Chuwi’s Hipad LTE tablet took me by surprise. I’m not a big fan of ‘phablets’ to begin with. And when I saw it only cost $159 I was certain this slab would be a hot mess. I was wrong.
The 10.1-inch Hipad LTE is a ‘phablet’ — an unlocked smartphone with a big screen. It feels like Chuwi’s ambition was to sell this to travelers, but I’m not sure it’ll hold up to the needs of frequent flyers or other commuters who work on the go. There’s a few problems holding it back that I’ll get into later.
First, the good: this is the perfect tablet for me. I’m writing this review on a balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean, pecking away on the little keyboard/stand/case that Chuwi shipped with it. All I need to do my job is an internet connection and something to write on. I’m not patient enough to tap out articles on my phone, so I appreciate the physical keyboard. And a tablet’s easier to manage than a laptop — especially when sand is a concern.
If you’re the kind of writer who doesn’t really do desks — instead preferring to set up shop and start typing wherever and whenever inspiration strikes — this might be for you. I like being able to walk down to the nearby park and work on a 4G internet connection.
Keep in mind the tablet and keyboard case are sold separately for $159.99 and $39.99 respectively on Amazon, but if you don’t mind waiting awhile for shipping you can get them together through the Chuwi website here. This review treats both products as a single package retailing for $199.
Still, if you’re a writer, I’d say this is a pretty good deal. I stress the writer part because, aside from people who need a word processor and web browser on the go, it’s unlikely the Hipad will impress many. Don’t get me wrong, the price is right. It’s as good as any similarly priced tablet I’ve used. But for my money, if I was just going to use it for Netflix and Candy Crush, I’d get an Amazon Fire HD or an Onn tablet for half the price.
And if you’re looking for more from a tablet, you’ll probably end up frustrated with this one’s shortcomings. The Hipad’s specifications are too modest for gaming and design:
- Processor: Decacore MediaTek Helio X27 MT6797X
- Operating System: Android 8.0
- GPU: ARM Mali-T880 MP4
- Memory: 3MB
- ROM: 32MB
- Ports: USB-C charging, headphone,
- Display: 10.1 inch 16:10, 1920 x 1200 pixel 224 PPI, IPS, glossy
- Connectivity: WiFI/ 4G LTE
- Camera: 5MP front / 5MP rear
- Battery: 7000mAh
There’s simply nothing here to get excited about. The battery is decent, you should expect it to last between 6 and 10 hours during normal use. And the screen is bright and colorful, but the combination of protective glass and touch display that Chuwi used makes it seem like I have to tap just a little harder than most screens I’ve used to elicit a response. And despite the rich display, I found images from both of the Hipad’s cameras a bit mute and flat. There’s no image-stabilization to speak of and there’s purpling even in excellent outdoor lighting conditions:
Rear camera images:
Front camera images:
I suspect some of these issues could be resolved with a third-party camera app, but anyone looking for a tablet to use for photography purposes is better off with a different device. It’s perfectly passable for low-key selfies and streaming or video chat though. I also used it for voice calls and had no problems with clarity or dropped calls during my testing.
The Hipad may not be very powerful, but it’s got a lot of charisma. It’s elegantly designed with chrome accents and subtle, angular features. Button and port placement are both smart — when you’re using it with the keyboard, the power button and volume rocker are on top while the USB-C charging port is comfortably to the side. It’s well-built and feels solid, nothing about the way this tablet looks belies it’s paltry price tag.
Unfortunately, even at a budget, there’s a few frustrating things about the Hipad tablet anyone considering purchasing one should be aware of. Let’s start with the keyboard case.
The actual keyboard part is pretty decent. I found it simple to adjust to the reduced footprint and the keys have a proper amount of travel. On its own merit, I’d give it full marks. It connects to the tablet’s peripheral port and is held in place by magnets, unfortunately it has a habit of disconnecting. The case has a tri-fold design that lets your form a prop for the tablet by folding the back of it into a support. It sucks. It regularly collapses under the wait of the tablet — often at the slightest touch — causing the tablet and keyboard to separate.
Sometimes when this happens the tablet won’t recognize that the keyboard’s been disconnected. This means the keyboard won’t power back on when you connect (so you can’t use it) and the tablet won’t automatically open the software keyboard when there’s an input box on your screen. I end up restarting the tablet four or five times a day to fix this issue.
It’s a bigger problem than just figuring out a way to secure the back so it doesn’t slide down. Because of the finicky nature of the whole setup it’s virtually impossible to use the tablet as a laptop — you can’t use it if it’s in your lap because it’ll just fall flat. Since it simply has to be on a sturdy, flat surface, if you plan to use it when you travel you’ll have to sit on the airport floor or wait until you’re in the air with your seat-back tray table down to get any work done with it. All things considered I’ll just take my laptop when I fly.
Chuwi’s Hipad LTE may not be the perfect traveling companion, but it’s incredibly well-suited for my semi-nomadic writer needs. I hate being tethered to my desk and WiFi, and coffee shops just aren’t my style. But there’s no way I’m dragging my office laptop to a sandy beach or a dirty park (where I’d just have to tether it to my phone for internet). At $199 with keyboard peripheral, the Hipad has everything I need to focus on writing and research, but I won’t miss a car payment if it ends up lost at sea and I have to replace it.
I highly recommend it for writers, bloggers, or people who work out of their inbox. Power users aren’t going to get enough out of it, but casual users looking to get a limited laptop experience for $200 bucks can’t go wrong.
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Published July 26, 2019 — 22:20 UTC