Battery Life and Closing Thoughts

With any mobile device, battery life and portability is key. The Huawei MateBook definitely has the portability side of the equation nailed – the device is slim, light and the keyboard dock keeps everything protected. You could justifiably complain about the lack of connectivity on the device without the somewhat clunky MateDock, but if you do not connect external devices to your system, you should not have an issue.

For our battery life testing I used the standard PC Perspective method that set the brightness of the screen to a fixed lux and uses Google Chrome  to circulate through a couple dozen websites, scrolling up and down along the way. By setting the brightness to 180 lux on all tested machines we can be sure that we are measure all notebooks and tablets equally – percentage brightness measurement are useless as 50% on one notebook could be drastically different light output than 50% on another. Using Chrome is also something we carefully selected, as it was BY FAR the most used browser for PC Perspective users. The new Microsoft Edge browser has performance and battery life advantages over Chrome but why report results that are not representative of how users will actually USE the device?

A result of just about 5.5 hours is good for the MateBook, putting it in line with the Surface Pro 4 and the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro from late 2014. The Skylake Core m5-6Y54 is clearly a very efficient part, able to get 15 minutes additional battery life over the Core M 5Y70 in the Yoga 3 Pro despite having a 7 WHr battery deficit. Of course, the more battery you can shove in a device the better, and the Surface Book clearly demonstrates that with more than 9 hours of use in our Wi-Fi battery test. Huawei’s claims of 9-hours of productivity appear to be a bit misleading, as are most battery life scores from notebooks today, but I still came away impressed with how long it lasted for such a thin device.

An external battery pack, similar to what Dell offers for its notebook line, would be a solid addition to the accessory list for the MateBook. It is possible that some other USB-based batteries would charge the MateBook (it does have a USB Type-C charge port after all) though input amperage might be an issue.

Closing Thoughts

The Huawei MateBook is one of a growing list of alternatives to the Microsoft Surface product line. Microsoft might have popularized the form factor but its primary goal was to do this exact thing: spark innovation and growth. The MateBook slims down the tablet portion, at the expensive of some performance, but still provides options for expandability and input with the Portfolio Keyboard and MateDock.

Performance of our testing model with the Core m5-6Y54 Skylake processor, 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage was more than adequate for the basic computing tasks including web browsing, writing, spreadsheets and even some basic photo editing. I was able to compose, edit and produce this entire story on the MateBook without issue and I would wager that 90% of most users would be completely happy with the experience the tablet provides. Gaming was a different story of course and even though I was able to get Rocket League and Overwatch running on this ultra-low power SoC from Intel, it was not an experience that I would wish upon most PC gamers. It will work in pinch if you just NEED to get some CS: Go.

The MateBook falls into a category of Windows-based tablets that I consider much less interesting without accessories. Just like the Surface Pro 4, without its keyboard dock the Huawei MateBook feels lost. You can definitely use the 12-in tablet with your fingers only, but adding the keyboard and touchpad, as well as the stylus, gives the device more life. When using the Portfolio Keyboard, the MateBook becomes a notebook computer and is suitable for both productivity and consumption. The keyboard and touchpad are more than just usable, they are quite comfortable and I found that even typing with the MateBook on my lap while sitting on the couch worked better than expected.

I do wish that I had seen more than the 5.5 hours of in-use battery life from the MateBook than we measured in our standard Wi-Fi battery test. For me, in notebooks, tablets and smartphones, battery life is king above almost everything else. The Surface Pro 4 that I tested, though it was the model with a Core i5 and not a Core m3 processor, showed nearly identical battery life so unless you are willing to go to the Surface Book or to other tablet options, the MateBook seems evenly matched with the current market standards.

Pricing is aggressive as well; Huawei knows they are the newcomer in this field and will need to attract buyers from multiple angles. At the lowest point of entry, with very similar tablet specifications, the MateBook is $200 less than the Surface Pro 4. That price gap widens as you add capacity to memory and story, though you must consider the performance delta as well provided by the Core i5 processor against the Core m5. The Surface Pro 4 Type Cover is $130 ($160 if you want Alcantara fabric or a fingerprint sensor) while the dock (with slightly better connectivity) is $200. The MateBook Portfolio Keyboard is $130 and the MateDock is $90. The MatePen stylus is $60 on top of that – Microsoft ships all Surface devices with the stylus in the box.

Update: The Huawei Matebook is now available on Amazon.com!

Huawei MateBook on the left, Apple iPad Air 2 on the right

In total, to get the full experience with the Huawei MateBook you will have to invest $976 or so. With the Surface Pro 4 that amount is $1,227. You can do a lot with $250 in your pocket.

There are definitely trade-offs but I find that the Huawei MateBook is an excellent tablet and convertible PC that should meet the performance and portability needs for the vast majority of readers. The hardware is sleek and sexy, even when wrapped in the keyboard. Consumers considering an iPad Pro should think about the productivity and software ecosystem differences between Windows and iOS – the chances are you will find this Intel-powered tablet to be more in line with your daily workflow. I know I did.

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