Huawei MateBook 13 review: Gorgeous touchscreen laptop takes on Apple's MacBook Air at $400 less

  • Editors' rating
    8.7 Outstanding

Pros

  • Elegant design, fit, and finish
  • High screen-to-body ratio with minimal bezels
  • Fast Windows Hello fingerprint scanner
  • Standard USB-C ports
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • Poor front-facing camera
  • Limited to 8GB RAM

I've been a Windows users for many years, but constantly hear Apple computer users voicing a desire for a touchscreen MacBook Pro. One only has to look to Huawei's latest MateBook 13 in order to find an elegant, sleek, affordable touchscreen laptop that will help you get work done.

The Huawei MateBook 13, announced last month at CES, has the latest Intel Whiskey Lake processor, FullView touch screen with 88 percent screen-to-body ratio, and weight of just 2.86 pounds. There are two models available for $999 and $1,299 so you don't have to spend much more than you do for a flagship smartphone to have a powerful and gorgeous Windows laptop.

Looking back through ZDNet reviews history, I have had the opportunity to test the Matebook X in 2017 and the MateBook X Pro in 2018. The new MateBook 13 is priced much lower than last year's MateBook X Pro while still offering compelling features that will allow you to get your work done on the go.

Specifications

  • Processor: 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8565U (or i5-8265U) with NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU (Intel UHD 620 in i5 model)
  • Display: 13 inch 2160 x 1440 pixels resolution touchscreen, 300 nits brightness, 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD (256GB in i5 model)
  • Battery: 41.7 Wh provides up to 10 hours of video
  • Ports: Two USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Speakers: Two bottom-firing speakers with Dolby Atmos technology
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Dimensions: 286 x 211 x 15.0 mm and 1.30 kg (2.86 pounds)
  • Colors: Space Gray (i7) and Mystic Silver (i5)

Hardware

Huawei is known for crafting aluminum and brings a high level of craftsmanship to the MateBook 13. The edges are smoothly curved with 5,252 aluminum chamfers cut with a CNC diamond technique and then subjected to an advanced sandblasting process. It's a gorgeous laptop that looks and feels great.

The model I tested has an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM with a 512GB SSD. I would expect to see this higher specification model come with 16GB of RAM and that may be one area of concern for those who push their hardware to the limit for advanced analysis or media editing functions. I never noticed any lag or performance issues over the past couple of weeks, but I don't typically push my laptops that hard to get work done.

In order to improve the cooling performance of the laptop, Huawei has a new Shark Fin Design 2.0 solution that reaches up to 8,000 revolutions per minute with the dual-fan design. This cooling system is also designed to minimize noise when in operation. I rarely heard any fan noise while using the MateBook 13.

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The 13 inch display has super narrow bezels so when you pop open the lid and turn on the display it feels like you are working with all screen. The top bezel is also very small while the bottom is just a bit taller. The 3:2 display is great for working on documents and spreadsheets and I am a fan of this for work while 16:9 displays are nice for media-focused machines.

The display isn't the highest resolution available, but it looks perfectly fine for me. I did notice at first that the display brightness was too dim to satisfy me, but realized that the auto-brightness option was enabled and was being too aggressive at saving battery life. I turned off the auto-brightness setting and used the MateBook 13 for the last couple of weeks with brightness set at about 60 to 70 percent. The brightness rating is 300 nits, which is fine for most environments although it may be a bit low for working outside in well-lit environments.

Huawei brought its eye comfort technology over from its smartphones. You can choose to have a blue light filter enabled for viewing your display in the evening or when your eyes are strained.

The keyboard extends from one side to the other with only a couple mm on each side to the edge of the computer. Key travel is 1.2mm and the keyboard is backlit with two brightness levels that can be changed by pressing the F3 key. I would personally prefer to see one higher level of brightness for the keyboard too.

The keyboard is inset into the bottom piece so that it is flush with the rest of the unibody aluminum bottom. There are six rows of keys. A very large trackpad, nearly five inches by 2.5 inches, is centered under the space bar and supports multi-finger gestures. I'm a fan of big trackpads and enjoyed using this one on the MateBook 13.

The two stereo speakers are found on the bottom of the MateBook 13. I was a bit disappointed when I saw this since previous Huawei laptops had fantastic audio performance. While the speakers face down, if you have the laptop on a table or other surface then audio sounds great. When you use it on your lap, then you might experience some muffled audio as the speakers rest on your legs or other soft surface.

The front-facing camera on last year's MateBook X Pro was found under a key positioned between the F6 and F7 key. It was a great security feature, but is no longer present on this new MateBook 13. Instead, we see a pretty terrible 1 megapixel front facing camera centered in the thin bezel above the display. For business Skype or Microsoft Teams calls, this is a pretty inadequate camera and I am disappointed in its limited performance. Huawei is known for excellent smartphone cameras and I wish a higher quality one was provided here as more remote work hours means a quality camera is important.

The power button is positioned above the keyboard on the upper right. It is modeled after the typical rear fingerprint scanners on Huawei smartphones and responds just as fast to unlocking your laptop. Windows Hello support makes using this button even faster than the facial recognition on my Surface Pro 6.

There are two USB-C ports on the MateBook 13, one on the right and one on the left. The port on the left supports data transfer and charging while the port on the right supports data transfer and DisplayPort capability. There is also a standard 3.5mm headset jack on the left.

The battery is advertised as providing up to 10 hours of video playback, working time of about nine hours, and just over seven hours of web browsing. I used the MateBook 13 extensively over the last couple of weeks, including for watching media, working on the train, and working while traveling. I typically saw about six to seven hours of continous use with an internet connection and a few apps open for writing and spreadsheet work. It can likely get you through a typical work day, but isn't as long-lasting as Huawei's mobile phones.

I love that Huawei uses USB-C for charging up the MateBook 13 as that results in one having to carry just a single charger for the laptop and any Android phones with USB-C. The included 65W charger can provide over two hours of use with a 15-minute charge.

Software

The Huawei MateBook 13 runs Windows 10 Home by default. You can upgrade to Pro for $99.99, unless your company already has a Pro subscription that you can upgrade to. The MateBook 13 performed as expected over the past couple of weeks. I enjoyed video content, wrote articles, viewed and edited spreadsheets, worked with email and Microsoft Teams, and went about my daily business with the MateBook 13.

The MateBook 13 comes loaded with typical Windows 10 software, such as Mail, Photos, Groove Music, Cortana, OneNote, and more. You will also find plenty of pre-loaded games or samples, including Candy Crush Saga, Township, Cooking Fever, and other things you are likely to remove.

Specific to the MateBook 13, we see the Dolby Atmos Sound System app that lets you tweak the equalizer settings and view help files for different modes.

Pricing and competition

The MateBook 13 is available, starting today, at Amazon and Newegg for $999 (i5) and $1,299 (i7). It will be sold at Microsoft online and in-store within the next few weeks.

In comparison, the new Microsoft Surface Pro 6 i5/8GB/256GB model is priced at the same $999. The i7/8GB/256GB Surface Pro 6 is $1,299 so with Huawei you get a bigger SSD for the same price as the i7 Surface Pro 6.

Apple's new MacBook Air with 8th generation i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD is $1,399, which makes the $999 for the MateBook 13 look quite attractive. The Apple MacBook Pro 7th Generation i5/8GB/256GB model is priced at $1,499 so Huawei offers quite a bang for your buck while also giving you touchscreen functionality.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

Huawei claims that the MateBook 13 is six percent smaller than the latest MacBook Air with a slightly thinner body and just a hair more weight. I have not used Apple laptops for years as I find Windows 10 to be perfectly capable for getting work done and I enjoy having touchscreen capability on all of my devices.

I've been using a Pixelbook, Pixel Slate, and Microsoft Surface Pro 6 for the last several months as my work and home computing platforms. For the past couple of weeks, the MateBook 13 has filled in the primary computer role and has worked well. The battery life is a bit less than the Surface Pro 6 and has disappointed me, but charging it up is quick with the USB-C 65W charger so I never fully depleted the battery.

I love the FullView display with minimal bezels that makes my Surface Pro 6 and even the Pixel Slate appear a bit outdated. Huawei knows how to minimize the bezels on its hardware and it's great to get a massive viewing area on a smaller platform. The brightness is solid, when I turned off the auto-brightness feature, and I appreciate the Night Light option to help filter out the blue light when writing late at night.

The keyboard worked very well for me and I was able to fly without any issues at all. I'm pretty good at adapting to different keyboards and found myself typing nearly error-free with the MateBook 13 and it's full width keyboard.

The Huawei MateBook 13 is available now in the US and priced to compete for new customers. We have seen Huawei's computers priced significantly higher in the past so it's great to see the company pushing hard to gain customers with the MateBook 13 starting at just $999. Shoot, I paid more than that for my last couple of phones.

Specifications

System
Notebook Type 2-in-1

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