If you’ve been looking for a cheap tablet online, you will have no doubt come across the brand Chuwi. Don’t dismiss their products just because they’re Chinese; most of your beloved Apple products are manufactured in the same province of China.
On paper, the Chuwi Hi9 Pro looks like an impressive bit of kit at a pretty low price. Can it live up to its promise and should you take a risk on this less well-known brand? Let’s take a more in-depth look at this budget-priced, yet “Pro,” gaming tablet.
Out of the box, the Chuwi Hi9 has a nice design with a partial metal case—very unusual at this low price point. A striking red power button on the plastic side of the case gives the Chuwi a gaming look, similar to Razor or Alienware devices.
Although the build quality is pretty decent, it doesn’t have the same premium feel of the iPad, with the metal back often creaking under pressure. The larger size of this tablet, with the curved back, make it almost impossible to use with just one hand.
A feature rarely found on cheaper tablets like this is the inclusion of a type-C USB port. Unlike proprietary power connectors, this port can be used for both charging or connecting accessories, like an external hard drive. One of the dual SIM slots can also be used by a microSD card, to expand the meager 32GB storage of the Hi9.
Without a doubt, the highlight of this budget tablet is the 2.5K resolution, 8.4-inch screen. IPS technology allows you to view it from wider angles, with full lamination of the screen ensuring there are no visible air gaps.
The high resolution means text and icons look very sharp with the color saturation also ideal for watching movies too. The only thing that lets it down is the lack of brightness, which makes the tablet hard to use outdoors, especially in direct sunlight.
Although movies look great on the screen, they’re let down by the single mono speaker located at the back of the device. Many of the smaller premium phones have better sound, and there is no bass at all on this device.
We wouldn’t normally look at the cameras on a tablet—who wants to look a dufus, taking pics with a huge tablet? However, Chuwi makes a big fuss about the Samsung 8MP camera on the rear and a 5MP front facing camera.
Pictures or videos from the rear camera will often look washed out, with very little sharpness or detail. The front-facing 5MP camera isn’t too great either, but images can look sharper, and it’s okay for Skype or other video calls.
Out of the box, the Chuwi Hi9 comes complete with Android Oreo 8.0, including the Play Store. With seamless updates not enabled, unfortunately, it’s probably stuck at 8.0, but that’s not too bad for a “China tablet.”
With the limited 32GB of onboard storage, it’s nice that Chuwi hasn’t opted to install a top-heavy UI, like Amazon or Huawei. There’s very little bloatware, with the FM radio a welcome addition that just requires headphones to use as an antenna.
The tablet supports all the usual features of Android 8, including Google Assistant and a split-screen view. You will find all the usual apps in the Google Play store, but missing DRM standards means Netflix only supports SD content—what a waste of that glorious screen!
Unfortunately, that stunning high-resolution screen could also be the reason this tablet doesn’t perform too well. The Helios X20 deca-core chipset seems to be struggling with all those extra pixels. Many experts would agree this dated chipset from MediaTek is more suited to a 1080p display, and the lower 3GB of RAM doesn’t help either.
For everyday use, the performance of the Chuwi Hi9 is good enough. You can surf the web in Chrome, watch a few YouTube videos, and flick through your emails with no major issues. The 4G connectivity and dual-band Wi-Fi capabilities can’t be faulted.
However, when it comes to gaming or other more demanding tasks, the animation lag on the screen becomes more obvious. Chuwi advertises the Hi9 Pro as the “Gaming Terminator,” but, for a smooth performance, it will only run more recent games, like Fortnite or PUBG, at the lowest settings.
Older games, such as Asphalt 9, Modern Combat 5 or Into The Dead 2 will run smoothly with graphics settings of low to medium. Again, the Helios X20 is struggling with too many pixels to account for—most games would have run fine with just a 1080p display.
Should You Buy It?
For value for money, it’s hard to beat the Chuwi Hi9 at the incredibly low prices you can find it. Where else are you going to find a 2.5K screen, 4G, GPS, and GLONASS enabled tablet, which can also be used as a phone? On the negative side, the battery life is quite short for a tablet.
It’s a pretty decent tablet for watching movies or surfing the web, but when you get to more demanding tasks, the limitations start to show. Gaming can be achieved on the tablet, but only at lower resolutions. The MediaTek chipset just isn’t powerful enough to cope with 2.5K resolution when under pressure.