Instead of a new smartphone Huawei unveiled its first convertible Windows 10 tablet at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, the Huawei MateBook.
To be precise, Huawei introduced a 12-inch 2-in-1 with Windows 10, along with an optional keyboard, pen, and dock. At a glance, it has exceptionally elegant dimensions, as well as a modern and credible finish. But during some hands-on time with the device at the show, certain shortcoming become apparent to the team at TabletPCReview.
At only 6.9 mm (.27 inches) thick, the MateBook is as slim as an iPad Pro, and slimmer than all Microsoft Surface models. It’s also lighter than both models, weighing only 640 grams (1.4 pounds). When held in hand, it seems exceptionally light for a device of its size. At the same time, it feels solid and sturdy thanks to its metal unibody. Just like the similar Galaxy TabPro S, the MateBook is figuratively light on ports and inputs. It only sports a power key with the fingerprint reader, volume controls, USB Type-C connector, and the keyboard connectors.
The IPS LED screen has a 2160 x 1440 pixel resolution, which is somewhat less than similarly-sized Surface Pro 4 (2736 x 1824 pixels). This is not noticeable at first glance, but those who have already tested the Microsoft tablet will spot that certain objects appear a bit larger on the MateBook, suggesting it has less display area overall.
Despite this, the imaging seems exceptionally sharp; however, it loses contrast when the tablet is tilted forward or backwards, meaning it has a slightly narrower viewing angle than expected. Additionally, maximum brightness is not as bright as we like to see in a portable device.
This is in stark contrast to the Surface Pro 4, which has one of the best displays on the market, and the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S. Samsung’s thin Windows 10 2-in-1 has an OLED display that blows just about any LED display out of the water.
The $129 optional keyboard also looks great, but using it reveals flaws.
Even though the keys run solid 1.5 mm deep (unlike 1.3 mm on the Surface Type Covers), there is no space whatsoever between the keys, like on the early Surface Type Covers. It’s too easy to make a mistake or press two keys at one time.
While designing the new Surface Type Cover and iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, both Apple and Microsoft put in an extraordinary amount of time and effort into calculating the ideal space between keys for a practical and comfortable typing experience. Huawei has absolutely neglected the fact that there should be at least some space.
There are also overall design issues. The impracticality in which the keyboard cover folds into the triangular tablet stand makes it impossible to use as a literal lap top, or really anywhere outside of a desk or other stable and flat surface.
On the other hand, the keyboard is waterproof, which is praiseworthy. It also looks nice, and it fits perfectly with MateBook, aesthetically speaking.
Huawei is also offering a Wacom-powered MatePen for $59, which is a stylus with 2048 pressure-point levels, as well as a PowerPoint clicker and a laser pointer. It looks fragile and feels every bit of its plastic build, but it did a solid job during our time with it. It’s thicker than we would have liked, which can easily lead to a tired hand. But it’s easy to get used to drawing or writing with the MatePen on MateBook’s display.
Finally, the MateDock will set you back $89. This docking station isn’t so much a dock as it is something that plugs into the MateBook and sits by its side. It includes HDMI, VGA, Ethernet and USB hubs.
In terms of specs, the MateBook ships with an Intel Core m3 processor for its basic configuration, with Core m5 and Core m7 also available, with 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM and an SSD ranging from 128 GB to 512 GB.
The basic model will set you back $699, while the most powerful MateBook will cost $1599. Since we still don’t know the TabPro S price, it’s impossible to tell if this is a competitive price for this form factor. That said, a Core m3-powered Surface Pro 4 with 4GB of RAM costs $799 as of this writing, and it ships with a Surface Pen.
The MateBook will reach US, European and Asian markets in March.