The Huawei MateBook Review: A Denial-of-Surface Attack
A new competitor has entered the arena!
When we first saw the announcement of the MateBook in Spain back in March, pricing was immediately impressive. The base model of the tablet starts at just $699; $200 less than the lowest-priced Surface Pro 4, with features and performance that pretty closely match one another.
The MateBook only ships with Core m processors, a necessity of the incredibly thin and fanless design that Huawei is using. That obviously will put the MateBook behind other tablets and notebooks that use the Core i3/i5/i7 processors, but with a power consumption advantage along the way. Honestly, the performance differences between the Core m3 and m5 and m7 parts is pretty small – all share the same 4.5 watt TDP and all have fairly low base clock speeds and high boost clocks. The Core m5-6Y54 that rests in our test sample has a base clock of 1.1 GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost clock of 2.7 GHz. The top end Core m7-6Y75 has a base of 1.2 GHz and Boost of 3.1 GHz. The secret of course is that these processors run at Turbo clocks very infrequently; only during touch interactions and when applications demand performance.
If you work-load regularly requires you to do intensive transcoding, video editing or even high-resolution photo manipulation, the Core m parts are going to be slower than the Core i-series options available in other solutions. If you just occasionally need to use an application like Photoshop, the MateBook has no problems doing so.
|Huawei MateBook Tablet PC|
|Screen||12-in 2160x1440 IPS|
|CPU||Core m3||Core m3||Core m5||Core m5||Core m7||Core m7|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 515|
|Network||802.11ac MIMO (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz)
Gigabite Ethernet (MateDock)
|Display Output||HDMI / VGA (through MateDock)|
|Connectivity||USB 3.0 Type-C
USB 3.0 x 2 (MateDock)
|Audio||Dual Digital Mic
|Weight||640g (1.41 lbs)|
|Dimensions||278.8mm x 194.1mm x 6.9mm
(10.9-in x 7.6-in x 0.27-in)
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home / Pro|
Update: The Huawei Matebook is now available on Amazon.com!
At the base level, both the Surface Pro 4 and the MateBook have identical specs, but the Huawei unit is priced $200 lower. After that, things get more complicated as the Surface Pro 4 moves to Core i5 and Core i7 processors while the MateBook sticks with m5 and m7 parts. Storage capacities and memory size scale though. The lowest entry point for the MateBook to get 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory is $999 and comes with a Core m5 processor; a comparable Surface Pro 4 uses a Core i5 CPU instead but will run you $1199. If you want to move from 256GB to 512GB of storage, Microsoft wants $400 more for your SP4, while Huawei’s price only goes up $200.
The MateBook peaks at a Core m7 processor, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of SSD storage, and will run you $1599. If you want to, Microsoft will let you purchase a Surface Pro 4 with 16GB of memory, a 1TB SSD, and a Core i7 processor for $2699.
A performance delta between Intel’s Core m-series and Core i-series definitely exists, but the question you will have to ask is whether you need that in your tablet or notebook replacement. For me, the vast majority of the work I do takes place in a browser or Office document; that includes emails, writing articles, and running basic spreadsheets. In my time with the MateBook I never felt held back, even when running a bit of Photoshop on the side. If I were to purchase one of these outright I would probably spring for the model with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage for $999, just for a bit more peace of mind and headroom for open applications. Yes, the Surface Pro 4 is going to be faster than the MateBook in benchmarks and performance hungry applications – the question is, how much do you care?
Accessories for both devices are in the same price range and I would argue are essential to making either tablet a solid work machine. We will discuss those more a bit later.
The MateBook Design
The Huawei MateBook looks great. It is an incredibly thin device that feels well built and has the material makeup to make a very strong first impression. It is lighter than and exactly as thin as the 12-in iPad Pro which is an impressive feat from the first time PC builder.
The only connection (save the 3.5mm audio jack) on the MateBook is a USB 3.0 Type-C port that provides data and accessory connectivity as well as power input. The tablet will ship with a power adapter and one Type-C to micro-USB converter, and an optional dock is available to offer expansion for standard USB, display output, and hardwired network connectivity. Not having a standard USB port on the machine is definitely a drawback, and will require a bit of planning on your part.
The top button on the tablet is your wake and power button. Around the corner you will find the hardware volume rocker with a very capable and impressively thin fingerprint reader. I set up Windows Hello (a stupid name) with it and it works great – very fast and very accurate despite the small size.
At the top of the bezel is a basic webcam for conferencing and Skype calls. It works as expected.
The speakers are located along the top of the MateBook and they sound as good as you could expect for a tablet this thin. Without space for a lot of air movement, they sound hollow. They do get quite loud though, so if you are listening to spoken content and need pure volume, the MateBook has you covered. I would put the sound quality on par with other ultra-thin notebooks.
Along the left corner we find a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a single microphone for audio conferencing.
Finally, on the bottom of the MateBook is a connection used to mount the tablet to the keyboard dock and portfolio. Not using Bluetooth for the keyboard and touchpad should mean less battery consumption when working on the device and it also allows the keyboard to get power to illuminate the keys without needing a battery.