Huawei Matebook review - a super slim Surface Pro 4 rival
Processor: Dual-core 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54, RAM: 4GB, Dimensions: 279x6.9x194mm, Weight: 640g, Screen size: 12in, Screen resolution: 2,160x1,440, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics 515, Total storage: 128GB SSD
Huawei’s no stranger to making beautiful, metal clad smartphones, but now it’s trying its hand at the premium 2-in-1 game with its very first Windows 10 hybrid, the Huawei Matebook. It follows a similar line to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro, consisting of a high-end tablet that docks into an accompanying keyboard stand case for when you want to get some work done.
At the moment, the Matebook still doesn’t have a confirmed UK price or release date, but I’m expecting prices to start from around £600 based on current US and EU prices. That price will obviously vary depending on which specification you go for - the Core m5 model I was sent for review is likely to be around £700, for example - but regardless of which version you go for, it’s likely you’ll still have to pay around another £100 to get the keyboard case, as this doesn’t come bundled with the tablet. As always, I’ll update this review as soon as I have more concrete pricing information, but for the time being, I’ll be basing this review off my current estimated pricing.
Either way, it’s an early jab at the Surface Pro 4, as even Microsoft’s entry-level Core m3 model still costs £750 - and that’s without the extra £110 you’ll need to spend to get the TouchCover keyboard. Otherwise you’re looking at £850 for the basic Core i5 Surface Pro 4, which then rises to £960 with the keyboard. That’s a huge saving, and Huawei’s stunning design work gives no indication that any corners have been cut on this Matebook upstart.
Design and connections
Measuring just 6.9mm thick and weighing a meagre 640g, this anodised gold-tinted metal slate is absolutely gorgeous in the flesh, and it makes the Surface Pro 4 look positively slab-like in comparison. It’s 73g lighter than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, too, which puts them roughly on the par given the Matebook's 12in display.
However, part of the reason for its svelte dimensions is because you only get one port, namely a single USB3-Type C connector that does double duty as the tablet’s power supply and general port for connecting additional adaptors. As a result, you’ll need to take it off the mains if you want to connect an external device to the Matebook, although you will eventually be able to buy a dock that allows you to do both. Huawei hasn’t yet said how much this will cost, but it will give you two USB3 ports, an Ethernet port and HDMI and VGA outputs, so you’ll probably want to factor one into your budget in order to increase the Matebook’s overall versatility.
Of course, all these additional purchases do start to eat into the Matebook’s lead on price, but at least it should be able to provide a decent boost in speed over the entry level Surface Pro 4. Our review sample, for instance, came equipped with a dual-core 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 processor and 4GB of RAM, but there will also be cheaper Core m3 models available if you’d rather save even more money, as well as more powerful Core m7 versions.
Our Core m5 variant proved more than capable of running Windows 10 smoothly, though, and its performance in our 4K multimedia benchmarks was also very admirable, scoring 26 overall. It handled everyday tasks such as word processing, basic image manipulation and web browsing without a hitch, and the rear of the tablet never became uncomfortably hot. However, with a multi-tasking score of just 6, the Matebook will struggle to keep up if you throw multiple demanding workloads at it at once, such as intensive video editing.
Unsurprisingly, it's not really cut out for playing games, as its integrated Intel HD Graphics 515 chip simply couldn’t handle our usual PC gaming tests, even on the very lowest settings. It can manage titles intended for mobile devices and I was even able to play action games like Bastion without a drop in the frame rate.
However, the Matebook’s biggest flaw is its battery life. Lasting just 6 hours in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to our standard measurement of 170cd/m2, the Matebook’s longevity pales in comparison to the Surface Pro 4, which lasted 7h 40m under the same conditions. It also falls behind the iPad Pro, which lasted an even more impressive 9h 8m.
As a result, you definitely won’t want to leave the house without the charger, as it’s probably unlikely you’ll get a full day’s use out of it before it runs out of power. The USB power plug also lacks the handy extra USB port you’ll find on the Surface Pro 4’s charger, which once again underlines just how inflexible the Matebook is compared to its rival.