The Chuwi Hi10 Air: A serviceable convertible hampered by Windows
The perfect laptop. Does it exist? Personally, I have yet to find it. My guess is that it lives somewhere in the fictional world of Victor Frankenstein, cobbled together from the bits of a MacBook, a Pixel Chromebook, and Dell XPS Developer edition. But since that device doesn't exist, we keep on looking-and hoping.
That is why, any time I am sent a device for review, I cross my fingers in anticipation that some random company might have created the perfect blend of keyboard, display, trackpad, operating system, and horsepower. Every time I'm disappointed.
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Such is the case with the Chuwi Hi10 Air. On paper, this tablet and (optional) detachable keyboard combo looks promising. At a glance, the basic specs are:
Clearly, the display size dictates Hi10's primary purpose is to serve as a tablet, with the added bonus of having an attachable keyboard (sold separately), not a laptop with a detachable tablet. And in that fashion, it does a respectable job. As a tablet the Hi10 Air is snappy, with a bright display, and a case design that's easy on the hands. It's only when you attach the keyboard that things get a bit iffy.
Let's break it down.
As a tablet
If you've followed me long enough, you know how I feel about the Windows platform-especially Windows 10. It reminds me of when KDE Plasma first arrived on the market: It felt as though, at any second, everything would come crashing down around me.
However (and I'm surprised to admit), when in tablet mode, Windows 10 feels a bit, well, stable on the Hi10 Air. Apps open without making me think they'll reconsider and hide themselves away without warning, the Windows menu works as expected, and overall the experience is pleasant.
Don't get me wrong, the Hi10 Air won't replace your high-end tablet, but for approximately $185 USD, you could do worse. And don't let the 64GB internal storage concern you, as there's a microSD slot, ready for that 128GB card. So you can expand your storage as needed. Trust me when I say you'll need it. Why? Because the Windows installation alone consumes 25GB of that internal storage. Don't panic, that's normal. A standard Windows installation requires a minimum of 20GB, so this isn't outside the realm of the usual.
So have that SD card ready.
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Speaking of Windows-one thing Chuwi does that never fails to have me curious is, out of the box, they create a user named CW, sans password. This could be isolated to review units (I've reached out for comment on this). If not, you will certainly want to make sure to create your own user account in Settings | Accounts | Family & other people. Do not fail to do this. Period. The last thing you want to do is trust your data to an out-of-the-box account (with no password).
The biggest positive take away from the tablet is that is is very well built (Figure A), as solidly built as any I have ever used. The lines are clean, without fault, and the CNC metal unibody is rugged.
The one ding against the tablet is that the battery could use serious improvement. You won't get an all-day experience from this. After a full charge, the device was down to 75 percent after about 30 minutes of sitting idle. It's not as bad as the MacBook Pro battery, but it's certainly not up to par with the Pixelbook. If I had to guess, the fault here lies in Windows 10.
Outside of those issues, the Chuwi Hi10 Air makes for a solid, low-cost tablet.
As a laptop
Before I get into this, remember that the keyboards are sold separately. But because it is built specifically for the device, I thought it best to also take a look at the Hi10 Air in laptop configuration.
This is where things take a turn for the not-so-solid. I'm accustomed to the Chuwi attachable keyboards (Figure B). I've tested them on larger tablet units and have always found them to be good enough to use in a pinch. There is a general "however" to this. With the Hi10 Air, there are two "howevers."
The general "however" is that when using Windows 10 with the attachable keyboard, you never know when an app will randomly minimize on you. This has happened on every Chuwi device I have tested. With the keyboard attached, you open an app and chances are good it will, while you attempt to work with said app, minimize. It doesn't close, it just decides it has had enough of your business and would rather be at peace. So, you call the app back and work. Once recalled, there's no guarantee the app won't, once again, head back to the taskbar. Thing is, this never happens when using the device without the keyboard. Apps open, and it remains there, until you dismiss it (as it should behave).
The "however" that is more specific to the Hi10 Air is that those detachable keyboards are heavy. In fact, the keyboard is heavier than the tablet. So when you attach the keyboard, all of a sudden you have a really heavy laptop with a 10" screen. In fact, with the keyboard attached, the Hi10 Air feels heavier than a Pixelbook (which is much larger device). However, that's apples to oranges (as the Pixelbook is a much pricier device). Even so, when you attach the word "Air" to a device name, the implication is that it's light. Even without the keyboard the Hi10 Air doesn't quite measure up to that name. With the keyboard attached-forget it.
There is an "however" to the however. With the optional keyboard attached, you gain two USB-B ports. Combine that with the tablet's USB-C port, and you shouldn't have any problems connecting the Air to whatever you need.
It should also be stated that the keyboard is sold separately. When you drop the $185-ish USD, you only getting the tablet. In my opinion, skip the keyboard and buy a third-party bluetooth keyboard/case combo (such as the Logitech Universal Folio with integrated Bluetooth 3.0 keyboard.
The big conclusion
This isn't the easiest sell I've ever made. However, if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive tablet, and you don't mind Windows 10, the Chuwi Hi10 Air might suffice. If you need something with a battery that'll last you all day, you'd be best off looking elsewhere. The Hi10 Air isn't a bad piece of hardware, it's just hampered by Windows 10, a less-than stellar battery, and an attachable keyboard (again, sold separately) that gives it too much heft.
The simple conclusion is this: There are better and worse tablets to be had.