Hands on: Huawei MateBook review

Huawei's first Windows device knows a trick or two

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Huawei's first Windows device is a well-designed 2-in-1 that rivals Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 in places.

For

  • Design
  • USB-C charging
  • Keyboard accessory

Against

  • No MicroSDS card slot
  • Only one USB-C port
  • Core M only

The Huawei MateBook is supposed to be the ideal 2-in-1 tablet, one that perfectly compliments your Huawei Mate 8 phone. It did just that with style at my MWC 2016 demo.

This is a 12-inch Windows 10 convertible inside an aluminum unibody that matches the Huawei phone down to the color choices with silver, space gray and gold. It feels like an iPad Pro running Microsoft software.

Huawei Matebook

In fact, Huawei's first Windows-powered device can turn into a Microsoft Surface-like tablet thanks to a keyboard case attachment that includes a solid-feeling glass trackpad and has an outside enveloped in classy leather.

Starting at $699 or €799 (about £500), it's not your average inexpensive Huawei gadget, but the higher-end design mirrors the specs, so the focus here is more on performance for the value.

 65279 Huawei Matebook
Image credit: T3.com

Design and specs

The Huawei MateBook is ultra-thin, measuring 6.9mm and weighing just 640g. Inside is a dual core Intel Core M processor that's clocked at 3.1GHz.

Like the Huawei MediaPad 2, it feels more expensive than it actually is, and you'll find higher end features like two speakers embeded in the top of the frame.

Huawei Matebook
Image credit: T3.com

There are two options for memory: 4GB and 8GB of RAM, with the latter being the much advised option for running Windows 10 Pro instead of the Windows 10 Home option.

Unlike Apple's tablet, you won't find a 16GB option here. Far from it, in fact. Its SSD storage options start at 128GB, which is where the iPad hits a ceiling.

The Huawei Mate also has options for 256GB in case you want double the internal space, and 512GB if you want to double it again. There's no microSD card slot, sadly, so choose carefully.

Image credit T3 com
Image credit: T3.com

Connections and fingerprint sensor

The MateBook isn't at a loss for wireless connections and sensors. It includes both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, wireless standards 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac MIMO and Bluetooth 4.1.

Sensors consist of an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, Hall effect sensor and a snazzy fingerprint sensor built into the power button. There's also a 5MP fixed focus camera you'll never use.

Huawei Matebook
Image credit: T3.com

The Huawei MateBook's fingerprint sensor is similar to the scanner on the Huawei Mate 8, but it's on the side of the frame here. If you've used the Sony Xperia Z5 anywhere but the US, you'll know how this side-mounted biometric fingerprint sensor works.

Where the Huawei MateBook may fall short at first is with its solo USB C port. As any new MacBook 2015 owner know, it can be a hassle.

Huawei Matebook

Luckily, the company has built an adapter that looks more like a tiny plastic brick. It includes a normal USB ports, an Ethernet port and another USB-C so you can charge and play.

Battery life still needs to be tested in our full review, but we now know that the capacity is 33.7Wh, which translates to 4430mAh. It'll charge quickly via USB C.

Huawei MateBook accessories

The new MateBook is a mobile productivity-focused tablet that tries to pull off being laptop too, and its accessories make that crossover believable.

That leather-clad keyboard, which costs $129 (about £90, AU$180), turns into a triangular stand like an iPad Smart Cover. This one is designed to have two folding positions for use at various angles.

Huawei Matebook
Image credit: T3.com

The MatePen $59 (about £41, AU$83) is Huawei's tricked out take on the Apple Pencil. This stylus recongizes 2,048 levels of sensitivity.

Testing the three buttons on the MatePen, I found that one acts as a customizable app shortcut, one takes a screenshot of whatever is on the tablet and the last is a handy laser pointer.

Huawei Matebook
Image credit: T3.com

Finally, Huawei is offering a MateDock, retailing for $89 (about £62, AU$125), just in case you want to prop up the tablet while charging it, too.

Early verdict

The Huawei MateBook isn't as cheap as most of the company's gadgets because it's taking on new, more expensive challengers, like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface line.

While that's a big step for Huawei and its consumers, the Matebook runs Windows 10 Home or Pro, which is certainly the software that business users are familiar with.

The accessories, especially the MatePen, appear to be genuinely useful and not just afterthoughts to sell with the main product.

All in all, the MateBook is a promising first 2-in-1 from the Chinese company. It manages to feel fresh despite arriving late to the party.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.