Huawei MateBook Lightning Review
G'day MateBook? We're not so sure.
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Huawei's first-ever Windows computer is a decent first try, but it's let down by a lot of rookie mistakes. Even though the MateBook (MSRP $699, $999 as tested) has a nice screen, zippy specs, and a fair starting price, we just can't abide its lackluster optional keyboard folio, which also doubles as a floppy kickstand.
If you were hoping to save some money by opting for the MateBook over Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 or another Windows-based tablet, you're probably going to be let down by the end result.
About the Huawei Matebook
The Huawei Matebook uses Intel's 6th generation Core m chips. These processors aren't the fastest around, but they can be used in fanless and super thin devices like this tablet. Its $699 base price isn't terribly specced (You get a Core m3, 4 GB RAM, and a 128 GB SSD instead) but the model we tested is a higher-end version with the following specs:
•Intel Core m5 6Y54 dual-core processor
•8 GB LPDDR3 RAM
•256 GB SATA Solid State Drive
•Intel HD Graphics 515
•12-inch (2160 x 1440) IPS touchscreen
•33.7WHr, 4430mAh battery
What We Like
Nice build quality, thin design
The MateBook takes a standard tablet design and really pares it down to the bare minimum. Our light gold and white tablet was dazzling to behold from the moment I removed it from its packaging, it proved to have what it takes to go up against its luxury-class competition.
Combined with the attractive keyboard cover (more on that later), this thin, metal Huawei is trying to take on devices like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Especially with the brown keyboard cover we had, the MateBook looks like a portfolio you'd see a businessperson carry into a meeting. The MateBook is a classy, nice-looking computer no matter how you cut it.
Pretty, sharp display
Huawei's premium phones like the Nexus 6X have had awesome screens, and the MateBook doesn't skimp in this area. What you get for your money is a pleasing panel with a thin bezel that is super bright. Viewing angles are awesome, the 2560 x 1440 resolution is sharp without going overboard and colors have a nice amount of pop. It's everything you'd want from a tablet screen.
What We Don't Like
Only okay battery life
One of the tradeoffs of having a thin-and-light Windows tablet like this Huawei is that the first thing that gets cut from the product is the battery. Even though our review unit had a zippy Intel Core m5 chip inside, its mobile cred didn't help it run that long on the whole.
In our intensive battery life test, this model only crossed the critical 3-hour mark by about 13 minutes. That's not bad, but in the real world, that means you might start getting antsy before the end of the work day.
A lack of extras for the price
Huawei got some things right with its very first Windows PC, but the MateBook doesn't come with enough stuff in the box or on its spec sheet to justify the price you're paying. For instance, the MateBook's mandatory keyboard cover has a $129 price tag, and even though you have the option of getting a stylus, that's yet another $60. So, by the time you've gotten everything together, that tidy $700 price tag looks like quite a bit more, and you're almost to entry-level Surface Pro 4 territory.
It's also worth talking about the lack of a rear camera. Many competing tablets, be they from Samsung, Microsoft, or even Apple, include rear cameras. While we don't think you should use a tablet as a camera, it's a nice option to have for snapping a quick pic of a whiteboard to capture the meeting's notes or to use as a document scanner. Just about the only cool extra you get in the MateBook is a Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint sensor to let you log in with your finger.
It's also worth noting that the MateBook only has a single USB-C port, which isn't a death sentence for the device. If you've ever owned an iPad, you're basically dealing with the same single-port scenario here. What's a little less forgivable is that none of the MateBooks give you the option of adding extra storage via a microSD card.
Optional backlit keyboard folio is not great
So, you're thinking about dropping $129 for the Huawei Matebook's keyboard cover, which should really be included. Well, even if you're okay with putting that kind of money down on a fancy cover, you might want to think twice. This keyboard cover is fine for use on a table, but its magnets are too weak to stick together on anything but a flat surface. What's more is that the keyboard keys are really shallow and not very nice to type on for long stints. You're also stuck with the one screen angle, which is rather acute for taller folks. A $30 Bluetooth keyboard would be a better choice if you're serious about typing a lot on the Huawei.
Should You Buy It?
No, unless it's been discounted.
While we think that Huawei's done a pretty decent job with this MateBook, there's stiff competition around that makes it hard to recommend. Unless you can get it on sale, or unless there's an offer to get a free keyboard cover with the tablet, you're much better off with a Surface Pro 4. Even Samsung's similar Galaxy TabPro S is a better option, since it includes the tablet and keyboard, and you get a glorious OLED screen to boot.
We applaud Huawei's effort, but this MateBook needs to try a little harder before we'll welcome it into our messenger bags. For now, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 continues to be the better 2-in-1 buy, especially at only $100 more than the MateBook.