We’ve spent a good amount of time with the Huawei MateBook, a 12-inch Windows tablet with detachable keyboard and accompanying smart stylus. On paper, it looks a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, for now, let’s dive deeper and see what the MateBook is all about.
After our first 48 hours with the device, we were pleased with what the full metal design and powerful internals had to offer, join us now for our full review of the Huawei MateBook.
Related reading: Huawei MateBook – the first 48 hours
Our initial opinions of the overall design, form and function of the Huawei MateBook have changed little since our first time handling it. This is a full metal design tablet that wraps around to meet the clean glass front of the device. The edges are well rounded, providing a nice fit in the hand. I say this as a direct contrast to the Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro line, as these competitors I find comparatively uncomfortable to hold.
Although the MateBook offers a great in-hand experience as a tablet, attaching that keyboard case, the MateBook Portfolio Keyboard, almost entirely converts this into a desktop computer. Thing is, the case acts as a stand, but hardly handles the tablet in a way that you would want to use the device in your lap. Not impossible, but not very comfortable.
Up front is a beautiful looking IPS panel that measures in at 12-inches with a resolution of 2160×1440. If you’re a member of the pixel count generation, that’s approx. 216 ppi. What we have not scientifically measured is the color gamut and saturation, but it is our impression that this is one of the more attractive displays around, even if short of the available pixel count of competing tablets. This device is bright, colors pop, fonts are crisp and movement is smooth.
While many tablets are designed to operate in portrait orientation, the MateBook is almost specifically designed for landscape usage. This is not to say that you cannot use it in portrait, I just wanted you to be aware of the orientation when I start talking directions.
Looking around the device, you’ll find a power button on the top edge, at the right side. Head around the corner to find a volume rocker on the right edge near the top. This is no ordinary volume rocker though, embedded into it in between the up and down actuation is a fingerprint scanner. Huawei has proven to have one of the better fingerprint readers around, employing here to protect your Windows device.
Below the volume rocker and fingerprint scanner on the right edge is the single USB Type-C port. Ready to rock any number of accessories or connect to the MateDock to extend displays and more, we are excited to see USB Type-C at work.
The bottom edge of the device rocks a multi-pin port to connect to the Portfolio Keyboard. Then, ignoring the microphone holes, the left edge houses a lonely headphone jack.
Finally, on either side of the top edge you will find a pair of speakers. I must admit that the stereo effect from these speakers is impressive, but I have really been spoiled by front facing speakers. More on this later, but for now, you should know that the placement of the speakers destroys the sound experience if you flip the device into portrait orientation. I end up covering the speaker with my hand every time.
The MateBook is sold by itself, but there are a few accessories available. I’ve already mentioned the Portfolio Keyboard, also available are the MateDock and the MatePen. Let’s take a moment to look at these tools.
MateBook Portfolio Keyboard
Stop me if any of this sounds familiar: Or, rather, do not stop me, this should all sound familiar. The MateBook Portfolio Keyboard attaches to the MateBook magnetically, a connection is handled by a multi-pogo-pin connector, ideal for quick connect and disconnect. Along with the small keyboard is a basic trackpad, that includes multi-touch scroll functions. The case itself wraps all the way around your tablet, with the front cover folding away to act as a multi-position stand.
The typing experience is nice, the trackpad works well and, I dare say, the Portfolio Keyboard doubles as an attractive leather case.
Last, the Portfolio Keyboard comes with a little leather pen loop that also magnetically attaches. You could use this for your fancy pen or dollar store stylus, or even an old school pencil, but you’ll probably want to consider buying the next peripheral, the MatePen.
How many ways can you use your finger to point at something? Please don’t be silly, I just wanted to impress you when I tell you that the MatePen offers 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. Did I mention that the MatePen is a stylus? A smart stylus to be more exact, it connects via Bluetooth to your MateBook and has several buttons to accommodate your input needs.
Beyond this, the MatePen has a little party trick, a third button at the top of the stylus activates the red laser pointer that shoots out the top. I was just watching Star Wars, I promise you would have laughed at me just now for pretending the MatePen is a blaster. It isn’t.
Finally, we also have the MateBook dock on hand, connected to the tablet via USB Type-C, the dock provides both VGA and HDMI video ports, an Ethernet port and a couple full size USB ports. Coupled with the included set of cables, including a USB Type-C to USB A adapter, you should be able to connect most any peripheral to your new Windows device.
Huawei kept portability in mind for this desktop peripheral, the MateDock rolls into a nice little package, enclosed by a leather case that matches your Portfolio Keyboard. We applaud Huawei for creating a cohesion in design across these accessories.
Related reading: Microsoft Surface Dock review
Forgive me for rehashing what we’ve previously told you about the hardware inside this tablet, nothing has changed at all since our last time handling the device. Not funny? Sorry.
Let’s start on the outside, this 12-inch device is housed in a metal casing that measures 278.8mm x 194.1mm x 6.9mm, with a total weight of about 640g. Yes, their exact wording is “about 640g.” This weighs in at more than 100g lighter than both the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 4.
Under the hood is a 6th Gen Intel Core m processor, ours is a dual-core Core m5. Alongside is 4GB of RAM. Ours is not the base model, that would be the Core m3 model, but you can bump up to 8GB of RAM at the top available model. Storage capacities measure in with 128GB, 256GB and 512GB SSD offerings.
There is no rear facing camera, just a decent 5MP front shooter. Actually, in terms of video conferencing capabilities, this camera is highly capable, with a wide angle lens and great low light capture.
Ports, buttons and sensors include one USB Type-C port, that Portfolio Keyboard connector, a headphone jack, power button and volume rocker with embedded fingerprint scanner. Under the hood is an Ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and a hall sensor. Rounding things out are dual microphones.
Finally, there is a 33.7Wh battery keeping the lights on, this translates into a 4430mAh battery running at 7.6V. We’re still giving the device a run for its money, but we’re seeing screen-on time with basic web surfing and YouTube video playback giving us north of 4 hours of screen on time with the keyboard attached and using the MatePen as our primary input. Bump that up to about 5 and a half hours without the keyboard and over 8 hours taking heavy measures to conserve battery without turning of the WiFi.
Software and performance
You may have heard of this operating system out there called Windows. It’s pretty popular, I think. I’m being silly again – getting down to it, you can have your MateBook in either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro, bringing you the latest that Microsoft has to offer in an operating system.
This gives you access to the full Microsoft Store of apps and games, but that should be no surprise for a Windows machine.
Instead of telling you about this popular and familiar OS, let’s look at a few items that stood out for us on this tablet.
When using these types of devices as tablets, but still in PC mode, you may often find that when you tap into a textbox, you still need to hit that keyboard icon in the bottom right to open up the onscreen keyboard. It may be that there is another reason for this, like a Windows update that has patched things, but I shall opt for ignorance and give Huawei full credit for the fact that the keyboard automatically pops up when you click into a textbox. This is something that Android and iOS do on their mobile side of things, it is great to see a Windows tablet now doing the same.
In the end, we have a fast, fluid and rather powerful computing experience on our hands. For the vast majority of your daily computing needs, the MateBook will serve you very well as your main computing device – at least as far as the software goes, you’ll have to decide if the hardware is what you need.
Testing continued with my default tester, Asphalt 8. In short, we’re talking iPad Pro and iPad Pro 9.7 speeds here. What that means is simple, expect a lag and skip free experience, the game and each level loads rapidly and plays through without any hiccups or slowdowns. On a side note, it might be time to find a new cross-platform tester, the ads in Asphalt are getting to me, any suggestions?
|Display||12-inch 2160 x 1440 IPS LCD|
|Processor||Intel Core M3 or Core M5|
|RAM||4GB or 8GB|
|Storage (SSD)||128GB, 256GB or 512GB|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro|
|Connectivity||WiFi a/b/g/n/ac MIMO
|Camera||5MP fixed focus front|
|Ports and sensors||Dual speakers
|Dimensions||278.8mm x 194.1mm x 6.9mm
|Accessories||MatePen stylus - $59
MateDock - $89
Portfolio Keyboard - $129
If, indeed, the Huawei MateBook is an attempt to compete directly with the also Windows 10 powered Surface Pro 4, we must applaud the attempt. As far as a hand-held device goes, I would reach for the MateBook over the Surface Pro 4 every time, it is far more comfortable to hold.
When it comes to using the MateBook as a laptop, with the attached keyboard, the desktop experience suffers only in offering fewer angles at which you can prop up the display. We’re hoping to do a full Surface Pro 4 comparison and to explore the accompanying docks as well, particularly, we are eager to see if the benefits of USB Type-C and the slim form-factor of the MateDock are an advantage over the big pair of bricks that make up the Surface Dock.
Bringing things back the MateBook, the laptop experience, as I call it, is completely wasted if you, as the name implies, attempt to use this device in your lap. I have tried several positions and angles, all of which resulted in the same thing, the tablet becomes detached from the keyboard. Not to say that you cannot use the MateBook with the Portfolio Keyboard on your lap, but my productivity was near 0 in the one careful position I could manage to keep things attached.
Before you think ill of this tablet, please know that the inability to use in my lap is the only significant usability concern I have for the device. I am glad I’ve had the chance to test the MateBook, I can safely say that if you are in the market for a productivity device of this calibre, I would happily recommend this tablet. Just be aware of those few concerns and you’re good to go.
|Intel Core M3 with 4GB of RAM||128GB SSD - $699
256GB SSD - $849
|Intel Core M5 with 8GB of RAM||256GB SSD - $999
512GB SSD - $1149
|Intel Core M7 with 8GB of RAM||256GB SSD - $1399
512GB SSD - $1599
The MateBook is up for sale in certain parts of the globe, landing in North America on July 11th. Prices start at $699 for the base model, with a fully decked out device with all the accessories running you north of $1100.
As a solid competitor in the 2-in-1 space, we were a little disappointed to see the limited set of configuration options. It is not for us to make decisions on the economics of it all, but the lack of a model with Intel Core i7, or m7, with 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB SSD takes the MateBook out of the running when it comes time to decide between this and a powerful portable option like the Macbook Pro, high-end Surface Pro 4 or Dell XPS lines.
We were not deterred or disappointed by the Intel Core M processor, we understand that the Core i-line of chips is technically more powerful, but the m5 in our review unit held up to all of the important tasks we threw at it.
The Huawei MateBook is the Windows tablet that we’ve always wanted, it looks good, feels good and packs around very nicely. The optional MatePen smart stylus offers everything that we need in a stylus, plus a laser pointer, creating an overall tablet package that we’d happily take to an event or to the office.
The MateBook also provides a great desktop computer experience. USB Type-C, as a single port on the tablet, is complimented nicely by the MateDock. The dual USB 3 ports on the dock easily extend via hub, so that you can connect more than just a few peripherals. As SQnl smartly pointed out in the comments of our MateBook – first 48 hour impressions, the HDMI and VGA video ports are great, but fall short of the extensibility of the DisplayPort connections you would find on the Surface Dock.
That said, we are liking what we are experiencing in the Huawei MateBook, and we think you will too.