Chuwi HI10 Air Windows Tablet Review For RTL-SDR

Batten down the hatches and store food.   The end is near.  I bought a Windows Device and I am going to review it.

Let’s be clear.  I F’n-ing hate Windows.  I have been using Linux and Mac way before it was cool to do so.  Windows is an abomination.  That being said I have long since owned a Vinyl Sign Cutting machine.  The very best software for it runs on Windows.  Also recently I bought an SDRPlay RSPDuo and the only real software to exploit it properly is called SDRUno and it is Windows only.

This is a review for a Chuwi HI10 Air Tablet .  I bought it EXCLUSIVELY for using RTL-SDR radios on.  If you are looking for a review of how well this tablet does ANYTHING besides RTL-SDR, then by golly you are in the wrong place.

I travel a lot and I love listening to radio signals and like it or not I just need to carry around a Windows device.

Sure I can run Windows in a Virtual environment but I’m kind of king of the low power devices (read:  CHEAP) and the things I try to do require more power and speed than what I typically carry around.


Well……I decided to get a tablet primarily for size.  Yes I can afford a laptop, yes I can afford the BEST laptop but my trips are primarily for work, not play, and this is a luxury and hobby item.  This is about size, weight, and form factor.    I also am king of traveling light.  Anything more than one small bag is too much, even on a long trip.

So if you are thinking “Why doesn’t this knucklehead just buy a Dell XPS13…..”  Well, that’s why.  Size and weight.   There are a lot of tablets out there to get but I did the requisite research and decided that my benchmark application was going to be SDRUno.  I don’t care if anything else at all runs or not.  If SDRUno, and subsequently SDR# run on this device then I AM GOLDEN.

Again, this review relates ONLY to how these programs run.  On to it then.

So I order from Amazon and I also bought the stylus and keyboard. The whole thing set me back about $230.  Not bad.  The Chuwi tablet is spec’d out pretty well at 2.4 GHz with a Z8350 Atom processor. It also has 4GB of Ram and 64GB of storage expandable to 128 GB with an SD Card.  I don’t think I’ll be needing the SD card at the moment.   So I think I have just enough OOMPH to do what I want to do.

The first thing I notice about the pad is it is lightweight but doesn’t feel cheap.  Once I get it booted the 2K screen looks pretty good.  I’m not overly critical with stuff like that.  If I can see it………it’s fine.   The device itself only comes with a USB C charging cable and tiny outlet brick.  THERE ARE NO ADAPTERS.  Being a proper Super Geek™ I have a microUSB to USB adapter so I’m ready to test some stuff.

First I updated the tablet to the latest Windows.  It updated just fine. Weird little devices with weird drivers sometimes gives me pause regarding updates.

Once I got SDRUno installed I hooked up the RSPDuo and ran a test.  The tablet was plugged into a charger.  No issues whatsoever.

Then I ran the program SDRUno off of the charger and got some choking and stuttering.  You have to make sure when on battery that you are on “Best Performance” or you just won’t have enough Hutzpah.   You may notice that in the screenshot below that SDRUno is not playing and the CPU and memory indicators are flat.

Now let’s hit the play button.  The CPU load kind of bounced around between 45% and 80% and got darn near 100% once when it first started.  But then it settled in nicely.

I think there are ways to chop SDRUno resolution to reduce overhead but I didn’t find that necessary.  However if you start doing things like opening browsers and such you’re going to see your CPU usage peg and get some stuttering.  If you use SDRUno on this tablet it pretty much needs to be ALL YOU ARE DOING.  But it works fine.

Ditto with SDR#.  I installed SDR# with Zadig for a regular RTL-SDR stick and also for my Airspy devices.  No choking or stuttering noted.   Next I’ll mess around with DSDPlus and see what happens when I decode P25 Phase 1 or Phase 2.  Just for fun I downloaded PDW and decoded some hospital pager traffic.  Worked with no stuttering.  Ain’t it nice to see hospitals transmitting private medical data in the clear?   (name blacked out for privacy).  Real time info with full name, age, and the fact that she was having a stroke.   Unbelievable.

Here’s a downside.  The wifi adapter will NOT do 5 GHz.  Only 2.4.  That isn’t a dealbreaker but it seems like a device this sophisticated might do 5 GHz or maybe it’s just me.

Another downside is that when you get into the FM broadcast bands ONLY ON SDRUno will you get some choking.  I found that if I used the Default workspace and not the one I created and turned off RDS that it smoothed out.   On the flip side of that SDR# works MARVELOUSLY on broadcast FM.

Yet another “gotcha” is that there is choking with SDRUno when using Diversity (two antennas together).  Also I downloaded SDR Console V3 and it was kind of resource intensive as well.  So far I’ve yet to make SDR# choke but I haven’t tried to track satellites or anything weird with it yet. 

It’s kind of noisy on SWL while it’s on its supplied charger.

Here’s something you ABSOLUTELY need to do if you are doing SDR off of the optional Chuwi keyboard. The touchpad is small and if you run your finger up to the top edge it will minimize the screen.  This DRIVES ME INSANE when using SDRUno.  Here’s how to overcome.

Open Regedit then go to the key

Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\PrecisionTouchPad

Change the value of Enable Edgy to “0” and reboot. It is initially set to 1.  Setting it to zero turns off the crazy minimize all feature.

CHANGING ENABLE EDGY SETTING

Done.

I really think this Chuwi HI10 Air tablet is FINE FOR RTL-SDR as long as you do one program at a time.  It’s a nifty little device however you need to also get the adapters, stylus, and keyboard or you may be swimming upstream against the current some.  Here’s a pic of the whole shebang.  It looks pretty snazzy and not at all cheap. Stylus, keyboard, and RSP2 in the background:

The keyboard does give you a couple extra USB ports as well.

Here’s my bottom line consensus:

  1. Works fine on HF SWL listening on SDRUno
  2. Works fine on SDR# for about anything.  If you are an Airspy or Generic SDR guy and SDR# floats your boat………..run, don’t walk to get this little tablet.
  3. This is a fine device for casual SWL listening and not for resource intensive tasks.
  4. For using in a hotel or for casual SWL-ing you can get this device.  When I go on travel I just want to scan around the bands and listen.  This is PERFECT for me.  I’ll push limits at home on a laptop.
  5. If you want to use this for an everyday driver or you are strictly an SDRPlay guy and push things to the limits…………BUY A LAPTOP WITH SOME OOMPH.

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