We review Huawei’s 13-inch notebook
Huawei is officially entering cut-throat notebook space with their new MateBook 13 ultrabook. Announced back in January, the MateBook 13 is aimed at professionals looking for a good-looking notebook that’s fairly powerful at a better price point than its competitors. Priced at Php 55,990 for the Core i5 variant and Php 69,990 for the Core i7 version, the MateBook 13 is a great option for people looking for a good deal on a work machine.
No hiding the inspiration
It’s pretty obvious that Huawei took a lot of design “inspiration” from Apple’s own MacBook Air when you first see the MateBook. That aluminum chassis plus limited I/O ports (we’ll get to that in a bit), as well as the black, chicklet keys all scream MacBook Air.
That being said, build quality is pretty good. The chassis is aluminum like we said, and comes in two colors: silver and grey. There’s no weird flex on the hinge, and the lid feels extraordinarily solid. The design is pretty pleasing to the eye too, with only Huawei’s logo breaking the monotonous, smooth exterior of the MateBook 13’s lid.
The chassis of the notebook is meticulously chamfered, and you can tell the utmost care that Huawei put into making this notebook. The only annoying thing is that the MateBook 13 is heavier than it looks: it’s a little hard to believe that something this size weighs around 1.3 kilos.
The display looks great, just turn off the automatic brightness
The 13-inch display of the MateBook 13 is pretty sweet, and colors look pretty accurate thanks to its 100% coverage of the sRGB color gamut. Resolution is still at 1440p, which basically means everything you see on the 13-inch screen is razor-sharp.
The aspect ratio of the display is 3:2, which means you’ll be able to fit more content on the screen vertically. The drawback here is that you’ll be dealing with large, horizontal bars on the top and bottom of videos.
The only thing we don’t like is how aggressive the automatic brightness adjustment is, since it tends to overcompensate for the lighting around you, keeping the display dim when you need it to be bright.
Keep in mind that Huawei only offers non-touchscreen variants of the MateBook 13 in the Philippines.
Limited ports mean you’ll have to embrace the #donglelife
Once you open the lid, you’ll be greeted to a rather spacious keyboard. The individual keys are large, easy to hit and have surprisingly good travel compared to other 13-inch notebooks, and are backlit for easier operation in the dark. The power button doubles as the fingerprint scanner for more secure sign-ins.
The trackpad too deserves some praise, due to its size and overall responsiveness.
One thing that did annoy us with the MateBook 13 was the limited selection of ports. There are only two USB Type-C ports on hand, with neither of them supporting Thunderbolt 3. Type-C port on the left side of the chassis beside the 3.5mm jack doubles as the notebook’s charging port, so you’re only left with a single port to use when you’re charging the notebook.
The good news is that Huawei throws in a dongle with every purchase of the MateBook 13 that has a USB-A, HDMI, and VGA output, but that’s far from an ideal solution.
Speakers on the MateBook 13 are located on the bottom, which is adequate for a relatively quiet room but is quickly drowned out when you go to a relatively noisy place, like a coffee shop.
Powerful hardware in a small space
Two versions of the MateBook 13 are being offered by Huawei in the Philippines: a cheaper Intel Core i5 variant with 256GB of storage, along with a more powerful Core i7 variant with 512GB of storage.
Whatever you pick, you’ll also be getting 8GB of RAM as well as an NVIDIA MX150 discrete GPU for graphical grunt. Take note that the MX150 GPU on the MateBook 13 is the 25W TDP variant and not the usual 15W TDP that’s used on other notebooks that have the same GPU. That means you’re getting a little bit more graphical performance out of the MateBook 13 than competing brands.
You’re not going to game with the MateBook 13 (outside of very light titles) but the increased GPU performance should give you more headroom when you’re editing videos and photos on the notebook. In our day-to-day use, we never had issues with the Mate 13, and multi-tasking felt fast and fluid during our time with it.
So-so battery life
If the MateBook 13 has an Achilles heel it’s battery life. In our experience, the notebook frequently runs out of juice around the 7-hour mark with regular use, and our video loop test recorded a run time of around 8 hours and 20 minutes before it shut down. Take note that our review unit is the Core i7 variant – the less power-hungry Core i5 variant may last a little longer.
Verdict: a solid MacBook Air alternative
If you’re in the market for a small, powerful notebook that won’t completely ravage your bank account, Huawei’s MateBook 13 might just be the notebook you’re looking for.
Despite having less than stellar battery life and a limited number of ports, the MateBook 13 excels as a work notebook thanks to an awesome keyboard, razor-sharp display as well as powerful internals.
Two versions of the MateBook 13 are being offered in the Philippines: a Core i5 variant with 256GB of storage for Php 55,990 and a roomier, more powerful Core i7 variant with 512GB of storage for Php 69,990.