CHUWI's newest Hipad LTE tablet is really a great tablet if expectations are tempered
CHUWI isn't going to be a recognizable brand for most users in the Western parts of the world and its CHUWI Hipad LTE isn't the newest Android tablet on the market. It's also nowhere near perfect but, with consideration for its sub-$200 price tag, mobile connectivity, and other things, it's not a bad gadget at all.
The company recently offered me the opportunity to try out this Android 8.0 Oreo tablet and, at 10.1-inches, it's safe to say that I came away neither impressed or unimpressed. On the surface, that means this is basically a tablet that's as good as any other on the market running the world's most popular smartphone operating system since Apple truly dominates on that front.
With that said, there are a lot of things to love about this tablet too — within reason — and it's definitely worth the deeper dive after spending some time with the device.
10.1-inches of media-consuming goodness
The fact that CHUWI's Hipad LTE supports, as its name implies, LTE connectivity and even connects via SIM cards in the U.S. shouldn't be too surprising. Most of its other tablets that I've tested have too, with minor APN adjustments in the settings, and that connection is rock solid once established. The same holds true for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Where this device separates itself is in terms of both its protective keyboard case accessory and its build quality. It's going to stand out from other tablets from much larger manufacturers in the same way.
As with all tablets, the bezels surrounding the display aren't exactly the slimmest. Instead, they're just large enough to accommodate thumbs for easy gripping without the hassle of accidental screen taps or swipes. The touchscreen itself feels responsive beyond the initial setup, as we'll discuss a bit later on.
There's a forward-facing 5-megapixel camera and some sensors are embedded in the top bezel but other than that, there's no adornment on the front to distract from the 1200 x 1920 screen.
Materials used in the back and edges are of the metal variety, including a classy silver trim around the screen-side of the edge. That extends as an accent around the side of the back panel too, on the edge where snug and clicky power and volume rocker buttons are located. There's no real functional purpose for that darker-hued, silver-outlined accent. But I thought it was a nice touch.
The 'top' edge houses the SIM drawer, USB-C port, and headphone jack. Those are tight and well-built too, with the exception of the charging and data transfer USB port. That particular port didn't allow the USB-C male plug to be fully inserted and while it didn't wiggle at all during my test, it also didn't fit as snugly as I'd have liked.
That's not to say it's going to break, of course, but it does take away from the otherwise premium feel of this gadget. A single mic hole can be seen near the volume rocker.
Rolling the CHUWI Hipad LTE over to the back, the OEM has gone a different direction than most of its contemporaries in that the design is a blend of the standard curved and squared approaches taken by others.
Rather than having either, the rear panel and edges are all one piece and the edges themselves are all squared off and smoothly roll over to the front, back, and other edges.
A sharper line, barely-perceivable at first glance, leads diagonally from each of the corners increasing thickness minutely to a slightly raised ridge that runs vertically down approximately half of the gadget. The line running from the two lower corners, when held vertically, is interrupted only by speaker slots, with what seems to be a cloth grill and more metal accents. Those are much larger than might be expected and follow the same alignment as the ridges.
The metal outline of those speakers, their placement, and their shape and size all serve to give off a premium look. The shape of the device itself is also comfortable to hold. Although I had a difficult time determining whether its unique design actually impacted that at all, it certainly doesn't take away from how it looks.
As with most other modern tablets, there's no waterproofing or dust resistance rating provided for the CHUWI Hipad LTE.
…that lasts all day long
Battery life, comparatively speaking, is phenomenal. Many Android tablets available on the market today will last maybe four to five hours at a maximum and that's including a significant amount of down or screen-off time.
The CHUWI Hipad LTE lasted a grand total of just over eight hours and thirty minutes before hitting 10-percent. That's not including any screen-off time either. It took nearly five hours of constant video streaming in 1080p quality with the screen brightness and volume at approximately 70-percent and 40-percent respectively to kill off half of the battery.
If you want to turn the battery or volume up higher than that, that's going to change the battery life but that brightness on this 1200 x 1920 resolution panel was more than good enough for almost any conditions indoors or out. Only bright and direct sunlight caused any issues and a slight bump was all that was required to circumvent that.
Now, I didn't spend any time on the battery test conducting video calls, on the phone, sending messages, or web browsing. I didn't notice any extra drain in those activities outside of the battery test either. Instead, I spent the rest of the battery test in mobile games or streaming music.
That is, in just a couple of words, incredibly impressive for a 10.1-inch tablet.
…and takes all day to charge
Not everything with the battery is perfect, however, and that's something that definitely needs to be understood for any potential buyers. This tablet packs in a 7,000mAh capacity battery. That's around double what's found in something like the average flagship smartphone.
My initial impression with the charging experience with the stock, U.S. socket-compatible charger, was that this was going to be another check in the 'brilliant' category for the CHUWI Hipad LTE. That's thanks to the fact that the massive power supply fueled up to 75-percent in just under three hours.
Much to my dismay — and this could be a software problem since even the standard trickle-type charging shouldn't take this long via USB-C — it took over six hours, give or take 15-minutes, to charge to 100-percent full. That means that this tablet should last users with reasonable technology habits or needs all day but that it should probably be charged at night for heavier users.
These cameras are not a reason to buy and neither are the speakers
Continuing in that vein of somewhat negative aspects to be discovered, using the cameras on the CHUWI Hipad LTE was a veritable nightmare. It goes without saying that's not going to differentiate it from other Android tablets since that's a nearly universal fact about the gadget and its entire category. It still came as something of a shock with consideration for how on-point most of the rest of the experience was.
Not only is light balancing entirely off in photos, regardless of whether HDR mode is turned on, the paltry 5-megapixel sensor size means that their relatively blurry and lack the level of detail I've come to expect from modern Android devices.
Video recording turned out much the same way and that carried over to the forward-facing camera too. That'll be just fine for video chatting under most circumstances.
Aside from frequently washing out areas, the camera's color accuracy was fair but not as vibrant as I'd have liked.
On the software side of things, the UI is straightforward AOSP without any dressing, complete with old-school filter effects. That means it's really very easy to use with nearly no learning curve but that it doesn't look great compared to the rest of the tablet's interface.
One area the cameras did seem to shine was in the capture of shadows under nearly optimal dead-even lighting. It also did reasonably well at keeping details crisp within a set of up-close ranges and under the right lighting, although bright lighting tended to wash out the background.
As an added bonus to those issues, the camera software is also exceptionally slow in every regard with this tablet.
So snapping photos, zooming, or focusing each felt like it took an eternity in contrast to other devices that are available. That's not necessarily a huge step down from other tablets, but users should definitely not expect this to perform like a phone. It simply won't — as seen in our gallery of samples via Flickr.
For sound, the situation isn't quite so dire but customers shouldn't expect to be blown away either. Headphones attached via the 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth fixed the issues it did have too but there's no hi-fi DAC or other specialty hardware in place to push the experience to the flagship level either.
I don't usually rely on specialized testing methods to determine how good or not the speakers on a smartphone or tablet are. Out of curiosity, because of the size and aesthetic of the speakers used here, I did listen through a tone test with this CHUWI tablet. My hope was that extra effort had been expended there on this device and the results were moderately disappointing.
Bass frequencies only drop to around 158Hz before becoming inaudible and the power of the bass hits isn't great by any stretch of the imagination. This tablet is definitely loud. But the bass tones and overall quality didn't match the aesthetics of the speakers at all. Instead, the audio quality is fairly standard budget-to-mid-range smartphone fair. There's just no punch.
The result is speakers that don't impress but for which, regardless of what genre the music or movie falls into, high tones have a tendency to override the mid and the lows frequencies. "Tinny" would be going too far but only by the slightest stretch.
The keyboard experience
Using CHUWI's keyboard, meanwhile, wasn't a bad experience at all but it isn't optimal either. The keys feel small and the keyboard itself somewhat cramped, although the plastics used in the keyboard itself don't seem to be too low-quality. The travel of the keys is acceptable for a gadget this size too
In fact, anybody who has used a pocket keyboard is going to already have a fairly good idea of what using the one made for the CHUWI Hipad LTE is like.
The primary difference is that the lag in this keyboard is all but nonexistent thanks to pogo-pin connectors used for the connection. The top row of keys, similar to a Chrome OS keyboard, is custom made to suit the mobile software better than a standard keyboard too, which means that while there aren't function keys, there are keys for accomplishing a lot of adjustments to the UI and other aspects of the device.
Those work as would be expected based on their various icons.
The caveat to that is that trying to 'configure' the keyboard in settings was a real hassle and seemed to cause problems with using the device. At one point, making those adjustments seemed to stop the keyboard from connecting altogether until I restarted the tablet and reconnected.
Aside from the usability aspects of the keyboard, the accessory is equipped with an LED light to indicate that it's connected. The outer material has a soft, velvety feel and plenty of rigidity for protection in case of drops but the magnetic pins and magnets that draw the two folds together are really the only thing holding the tablet in place. So there's the risk it will pop out when dropped too, which I didn't test.
The magnetic flaps don't seem to interact with the OS either. That meant that closing or opening the case didn't cause the screen to turn on or off any differently — at least not that I was able to tell during my test.
Aside from those drawbacks, the keyboard both looks and performs better than I would have expected. It has a high-end aesthetic and in-hand 'feel' that very closely matches with that of the tablet itself.
Where things really break down is in the touchpad. Using touchscreen interactions still works and the two click zone design means that gestures are possible with the touchpad too. But clicking that or clicking and dragging on-screen items with that is all but impossible — likely owing to Android's poor level of optimization with keyboard and touchpads.
Software throughout is 'standard', as is performance
The software put in place with the CHUWI Hipad LTE is straightforward and a bit on the stark side but it's really not standard either. It would be, for a budget-minded smartphone but this is a tablet. There's no earpiece that I could find and it's too big to comfortably hold up to the ear anyway.
Irrespective of that, it includes both the Google Messages default SMS app for Android and the AOSP phone app too. So it can be used as a smartphone, in a pinch, with an appropriate SIM card. Calls need to be made with a mic-equipped Bluetooth or wired headset, headphones, earbuds, or speaker but each of those works as would be expected of a budget smartphone. Namely, it's serviceable.
All of the other software in place is stock Android 8.0 Oreo on the UI front and with regard to the system settings or other system menus. The only exception to that which seems out of place is the "DuraSpeed" option in Settings. That's fairly standard on every smartphone or tablet out of the region and with MediaTek processors. When turned on, it provides a noticeable performance increase and cuts background apps data use.
The only remaining extras are the inclusion of an FM Radio app and a Sound Recorder. Neither takes up much space. There was also a font manager installed, which Play Protect removed upon sign-in citing "unauthorized access" to the "data or device." That's concerning to a small degree but not unheard of and shouldn't present an issue since the Play Store caught it. It was effectively disabled permanently and could come back if whatever bug caused the issue is fixed in a future update.
Use of apps and games as well as the UI, in terms of software, was smooth for the most part with this CHUWI tablet. The only exception to that seemed to be the use of apps that weren't designed to work with a tablet, where touch zones didn't seem to be quite lined up properly — requiring a more precise tap or swipe on a smaller area than the interface elements led me to believe.
Aside from that and the more intensive games on Android showing slightly slower load times or lagging out infrequently enough that it was easy to forget they did at all, there weren't any major issues during my use. It seems to be a solid performer thanks to its MediaTek-built MTK6797 Helio X27 chipset. That's a deca-core SoC, adding to the efficiency of that performance.
Now, that's not going to be the case for everybody, it bears pointing out. There's no way I could have tested every application and there are bound to be some that cause significant issues. This isn't a gaming tablet after all and its internal hardware isn't made for that purpose either.
Internally, the chipset in this gadget is only backed up by 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
On the memory side of the equation, there isn't much that can be done about the situation but it also isn't too different from what is available in other tablets available today. For storage, CHUWI does include a two-slot SIM tray with the second slot in the drawer compatible with a second SIM card or up to 128GB microSD card.
So there should be plenty of room for storing whatever media users want, especially since the amount of storage taken up by apps that are pre-installed is relatively low.
I didn't notice any problems in software that was optimized for tablets beyond the initial set-up lag and some slight start-up lag for the first few seconds after booting up. In the overwhelming majority of applications, CHUWI's Hipad LTE is going to be more than enough to handle what users throw at it. That stayed true whether I was gaming, doing something productive in spreadsheets or documents, watching a show, or browsing the web.
This tablet doesn't disappoint (but only if you don't expect any more than a tablet)
Certain aspects of CHUWI's Hipad LTE are bound to disappoint some users whether that's the cameras in general, the relatively weak — for their size — speakers, or some characteristics of the build, display, and battery. But it really shouldn't for those that go into their purchase of this tablet, typically priced between $169.99 and 195.49, with tempered expectations.
What CHUWI has with its Hipad LTE is a mobile network-compatible tablet with a 10.1-inch high-quality display, stacked on solid hardware packed into a device that's designed to look good with a detachable protective keyboard case. Performance from its ten-core processor and accompanying graphics chip are great for the category and at its price. The battery could easily last multiple days for lighter users.
It is, summarily, a good tablet as far as Android tablets go, despite that it ships with an older version of the OS.