Huawei MateBook 13 first-look review: Ultraportable excellence

Tim Danton
17 Jul 2019

Fancy buying a top-quality, lightweight 13in laptop for under a grand? The Huawei MateBook 13 is a contender.

If you’ve got a grand to spend on a laptop in 2019, you should seriously consider the Huawei MateBook 13. Unveiled at this year’s CES show, it scores the holy trinity when it comes to ultraportables: a phenomenal screen, perfect proportions and all the power and battery life most people need. It’s reminiscent of the Apple MacBook Air, but more stylish.

Let’s start with the design. Of all the colour models on offer - dark grey, light grey and what Huawei is calling “cherry powder cold” - it’s the latter that stands out. It may sound odd, but trust me: this is the lightest of plum colours and it looks great.

With a sandblasted, matte finish it makes the MacBook Air seem dull, and because it measures 14.9mm thick it will fit nicely into a bag. I only have one qualm, which is the size of the plastic modules on its underside. They grip surfaces but, to my eyes at least, look unsightly.

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Huawei MateBook 13 review: Key specifications, price and release date

  • 13in, 2,160 x 1,440 touchscreen IPS display
  • Intel Core i5-8265U or Core i7-8564U processor
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620 (plus NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics in Core i7 configuration)
  • 256GB/512GB NVMe PCIe storage
  • 8GB LPDDR3 2,133MHz memory
  • Dimensions: 14.9mm 29.9 x 410 x 320mm (HWD)
  • Weight: 1.3kg
  • Battery: 42Wh (typical capacity)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • UK price: TBC
  • UK release: TBC

Huawei MateBook 13 review: Display, performance and battery life

The 13in touchscreen fills around 90% of the front and has a glossy finish that makes movies look stunning. Sure, it doesn’t have the eye-popping brightness of AMOLED as showcased in the HP Spectre x360, but you’d only notice that if you placed them side by side.

Besides, most people will be happy to sacrifice some brightness for battery life, and Huawei is claiming ten hours of video playback at 150cd/m2 for, we imagine, the Core i5 version. I’d expect this to be a little less for the Core i7 configuration, which includes Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics to complement the Intel Ultra HD 620.

If you can afford it, that more expensive option makes a lot of sense. That GeForce chip is powerful enough to play the majority of games, although you will have to drop the resolution and quality settings for the most demanding titles.

Huawei claims the grille on the bottom helps with thermal management, which will be interesting to put to the test. Of all the ultraportables we’ve seen recently, only the Dell XPS 13 takes such things seriously enough to keep the laptop at full power for a prolonged period of time. And if you’ve paid the extra £300 for the more powerful configuration, you may as well take full advantage.

Huawei MateBook 13 review: Early verdict

I really only have one proper negative point about the MateBook 13, and that’s the keyboard. There’s none of the cushioned feel you get from the best keyboards - think Lenovo’s ThinkPad and, again, the XPS 13 - but I’m being fussy. It’s fine.

What really impresses me about the MateBook 13 is that it’s a step forward from the MateBook X Pro, which was itself an excellent laptop. What’s more, there’s no stupid placement of the webcam here: it sits above the screen, like all webcams should, avoiding the pop-up design of the X Pro.

While we haven’t had the chance to properly test the MateBook 13, and so don’t know exactly how fast it is under pressure, we’ve seen enough to know this is going to be one of the best-selling laptops of 2019.

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