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Huawei’s MateBook was the first major product announcement of this year’s Mobile World Congress, and is also the Chinese manufacturer’s first ever Windows tablet.
Launched with a suite of accessories including a keyboard case and MatePen stylus, the 12-inch MateBook is very much aimed at the business user, putting it in the same space as Microsoft’s well-received Surface range. Hardly surprising, given the growth that the segment is experiencing.
Huawei says that the MateBook will start at around $699 when it goes on sale later this year, making it around $100 less expensive that the Surface Pro 4.
So how does it compare to its Microsoft rival?
As a Windows tablet, there’s a lot to like about the MateBook; it’s one of the first devices of its kind to use the new USB-C port, allowing it to be just 6.9mm thin, weighing just 630g – both improvements on the Surface Pro.
While USB-C brings ergonomic advantages, the current lack of peripherals supporting the standard means you’ll most of the time need the accompanying adaptor, which also sports an Ethernet port.
Screen wise, the MateBook can’t match either the Surface Pro 4 or the iPad Pro for pixel density, but nonetheless performs very admirably, with very sharp images and video.
It doesn’t pack the same processing power as its Apple and Microsoft competitors, but at first glance seemed to go about its business in a speedy way.
Huawei reckons you’ll be able to stream 9 hours of video on a single charge, which will handle 13 hours of lighter usage.
The accompanying stylus, the MatePen, seemed on first glance to work as well as the Surface Pen and the Apple Pencil, with the added bonus of a built in laser pointer, useful for presentations and distracting cats.
But what makes or breaks a 2-in-1 tablet is its keyboard case, and while the MateBook’s case is very elegant, the typing experience it offers falls short.
While the Surface Pro 4’s keyboard offers a genuine laptop experience, the MateBook’s keyboard case feels very spongy by comparison, something the productivity users Huawei’s hoping to attract will likely find very off putting.
It’s therefore hard to recommend the MateBook as an alternative to the Surface Pro in its current iteration. It’s a nice first try for Huawei, but not quite there yet.
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