Introduction and design
Huawei isn’t one of the best known companies in the phone world and it has been practically non-existent in the PC market. And yet we’re here with the Chinese electronic firm’s first Windows tablet 2-in-1, the Huawei MateBook.
Although there are more Surface and iPad rivals than ever, the 12-inch MateBook came as real curve ball when it was first announced at MWC 2016. Instead of introducing a phone, tablet or wearable, Huawei brought forth its first Windows machine with a focus on luxury and style instead of following its history of introducing inexpensive gadgets.
Huawei isn’t the first phone maker to introduce a Windows tablet, there’s also the excellent Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, which also happens to be its closest competitor. However, the MateBook differentiates itself with an even lower price, a sharper screen and higher-end configurations with faster processors and more storage.
The 12-inch Matebook is essentially a blown-up Huawei smartphone. It features the same all-aluminum unibody, chamfered edges and glass front as some of the company’s best smartphones like the Huawei P9 and Mate 8.
Even the fingerprint scanner has made its way over, allowing you to login with your fingerprint and Windows Hello by lightly tapping on the space between the volume rocker button. Huawei has taken the best qualities of its mobile devices and implemented them into a Windows tablet.
The all-metal back makes it bit more pristine than Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S and its plastic backed magnesium frame.
That said, all that aluminum ends up making the 0.27-inch (0.69cm) MateBook a smidge thicker than the 0.25-inch (0.63cm) TabPro S. Strangely, Huawei’s Windows 10 slate ends up being the lighter of the two at 1.41 pounds (0.64kg) whereas the TabPro S weighs 1.5 pounds (0.69kg).
All about that base
Beyond the tablet itself, the MateBook’s other half is a keyboard folio enveloped in classy brown leather. The keyboard base folds nearly around the tablet with magnetic flaps while the padded exterior feels nice and subtle for carrying around the device.
In keyboard mode the same flap does a solid job of propping up the screen in two different positions. However, due to the way the tablet uses its weight to stay in place, you also can really lean back or forward while you have it on your lap.
It’s also a bit uncomfortable in the fact that the base of the leather folio is soft and has a tendency to bend with the shape of your knees. The base never unfolded and sent the MateBook flying into the ground, but I’m hoping Huawei comes up with a sturdier base soon or for its next iteration.
Otherwise Huawei has done a great job developing its first 2-in-1. Simply having one more option for orienting the screen puts it above the Tab Pro S.
What’s more, the keyboard is simply massive and spanning across the entire width of the folio cover. The keys are just as large and although they’re styled like the Surface’s first type cover instead of the modern trend of island keys, the travel on each button is deep with a noticeable click.
Just below the spanning keyboard is an equally large glass trackpad that offers the same smooth gliding experience as other premium Windows devices.
Specifications, performance and features
On top of the higher-end exterior, the MateBook includes impressive specs including an Intel Core m7 processor and 512GB SSD putting it far above other super slim Windows 10 slates. Huawei also includes a 2,160 x 1,440 pixel-resolution screen as the standard display while other tablets stick with Full HD displays.
The base configuration also comes outfitted with Intel Core m3 CPU, 4GB of memory and 128GB SSD for $699 (about £475, AU$940). The configuration listed below is the mid-range system and it comes priced at $849.
Lastly, the highest-end system will set you back $1,199 (about £762, AU$1,500) for 8GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and an Intel Core m7 processor.
Unfortunately, none of these configurations include the keyboard or pen, so you’ll have to pick them up separately for $129 (about £87, AU$172) and $59 (about £40, AU$79), respectively.
Altogether, the Huawei MateBook comes out to being more affordable than the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S even with the price of the separate accessories. That said, if you’re looking for the best deal, you can pick up the HP Spectre x2 with an included keyboard and nearly the same specs for $799 (£799).
Here is the Huawei MateBook configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost) Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515RAM: 8GB LPDDR3Screen: 12-inch 2160 x 1440 IPS TFT touchscreenStorage: 128GB SSDPorts: USC-C (ThunderBolt 3), headset jackConnectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1Camera: 5MP front-facing cameraWeight: 1.41 pounds (0.64kg)Size: 10.98 x 7.64 x 0.27 inches (W x D x H) (27.88 x 19.41 x 0.69cm)
Don’t let the MateBook’s slender form fool you, as this Windows 10 tablet is quite a beast. The Intel Core m5 processor more than served my daily web browsing and YouTube streaming needs. Additionally, it coped well with more strenuous usage including playing rounds of Hearthstone and heavy multitasking with 10 programs running simultaneously.
The only small consequence of pushing the Huawei tablet is it can get a touch hot especially if you’re holding it in your hands. It doesn’t warm up enough to sear your fingers and thankfully the keyboard base helps keep the entire aluminum frame off your legs.
Here’s how the Huawei MateBook performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,421; Sky Diver: 1,716; Fire Strike: 483Cinebench CPU: 162 points; Graphics: 19.12 fpsGeekBench: GeekBench: 1,935 (single-core); 3,967 (multi-core)PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,093 pointsPCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 0 minutesBattery Life (techradar movie test): 4 hours and 25 minutes
Although the MateBook can come with faster Intel Core m5 processors over the Core m3-powered Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, it performs worse in almost every regard. The 12-inch tablet returned lower scores in both graphical and processer intensive benchmarks from 3DMark to GeekBench.
These disappointing numbers would have been partially forgiven if Huawei optimized the tablet for battery life, but the MateBook returned some of the shortest runtimes I’ve seen – which may be due to its high-resolution screen.
Lasting just three hours on PCMark 8, Huawei’s slate died more than half-an-hour sooner than the XPS 12. Meanwhile, we’ve seen the same chipset deliver nearly seven hours of battery life in the Yoga 900S.
The most use I was able to squeeze out of the MateBook was 4 hours and 25 minutes while playing Guardians of the Galaxy stored on the device. That’s still below average for a consumer device like the iPad Pro, which can easily keep going for more than 10 hours.
Worse yet, if you plan on working with the device as Huawei intends, you’ll likely run out of juice shortly after three hours. Even with fast charging, fill up the battery back to full takes 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Screen and speakers
The high point of the Huawei MateBook is its screen. Not only is the display of a higher-resolution that of its competitors, it also offers some of the narrowest bezels on any tablet and stunning image quality. Colors pop while pixels render many different layers and levels of contrast.
You won’t find the deepest blacks here and if that’s what you seek you should look into the Samsung TabPro S and its Super AMOLED display. Even the HP Spectre 13 rendered deeper blacks as I played Guardians of the Galaxy both devices side-by-side.
That said, nothing on the MateBook looks muddy and gray. It fine for most streaming media and unless you have the keenest eye for shades of gray, Huawei’s tablet is more than excellent for viewing media.
The speakers are also surprisingly loud despite only having no more than 0.69cm of space to vibrate within. It’s not the most full-bodied sound you’ll find on a tablet as much of the bass gets lost in translation along with lows that drop out altogether.
The MateBook is a new direction for Huawei in that it’s not only the company’s first Windows device but also it’s a shift away from the company’s cheaper gadgets. The 12-inch tablet enters the great 2-in-1 game with established champions like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
Huawei has gotten a lot right on its first Windows tablet outing. There’s no other device that feels quite as premium and pristine as the MateBook. From the all-aluminum frame to the accurate fingerprint scanner, the Chinese company has perfectly adapted the best qualities of its mobile devices to a hybrid tablet. On its own, the MateBook also offers more configuration options with a gorgeous display and surprisingly potent sound.
Unfortunately, for as many things as the MateBook gets right, it’s a clear example of being too thin for its own good. Battery life and general performance suffer due to the device being 0.69cm thin. It’s an amazing feat that Huawei made a full Windows slate as thin as the iPad Pro, however, battery life averaging around three hours and an uncomfortably flimsy keyboard base are two massive missteps.
The Huawei MateBook is a perfect example of style without enough substance. There are plenty of good ideas here including the overall high-end design. The finish of the device is impeccable and the touch of leather for the keyboard folio and even the accessories holder helps elevate this product to the luxury class.
However, just because it looks good doesn’t mean it works perfectly. Huawei is pitching the device as a business tablet, but it underperforms on power. Due to the posh but flimsy keyboard cover, it’s also a bit more uncomfortable to use on your lap over other slates.
And without the battery life to back it up and competing devices that offer a greater bargain, it’s hard to argue that the prestige of Huawei’s first Windows tablet is worth the expense.