In the ever increasingly crowded world of 2-in-1 Windows 10 PCs, there seems to be a large gap between the have’s and the have not’s. The have’s are the Microsoft Surface Pro devices of the world with top-end specs but equally, have an impressive price tags.
The have not’s are the $200-300 devices with subpar displays that are usually around 10″, powered by Atom processor and have 64GB or maybe 128GB if you are lucky.
The problem is the gap between $300 and $1200+ dollars. There are not a lot of choices and the choices that are there generally are lacking in some area. Huawei, for their part, is trying to fill the gap.
The Huawei Matebook was released last year and it remains one of the best 2-in-1 Windows 10 hybrid devices on the market. Powered by the Intel m series processors with ample RAM and storage, the Matebook has a lot going for it and is one to consider, as I did, when you are looking for one of these style of devices. The Matebook isn’t perfect as I’ll cover in this review but it is certainly the solid foundation that Huawei needs in order to penetrate the Windows 10 PC market here in the US and globally.
One of the first things that separates the Huawei Matebook from the crowd are the internal components that make up this device. It is powered by the Intel M-Core family of processors, specifically the m3 and the m5. These are the 6th generations of this processor family and they are very fast, cooling efficient and battery efficient. The m3 model is dual-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz. The m5 is also dual-core and clocked at 2.7GHz. Coupling this the Intel HD Graphics 615 which shares the RAM that is installed on the device.
RAM and Storage, like so often is done with other tablet or 2-in-1 devices, are coupled with the amount of storage you want to get with it. Regardless of which RAM/Storage combination you get, the RAM is LPDDR3 clocked at 2.1MB/second. The storage is a SSD model that is a somewhat pedestrian 64GB/second transfer speed. Here is the breakdown of the processor/RAM/storage combinations available on the Matebook:
- m3 with 4GB and 128GB [Amazon]
- m5 with 4GB and 128GB [Amazon]
- m5 with 8GB and 256GB [Amazon]
- m5 with 8GB and 512GB [Amazon]
As you would expect, the price goes up considerably as you ramp up the RAM and storage. For this review, I have the m5 with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The display on the Matebook is a 12″ IPS TFT LCD that renders at an impressive 2160 x 1440. That gives you ~216PPI which is easy on the eyes for long periods of time. The display is overlaid with a 10-point capacitive touchscreen.
Built into the Huawei Matebook are two ports: A UBS-C port for charging or connecting the optional MateDock for additional ports and video out. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack. When you read the Form Factor section of this review, the low number of ports will start to make sense.
The construction of the chassis is all aluminum so it feels solid in your hands and weighs just 640 grams or 22.57 ounces in old money.
Network wise, you have Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac support at 2.4GHz and 5GHz. It is a MIMO configuration so speeds are solid and consistent. Coupled with this is Bluetooth 4.1.
The Matebook has one, front facing camera that is a 5MP fixed focus model. It works well for Skype and other video conferencing solutions. There is no rear camera so if you are one who likes to take photos with your tablet, this one isn’t going to be a good option for you.
Audio wise, you have dual microphones and dual speakers. The audio is supported with Dolby Atmos audio. The dual speakers are on the top edge of the tablet.
There are a wide range of sensors built into the Matebook including an ambient light sensor, a fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, gyroscope and hall sensor. If you aren’t sure what a hall sensor is, it is the sensor that detects magnetic fields around a device. In the case of the Matebook, when you close the keyboard on it, it puts the Windows 10 PC to sleep.
Finally, powering all of this is a 4430mAh battery. Huawei rates the battery life at 9 hours and I will suggest that it very optimistic. I will cover the battery life in more detail later in the review.
Overall, the Huawei Matebook has the specs to command its price point. The m-core processors are tried and true and give you far more speed than the Atom processors in lesser 2-in-1s.
What’s in The Box
When you buy your Matebook, it will come with a few accessories. First, you have the 12V USB-C power adapter along with a USB-C to USB-C ribbon cable to charge your Matebook. The cable is 3.3′ long. Next you have a smaller 3″ USB-C to USB-C cable as well as a USB-A to USB-C adapter. This adapter allows you to connect an external USB drive to the Matebook without having to use the optional MateDock. However, doing this will not allow you to charge your tablet at the same time. That can only be achieved with the MateDock. More on that later.
The second thing you immediately notice about the Matebook is its form factor. I’ve never seen a full fledged Windows 10 tablet this thin or lightweight. It is an amazing feat of engineering that Huawei has pulled off here and it rivals the design of the Apple iPad lineup.
The Matebook measures 278.8 x 194.1 x 6.9 mm or 10.97 x 7.64 x .27 inches in old money and, as mentioned before, weighs 640 grams (22.57 ounces). The front of the tablet is dominated by the 12″ display with a slim 10mm (.39 inch) bezel.
The aluminum back of the Matebook is uninterrupted as there is no rear facing camera on the device. On the top edge of the device you will find the dual speakers, one on each end of the edge, and the power button. As you look at the tablet, on the left edge is where you will find the 3.5mm headphone jack while on the right edge you will find the volume rocker. In between the volume up and volume down buttons is where you will find the fingerprint scanner for the device. It is Windows Hello compatible and amazingly accurate. Huawei has some of the best fingerprint scanners on Android devices (see my review of the P10 and the Mate 9 where I discuss them). On the right edge is also where you will find the USB-C port for charging the device. Finally, on the bottom edge of the device is where you will find the POGO connector for the optional (but not really) Matebook Keyboard.
The overall design and form factor of the Huawei Matebook is nothing short of stunning. It is a device that feels good in your hands and it is lightweight enough to carry around comfortably.
As you would expect with the m5 processor and 4GB of RAM, the Matebook performs exceptionally well. I had no problems with multitasking various Office apps along with Edge having multiple tabs open at once. Technically, the Matebook scored 3130 on the Geekbench 4 single core CPU test while scoring 5854 on the multi-core test. This is middle of the road when you compare it to the likes of the Intel iCore processors but when comparing to other m5 equipped hardware, the Matebook performs well. Huawei has done a great job of optimizing the hardware to run Windows 10 and it is reflected in these scores.
Keep in mind too that Huawei sells the Matebook as a Signature Edition. This is a Microsoft requirement to sell it in their stores and it basically means there are no trialware or other bloatware apps installed. It is a pure Windows install bar the Huawei user manual app. Huawei sells the Matebook only as a Signature Edition, be it at Microsoft Stores or online retailers like Amazon.
Moving to the display of the Matebook, you will not be disappointed. It is brilliant with excellent color accuracy and contrast. Like other LCD displays, it doesn’t perform well in bright sunlight but that’s expected. The touch digitizer is very accurate and fast.
Speaking of fast, the fingerprint scanner is ridiculously fast. Huawei makes some of the best fingerprint scanners out there and I’ve always found them to be responsive both in the main devices of the company (the Mate 9, P10) as well as the sub-brand Honor devices. They took that technology and put it in the Matebook. Unlocking the device is so fast, I usually do not see the personalized login screen with my avatar if I’m waking the device up from sleep.
The one thing I would caution readers on is if you are buying this as a gaming solution. It’s no going to be satisfying. It can play plenty of lightweight games but if you are going to be pushing Forza 7 through it… you may want to rethink. It simply doesn’t have the horsepower or GPU to push that through with a reasonable frame rate.
Overall, you won’t be disappointed with the performance of the Matebook if you are looking for a device that allows you to get a reasonable amount of productivity work done while multitasking. It can handle lightweight gaming well enough but serious gamers will need to look elsewhere.
The 5MP fixed focus webcam built into the Matebook isn’t going to win any awards but it does the job for Skype and other conferencing solutions out there. Color accuracy is pretty accurate. Again, nothing magical to find here and if you need an HD camera, there are plenty of Windows 10 compatible ones out there that you can get and add via the MateDock.
One of the biggest knocks on the Huawei Matebook is the battery life. Huawei states that you will get 9 hours of battery life out of the device and I find that… optimistic.
In my using of the Matebook, under normal use, I can get about 7 hours of life out of the battery. If I’m really pushing the device hard (lots of multitasking or watching a movie), that will drop below 6 hours. That’s not so good so you will want to make sure that you have your power adapter with you.
As to if this is a deal breaker – that’s really how you use the device. Any given week, I’m plugged into AC about 90% of the time. I’m either working from my home office, working from one of my corporate offices, or I’m on the road (be it at my local coffee shop or at the airport). For me, I rarely am unplugged long enough for the battery life in the 6-7 hour range to be an issue. And, when it comes to watching movies on a plane or in the evenings, I’m doing that on my iPad. In other words, for me, the Matebook is my productivity machine, not my entertainment machine. I’m not defending the device. Far from it. I’m just stating my view on the matter.
So why is the battery life so poor when you compare it to comparable devices in the market? I think a large chunk of the loss comes down to the display. Remember that the Matebook renders at 2160 x 1440. That’s a lot higher than most devices in the space which render at 1920 x 1080. Pushing those extra pixels takes power.
Ultimately this, for me, is the one area that has hindered the success of the Matebook. For many it is a turn off right from the start. My only recommendation is that you evaluate how you really use the device before you eliminate it from consideration.
Huawei Matebook Keyboard
Like other higher end 2-in-1 devices, the Matebook has a cover/folio style keyboard that is an optional purchase. The reality is, it is not an optional purchase. At the time of this post, it is a $64 additional purchase on Amazon, which is far less than the original price of $110 and that of the keyboard for the Surface Pro. But like the Surface Pro, Huawei should include this accessory. To truly make it a functional, productive device, you have to have the keyboard and, given the way that the tablet sits on the keyboard and acts as its support, it is a required item.
Now, with that said, the Matebook Keyboard is wonderful. It has a full size, comfortable keyboard with a 1.5mm keystroke depth that makes it comfortable to type on for extended periods of time. That keyboard is backlit too. Below the keyboard you will find a sizeable touchpad for navigating. It is responsive and large enough to actually be useful.
The outer shell of the Keyboard is a faux leather that looks stylish in either the black or tan colors that are available. It is a wrap around design so when you are not using it, it completely covers your Matebook front and back. That makes it overall look long when it is laying out by itself but that top part becomes the triangle wedge on which the tablet rests when connected to the keyboard. The wedge stand can be adjusted for two different viewing angles which is a bit of a drawback if you are wanting to use it in a near flat view on a table. For normal work, it is ample.
The keyboard connects to the Matebook through the POGO connector at the bottom of the tablet. The connection is solid and overall, the stability of the keyboard/tablet combination is good. It gets a little floppy when it is sitting on your lap but otherwise, it is just fine on a desk.
If there is one complaint about the keyboard it is that it lays flat on the desk or your lap. There is no prop angle for it as there is with the keyboard on the Surface Pro. As to if this is a big deal is largely an individual preference. I’ve typed this entire review using the keyboard and haven’t had any issues with it or any comfort issues.
The other significant accessory for the Huawei Matebook is the MateDock. Unlike the Keyboard, the MateDock is an accessory that you could, in theory, live without, but you may not want to do so. At the time of this writing, the MateDock is $47, down from its original $89, on Amazon. The MateDock gives you a lot of additional ports that you may need as you go forward. That includes two USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C pass through port so you can charge your Matebook while using the MateDock. It also includes a LAN port, a VGA and a HDMI port so you can connect your Matebook to an external monitor or projector.
The dock itself sits inside of a wrap-around faux leather case and the dock itself magnetically connects to the case so it won’t slip out. As you can see by the photos at the end of the review, the case is open at both ends but one side has a small white tray. That tray holds the small USB-C cable and USB-A adapter. These snap snuggly into the tray and since the top is covered by the leatherette cover, they won’t fall out. Also in the case you will find a small loop to carry the MatePen stylus.
Do you really need the MateDock? It really depends on what you are going to be doing with the device. If this is truly going to be an at home, casual surfing or limited productivity device, you probably don’t need it. You can get away with the supplied USB-C cable and USB-A adapter to connect external drives when you need them. If you are going to use it as a primary device however, you should consider getting the MateDock. The ability to charge the Matebook while using a USB external drive is likely enough of a reason to get it but the fact you have VGA and HDMI ports available will allow this hybrid to be usable in just about any work situation.
Huawei MatePen Stylus
The stylus for the Matebook, the MatePen, is once again an optional accessory. At the time of this writing, it was $52 on Amazon. As stylus go, the MatePen is very nice. It has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, double that of the stylus for the Surface Pro. It is crafted out of aluminum for durability and lasts about 100 hours on a charge. It is recharged via a Micro-USB port that you will find when you pull the top off of the stylus.
On the top of the stylus you will find a built-in laser pointer that really makes this a great accessory for meeting rooms if you are presenting. The stylus also has two buttons that will do different functions based on what you are doing at the time. If you are presenting, it will allow you to forward and reverse slides in PowerPoint. If you are drawing, it will allow you to erase digital ink quickly.
Conclusion, Pricing & Recommendation
Despite being launched over a year-and-a-half ago, I still don’t have a hesitation in recommending the Huawei Matebook. Yes it has challenges and yes, by the time you add up all the accessories, it’s pushing the $700 barrier. But it is good. It’s really good. The performance is there for getting everything short of intensive gaming done and the display is just beautiful. Just make sure if you are going to be away from the desk that you have your USB-C charger handy as the battery life is not that great.
To get the configuration of the device I reviewed, here is your shopping list from Amazon. All in, you are looking at $631 before shipping and taxes. For what you are getting, it is not a bad deal and is well under the original price.
If you want the updated model, the Matebook E, that is available for $899 including the keyboard.