avatarby Jonathan FeistJune 25, 20164 comments

Huawei MateBook

Announced in early 2016, Huawei introduced the MateBook as a competitor to the Surface tablet line as well as the iPad Pro offerings. As a Windows tablet with detachable keyboard, the MateBook enters an ever growing market of productivity devices.

We’ve had the Huawei Matebook in hand for, you guessed it, just 48 hours now, join us for our first impressions and a quick overview of the new two-in-one tablet.

Related reading:
Surface Pro 4 vs iPad Pro 9.7

Overview

Huawei MateBook

The first thing you’ll notice about the MateBook is the familiar approach to the overall package. The magnetically attached keyboard snaps onto the pins for easy detachment back into a tablet, the default gear lacks a dedicated mount for the smart stylus and the large display looks great for laptop type usage, but a little unwieldy for in-hand usage. These are just impressions, of course.

What you are looking at, then, is a solid metal tablet designed to hold in landscape orientation. There is a dock mount on the bottom edge, volume rocker with slender, hidden fingerprint scanner built in up on the right edge, power button just around the corner on the top edge. In terms of ports, you’ll find a single USB Type-C port on lower portion of the right edge, and a headphone jack lives on the opposite edge.

Huawei MateBook

Measuring things up, you’re looking at a 12-inch display at 2160×1440 pixels of resolution. This IPS TFT LCD display, (that’s a lot of letters,) is vibrant with rich color saturation, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you like the look of it, but it certainly stands out for me when compared to similar devices.

A feature of the Surface Pro 4 that I laughed at in the beginning, is a feature that I now wish the Huawei MateBook had, a built-in kickstand. In truth, I type this now as a passenger in the car, I was going to do so on the MateBook itself, but the keyboard cover that doubles as stand is unable to keep the device in a comfortable position – so here I type on the Surface Pro 4 instead.

Huawei MateBook

Don’t worry, we’ll do a full MateBook vs Surface Pro 4 comparison soon.

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.

Hardware

Huawei MateBook

We mentioned that the Huawei MateBook is a full metal tablet with a clean slate of glass up front. It has comfortable rounded edges that provide a better in-hand experience than the main competitors we’ve been talking about, and is a fairly light-weight device at 640g.

Under the hood is a 6th Gen Intel Core m processor, ours is a dual-core Core m5 unit. Alongside is 4GB of RAM, with an optional 8GB available. Storage capacities measure in with 128GB, 256GB and 512GB SSD offerings.

Huawei MateBook

Instead of underwhelming us with a lackluster rear camera, Huawei skipped it and stuck with a 5MP front facing sensor. Your video conferencing needs are covered, but this fixed-focus camera may not be ideal for your photography needs. This decision leads us to believe that Huawei wants us to think of the MateBook as more of a laptop than as a tablet. It would not be fair to say that they are against tablet photography, as their MediaPad M2 10 tablet, announced at CES in January, offers some fairly advanced photography tools that would be great in the classroom.

Related reading: Huawei MediaPad M2 10 announced

If I hadn’t said it yet, this is a full touchscreen device with the typical 10-point input and support for the MatePen smart stylus. Sensors include an Ambient light sensor, Fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, gyroscope and a hall sensor. Rounding things out are dual microphones.

Huawei MateBook

Finally, there is a 33.7Wh battery keeping the lights on, this translates into a 4430mAh battery, if that’s an easier number to digest. With the promise of a full days work, we are eager to put the tablet to use, see what the battery life is actually capable of.

That said, we encountered one major detractor for this tablet, there is a good chance your current USB Type-C chargers and cables are not going to put juice into your new Huawei MateBook. We’ll explain more later, but just get used to the idea that you may have to bring the provided charging brick when you leave the house. Since our review unit came with an EU charging brick, I’m heading out to the store now to grab an adapter.

Performance and Software

Huawei MateBook

Power adapter figured out, MateBook fully charged, let’s see what it’s got.

Straight out of the gates, the MateBook performs admirably. As it should. Navigating the OS, loading a web browser and more is fast and fluid, even loading a game is as good as can be. When I say game, I refer to the pre-loaded solitaire suite from Microsoft, we’ll test with a real game later.

Huawei MateBook

The Windows 10 experience makes it easy get a feel for this device, which, unsurprisingly, performs just as well as the Surface Pro 4 with near identical specifications.

The top firing dual speakers produce great volume and a decent sound profile. I found myself holding the tablet in portrait orientation a lot, while in hand, the lower side speaker sits right where I naturally rest my hand, this is one of those tablets where blocking the port dramatically degrades the audio output, it’s a good thing this device is best used in landscape orientation anyway.

Huawei MateBook

Truth told, we’re going to save the bulk of our performance coverage for our full review, stay tuned. But if you cannot wait, the MateBook is performing vell well out of the box.

Specifications

Display12-inch 2160 x 1440 IPS LCD
ProcessorIntel Core M3 or Core M5
RAM4GB or 8GB
Storage (SSD)128GB, 256GB or 512GB
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro
ConnectivityWiFi a/b/g/n/ac MIMO
Bluetooth 4.1
Camera5MP fixed focus front
Ports and sensorsDual speakers
USB Type-C
3.5mm headphone
dual mic
ambient light
fingerprint
accelerometer
gyroscope
Hall sensor
Dimensions278.8mm x 194.1mm x 6.9mm
640g
ColorGold
Silver
AccessoriesMatePen stylus - $59
MateDock - $89
Portfolio Keyboard - $129

Gallery

Final thoughts

Huawei MateBook

I want to sum up this device in saying that it offers the same form and function as the Surface Pro 4, while also providing the in-hand comfort of the iPad line. It may yet be early in our testing to stand behind this claim, but that is certainly where we are at so far.

The full metal design adds a heft and rigidity that makes the Huawei MateBook feel good in hand, as well as offering a decent aesthetic. USB Type-C adds a slew of functionality, but our primary excitement over having USB charging was lost when we realized that only certain chargers would do the job.

Huawei MateBook

The MateBook is up for sale in certain parts of the globe already, including Asia, but will not be landing in North America until 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.

 Huawei MateBook
Intel Core M3 with 4GB of RAM128GB SSD - $699
256GB SSD - $849
Intel Core M5 with 8GB of RAM256GB SSD - $999
512GB SSD - $1149
Intel Core M7 with 8GB of RAM256GB SSD - $1399
512GB SSD - $1599
Profile Keyboard$129
MatePen$59
MateDock$89

As a solid competitor in the 2-in-1 space, we were still 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 or Dell XPS line.

Related
Dell XPS 13 review

We are looking forward to spending more time with this device, we hope you are excited to see it in action as well. Our first impressions are still pretty great, allow me to step away and get on the full review now, let’s see if Huawei has a hit on their hands.

Huawei MateBook

Simple question, are you planning to drop some cash on the Huawei MateBook, Surface Pro 4 or iPad Pro?

Pre-order Huawei MateBook at Microsoft

What’s next?
Huawei MateBook announced
Huawei MateBook availability announced

  • SQnl

    Good read. Thanks for your detailed inital impressions. Look forward to the full review.

    Couple of questions:
    1. Does the dock include any audio ports?
    2. Can you charge via the dock when it is plugged in, even with other peripherals (ext. display, USB HDD etc) plugged in?

    I really would like to plug-in just one cable at home and use as a full desktop machine.

    Thanks

    • Thank you SQnl.

      The dock does not have audio, but you can always use a USB DAC, providing cleaner audio without the need for a 3.5mm or other dedicated audio port. The Dock has two USB 3.0 ports, which can easily be extended with a little USB hub, same as you might on your regular laptop.

      Yes, you can charge via the dock when peripherals are attached. I am not going to lie to you, I have not tested this yet, I’ll be sure to update if I find otherwise, but according to the documentation, yes, put power to the dock, and it will power your accessories and the MateBook.

      Stay tuned for a closer look at the dock, after the full review, and I can do a little vs post with the Surface Dock, if you guys are interested?

      • SQnl

        Thank you for your reply Jonathan. USB DAC didn’t cross my mind! Never used one before but that sounds like a good solution.

        Comparison with the Surface Dock would be appreciated although I’m pretty sure the I know which is better. Surface Dock equivalent for the Matebook would be perfect for me. DisplayPort is a much better option than VGA+HDMI combo, at least for my usage. DisplayPort can easily support HDMI and VGA with the correct cable but the other way around is not possible as far as I know without an expensive active converter.

        I’m trying to decide between the Matebook, TabPro S, and SP4, or wait for the Transformer 3. All have pros and cons.

  • Marko Koskenoja

    Good preview – looks to be a winner