Core i9 power and a price cut punts Huawei’s excellent 16in laptop to the top of the pile
- Expansive 3:2 2.5K touchscreen
- Stunning value
- Physically identical to the 2022 model
- Subdivided SSD
- No upgrade options
The Huawei MateBook 16s was one of our favourite laptops of 2022. The combination of a spacious 16in touchscreen, excellent speaker system, good performance and long battery life, all wrapped up in a slim and solid body, made it the perfect general-purpose laptop for home or on-the-go use.
It helped that it was one of the new breed of Huawei laptops that dispensed with some of the more outlandish design choices of previous years, such as hiding the webcam under a fake Fn key from where it looked directly up your nose during video calls.
When Huawei announced the 2023 model, I expected great things but, alas, I’ve been left feeling slightly disappointed. While the 2023 MateBook 16s is a step forward, it isn’t as big an advance as it could or should have been.
Huawei MateBook 16s review: What you need to know
If you put the 2022 and 2023 MateBook 16s models side-by-side and asked me to tell the two apart even I couldn’t do it. They are exactly the same in size, shape, weight and colour. The only option is a pretty uninspired silver-grey called Space Grey.
Now, there was nothing wrong with the design of the 2022 16s, it was a clean, modern, efficient if rather uninspired, piece of product realisation. But if you look at it alongside the latest machines from Asus and Apple, it’s, well, a little uninspiring.
The big difference is the new CPU. Out goes the 14-core Alder Lake Core i7-12700H and in comes a 14-core Raptor Lake Core i9-13900H. The main difference here is the maximum Turbo frequency. The Core i7 ran out of puff at 4.7GHz but the new i9 can hit 5.4GHz.
Huawei has also made a small improvement to the display but again not to the degree I had expected as its still the same resolution (2.5K) and still uses IPS panel technology. All told, then, Huawei has done enough to keep the MateBook 16s competitive but it should have stretched that bit further to grasp true excellence.
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Huawei MateBook 16s review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: Intel Core i9-13900H CPU, Iris Xe integrated GPU, 16GB RAM,1TB SSD, 16in 2,520 x 1,680 IPS touchscreen, 84Wh battery. Price: £1,099
The 2023 MateBook 16s comes in one flavour and this will set you back £1,099, which for a machine with this sort of specification is insanely good value.
If you want a general-purpose 16in notebook and money is not an issue, then it’s hard not to gravitate towards the Apple MacBook Pro 16. The almost-4K Mini LED display is a thing of wonder to behold, and the battery life is epic. Of course, there is a small matter of the price: it starts at £2,599 or £2,799 if you want a 1TB SSD.
Asus’ new Vivobook S15 OLED has a rather old-school 15.6in Full HD display but it’s a sumptuous OLED affair with wide colour reproduction. You also get a numeric keypad, an excellent speaker system and decent battery life, all bundled up in a very stylish MIL-STD-810H-tested body. At £1,089 it’s nearly as good value as the Huawei.
The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus has just been updated with an RTX 4060 GPU and i7-13700H chip and has a 120Hz 2.5K display for just £1,249, which is also excellent value. As an all rounder, the Dell takes some beating but it lacks the Huawei’s touch interface.
Acer’s Swift Edge, meanwhile, is a featherweight at just 1.17kg and comes with a 16in 3,840 x 2,400 OLED display. The performance from the AMD Ryzen 7 chipset can’t match the new Vivobook, nor does the speaker quality or battery life, but if you carry your laptop around a lot, the weight saving could tip the balance. At £1,500, the Swift is good value when compared to anything other than the MateBook 16s.
Huawei MateBook 16s review: Design and build quality
At just under 18mm thick and with a 351 x 255mm desktop footprint, Huawei has done an excellent job squeezing a powerful 16in laptop into a small package. The 16in Macbook Pro may be a little thinner and shallower, but it’s deeper and heavier at 2.15kg to the MateBook’s 1.99kg.
The metal-bodied Huawei feels solid and looks every inch a premium product. The lid is especially resilient to flexing when given a good hard twist, and while it doesn’t fold all the way back to 180 degrees, the 165-odd degrees it does manage is enough for knees-up couch slouching.
For such a slender machine, the range of I/O ports is good, too. You get a pair of USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports on the right, two USB-C ports on the left (one Thunderbolt 4 spec and one USB 3.2 Gen 2 with DisplayPort support). You can connect the supplied 60W USB-C charger to either. The left edge is also home to an HDMI 2.1 port and a 3.5mm audio jack but there’s still no memory card reader, which is a disappointment.
Wireless communications are handled by an Intel AX211 card, which supports 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, and Huawei has introduced a new “metaline” antenna, which it says can pull in a signal from over 270m away.
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Huawei MateBook 16s review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam
The chiclet keyboard is a direct carry-over from the 2022 model. It’s impressively solid given how thin the chassis is, and the keys themselves have 1.5mm of travel and a pleasantly soft bounce at their end stop. The two-stage backlight gives you plenty of options for working in the dark.
The layout is nigh-on perfect with everything exactly where it should be. The only thing out of the ordinary is the dedicated key in the middle of the Function row to launch Windows’ voice typing feature, but that’s a feature I rather like.
A fingerprint scanner is built into the power button, which sits above the right-hand speaker grille, far removed from the risk of accidental pressing but again, there’s no support for Windows Hello facial recognition – something else Huawei could have added to the mix for 2023. Below the keyboard is a big 140 x 90mm glass-covered touchpad. This is pleasant to the touch but it has a rather shallow click action.
The 1080p webcam was a star of the 2022 model, and the new 16s packs what appears to be an identical module. It certainly looks the same and comes with Huawei’s useful AI Camera software, which can create a virtual background, keep your gaze on the camera or keep your head in the middle of the frame. As is usual with such systems, you can only use one function at a time.
There’s also a beautifying feature that makes your complexion look better than it is and gives the impression you’ve dropped a few pounds. Vanity, thy name is Huawei.
Huawei MateBook 16s review: Display and audio
The display in the new MateBook 16s is significantly brighter than the 2022 model, peaking at 500cd/m2 versus 342cd/m2 last year. That’s quite a jump and makes the new machine one of the brighter laptops on the market. It’s just as impressively colour-accurate as the 2022 model, with a Delta E variance of just 1.1 vs the sRGB profile, which is an excellent result. Here, as ever, the lower the score, the better.
The display resolution itself is slightly different on the 2023 model: 2,520 x 1,680 rather than 2,580 x 1,680. That makes it a perfect 3:2 aspect ratio, although the pixel density drops (imperceptibly) from 192ppi to 189ppi.
It’s a shame Huawei hasn’t dialed up the colour coverage to match the brightness. The sRGB gamut representation of 94.8% is good enough but that only translates to 65.3% of Adobe RGB and 67.1% of DCI-P3, which is not good enough for a laptop costing this much. Another thing that’s disappointing about the screen is that the refresh rate is a standard 60Hz. For this money, I’d expect at the very least 90Hz these days.
Those gripes aside, the display does look good to the naked eye. It’s crisp and colourful and the 3:2 aspect ratio and the ten-point multi-touch interface make it supremely versatile for work or play.
The speaker system is truly excellent, as well, and produces plenty of volume – 78.5dBA, from a pink noise source at 1m. The sound is rich and detailed, with plenty of bass to underpin proceedings and the soundscape as a whole benefits hugely from the speakers firing up through grilles on either side of the keyboard rather than downwards, as is more common. That’s why there’s no space for a numeric keypad.
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Huawei MateBook 16s (2023) review: Performance and battery life
Our standard 4K multi-media benchmark returned a score of 406 on the new MateBook 16s – a 42% increase on the Alder Lake Intel Core i7-12700H model and a mightily impressive score for a laptop. Apple’s fire-breathing M2 Pro-based MacBook Pro only scored 12 points higher. The Cinebench R23 scores of 2,034 single-core and 16,211 multi-core tell the same story: The MateBook 16s has a very healthy turn of speed.
As with other Huawei laptops, hitting FN+P puts the system into performance mode, but all this does is push the fans a little harder for a minor increase in performance. The cooling system itself is impressively quiet: Even when running at full chat, the twin fans never make more than a moderate humming noise.
Lacking a discrete GPU, the MateBook 16s is no gaming machine, but it has the raw power to run the 2020 first-person shooter Serious Sam 4 at 53.3fps in Full HD resolution, which is far from shabby. It’s only in really graphically intense workloads that the MateBook struggles: the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D-modelling test ran at a pedestrian 16fps.
The Phison PCIe 4 SSD inside the 16s proved faster than that fitted to the 2022 model by some margin, recording sequential read and write speeds of 3,990MB/sec and 3,374MB/sec, respectively. You can’t remove or upgrade this, though. Although removing the base plate from the 16s is a straightforward operation, there’s not much point, as all you can do once you get inside is swap out the SSD.
As is usual with laptops destined primarily for the Chinese market, the MateBook’s 1TB SSD is subdivided into a 200GB Windows C: drive and a Local Disk D: drive for the rest. The historical reasons for this are just that, so it’s about time that Huawei started using unified drive spaces.
Huawei has, however, done a good job with the new MateBook’s system optimisation because the battery life has increased by nearly 2hrs 45mins, despite the fact that the new model runs on a more powerful CPU and has the same capacity (84Wh) battery.
It lasted a highly creditable 12hrs 36mins in our standard video rundown test using VLC, even if it’s slightly shy of the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus and well adrift of the latest 14in M3 MacBook Pro, which lasted 15hrs 43mins.
Huawei MateBook 16s review: Verdict
All the features that made the 2022 MateBook 16s a favourite last year are still present and correct: the expansive 3:2 touch screen, the excellent sound system and the low-profile chassis. The extra performance from the Raptor Lake Core i9 processor and increased battery life are most welcome, as is the increased brightness levels of the display.
The most important feature of the new MateBook 16s, however, is the price. For the current price of £1,099, it’s an absolute steal and it’s pretty impressive at the list price of £1,499. I would have liked Huawei to be just a bit more adventurous in the design department with its 2023 refresh but, at this price, whose complaining?