Huawei MateBook Review: A Standard 2-in-1 Priced Right

by Reads (7,785)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 9
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 9
      • Usability
      • 9
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Features
      • 9
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 9.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Great build, attractive display
    • Stable and swift performance
    • The price is right
    • Bundled with extremely useful USB adapters
  • Cons

    • So-so battery life
    • Some design and keyboard nitpicks
    • MatePen performance needs work

Quick Take

The Huawei MateBook is an attractive and well-built Windows 10 two-in-1, with swift and stable performance. Its price is right, and it’s the best in its class.


Why must we sacrifice utility for portability? Why is that capable travel devices are stuck with a single input for both charging and accessories? And why do these travel devices have to cost so much?

Editor's choiceThe new Apple MacBook and the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S are exhibits A and B here. Both are Core m-powered, and both are impossibly thin and impeccably engineered. But both only have a single USB Type-C input for charging and data. Given that USB Type-C expansion accessories are still absurdly expensive (Apple charges $79 for its USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter), we’ve recommended the bulkier Surface Pro 4 and its multitude of ports in direct comparisons.

And again, these aren’t cheap computers. The least expensive, the Galaxy TabPro S and a keyboardless Surface Pro 4, both cost $900.

The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 is a thin Windows 10 machine.

Our Huawei MateBook review unit

Let’s call the new Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 exhibit C. It’s a near Galaxy TabPro S clone, complete with Windows 10, Core m processor, and single USB Type-C input. Huawei even aped Samsung’s keyboard folio, though unbundled it from the tablet as a separate accessory.

But Huawei takes steps to address some of the issues inherent in the design. And that has the team at NotebookReview singing its praises. Read this Huawei MateBook review to find out why.

Build & Design

Standard Core m boilerplate applies here. The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 is fanless, meaning it’s about as thin as a Windows 10 tablet can be, measuring just 6.9mm thick (.27 inches). That’s .2mm thinner than an iPhone 6S. It weighs just 1.41 pounds. With the optional keyboard folio, the MateBook measures .7 inches at its thickest point and weighs 2.53 pounds.

It’s robust with no flex or weak spots. Its weight is well distributed; there’s obviously no wasted space inside this machine. Huawei outfitted the MateBook with an aluminum unibody that feels and look great. It shrugs off fingerprints and smudges very well, though we cringe at the thought at an accidental drop. The tablet will likely survive a few bumps, but aluminum dents. Plastic and the magnesium alloy Microsoft uses for the Surface Pro is better at hiding light to moderate drop damage.

The MateBook is a straight up tablet, with no kickstand, pen dock, or other design flourish. All that is reserved for the keyboard folio. But as far as rectangles go, it’s solid.

Ports & Buttons

Yes, the Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 is another mobile device with only a USB Type-C input for both data and charging. It sits on the lower portion of the right short edge, just below an indicator light. The volume rocker sits on the upper portion, with a fingerprint sensor located in the middle of it.

The Huawei MateBook has a single USB Type-C input.

The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 has a single USB Type-C input.

Ninety degrees from the volume rocker, sits the power button, with a speaker, pinhole mic, and another speaker running along the long top edge, right to left. A 3.5mm audio jack sits high on the left short edge, just above another pinhole mic. A small magnetic smart connector rests on the bottom long edge, built for the Huawei MateBook keyboard folio.

Huawei MateBook smart connector

Huawei MateBook smart connector

Here’s where we would complain about the single USB Type-C input. To reiterate, it hinders productivity because the setup requires users juggle charging with accessories, and USB Type-C accessories are way too expensive as of this writing.

But we won’t, because Huawei bundles the MateBook with a USB C-to-microUSB cable and mini-to-full USB adapter. This means the MateBook works with just about any USB accessory out of the box, including USB hubs with Ethernet support and memory card slots. These can typically be had for around $10 on Amazon, as opposed to the $89 Huawei charges for the MateDock (more on that below). For its part, the MateDock includes external monitor options with VGA and HDMI ports, and the ability to charge and run data simultaneously. You won’t get that out of a cheap USB hub.

Huawei MateBook fingerprint sensor

Huawei MateBook fingerprint sensor

It’s a quibble, but the fingerprint sensor location, while novel, is inconvenient. It’s tough to see, which results in blind finger tapping and partial sensor presses that Windows 10 can’t recognize. Also, the volume rocker is extremely stiff, and its location on the side means users must brace the opposite edge when pressing, lest the MateBook tip or slide. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if the MateBook had keyboard volume controls like other Windows 10 devices. It doesn’t, and instead has useless keyboard backlight controls.

Display

Huawei MateBook review unit as a standalone tablet

The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 has an excellent 12-inch LCD display.

The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 has a 12-inch IPS TFT LCD display with a 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution, which results in a box-like 3:2 aspect ratio and about 216 pixels per inch. That matches the Galaxy TabPro S, but trails behind the Surface Pro 4 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which have PPI counts around 265.

By any reasonable measure, 216 pixels per inch are more than enough, and the MateBook display matches the high standard set by other tablets. The screen bezel is very thin, with an 84% display ratio. It’s also sharp, with accurate color representation (Huawei claims it hits 85% of the sRGB color gamut), and wide viewing angles topping out at about 160 degrees. It supports up to 10 touch points, as well as the Huawei MatePen active stylus, which works with Windows ink.

Indoors, the MateBook display emits pleasant brightness. But it’s not enough to cut through glare outdoors. This is the case with just about all consumer Windows 10 tablets not called Surface Pro, which has an excellent glare-resistant panel.

Speakers & Camera

The MateBook’s top-mounted speakers pump out sound as well as other thin 2-in-1s, which is to say they are fine for personal use, but not much more. Music in particular is limited, with virtually no bass and shrill high tones. There’s a low bar here, and the MateBook barely clears it.

The Huawei MateBook speaker aren't great, but they do the trick.

The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 speakers aren’t great, but they do the trick.

Same applies for the 5-megapixel front-facing camera. It works for video chat, and we only comment because Apple set an insulting low standard here with the 2016 MacBook and its 720 x 480 front-facing shooter. Huawei’s is better.

Keep in mind that speakers and cameras are two of the least important notebook and 2-in-1 traits. Don’t use them to make a buying decision.

Keyboard & Touchpad

The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 folio case includes an embedded keyboard with backlighting and 78 keys. Huawei claims it has a metal oxide frame and is spill proof. The letter keys measure about .7 x. 7 inches, and the entire keyslab measures 10.3 x 4 inches.

Huawei MateBook keyboard

Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 keyboard

It provides a comfortable typing experience thanks in no small part to the 1.5mm of key travel. That’s just more than enough, and a good 1mm more than other USB Type-C devices. The keys also have good snap. In terms of mobile typing comfort, it’s second only to the new Microsoft Type Cover

Two small complaints though: We prefer a chiclet-style keyboard with space in between each key, even if it makes them smaller. It makes for less clumsy typing and fewer errant key presses. And as mentioned above, there are no default volume control keys.

Centered underneath the spacebar is the large single-piece trackpad, which measures 3.7 x 2.4 inches. It’s smooth, and works fine for basic navigation. We found the multi-finger controls like the two finger scroll finicky, however.

The leather-finished folio pulls triple duty, not only housing the keyboard, but also acting as a protective case and kickstand. There’s no doubt it’s well made and looks professional, and it provides the standard protection. The MateBook adheres via magnets that could be stronger. The tablet remains stable, especially with the folio closed up, but pick up the folio the wrong way and the MateBook flops out.

Huawei MateBook keyboard folio kickstand

Huawei MateBook keyboard folio kickstand

The kickstand function also needs work. The folio’s back portion flips over to prop up the MateBook, similar to the Apple iPad Smart Cover. It kicks out to two stops, about 10 to 15 degrees apart. The problem is that it doesn’t take much force at the more open stop to send the MateBook tumbling down. This isn’t much of a problem on a desk or flat surface, but it will spill the MateBook over the knees and onto the floor when used as a literal laptop.  

The folio also ships with a magnetic loop for the MatePen. It sticks smack in the middle of the folio’s back portion. But again, we don’t have much confidence it’ll stay there due to the magnet. Give Huawei points for trying to find a pen dock solution for its thin tablet. With a more powerful magnet this one could have worked.

The MateBook keyboard folio is available in black and tan, and costs $129.

MatePen & MateDock

Though Huawei has not confirmed, informal chatter with reps reveals that the Huawei MatePen is a Wacom stick. Compared with the N-trig pens found on the majority of pen-toting Windows 10 devices, the MatePen is much lighter. This is because it doesn’t require an AAAA battery, and instead charges via a microUSB input hidden in the nub.

We prefer this setup, but only because it’s easier to find an open outlet and a microUSB charger than it is an AAAA battery in a pinch. That aside, Windows 10 pens don’t require much power, and Huawei claims the MatePen runs for 100 hours between charges.

Huawei MatePen

Huawei MatePen

It’s a light pen, and comfortable to hold, with a tad more weight on the top than the tip. It has standard Windows 10 pen girth and length, with a textured grip in the middle. Bluetooth enables the two buttons near the tip to double as OneNote quick launch and screenshot grabber. There’s no eraser nub, and instead Huawei included a laser pointer. It’s an odd addition, but why not? We can see it as a useful presentation tool.

The pen has 2,048 points of pressure, and smoothly glides on the display. We like a little more friction here, but user preference varies.

Looking at the pen test conducted on our Huawei MateBook review unit reveals some concerns. The MatePen dropped the fast strokes on the left edge considerably. It also turned the slow lines on the right edge into shallow waves. It’s odd, because the line drew straight, but only turned wavy after rendering. Traditionally, N-trig pens also have a problem with slowly-drawn lines, rendering them sloppy and squiggly.

matebookpentest

This doesn’t matter much for note taking, but it’ll frustrate digital artists. The MateBook’s Windows 10 inking has room for improvement.

The Huawei MateDock is another MateBook accessory, functioning as a USB Type-C hub for additional ports and external display connections. It features two full-sized USB 3.0 inputs, Ethernet port, VGA port, and full-sized HDMI. There’s also a USB Type-C input for pass-through charging, and a USB Type-C dongle to connect to the MateBook. That’s a decent selection, but it should have a media card slot for the price.

Huawei MateDock

Huawei MateDock

It sports a high-quality aluminum shell, and it ships with a leather pouch that also contains a MatePen loop and plastic housing for the MateBook’s microUSB adapter and cable.

The MatePen and MateDock cost $59 and $89, respectively. For most users, the MateDock is the more useful accessory, but the microUSB adapters Huawei packaged with the MateBook make it less necessary. If users can deal with running on battery and wireless external monitors (and there are very good options, here including apps for turning an old iPad or Android tablet into a second screen), a cheap USB hub works well for port expansion and Ethernet connectivity.

Performance

We’ve written it before, and here it is again: the sixth-generation Core m is a fine and surprisingly capable chipset. It easily handles day-to-day casual and productivity tasks as well as any other Core i processor, but struggles with higher demands, even though it can eventually power through tasks like image and video editing.

Gaming is limited, mainly due the MateBook’s Intel HD 515 graphics. Older titles like Portal run fine, but any major AAA games from the past 4 years or so are virtually unplayable.

This is all especially true of our Huawei MateBook review unit. While the base MateBook has a Core m3 with 4GB of RAM, ours had the faster Core m5 and 8GB of RAM. It proved remarkably stable during testing, swift too.

We’ve tested similar devices with the Core m3/4GB RAM combo, and there’s a noticeable difference between that configuration and this one, particularly with Chrome, which can easily bog down machines with its multiple tabs.

Is that difference worth the $200 premium Huawei charges? That depends on the budget, but we don’t think it’s an unreasonable amount.

While the Core m series does not require a fan for cooling, it still gets warm enough to heat up the Windows 10 tablet. It never reached uncomfortable temperatures during our time with it, however, and performance never noticeably suffered.

In keeping with Huawei’s reputation for responsive fingerprint sensors, the MateBook sensor worked very well in testing. It was accurate nearly all the time, with any issues explained away by errant presses due to its location.

Our Huawei MateBook review unit shipped with 64-bit Windows 10 Home, though Windows 10 Pro is available. Huawei was good enough to ship the MateBook as a Windows 10 Signature Edition device. That means no bloatware on board. Only Microsoft’s preloaded apps take up space, including unnecessary full copies of Office utilities, which prompt purchase and activation upon opening. All told, a fresh MateBook sets aside 19.2GB of storage out of the box, with apps and games taking up 2.31GB.

  • 12-inch IPS TFT LCD display (2160 x 1440 resolution)
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Intel Core m5-6Y54 (4M Cache, up to 2.70 GHz)
  • Intel HD 515 integrated graphics
  • 8GB LPDDR3 RAM (non-expandable)
  • 256GB SSD
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB 3.0 Type-C, 3.5mm headset
  • 5-megapixel front camera, dual array mics
  • 33.7Wh battery (4430mAh @ 7.6V)
  • Dimensions: 11 x 7.64 x .27 inches (tablet only)
  • Weight: 1.41 pounds (tablet only)
  • Ships with power adaptor, USB-C data charger cable, USB-C to micro-USB cable, micro USB to USB-A adaptor
  • Available in gold or gray
  • Price as configured: $999

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
wprimematebook

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
pcmark8homematebook

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
pcmark8workmatebook

3DMark 11 measures the overall gaming performance of the GPU (higher scores mean better performance):

matebook3dmark

Geekbench 3 is a cross-platform benchmark that measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

matebookgeekbench

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:

cdmarkmatebook

Battery

The MateBook has a 33.7Wh (4430mAh) battery. That’s smaller than the competition, and it shows in the benchmarks. Our Huawei MateBook review unit lasted just 3 hours and 15 minutes in the strenuous Powermark battery benchmark.

powermarkmatebook

It lasted just 4 hours and 1 minute streaming Netflix in Chrome over Wi-Fi with the display brightness set to 100%.

netflixmatebook

Both of these demanding tests measure the near minimum a user can expect from the MateBook. Taking advantage of Windows 10 power management features will likely net a user close to full day of use on battery.

On the plus side, the MateBook is fast to charge, thanks to USB Type-C. It went from a dead battery to 36% after just 30 minutes plugged in during testing.

Value

The Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 starts at $699. For that users get an Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB RAM, and 128GB SSD. A Core m5 unit with the same specs costs $849. A Core m5 unit with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD costs $999, while the same setup with a 512GB SSD costs $1,199.

The MateBook keyboard ships separately, and costs $129, while the MatePen costs $59.

So an entry-level MateBook and keyboard combo costs $828. A Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, with the same specs as the entry-level MateBook, costs $900, and it ships with a keyboard folio. An entry-level Surface Pro 4, also sporting similar specs and a Surface Pen, costs $899. The $129 Surface Type Cover is not included. Meanwhile, the 2016 Apple MacBook also has the same specs as the entry-level MateBook, and it costs $1,299.

So matching spec for spec at the entry level, the MateBook is the best value by a significant margin, even factoring in its extra accessories. The fact that it doesn’t compromise quality only adds to its appeal, as do the extra and highly useful adapters Huawei ships with its 2-in-1. It’s refreshing that a great option is also the least expensive.

Moving up the line, value is less clear. A Surface Pro 4 with a Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM costs the same as a MateBook with a Core m5 processor and 8GB of RAM. Factoring in the Pro 4’s superb build, kickstand, and abundant port selection, we think it’s the better value, but only by a smidge, the contentious RAM or processor speed argument aside.

Conclusion

Editor's choiceHuawei didn’t eliminate the standard ultrathin 2-in-1 tradeoff with its Windows 10 MateBook. But it worked around it by bundling an extra adapter and cable, and keeping its price below the competition. On top of that, it built a device that excels in all the right places.

The MateBook portfolio keyboard is the only must-have of the three accessories. And it’s one of the better mobile keyboards on the market thanks to its 1.5mm key travel. The MateDock is handy, and worth it for those with the extra cash. But those on tighter budgets can get by with the bundled adapters and something cheaper from Amazon. The MatePen is a niche accessory that does its job. Take it or leave it, but save your money unless you’re already a Windows 10 scribbler.

Huawei MateBook 2-in-1Considering price, the Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 is the best Core m device of this writing. It looks slick and performs with stability and speed. Compared with its pros, the cons are nitpicks that do little to deter from an excellent overall product. Well done, Huawei. The MateBook earns an Editor’s Choice.

Pros:

  • Great build, attractive display
  • Stable and swift performance
  • The price is right
  • Bundled with extremely useful USB adapters

Cons:

  • So-so battery life
  • Some design and keyboard nitpicks
  • MatePen performance needs work



LEAVE A COMMENT

4 Comments

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  1. szquddus

    Samsung TabPro S is now only $799 (with keyboard) at Microsoft Store and Amazon. It’s a better deal, in my opinion, if m3+4GB+128GB is enough.

    • Jamison Cush

      Yep, Amazon has the same deal, BestBuy too.

      That makes it much more competitive with the MateBook. It has a better folio kickstand setup, but the keyboard is still uncomfortable. Given Huawei bundles the adapters, and has a more comfortable keyboard, I’d say they are even, factoring in the $30 difference. Both are very good devices.

  2. emilio

    Thank you for this great review. About the pen, I think it’s not a Wacom pen because Wacom pens don’t need any charge or battery, and usually their product for tablets has only one barrel button.
    I might be wrong – maybe Wacom came up with a new thing, but I doubt it. Sounds like n-trig.

  3. wwerewolff

    Does Huawei have US warranty repair facilities or are you expected to return it to China?