Traditional laptops are becoming outdated as more people realize a 2-in-1 that combines the features of a laptop and a tablet is a better solution. Both Apple and Huawei offer computers in this class, and although one runs iOS and the other Windows, they have similar designs and target markets. We’ve extensively used the iPad Pro and the new MateBook to help you pick the proper mobile computer.
Design and Build
The MateBook has a 12-inch display, making it a fairly large tablet. But it’s not as big as the iPad Pro, which has a 12.9-inch screen. Head-to-head, Huawei’s offering is 11.0 x 7.5 x 0.25 inches and 1.4 pounds. It’s just a bit more portable than Apple’s 12.0 x 8.7 x 0.3 inch and 1.6 pound iPad Pro.
There aren’t many laptops that are smaller than either, even when their optional clip-on keyboards are added, but those looking for a 2-in-1 that’s even more portable should consider the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It’s almost as powerful its sister model, but is the same size as Apple’s earlier iPads.
Both of these devices look professional and are well built. This is no surprise for an Apple product, but some might not be aware of Huawei’s new-found reputation for quality hardware. And it’s actually the fifth largest tablet maker in the world, selling more than Microsoft.
Bigger is better when choosing a screen that will be used for hours at a time, so the iPad Pro has the advantage in this area. Its display is 80 square inches, while the MateBook’s is 67 square inches. The difference is noticeable, especially when combined with the fact that Apple’s panel has a 4:3 aspect ratio and it’s squarer. The MateBook is 3:2, so it’s more letterbox shaped. An approximate way to think of it is that the iPad has an additional inch of display on one long edge.
Another area where the iOS model comes out ahead is in screen resolution. It has a 2732-by-1248 LCD giving it 264 pixels per inch, while the MateBook has a 2160-by-1440 display at 216 pixels per inch. This isn’t a dramatic difference, but Apple’s display is a bit sharper.
In real world use, either of these displays are good enough for virtually all business or personal uses. In our review of the iPad Pro, we said, “Text on the screen looks like it’s printed on paper and images are crystal clear,” while we said the MateBook’s panel “looks quite good in an office environment, with sharp text and vivid colors.”
The other iPad Pro’s 9.7-inch display is a poor choice for all-day use. We consider a 12-inch screen the minimum for that. Still, it’s well suited for people who need a computer they can carry everywhere and frequently pull out to look up specific information.
Ports and I/O
The MateBook heavily depends on its single USB Type-C port to connect to accessories, like an external monitor, flash drives, a mouse, Ethernet networks, etc. This is why those who plan to use this computer as a true laptop or desktop replacement should strongly consider investing in the Huawei MateDock.
Similarly, the Lightning port on the iPad Pro is this computer communicates with flash drives, an external monitor, and similar non-wireless peripherals. iOS software for this isn’t as sophisticated as Windows, so the MateBook is the better tablet to be turned into a desktop.
There is a special port on a long edge of each of these 2-in-1s for communicating with their optional keyboards, plus there are other accessories for the Apple model.
Notably absent from both devices is a memory card slot. These can be added through the USB-C or Lightning port, however.
Both have a physical power button, as well as volume controls. Huawei didn’t put in a hardware Windows button, but this tablet doesn’t need one. Apple included its Home button, of course, and this also functions as a fingerprint scanner, making it easier to unlock the computer and make online purchases. The MateBook’s fingerprint reader sits between the volumes up and down keys.
Huawei put a 5MP front-facing camera in its tablet, while Apple went for a 1.2 MP shooter. Either of these is good enough for video conferencing. The iPad Pro also has an 8MP rear camera, but its rival lacks one, which hardly matters because a 12- to 13-inch tablet doesn’t make a very good platform for taking pictures.
The MateBook has a pair speaker on its top edge, and the iPad Pro doubles that with two on each of its left and right edges, giving it an advantage in sound output. None of these are actually pointed toward the user, but toward the sides.
Keyboard and Stylus
Although generally classified as 2-in-1s, neither of these comes bundled with a clip-on keyboard; still, their makers each produce one specifically for their respective products, and we recommend them for people who intend to use either of these computers like laptops.
The Apple Smart Keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro sells for $169, while the version for the 9.7-inch model is $149. The Huawei Portfolio Keyboard is $129. While these significantly increase the purchase price, a 2-in-1 is much easier to use than a slate tablet for large amounts of text input, and these can also function as stand when watching video.
Some might question why we recommend a tablet/keyboard combo rather than a traditional laptop. A tablet makes a great eBook reader, and it’s really the best option available for casual web surfing while watching TV. That said, there no better solution for writing emails or reports than a physical keyboard. Only a 2-in-1 offers both of these.
The Huwaei MatePen and the Apple Pencil are pressure-sensitive styli designed specifically for these devices, but sold separately. The iPad solution is very good for both artists and note-takers, but the MateBook’s is suited best for notes.
Huawei offers the MateBook with either a dual-core 2.2 GHz Intel Core m3 processor, or a faster 2.7GHz Core m5 chip. The Core m series is designed for consumer devices, but it offers better performance than Intel’s Atom series.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is built around a 2.24 GHz dual-core Apple A9X processor, while the 9.7-Inch version has a 2.16 GHz version. The A9X is the most powerful processor available in an Apple tablet.
Comparing the Geekbench 3 benchmarks of these devices, the 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro outscored the MateBook with a Core m5 chip. The m3 version of Huawei’s tablet came in at 4660.
Geekbench 3 Processor Benchmark (higher scores are better)
Neither of these 2-in-1s comes with a fan, and the iPad Pro certainly doesn’t need one. However, the aluminum back plate on our Core m5 MateBook test model gets warm when playing video. This reflects that Windows demands much more on a processor than iOS.
The larger version of Apple’s tablet includes 4GB of RAM, a really immense amount for an iOS device, while the smaller version has 2GB, which is adequate. The situation is similar with the Huawei device, which is available with either a generous 8GB or a tolerable 4GB of RAM.
The MateBook comes with a 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB solid state drive (SSD), while Apple offers its computer in 32GB, 128GB, or 256GB. In addition to the higher capacity version, an SSD is generally preferable to the eMMC memory in the iPad.
An in-depth comparison of iOS and Windows is beyond the scope of this review. However, we will say that the two have different design philosophies: Microsoft builds Windows to be powerful and flexible so it can serve as the only operating system anyone needs. The software on the iPad Pro, on the other hand, was designed to be simpler and easier to use than a traditional laptop, but without as much functionality.
Those looking for a mobile computer primarily to access the Web, email, social networks, and Microsoft Office files will be satisfied with either of these, and might find the MateBook to be more than they need. Conversely, those who really have to have access to the most powerful business software won’t be satisfied with the iPad Pro.
Both these devices come with a/b/g/n/ac MIMO dual-band (2.4/5 GHz) WiFi. Huawei’s has Bluetooth 4.1, but Apple went for the newer Bluetooth 4.2, and also offers versions of the iPad Pro with built-in 4G LTE. This brings nearly ubiquitous Internet access via any of the top U.S. wireless telecoms, as well as LTE networks around the world. There’s not a version of the MateBook with integrated 4G.
In our “torture test” continuously playing video, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro lasted more than 8 hours. In a similarly demanding test of a MateBook with the Core m5 processor, this model went for just 4 hours. We made a 9.7-inch iPad Pro endure this same test, and it went 5 hours and 20 minutes.
Huawei put just a 4430 mAh battery in its tablet, while Apple built a healthy 10,307 mAh one into its 12.9-inch iPad Pro and a 7,306 mAh battery in the 9.7-inch model.
The base model MateBook is $699, and comes with a Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The similarly equipped 12.9-inch iPad Pro with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB eMMC is $949, dramatically higher. A version of the 7.9-inch iPad Pro with 2GB of RAM and 128GB eMMC is $749, still more than the Huawei product.
The clip-on keyboards and active pens for all of these models are extras, and Apple’s offerings generally cost more, so they don’t change the calculation.
The least expensive 12.9-inch iPad is $799; it has just 32GB of built-in storage, however, and is still pricey than the base MateBook.
In this head-to-head comparison, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a better display, a much longer battery life, and 4G LTE options. The Apple Pencil also makes it a better solution for digital artists. On the other hand, we prefer the MateBook’s USB-C port, this model has larger storage options, and it is significantly more affordable.
That final consideration is quite possibly the most important one: the Huawei MateBook sells for so much less than the similarly-equipped iPad that a majority of people who truly have no opinion in the Windows vs. iOS debate should probably go that direction.