Low-end tablets are improving each year in leaps and bounds. And now that the Samsung PLS panel used in the Surface Pro 3 is no longer exclusive or in fact needed by Microsoft, Chinese manufacturers now have the new larger 3:2 ratio screen to base their tablet builds around. Chuwi is the first the get their has on this panel and give us what that they think an Atom 12″ 3:2 tablet should be.
What’s in the Box:
- Black 2 prong US Style 2.5A 5 volt USB charger
- Micro USB cable
- Chuwi Hi12 Tablet (Gold/White or Grey/Black)
- Various warranty cards etc in a cardboard slip
Hardware & build quality:
In a first for Chuwi, they have opted for a full metal alloy body instead of the usual plastic or plastic and glass rear housing. As a result, the Hi12 feels more solid in hand and has a more premium look. The look reminds me of the Cube i7, which has a similar finish. The paint job is a matte grey, that looks to be very easy to scratch if not handled with care.
Being a 12-inch tablet, it’s large as expected, but I feel the bezels are just about right. Not too large top and bottom and larger on the sides so you can hold it without touching the screen. And weighs in at 839 grams or 1.18 pounds, enough to start to feel heavy if you decide to watch a long movie, this is where a stand or keyboard stand comes in handy. So it’s a shame the Hi12 doesn’t include a kickstand solution built into the tablet itself like the Cube i9. It should be a rule, if it’s over say 10.6 inches, it needs a kickstand!
The thickness is 0.38 inches or 9.48 mm, not bad when you consider the size of the screen and the internal 11,000mAh battery.
The front screen is glass and the surrounding panel is plastic which clips into the rear metal body. It’s secured in placed by 4 tiny Torx screws that hold the two halves in place firmly. Chuwi is the only Shenzhen manufacturer that does this and it not only improves aesthetics, strengthens the tablet rather than just relying on plastic clips to hold it all together.
Keyboard dock: (Optional)
Chuwi has released the keyboard dock now (6 weeks after the tablet launched) and I do have one ordered to review. It’s a transformer style dock with a full-sized keyboard and touchpad. What I’m not particularly fond of is the color choice for the keys White is prone to showing dirt.
It does however have two full sized USB 2.0 ports, both left and right, great for adding a USB mouse for example. This brings the total amount of USB ports to 4, well 5 if you include the microUSB port.
Screen and touch response:
A screen is what makes a tablet, and the Chuwi Hi12 has quite the screen for this class of tablet. The last generation Surface Pro 3 screen. A Samsung PLS SEC3542 ( Part # LTL120QL01-001) to be precise. You can read more about the screen in Display Mates full detailed test. These screens even sell for around the price of the whole tablet if you’re looking for a spare.
Since the panel isn’t fully laminated, it’s more susceptible to reflections and due to this the brightness suffers somewhat to the fully laminated version in the Surface Pro 3. And the gap between the glass and screen below it is a rather large 1-2mm which isn’t the greatest.
Touch response is excellent with no issues, I find the larger screen to be very responsive to touch, accurate and a enjoy to use. After disabling Intel Graphics power saving settings the maximum brightness is 302 cd/m2. While not a bad level of brightness it’s short of the 371 cd/m2 the Surface Pro 3 is capable of. Chuwi must have toned down the brightness in order to save on battery life. And far from the dull screens in the Teclast X80h and PiPo W4S that struggled to get over 200 cd/m2.
My unit has a Hynix brand HCG8e 64GB eMMC in it, now I’m not sure if Chuwi will stick with this brand of eMMC but most manufacturers switch around and use various brands they have on stock. The speeds are great for an eMMC 4.5.1 spec drive and the 4k random reads and writes are good. Nothing like the slow BWIN and FORSEE brand drives Chuwi normally use in their 8-inch line of tablets that can only get around 2 MB/s random writes. Speeds always vary from eMMC to eMMC so it’s just down to pot luck if you get a faster one. But Hynix, Samsung and Toshiba brands always seem to perform 5 times better than the cheaper mentioned brands.
The USB 3.0 port functions just like any USB 3.0 port should, it will power 1 or 2TB external hard drives without any issues and at full USB 3.0 speeds. Using my Sandisk Extreme USB 3 64GB pen drive, I was able to reach the write and read limits of this drive in the USB 3 port. The USB 2.0 port maxes out at 45mb/s read and write.
And the MicroSD card slot as with all Cherry Trail tablets supports high-speed MicroSD cards. So you can take advantage of UHS-1 cards here and not be limited to just 23 MB/s like the last gen Bay Trail Atoms.
Ports & Connectivity:
What was started in the Chuwi Vi10, continuing in the Hi12 and I’m all for it. Two full sized USB ports, one USB 3.0 spec. And a micro USB port for charger (Can also be used for data) This is very practical and I wish all tablets had this, it’s one of the reasons Chuwi has been doing so well since it’s introduction.
One the left-hand side is where all the action is in regards to ports. Luckily Chuwi thought it out and most USB plugs and USB flash drives should fit in the USB ports and let you charge at the same time. The micro HDMI port is firm and not loose like some and can output a maximum resolution of 4k @ 30hz. The Hi12 was able to drive my ASUS 2560 x 1440 display without any problems and at 60hz.
The usual RealTek 150mbps BGN card handles wireless and Bluetooth. But it’s a crying shame to still see only single band wireless cars still be used in 2016. It’s about time we had more dual band cards, so far only the Mi Pad 2 has dual band 2.4Ghz and the less crowded 5Ghz band.
I experienced no limited or dropped connections and was able to get the following speeds using speedtest.net. (Note my desktop gets 50 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload)
The Realtek 150mbps Wireless N card was also able to keep up with streaming GTA V over my network as tested here from my tower PC. Using my Hi12 downstairs, I noticed a the performance was still good and the connection is as good as my Surface Pro 4. No problems with the Wifi what-so-ever here.
Windows & Performance:
The Hi12 performs great within Windows, folders open up quickly, moving around the menus is all quick and responsive. This is where the tablet doesn’t feel much like an Atom, but as soon as you start to multitask heavily you begin to feel the system slow somewhat. While the Ram is 4GB, it’s only running in a single channel configuration at 1600Mhz, unlike the Atom X5 Z8500 in the Teclast X98 Pro and X16 Pro that runs dual channel with higher memory bandwidth.
For light tasks like document editing, browsing the web, viewing pdfs and even some light gaming the Atom X5 Z8300 can handle that with ease. It can even stream 4k YouTube videos as long as you use a browser like Edge or Internet Explorer 11 that’s better optimized for such a task.
These Atom’s might surprise you with this, I was able to have both Edge and Chrome open with various tabs. WordPress editing this review right here and the little 14nm Atom was still keeping up. You can push them quite hard, more than you would have thought possible.
However once multiple tabs, folders, and MS Paint was opened I did notice typing in Edge became somewhat slower than before. And alt-tabbing between apps became slower.
My first benchmark runs showed poor results when compared to other Atom X5 Z8300’s, I later discovered it was due to the GPU being limited within Intel’s graphics settings. Disabling the extending gaming power saving mode, brought the results back on track. What that feature does is limit the GPU clocks in order to help save battery life, but at the cost of around 10-20% performance.
The Hi12 proved to be one of the faster X5 Z8300’s tested so far:
The Atom X5 Z8300 in the Hi12 isn’t knowing for it’s gaming performance. But with that said, you can still play many old titles are most store games with fluid frame rates. Aspalt 8 Airborne and Dungeon Hunter 5 for example were very playable even running at 2160 x 1440. Modern Combat 5 however was a 3-4 fps slide show of frustration.
On the lowest resolution and settings popular games like Counter Strike Global Offensive, Dota 2 and League of Legends were playable.
Edit: Battery times updated, after cycling the battery a few times. Battery life has improved on my Chuwi Hi12. With 50% bright and the intel power display power saving option enabled. I’m able to get over 8 hours of video, web and document use. This is one of best battery run times seen on a large Chinese Windows 10 tablet.
The Chuwi Hi12 comes with an 11,000 battery. HWinfo detected my battery to have 10,125 mAh which seems about right. (You never get 100% of the capacity, Windows reserves some, manufacturing process etc) During my time using the Hi12 I was able to get a reasonably good idea of battery life with the following scenarios:
- Gaming 50% brightness around 4 hours.
- Web browsing 50% brightness about 7:30 hours.
- Mixed YouTube viewing with docs, multiple tabs open in Edge and multitasking. 50% brightness: 6-7 hours.
- Videos/Movies with flight mode on 50% brightness over 9 hours. 25% brightness could see around 30 minutes more, almost breaking to 10-hour mark.
I’ll update this with more exact figures when I have more time on the battery only. The above tests were run with Intel’s battery saving features disabled too.
Your own times will depend on various factors, but overall I feel the battery life is great for a tablet with this sized screen. It would seem the 12″ PLS panel isn’t as heavy on the battery as I would have thought.
Heat and throttling:
Chuwi has done well with the thermals on the Hi12, in all my time testing and reviewing my unit, temperatures never went over 73 degrees and the tablet never felt hot. My guess is Chuwi has a large thermal pad between the SoC and the rear metal housing. This is acting as a huge heat sink transferring heat away from the Atom X5 Z8300 and dissipating it through the metal. I’ve seen Cube do the same with the i7 Core M tablets and it was very effective.
Gaming for a few hours saw the max temps reach 77 degrees. But I really, really wanted to push the thermals on this unit since it’s running much cooler than other Z8300’s. Running Furmark and Intel burn test while charging I was able to get up to 79 degrees after 21 minutes. Not bad, all other Cherry Trail Atom’s would have hit at least 85 degrees if not more with that test. And I don’t see Furmark and CPU burn as a realistic test at all, normally you would never max both the GPU and CPU at 100% under normal use.
Approximate charge time from 7% to 100% with the tablet powered off was around 3 hours 50 minutes. Powered on and charging from 7% you’re looking at close to 5 to 6 hours to fully charge the Hi12 when it’s in use, this figure will vary if your doing something taxing like gaming or you have the screen at 100% brightness.
DC charging might have been a better solution here bypassing any USB power restrictions. At least, Chuwi did increase the output of the stock charger from 5 volts 2A to 5V 2.5A’s which will help with charging when the system is in use.
The speakers are on the left and right sides of the tablet, as a result stereo separation is good and they output even a hint of bass. They are better than the Chuwi Hi10 and better than most Chinese tablets I have reviewed here. But they still lose out to the Mi Pad 2’s speakers. And not a patch on my Surface Pro 4’s front facing speakers. There is a slight hiss over the speakers if you put your ear to them just after audio is played. For example, the typing sound that’s played when using the onscreen keyboard, as soon as the sound is played I can hear a faint hiss over both speakers.
The 3.5 mm audio jack is a 4 pole unit, so it supports headsets with microphones. There is an ever so slight buzz over the port when there is no sound playing. This is an annoyance, luckily when sound is played you don’t hear it. So it only seems to be present between MP3 tracks or silent periods. My guess is the wireless or another component is interfering with the line. It’s a common issue I’ve heard on many tablets and even the more known brand ones. Even my Surface 3 had a slight hiss over the 3.5 mm jack.
Not much to write here, still one of the weakest points of most tablets. The 5MP auto focus camera of the Hi12 is average at best. It’s okay for a quick snap of some text as macros come out okay. But many photos just look washed out. The camera and the front facing 2-megapixel unit is actually quite good for Skype and one of the better ones on a Chinese tablet.
And the front camera doesn’t perform great in low light, so you’ll want to make sure you’re in a well-lit room. Here are some samples:
The large 12 inch high-resolution Samsung PLS screen is a joy to use, browsing the web, looking at PDF’s, editing docs and other light tasks is what this tablet is good for. Even watching a movie on the 3:2 being so large is good even if you do have those 1 inch borders top and bottom. And the two USB ports, make this a practical tablet without having to carry around a microUSB to USB adapters like other tablets.
Where the tablet struggles, like other Atom X5 Z8300’s is gaming. Lower resolutions and settings must be run in order to get anything close to playable frame rates. And it’s a large heavy tablet, it’s not for everyone. Due to it’s size and weight it really needs a kick stand. Holding the Hi12 for 40 minutes watching a clip of Better Call Saul, was bearable. But my arms where defiantly feeling it. At least, with the keyboard dock you’ll be able to use the keyboard as a stand.
Chuwi has also promised a dual boot Windows 10 and Android model later in March. And talk of a slightly more expensive stylus version has all but disappeared. I’m sure Chuwi has more plans with this screen that’s now in their possession.
But what this screen is really screaming out for is stylus support and something more powerful like a Core M. Even so, as a low-end tablet with full sized USB ports and a premium screen make it an enjoyable tablet for media consumption and even docs and web work. The only let down is the audio could be better, but it’s defiantly not the worse I’ve heard and still better than many other tablets I’ve reviewed. And without the keyboard, it’s heavy to hold as just a tablet.
I can only hope to see more Shenzhen companies taking advantage of this lovely 3:2 ratio screen.