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Huawei Matebook review: This Surface wannabe falls flat -- literally

Huawei's new tablet tries to be the best of Windows and iPad, but Samsung has its number.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
4 min read

What is Huawei? Just a Chinese company that could become the No. 1 phone maker in the world. Did you know the Google Nexus 6P is a Huawei? You do now. But the company's latest device isn't a phone -- it's a 12-inch Windows tablet that's as slim as an iPad Pro. It's just a shame Huawei couldn't match it by every other metric.


Huawei Matebook

The Good

The Huawei Matebook fits a full Windows 10 PC into an iPad-sized tablet chassis. The fingerprint sensor is fast. Its screen and speakers are excellent.

The Bad

You'll get periodic pauses when launching applications or loading web pages, and battery life is merely OK. Huawei charges extra for the keyboard, stylus and dock you'll need in order to use the Matebook like a PC.

The Bottom Line

If you like what the Matebook offers, pick the slightly pricier Samsung Galaxy TabPro S instead. The TabPro S has an even better screen, better battery life and throws the keyboard in for free.

Why to buy

Starting at $699 in the US (roughly £524 or AU$949, though UK and Australian availability is TBD), the Huawei Matebook is one of the first full Windows 10 computers to fit inside an iPad-sized chassis. (Not the 9.7-inch iPad, mind you -- it's closer to the size of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.) The secret sauce is Intel's new Core M processors, which don't require any noisy fans or other ornate, girthy mechanisms to keep cool.

Correction, 12:15pm PT: We mistakenly thought the Matebook was priced at $899 instead of $699, which positions it more favorably. We've updated this review and bumped our rating to a 7.0 (3.5 stars) accordingly.

Enlarge Image

Left: The iPad Pro. Right: The Huawei Matebook.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, it's sleek -- and like an iPad Pro (or Microsoft's bulkier Surface Pro), you can attach a wrap-around keyboard folio to turn this tablet into a far more productive machine. I'm typing this entire review on the Matebook's leather-bound backlit keyboard right now, and while I wouldn't want to type a novel on these fairly stiff keys, they get the job done. The built-in touchpad is impressive too, with an extremely fine surface that makes for accurate mousing.

Meanwhile, the Matebook's ridiculously fast fingerprint sensor logs me into Windows with a snap -- seriously, watch our video above. And the Matebook's screen and speakers are among the best compared to other tablets on the market. I actually enjoy listening to music on these speakers, which CNET tablet expert and resident audiophile Xiomara Blanco assures me is a mighty fine compliment. Just don't expect any bass.


These key components don't come in the Matebook package.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why to avoid

Now that I've made the Huawei Matebook sound like a dream computer, it's time to bring that dream crashing down.

Caveat No. 1: Intel Core M-powered computers aren't all the same. A Core M in a thin tablet like this one is notably weaker than one in a laptop-sized chassis. I was able to get all my work done on the Matebook, but sometimes it would bog down. There'd be a huge pause before applications would launch or web pages would load. Thicker Core M machines haven't given us as much trouble.

Caveat No. 2: The Matebook doesn't actually come with the keyboard. $699 buys you a bare slate, with no way to control it except the touchscreen. That's right: The Matebook isn't even a "book" unless you pay an extra $129. The stylus pen costs $59, and the docking station you'll need in order to add a monitor, pair of USB ports and an Ethernet jack is $89.

Enlarge Image

It doesn't take much to dislodge the Matebook in its second keyboard position.

GIF by Sean Hollister/CNET

The reason you might want that docking station is because a single USB-C port and a 3.5 mm headset jack are the only sockets on this PC. The Matebook does come with a two-piece USB adapter cable if you want to add a traditional thumb drive or mouse, but since that adapter uses the USB-C port, you can't charge the Matebook if you plug in a peripheral.

Caveat No. 3: You may not want to trust that optional keyboard folio to protect your precious PC. When we first saw Huawei's tablet early this year, the keyboard only let you prop the screen up to a single viewing angle. Now, there are two angles -- but the magnets aren't strong enough to keep the screen in the second position if it gets bumped or jolted. I've had the entire computer fall apart in my lap after jostling it.

The solution

But look, the bottom line is this: if you liked the good parts of the Huawei Matebook, you should buy a Samsung Galaxy TabPro S instead. It's the same basic idea as the Matebook -- an iPad-thin Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard -- but it's better in practically every way.

For $899 (on sale now for $799), the TabPro S is even thinner, and yet it has two more hours (7.25 vs. 5.15 hours) of battery life in our streaming media test. It won't be any faster, but it has a richer AMOLED screen -- and all of those benefits cost around the same as a Matebook once you add the keyboard folio you'll need.

Sorry Huawei, you built a decent tablet -- but Samsung did it first, and better.

Multitasking Multimedia Test 3.0 (in seconds)

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 519Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 694Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) 702Huawei MateBook 825Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 856Lenovo Yoga 900S 930
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 3 Multi-Core

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 6775Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) 5879Huawei MateBook 5293Lenovo Yoga 900S 5218Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 4804Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 4722
Note: Longer bars equal better performance

Online Streaming Battery Drain test (in minutes)

Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) 633Lenovo Yoga 900S 571Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 435Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 325Huawei MateBook 309Microsoft Surface Pro 4 298
Note: Longer bars equal better performance

System Configurations

Huawei MateBook Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 256GB SSD
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y57; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128GB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit) 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 900S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 128GB SSD
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) Apple El Capitan OSX 10.11.4; 1.2GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 1536MB Intel HD Graphics 515; 512GB SSD
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel m3-6Y30; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 128GB SSD

Huawei Matebook

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6Battery 6Support 0