TO STICK blindly to the established brands you know and love makes a lot of sense, but if there’s one thing that the whole Note 7 debacle has proved, it’s that even trusted brands will sometimes let you down.
When we were researching some other articles last year, we were introduced to Chuwi, one of the many up and coming brands from the Shenzhen region of China, home to the likes of Huawei and OnePlus.
Chuwi doesn’t have UK distribution currently, but what they do have is a phenomenally good range of products that can spar with premium devices for a fraction of the money.
In the name of full disclosure, it’s glaringly obvious that this is a review of opportunity – that is to say, Chuwi asked for a review. But we don’t write reviews we don’t mean, and what follows is an unbiased hands-on from a journalist who has switched from using better-known brand to this one, by choice.
Yes, this isn’t just a review. It’s a hands-on with an office survival tool. Sometimes, we review stuff not just because you want to read it, but because we feel we should. That’s what makes us journalists.
The aluminium shell of the tablet is incredibly rugged, though after a few months of use there’s a tiny dent. A screen protector is provided already in places so there’s no worrying about bubbling. The 16:10 form factor is slightly wider than most tablets, so don’t make any assumptions when it comes to buying cases or additional screen protection. However, it does make for an extremely pleasing aesthetic. The ports down the left short side are all sturdy enough but the power button feels a little less robust.
If you choose to opt for the keyboard, you’ll find the two mesh together beautifully thanks to the strong magnet and the very solid housing. The hinges become slightly less taut with use, but not enough to have any concerns about holding the entire device by the keyboard. Sadly, the keyboard base isn’t made of the same metal but still feels a sturdy plastic.
The typing action is well above expectations but does come with the irritating caveat of palm-on-touchpad syndrome, and with no setting to turn off ‘tap to click’, it’s sometimes easier to use a Bluetooth mouse instead.
What’s really lovely, though, is that weighing in at 550g, the main unit is at home as a tablet and as a computer and you can arrange the tablet and keyboard in different permutations similar to things like the Lenovo Yoga.
At boot, you’re greeted with a start screen offering you a choice between Windows and Android and a 10-second timer before it boots into the last opened OS.
Whether you prefer Android or Windows for every day is a matter of choice, but do remember that the Android installed on here is Lollipop and is unlikely to get an official update. We do know some people have modded Remix OS on, but this is at your own risk because once the Android partition is gone, it’s very hard to retrieve.
What is certain is that both perform beautifully with no appreciable lag. We’d have liked 5GHZ WiFi, or a 4G SIM slot but the 802.11n and Bluetooth do a fine job.
The screen is bright and vivid with excellent colour and the HD+ screen gives appreciably high detail. The sound from the stereo speakers is certainly acceptable, if not exceptional but many of the use cases for this device are going to demand headphones anyway.
The battery life is not something that Chuwi makes a particularly big deal of but it’s nothing short of phenomenal. In the time we’ve been using it, we’ve only had it run out of battery on us twice. Providing it gets a top up at night, it just keeps going. Plus, because it charges with USB-C, you can use a top-up battery to blast even more out of it when it gets low.
After a lot of travels over the last year, the Chuwi has become an effortless favourite companion. It’s robust enough to work on without a flat surface, fast enough to play HD video effortless in the hotel room, and small enough to fit in hand luggage.
It’s important to emphasise that part of the job is trying new devices, but it’s a rare few that get reviewed, rarer still ones that become part of the everyday ‘go bag’ especially in preference to a more expensive model. That’s a bigger endorsement that anything we can say in a review itself.
It’s not perfect, but there’s new models coming out all the time. The next is an “Ultrabook” style with a display equivalent to a Microsoft Surface Book. But for under $300. It has to be worth a second look. And a third. µ
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