of the MediaTek Helio X20 is quite good in the practical test. The tablet is more likely to be found in the low-budget segment – you cannot really compare it to the iPad or current smartphones in the upper mid-range. If you are in the launcher (Launcher 3), which is installed, the whole thing jerks properly. Using applications, games or Google Chrome, however, everything works well again. Android has never been super optimized for tablets and with the weakening market it won’t get any better. An alternative launcher provided a remedy.
The Chuwi Hi9 Air even managed to play current 3D games with high graphics settings (Asphalt 8 high settings, PUPG medium settings). And I was also surprised by the performance in the browser because it didn’t go down even when the website was really infested with advertisements. Here and there you have to live with not completely fluid animations or with the fact that inputs simply need a moment. The remedy is Dura Speed, which Chuwi has installed on the Hi9 Air. The app closes background processes to keep things running smoothly. For the price of 200$, you get a decent tablet experience – only the Mi Pad 4, which is equipped with an (unfair) Snapdragon 660, will do better.
The Chuwi Hi9 Air provides pre-installed Android 8.0 and the security updates from February 2018. Directly after unpacking there was an update available, and also at the end of the test period an OTA patch was ready to be installed. Furthermore, you should not expect the latest version Android 8.1. Due to missing DRM licenses it is not possible to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime with Full HD – the highest you can get is 720p.
As already mentioned, Android is not optimized for tablets: Google has recently started using its own Chrome OS. But even with iOS you definitely can’t say that you can get everything out of the big screen. The solution is to adapt your Chuwi Hi9 Air with alternative launchers, widgets and apps. Launcher3 is pre-installed on the tablet and captures the Android look almost perfectly. There is no App Drawer and the quick access menu is known from the smartphone. We are not at all satisfied with the Launcher3: huge symbols, there are a lot of lags and nothing can be customized! If I would hand the Hi9 Air to other people who are not as familiar with Android or technology, the Launcher3 would be good.
For our test, we installed the Evie Launcher on the tablet, in addition the pixel UI icons and the complete Google Armada – there you have a Home Screen, which reveals additional information and can be a place to work when you’re not at home. Another alternative is the Microsoft Launcher, which offers a pleasant user experience on tablets.
The tablet has one camera per side: the rear as well as the front camera can only be titled as a nice additional feature because the term image quality is not applicable here. On the rear you find a Samsung ISOCELL sensor with 13MP, on the front there is an undefined 5MP sensor. The Selfie cam is sufficient for video telephony, as it supplies HD pictures. The main camera even has a flash, but the photos are not really useful.
Chuwi Hi9 AIR – the name says it all, with the Chuwi Hi9 Air you have Internet everywhere if you use a SIM card. Three cards can be used simultaneously: two micro SIM cards (one size bigger than Nano) and in addition a microSD-card.
- GSM: band 2/3/5/8
- WCDMA: band 1/2/5/8
- LTE: band 1/2/3/5/7/8/20/40
If you insert a card, you immediately have reception: 4G LTE and next to it the VoLTE symbol appears. LTE is installed in the Cat 6 expansion stage, which extends for up to 300 mBit/ Down and 50 Up. However, the reception is not quite as good as on a smartphone. Transmission rates are slightly lower and reception is always slightly weaker. The Chuwi Hi9 Air can also be used as a normal telephone – if you like. Phone and SMS app are pre-installed. It is cool that such a cheap tablet can be equipped with mobile Internet! This proves once again that a tablet does not have to be so expensive.
For navigating you get GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS, so you can also install the Chuwi Hi9 Air as an oversized car navigation system. Dual Band WiFi (2.4 & 5 GHz) in n-standard and Bluetooth 4.0 are available for further connections. The WiFi reception is not one of the strongest, but you can help yourself with one of the Xiaomi routers. All normal connections are placed on the top: there you find Micro-USB and 3.5mm headphone jack. The speakers of the tablet are very important. The Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite has recently attracted attention with high speaker quality. In the Chuwi Hi9 Air we also find a stereo setup, which is located at the top left and right. The sound is ok and is enough to watch a movie, but you definitely have to turn up the volume by more than half to understand anything at all. For better sound, turn the tablet 180 degrees so that the speakers radiate downwards.
The sensors, on the other hand, are disappointing because only one acceleration sensor is installed. The brightness sensor for automatic control of the display lighting alone is simply obligatory. So you have to do that on your own, what looked like this: three quarters brightness during the day and one quarter brightness in the evening. It’s done quickly, but well… Also a fingerprint sensor, electronic compass or hall sensor (for the “Smart” cover) is missing in the package.
The battery of the Chuwi Hi9 Air offers 8000mAh, which is not very much for a 10.1-inch tablet with Deca Core. If you challenge the Helio X20 with games and excessive surfing on the web, it quickly has to add more cores to deliver the necessary performance. The 2.5K display also consumes a lot of power. In the PC Mark battery benchmark we reached 6:40 in the end, in the energy saving mode it was 8:23. But the latter is used rather reluctantly in practice. The same holds true for the practical use: if you stream videos on YouTube in 1440p with half display brightness and activated speakers, the Chuwi Hi9 Air consumes 11 to 12% per hour. On the other hand, when using the tablet for 1.5 hours on the couch, with trying everything on the tablet – benchmarks, performance in chrome, a (short) round of PUPG – the tablet sometimes consumes a quarter of the 8000mAh battery.
Unfortunately, there is no fast charging technology available for the Chuwi Hi9 Air, which means you always charge with the 5V / 2A provided by the included power supply. We measured 7550mAh on our USB tester for the battery, a value that is still tolerable. The charging speed is as follows: for 1% it takes 2 to 2.5 minutes = from 45% to 85% in one and a half hours. From 0 to 90% it takes 3:25 and the last 10%, from 90 to 100, take again 1:30. The Chuwi Hi9 Air should therefore best be charged over night. A look to the competition shows that they haven’t done much better here: either the battery is too small (even if the display has only 8 inches, 5000mAh is only enough if Xiaomi has optimized it) or it consumes too much. In terms of battery life the Hi 9 Air belongs to the better ones, although the Teclast Master T10 managed to get 8 hours out of 8000mAh as well.