- Incredible construction and attention to detail
- Pure Windows 10 software and fast overall performance
- Slim and lightweight design
- Reasonable price levels
- Keyboard is a flop, literally
- No microSD storage expansion
- Single port for charging and connecting other gear
- Occasional slowdowns on 4GB m5 review unit
The Surface Pro form factor is perfect for mobile folks like me who want a powerful computer that is easy to carry on a daily commute or cross country flight. In addition to being slim and light, having a full computer that doesn't require you to compromise means you can use that same computer on the road or at your office with a docking solution.
With the continued success of the Surface Pro line and evolution of Microsoft's models, we have seen others launch full Windows computers with a similar form factor. I tested the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 and Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, but couldn't give up my Surface Pro 4 for either. For the last couple of weeks I've been using the Huawei MateBook and decided I am still not giving up the Surface Pro 4.
The Huawei MateBook, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S Pro, is focused on an optimal tablet experience with the keyboard attachment serving as a poor attempt at making the device a laptop. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes also has a Huawei MateBook and posted his first impressions last week, writing that the MateBook has iPad quality with Windows 10 capability.
Huawei's latest phones, including the Huawei P9, have stunning build quality and this same metal and glass contruction with attention to detail is present on the Huawei MateBook. If you are looking for a Windows tablet computer, then the Huawei MateBook should definitely be near the top of your list, especially at the reasonable price being charged by Huawei for the various models.
The Huawei MateBook has a 12 inch IPS TFT LCD display with a resolution of 2160 x 1440 pixels. The LCD display looks great, providing realistic colors and adequate brightness. I especially enjoy using the display with the four side bezels only each measuring about 10 mm. This is just enough bezel to support holding the tablet in hand, while being about half of what we see on the Surface Pro.
The review unit has a white bezel surrounding the display, with a gold metal back. There is also a variant with a black bezel and gray metal back.
A five megapixel front-facing camera is centered on the top middle above the display, when positioned in landscape orientation.
Dual stereo speakers are positioned on the top with the power button just to the right of the right speaker. Volume buttons are found on the upper right side with a cool Windows Hello fingerprint-enabled scanner installed between the two power buttons. It has worked with 100 percent accuracy during my trial.
The only port on the MateBook, a USB Type-C one, is found on the lower right hand corner. A 3.5mm headphone jack is located on the upper left side of the MateBook.
Four gold contact points, used to make the connection with the folio keyboard, are positioned on the center bottom, below the Huawei brand.
There is nothing on the back, except for the Huawei name and logo centered on lower back. I'm very pleased to see a manufacturer leave out a rear camera on a tablet. I've never used one and see no practical need for such a camera. The back is aluminum material and it feels rock solid. The front edges are beveled and polished. The MateBook is only 6.9 mm in thickness and feels fantastic in the hand. It is a reasonably priced tablet that feels more expensive than the build, which is typical of Huawei's latest smartphones.
As you can see in the specifications below, the Huawei MateBook compares closely to the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S.
- Processor: Intel Core m dual core (review unit: m5 1.10 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 2.7 GHz)
- Display: 12 inch 2160 x 1440 pixels resolution IPS LCD 10-finger multi-touch
- Operating system: Windows 10 Home
- RAM: 4GB (options for 8GB)
- Storage: 128GB internal (options for 256 and 512)
- Camera: Front facing 5 megapixel
- Ports: Single USB Type-C
- Battery: 4,430 mAh
- Dimensions: 278.8 x 194.1 x 6.9 mm and 640 grams
Huawei provides three optional accessories for the MateBook, but to enjoy the full experience you are likely going to want at least two of them. I'm not sure if we will see third party keyboards, but I'm hoping that one of the keyboard manufacturers steps up to the plate and offers a better option than the Huawei Portfolio keyboard.
The Portfolio Keyboard is a $129 accessory, available in black or brown pleather. I tested out the black one with the gold MateBook. The keyboard attaches via the magnetic docking connector on the bottom and the screen turns off when you close the cover.
There are two available angles to prop up your MateBook, one leaning back about 15 degrees and the other back about 30 degrees. Unfortunately, the magnets on the back don't do much to hold the MateBook in place and I have had the MateBook repeatedly flop down on the table as the folio slides up and off the back. While trying to type this review on the Sounder train, the folio flopped down and the MateBook actually took a tumble down onto the floor of the train. It survived unscathed, but the keyboard design is terrible for propping up the MateBook.
The keyboard is similar to the last generation Microsoft Surface Type Cover with large keys that are closely spaced together. Key travel is great and I was able to type quickly on the keyboard.
The trackpad supports gestures with up to four fingers and is very large, bigger than my Surface Pro 4 Type Cover. It is also a backlit keyboard, which is something that serves me well. If Huawei just had a more solid approach to propping up the MateBook, then the keyboard could be a valuable accessory.
The Huawei MatePen is a cool optional stylus that is designed for the enterprise. It recharges via microUSB to provide up to 100 hours of use. The top is removable so you can access the microUSB charging port while pressing the button on the side of the top piece turns on a handy laser pointer. My dogs loved chasing the light, but I also found it handy to use while giving a presentation.
While the top button activates the laser pointer, there are two buttons down lower on the MatePen where your index finger rests. The lower button is the erase button while the upper button activates the right mouse click action. You can hold down, single press, and double press these buttons to perform various actions, including scrolling up and down documents and web pages, capturing screenshots, opening OneNote, and more.
The MatePen provides over 2048 levels of sensitivity with a spare tip in the retail package. You can purchase the MatePen for $59 and if you plan to take any handwritten notes then it is a worthy accessory.
My Surface Pro 4 is used as my primary home computer too so a docking solution is essential to me. Huawei has available the MateDock and if you buy just one accessory and need to use the MateBook as more than a mobile computer I recommend this $89 accessory. The MateDock comes with a pleather magnetic case that holds the MateDock, MatePen, microUSB to USB Type-C cable, and USB to microUSB adapter.
The MateDock has an HDMI and VGA port on one end with two USB 3.0 ports, an ethernet port, and an USB Type C port on the other end. There is also a short USB Type-C cable attached to the MateDock so you can plug the dock into your MateBook.
The Huawei MateBook runs Windows 10 Home and Professional. The review unit I tested runs Home and I personally have no need for the Pro version of Windows. One great feature of the MateBook is that it is a Microsoft Signature device so there is no bloatware installed on the computer. You get a pure Windows 10 device that you can load up to your heart's desire.
The only thing installed by Huawei is the handy MateBook Assistant, which is simply an HTML-formatted user guide that provides information on the accessories and some basic Windows 10 functions.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, Dell XPS 12 2-in-1, and Microsoft Surface Pro 4 are all competitors to the Huawei MateBook. The Galaxy TabPro S and Huawei MateBook are the two optimized for tablet use so if you are looking for a Windows 10 tablet then you should consider one of these two devices.
While I enjoying having a tablet that runs a full version of Windows, I spend most of my time with my portable computers attached to a keyboard. The Surface Pro 4 is best for me, but if I was a tablet guy it would be tough to choose between the MateBook and Galaxy TabPro S.
Price and availability
The Huawei MateBook will be available starting 11 July at the Microsoft Store and via other online outlets. There are four configurations of the Huawei MateBook:
- Core m3, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD: $699
- Core m5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD: $849
- Core m5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $999
- Core m5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,199
If you purchase the MateBook from the Microsoft Store, there is a special launch offer where you can get 40 percent off a MatePen, MateBook Folio Keyboard, or Microsoft Office when you purchase a MateBook.
Daily usage experiences
I moved my Surface Pro 4 off my desk and setup the Huawei MateBook as my primary home office and mobile computer for the last couple of weeks. I used it during my two hour train commute and while in the office. Huawei advertises up to nine hours of battery life for work and ten hours for video. I was able to go a full day of work, using the device on and off, but doubt it could actually go ten hours with video playing. I watched one movie and saw the battery go down about 30 percent in a couple hours.
The Huawei MateBook is a fanless device with 80-layer heat transfer technology. While my Surface Pro 4 fan will often spin up and be a bit loud, it was enjoyable to have such a quiet platform with the MateBook.
The fingerprint scanner performed flawlessly and was my preferred method for unlocking the device. The form factor is awesome and it's great to see manufacturers challenge Microsoft's Surface devices that I used to think set the bar for well designed computers.
I enjoyed a few movies on the MateBook, but when I had the MateDock connected with Superman vs Batman playing on the MateBook display (downloaded movie and not streaming) and the Microsoft Edge browser and four tabs open on my external Dell display I noticsed some pausing and slowdowns in the movie and in the web browser. Just this simple tasking seemed to be pushing the Core m5 processor.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the Huawei MateBook, but want to see a better keyboard solution and the inclusion of the MatePen or MateDock with a purchase of the MateBook.