Imagine one of those cool guys at the cafe, sitting with their expensive coffees, typing away on their tablets, looking every bit as productive as those of us who need more powerful PCs. Most of these tablets have have to stick to simply sending emails or browsing the web, but there must be some device that will do the trick for more demanding users, too, right?

The Huawei Matebook E is hoping to be just such a device, aiming to replace that bulky laptop you carry around. We have been playing around with one for some time. So how’s it stack up?

The Matebook E succeeds the original Matebook, but what does it do differently? At first glance, not much, really. The dimensions are identical, as is the general design of the tablet. It even weighs the same. But let’s strip away all previous conceptions of the Matebook and focus on the new Matebook E. In and of itself, is it a good Windows tablet? And most importantly, is it enough to keep your workflow and entertainment healthy?

Let’s find out.

Design & build quality

This is easily the highlight of the Huawei Matebook E. Its design is likely the top reason to even consider getting it . Who wouldn’t want to replace a laptop with an ultra-thin tablet?

That is exactly what the Huawei Matebook E is. Get rid of the keyboard dock and you pretty much have a 12-inch tablet. It is amazingly thin at 6.9 mm and measures only 278.8 mm x 194.1 mm, making for an ultimate road warrior in terms of portability.

It looks great as a tablet, too. The bezel is thinner than an iPad’s. In fact, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is much larger at 305.7 x 220.6 mm, even though the screen is only 0.9 inches bigger. The Huawei tablet is easy to handle and carry around. Not to mention it is a very solid piece of hardware.

Aside from the glass front, the Matebook E has an aluminum alloy body that meets all expectations of modern metal constructions. It is solid and has a hefty feel to it, even though it weighs only 640 grams. Nothing fumbles around, the buttons are sturdy and the device has a premium feel.

All in all, it is a gorgeous device you won’t mind carrying around and showing off, but it doesn’t come alone.

Keyboard, dock and other accessories

The Matebook E comes with the works. In the box is a folio keyboard that doubles as a case and a charger. Depending on the market, you might also get the MateDock 2 (extended port support) and/or a USB Type-C to Type A converter. There are additional optional accessories too, like the Huawei MatePen, which we also used.

Folio Keyboard

This is likely the most important accessory in the bundle. It’s both a keyboard and a tablet case in one. On the back there is a hinge that can be used to create a stand and keep the tablet propped up.  The hinge is solid and even takes a little strength to move, but that also means there is no messing with it once in place. I never felt like it was going to bend, drop or loosen up. It’s also adaptable and can be folded to any degree of your liking, making it easy to take on multiple working positions.

Of course, this also means you may have a hard time working with the tablet on your lap. These types of devices are designed to use either while holding them or on a flat surface and the Huawei Matebook E is no exception.

The cover’s other side sports a physical keyboard. This is a full keyboard like the one you will find in most 12-inch laptops.

I was actually quite surprised by the Hauwei Matebook E’s keyboard. It’s back-lit and the keys offer good travel, as well as solid feedback. It definitely can’t match the ones in serious PCs, but compared to other tablets, it’s very good. It’s also got a nice little trackpad. It’s nothing fancy, but the keyboard works well and even picks up gestures, though it is smaller than the touchpads that most people are used to.

However, I did experience one issue with the keyboard. For some reason the keyboard folio failed on me about once a day. The keys and trackpad would stop responding. This was fixed by undocking the tablet and hooking it right back in. It wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker, but did get annoying sometimes. It’s definitely something that shouldn’t be happening at all.

MateDock 2

Not all markets will get the MateDock 2 included in the box, but here in the United States we do. But whether you like it or not will highly depend on whether you have to pay for it. It has an extra USB Type-A, HDMI and even a VGA port. It also includes a couple USB Type-C connections: one male and one female (for charging while docked).

For all the added functionality of the MateDock 2, it actually feels like a downgrade from the first Matedock. The older model of the keyboard felt more solid. It also had an extra USB port and a LAN connection. It came with a cooler case that could store accessories like the MatePen. I know I’ll lose that thing eventually, so having a dedicated place to store it is crucial.

The previous MateDock did cost extra, and if you’re new one for free, it’s still good. You can always go ahead and purchase the previous dock, anyway.

MatePen

Artists have been using specialized tablets to do their animation and drawing for years. Most of these need to be connected to a PC and many still don’t have a screen, which means you draw in the tablet while looking at the monitor. It’s much more intuitive working directly with the screen, as if it was paper and pencil.

The MatePen optional accessory essentially turns your computer into a drawing tablet. After having some experience drawing with Wacom tablets, I was excited to try the MatePen, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The pen itself is very light, but it doesn’t feel cheap. It is made of both metal and plastic, and has a couple function buttons. There’s also a laser pointer which makes a great presentation tool or cat toy.

It’s got a micro-USB port for charging, but who knows how much charging you’ll have to do.. This thing is supposed to run for 100 hours on a single charge. I can’t confirm that quite yet, as it hasn’t actually died on me yet.

But how was this MatePen as an art tool? I mostly used it with Photoshop, and it worked just as any Wacom tablet would. You can hover over the screen to move the pointer and simply press to take action. The MatePen’s 2048 levels of sensitivity make for as natural an experience as you get on a screen.

The device had no trouble capturing my notes and brush strokes, but it did struggle to keep up with my movementsWhen drawing, there was always a tiny bit of lag, though it was no worse than using an iPad with an Apple Pen, or a stylus along with any of the Wacom tablets.

This is definitely an accessory you should get if you are interested in drawing or editing at all. Creative users will really appreciate how well it works. It may well be a big reason to consider getting a Huawei Matebook E in the first place!

The great thing about the pen is how few limitations it has. It doesn’t need to be synced to another device than the Matebook, and it runs its own version of Windows 10 so it’s instantly compatible.

Specifications

  • Display: 12-inch 2160×1440 IPS
  • Processor: 7th-gen Intel Core m3-7Y30 or i5-7Y54
  • RAM: 4 GB/8 GB
  • Internal storage: 128 GB/ 256 GB/ 512 GB
  • Camera: 5 MP front-facing
  • Battery: 33.7 Wh
  • Dimensions: 6.9 mm x 278.8 mm ×194.1 mm
  • Weight: 640 grams (1100 grams with keyboard)

Software and performance

The Matebook E runs a complete version of Windows 10 and it works exactly as you would expect. Not much needs to be said about the operating system, though it it is refreshing to have full access to an extensive library of desktop apps on a tablet. Those who have been looking into getting an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil will really appreciate this, as Apple’s tablet can only access to mobile apps.

Moving into performance, things get a little disappointing. Our model of the Huawei Matebook E packs an Intel Core i5 processor. Sort of.

Recently, Intel re-named its Core M chipsets and is now giving them the Core i moniker. This makes things messy for consumers, to whom names like Core i3, i5 and i7 represented Intel’s higher-end chipset. This is no longer the case.

Core i processors can now also refer to the company’s lower-end designs and. You have to look at the model numbers to find out how good a processor actually is.

All this is to say that this tablet is pretty much carrying what we used to know as an Intel Core M5 processor. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it doesn’t pack the power we were expecting. The processor and 8 GB of RAM aren’t horrible for casual browsing and most common tasks. But it all starts slowing down a bit once you run more serious apps like Lightroom and Photoshop.

Editing images using Lightroom is much slower than it should be. Previews took longer than usual to load, as did making actual edits and exporting photos. It definitely didn’t make for a good workflow for someone like me, who works with photos on a daily basis.

Photoshop worked better as long as you weren’t working with too many layers or huge images. I came across no issues while simply drawing. You can use that Huawei MatePen to make art without problems, but you might see the occasional hiccup when things get more demanding.

Overall, the tablet worked pretty well, but creative individuals use specialized software, which didn’t run very well on the Matebook E. The touchscreen, stylus and tablet form-factor will catch any artist’s eye, but those only help for making art if it can handle the editing and processing that traditional computer can. I can’t say a Core don’t-call-it-an-M5  and 8 GB of RAM are enough to handle that.

Display

The Matebook E has got a great screen, at least on paper. The 12-inch 2160×1440 display has 160-degree viewing angles, 1000:1 contrast, 400 nits of brightness and an 85% NTSC color gamut. Now let’s translate that to human words.

Screens have come a long way, even for super thin tablets. The Huawei Matebook E is not falling behind in this department. The screen is bright, colors are vibrant and images are plenty crisp. It is certainly an enjoyable display, with good viewing angles and acceptable visibility in direct sunlight.

The panel’s definition is officially labeled as FHD+, which you may love, while others won’t be too happy about it. That means that the screen is great for browsing the web, but it’s not optimal for watching movies and videos, which usually run at a 16:9 aspect ratio.The taller screen means you can view more of a website at once, but you’ve got to deal with black bars on your movies.

It’s also wider once you go into portrait mode. Some argue the 3:2 ratio can make the tablet feel more like an actual notebook or piece of paper, for better or worse.

Either way, looking at this screen for hours on end was ultimately an enjoyable experience.  The resolution is more than good enough for a computer this size, colors are vibrant and brightness was satisfactory, even for someone like me, who keeps screens at full brightness all the time.

Sound quality

Don’t expect miracles out of this tablet’s audio quality. Most mobile devices usually don’t have remarkable audio quality unless they are rocking larger front-facing speakers and the Huawei Matebook E is no different. It’s razor thin and barely sports any bezels, so they had to tuck the speakers to the top edge of the tablet.

This system is powered by Dolby Audio Premium, which optimizes for enhanced volume, virtual surround sound and increased bass response. Even with all those improvements the Huawei Matebook Ewas a little underwhelming.

Regardless, these little tablet speakers will keep you entertained and get the job done when necessary. They are lacking in base and richness, but the audio is clear enough. If you want better audio, use headphones or an external speaker.

Battery life

Huawei says the Matebook E should last for 9 hours when playing local video at 50% screen brightness. I normally set the brightness at 100% and my experience was a bit different. In my experience the tablet was lasting more like 4 to 6 hours. While I am a demanding user, it can’t even get me through a full day of work on one charge.

Pricing and final thoughts

The tablet isn’t exactly cheap, but it is very similarly priced to certain other popular Windows tablets with the same specs. This one is thinner and prettier, though. You can get a Huawei Matebook E for as low as 999€, while the top-tier version (the one we reviewed) goes for 1,299€.

Here is how the pricing works:

  • 999€ – m3/4 GB/128 GB SSD
  • 1,199€ – i5/4 GB/256 GB SSD
  • 1,299€ – i5/8 GB/256 GB SSD

I walked into this review very excited. I’ve been looking for a Windows tablet that I could use for working on-the-go, editing and making art from time to time and the Huawei Matebook series always seemed promising. Doubts about the power of these kinds of mobile devices were always what held me back.

There are a number of downsides that come with using a mobile device as a main computer. For starters, you need to use the dock for any kind of connection to peripherals, monitors and other components. The keyboard is not as great as others, and using the folio case makes it very hard to work on anything other than a flat surface. Those concerns are factors to consider when looking to get any tablet PC; they are not necessarily deal-breakers, but they come with the territory.

I have very specific needs and require a bit more power from my computer, but those who are more casual about their usage will find a lot to like in the Matebook E. It is amazingly well designed, has a great screen and will do wonders for artists. Just try not to load up on heavy apps too much. For regular tasks like browsing, Office apps and light games (and I mean very light), it worked perfectly.

Ultimately, I don’t see this tablet becoming the main device for a professional. It is simply not powerful enough to handle pro-level software and tasks. However it could be a secondary device for a professional artist, or a good option for drawers, or simply a casual machine for those who want a very mobile Windows device.

It is definitely a cool gadget, and that alone may entice some of you to get it. That’s it for our Huawei Matebook E review. You interested in picking one up? Let us know down in the comments.

 

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