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Huawei MateBook 13 first-look review: the new king of ultraportables?

Huawei MateBook 13 review

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CES 2019‘s headlines may have been dominated by flexible screens and a flood of video doorbells, but we also saw some super new laptops. And I’d go so far as to say the Huawei MateBook 13 is the best of them all.

Curiously, it was also the most subdued of releases. Before I left for Vegas, I asked Huawei if they were holding any press events. Nope, came the reply. And then, walking through the main hall, I stumbled across the Huawei MateBook 13.

Brief Tech Questions: Huawei MateBook 13

How much does it look like the MacBook Air?You know identical twins? It’s a little like that
And why are you so excited?Because it’s a top-quality laptop and is likely to cost less than £1,000
Is it going to be fast?I think so. The only thing holding it back is 8GB of RAM, but Huawei is using powerful Intel Core processors and fast SSDs
Battery life?Huawei claims about ten hours, so we’ll scale that down to around seven in general use
Can it play challenging games?Two specs are set for release, with the more expensive one including GeForce MX150 graphics – and these can handle games at modest settings
Anything special about the screen?Not really, but the 13in touch-sensitive panel looked great on the showfloor, and a 2,160 x 1,440 resolution is a good choice for a screen this size

Huawei MateBook 13 review: design touches

There are several reasons why I like the Huawei MateBook 13’s design. The first is that it’s solid metal – to be precise, an aluminium alloy that’s been sandblasted to give it a pleasant-feeling texture.

Huawei has three colour options, none of which photograph particularly well on a showfloor with horrendous strip lighting. So you’ll have to trust me when I say that the “cherry powder gold” is the pick of the options.

Sadly, outside of China it looks like Huawei will sell the MateBook 13 in only silver and dark grey, which are both fine but a bit boring. Let’s hope the company changes its mind on that front.

The screen fills 88% of the front, which is enough to give it a premium design – with bezels measuring only 4.4mm, I’m also thankful that it squeezes in a proper webcam.

One of the four plastic blobs – sorry, feet

My only slight reservation are over the four big blobs of plastic that serve as feet. They keep the MateBook 13 glued to the desk, but won’t win over aesthetes.

Huawei MateBook 13 first-look review: power on demand?

Huawei is selling two specs for the MateBook 13. In “space grey”, you get a Core i7-8565U processor, 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics, 8GB of memory and a 512GB PCIe SSD. That goes on sale for $1,299 in the US.

For $999 our American friends can buy a Core i5-8265U processor with Intel UHD Graphics 620, the same 8GB of memory and a 256GB PCIe SSD. This time, the only colour is silver.

Note we don’t yet have word on price or availability in the UK.

I’m not too worried about 8GB of RAM. That’s fine for most people’s daily needs, and with a bit of housekeeping a 256GB SSD should be fine too. I’d even question whether most people would benefit from the slightly greater speed of the Core i7 chip to its Core i5 brother: both are fine choices for pretty much every use.

That means the biggest reason to buy the higher spec is the GeForce graphics, which will make unplayable games playable. It helps that Huawei has bumped up the fans in this design, with its “Shark Fin Design 2.0 cooling solution” giving 25% more airflow than “conventional laptop fans”, according to Huawei. I look forward to seeing how it performs in our tests.

Huawei MateBook 13: specifications

  • Intel Core i5-8265U or Intel Core i7-8565U processor (top spec)
  • Intel Ultra UHD Graphics 620 or Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics (top spec)
  • 256GB NVMe PCIe SSD or 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD (top spec)
  • 8GB LPDDR3 2,133MHz memory
  • 13in touchscreen with 2,160 x 1,440 resolution
  • 2 x USB-C 3.1 ports (left supports data transfer and charging, right supports data transfer and DisplayPort)
  • 3.5mm 2-in-1 audio jack
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
  • 1MP webcam (above screen)
  • 41.7Wh battery
  • 1.3kg weight
  • 286 x 211 x 14.9mm (width x depth x height)

Huawei MateBook 13 review: should you buy it?

If you’re reading this with a grand burning in your pocket, trying to decide whether you should rush out and buy some other ultraportable, then I’d say wait. Come the end of January, we should have prices for the Huawei MateBook 13, and will have hopefully put the new Dell XPS 13 through its paces too.

From what I saw of both laptops at CES, the MateBook 13 appears to have the edge – particularly if you’re after something with a splash of style.

READ NEXT: What are the best bits of CES 2019?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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