CHUWI Hi13 review: A Surface Book alternative that costs only $369

Windows Central Recommended Award

The CHUWI brand is not yet a household name but the company's increasingly diverse, affordable, and at times impressive Windows 10 lineup is getting more popular. The company's Hi13 is a "new generation flagship 2 in 1 tablet" that closely resembles a Microsoft Surface Book.

Priced at just $369, the Hi13 is certainly cheaper than Microsoft's offerings, but is it any good? The answer may surprise you.

About this review

CHUWI supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the Hi13. There are no configuration options, and the unit is priced at $369 (and as low as $319 from various online retailers).

CHUWI Hi13 hardware and specifications

Although CHUWI cut some corners to keep the Hi13's cost below $400, it went all out on the display, which is a beautiful 13.5" 3000 x 2000 IPS and touch capacitive. The rest of the Hi13 matches up with the quality of the CHUWI 14. 1 LapBook.

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CategoryCHUWI Hi13 2in1
Processor7th-Gen "Apollo Lake" Intel Celeron N3450 at 1.1GHz with burst to 2.2GHz
Internal storageSamsung 64GB eMMC 5.1
RAM4GB
LPDDR3 1600 MHz
Display13.5-inch IPS (3000 x 2000)
Touch, Capacitive (10-point)
GraphicsIntel 500
PortsTwo USB Type-A (2.0 and 3.0)
One USB Type-C
One micro USB
3.5mm jack
microSD Card
micro HDMI
Speakersfour AAC
WirelessIntel AC-3165 (2.4/5GHz)
802.11a/b/g/n
CameraFront-facing 2.0MP
Rear 5.0MP
Battery10,000 mAh/37 Whr
WeightTotal: 4.4 lbs (2.0 kg)
Tablet: 2.42 lbs (1.1 kg)
Keyboard: 1.96 lbs (0.89 kg)

Considering the price point and that display, the specifications are right in line with expectations.

CHUWI Hi13 design

The Hi13 is a solid, mostly metal alloy machine. Coming in at nearly 4.5 lbs, the Hi13 is not light for its size. Oddly, the display and tablet portion are significantly heavier than the keyboard base.

The design makes discerning between the top and bottom of the 2 in 1 a little odd, especially due to the labeling being on the back of the tablet (what is the display in laptop mode). Both halves of the 2 in 1 are relatively the same width, giving the desired symmetry, though the top half is slightly thicker.

Due to most of the PC components and the battery being in the display section, it makes sense that would weigh more than the keyboard half, which itself has no battery capabilities. Still, it feels weird when you pick up the entire 2 in 1 by the base when the display is open. It almost feels like the screen will snap off the keyboard dock due to the weight difference.

To remove the tablet, you just pull the display off the base. Some exceptionally strong magnets hold the screen, and there is a keyboard connector to enable the full PC experience. It's a solid design, and the hinge feels sturdy. The bottom of the tablet is spotless, with two holders and a single connector.

Not only can the screen be removed for tablet mode, but you can reverse it as well on the keyboard dock. That presentation style keeps the keyboard in the back of the display. You can also lay the screen flat when reversed, creating a thicker tablet that's ideal for drawing. This setup is not quite as beneficial as the Surface Book's design, because there is no extra battery in the keyboard dock or a discrete GPU.

The hinge is very well designed and minimal. It requires some force to open, but it feels like it will hold up over time.

The metallic power button and volume are on the top left of the display, just like on the Surface Book. A small white LED on the keyboard base above the keyboard lets you know the Hi13 is current powered.

CHUWI always surprises me with the quality of its hardware. There is no creaking, the edging of the Hi13 is machine cut (like what HP does with is Spectre line), and the overall feel of the device is not what you would expect from a sub-$400 PC.

Finally, the silver color is like a cross between an Apple MacBook Pro and Surface Book. It's smooth and smudge-free.

Hi13 display with perfect color accuracy

The heart of the Hi13 is its display. CHUWI apparently sunk most of the costs into the 3000 x 2000 IPS touch screen. That resolution may sound odd, but it is the same one found in the Surface Book. That means you also get the desired 3:2 aspect ratio, which many consumers seem to prefer over the wider and more traditional 16:9.

This is a really nice 3000 x 2000 display.

CHUWI claims that the display is 100 percent sRGB color accurate. That's a bold claim. Dell's XPS computers with UHD displays can hit such numbers, but even the Surface line (Pro and Book) struggle to hit 97 percent. But CHUWi is not fibbing. In tests using a Spyder 5 Elite colorimeter, the display hit 100 percent sRGB and 79 percent Adobe RGB, making it one of the most color accurate displays on any device I've recently tested.

True to its word CHUWI delivers a 100% sRGB color gamut, which is crazy.

The display is also dazzling, peaking at 480 nits and resulting in a comfortable average viewing brightness of just 30 percent for regular usage.

To be fair, the touch display and lamination is where you can see some cost-cutting compared to a Surface Book. There is clearly more of an air gap between the digitizer and display components. Also, blacks tend to be grayer and lack that real deep black experience you can find on higher-end laptops.

All of that, however, misses the point. The CHUWI Hi13 has arguably the best display for a sub $400 PC in 2017. It's stunning looking, and the color contrast is exceptional, especially after some minor calibration. It's insane to find such a display in this price range.

Inking and pen

True to its purpose, the Hi13 works with active digital pens. CHUWI does not include the HiPen H3 in the box, but at just $25 the active pen is a well-priced accessory.

The pen takes a single AAAA battery (included) and has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity using the 2mm tip. There are two buttons as well, but it lacks the third programmable eraser button found on the Surface.

Made from a silver metal alloy it's one of my favorite pens to use. It's a near carbon copy of the Surface Pen, but that's not a terrible thing.

The pressure sensitivity is on the low side for 2017, where 2,048 levels and higher are found in high-end tablets, but it gets the job done. Palm rejection on the Hi13 is OK and for basic inking, drawing, note taking and more, the Hi13 and HiPen H3 are a great combo.

CHUWI put a Windows Start key on the right-hand side of the tablet, which can cause some accidental activations when inking.

It's not the best for pen and ink, but there is nothing comparable to it in this price range.

Finally, it's worth noting the pen has a magnet as well letting you attach it to the right side of the Hi13. The magnets are not super strong, but it's better than nothing and helps when in an area with little desk space.

A quality keyboard

I liked the keyboard on the LapBook 14.1, and luckily that same design carries over to the Hi13. The same large, black, chicklet keys with ample travel are on the bottom half of the Hi13, and they make typing fun.

The keys are not backlit. Pressing the keys down feels firm, and there is a satisfying bounce feel and sound when you type, not unlike typing on the Surface Pro 4.

Trackpad woes

CHUWI gets almost everything right on its laptops and tablets, but the trackpad is still its weak point. The same complaints I had with the LapBook 14.1 carry over to the Hi13.

The trackpad is plastic, but it feels OK. In fact, I love the chrome accent that separates the trackpad from the keyboard base, which is something like what HP does. It looks classy. Movement of the cursor is also satisfactory, albeit less accurate than a Precision or Synaptics trackpad.

Clicking, however, is terrible. I sometimes must click multiple times for it to register, and the experience is not even across the trackpad. Tapping is an option, but it too can be finicky.

Finally, because the trackpad technically behaves like a mouse, the scrolling is reversed compared to standard PC trackpads, which can be disorientating for unaccustomed users. At least there are two USB ports to use an external mouse, which can alleviate some of the trackpad issues.

Four speakers almost get it right

The Hi13 puts all four of its speakers into the main tablet (laptop display). There are four of them made by AAC Technologies, a company I've never heard of.

Sounds is decent, but it lacks bass and richness. The audio gets loud enough, and putting the speakers on the sides of the tablet is a smart design choice. You get a stereo experience, though it's not quite as satisfying as front-facing speakers.

While many PCs in this price point would grace the user with one or just two speakers, CHUWI is trying to be different here.

Ports galore

A significant departure between the Hi13 and Surface Book is the port selection, which is in favor of the Hi13.

CHUWI puts two USB Type-A ports into the keyboard base, which makes sense due to the size. One port is 3.0, and the other is 2.0. The ports are also not incorrectly reversed like on the larger CHUWI LapBook.