The Huawei Matebook 14 isn’t the kind of laptop you’d normally find here on PowerUp reviews. After all, we’re all about powerful gaming rigs and laptops that eat frames for breakfast. But lo and behold, there’s more to life than just gaming. I know, it’s strange but true. Sometimes, you need to get off the couch and get some work done to pay for all those expensive gaming things.
The Matebook is certainly one of the better laptops to do that with. It’s a beautiful little laptop with exceptional engineering and a gorgeous 14-inch 2K touch screen. Throw in a power frugal 10th Gen Intel U processor and an NVIDIA GPU for a battery that will last you the whole day. Huawei even has a feature that allows you to tap your Huawei smartphone on the laptop and get instant, full control right on your desktop. So if all this sounds lovely to you, then read on.
Designed for love
Huawei is renown for their excellent hardware and the Matebook shows that off in spades. It’s an all metal design that looks and feels fantastic thanks to a number of machining techniques. A metal blasting process is used to make the surface feel smoother to touch but also resilient to scratching and smudging. The edges are get their luster from a diamond cutting technique which makes them shine.
Just holding this little machine feels very premium similar to Apple Macbooks. And what’s even more impressive is how light the Matebook is. It’s only 1.5kg which is damn light but it never feels flimsy. The chassis is so rigid and solid even at only 1.5cm thick. It’s just a foot wide and 20cm deep giving it a tiny footprint that will fit easily in a ladies large handbag.
The display is 14-inches diagonally with an impressive 90% screen-to-body ratio. It’s a 2K display with a resolution of 2160 x 1440 in a 3:2 aspect ratio. This makes the display almost square-ish and lets you see more vertically. The panel has a 1000:1 contrast ratio and covers 100% of the sRGB colour gamut.
As a designer and gamer, I found the screen very pleasing and bright — up to 300nits. All my content looked lovely and I can’t find anything to fault here besides the lack of HDR. There’s also the welcome Eye-comfort mode which reduces that nasty blue light so you can work longer with less eye fatigue.
The panel is also touch enabled with support for 10-pint multi-touch gestures. Now because of the tiny size of the Matebook, I found using the touch screen a practical proposition. It’s far easier for my hands to cover the distance from the keyboard to the screen — something of a problem with bigger laptops.
Huawei has some cool gestures like the three finger swipe down that takes a screenshot and even extract any text. These gestures are also available on the great touchpad. It’s spacious, the surface is smooth and the Windows Precision drivers works flawlessly.
And when you choose to kick back and watch endless cat videos on Youtube, the Matebook has some great speakers. They are full bodied with rich, clear and punch sound. While they are bottom firing, they still get very loud. Bass is lacking but the midrange is surprisingly competent that things sound warm and not tinny like most laptop speakers.
The Matebook has just four I/O ports for connectivity. A USB-C with Power Delivery through which you charge the Matebook and a regular USB-A 3.0. You can share your screen to external monitor or TV via the HDMI port while sound is output through a 3.5mm audio jack. For more peripherals, a USB dock is necessary.
Like a tablet with a keyboard
As good as the touch display is, you can’t really type on it because it doesn’t lay flat or fold backwards into a tablet. Thankfully, the Matebook has a great physical keyboard. The keys are nice and wide with decent travel. They are back-lit but none of that fancy per-key lighting we gamers love.
I found the lighting to be rather subdued though, even at it’s brightest. I also didn’t like the Matebooks aggressive battery saving which kept turning off the backlighting. I had to use the function key to manually turn it back on all the time.
The power button lives above the keyboard on the right and has a neat trick — fingerprint scanning. This isn’t a new feature but it’s welcome. I hate passwords and PIN’s for my computers, but they are necessary for security. A fingerprint scanner makes signing in so much easier. And this one is particularly accurate and fast.
Speaking of function keys, one of the Matebooks keys has a camera icon. Pressing it reveals a pop-up 1mp webcam. The picture quality is decent but it points up somewhere between your chin and chest. Unless you are a 10 year old, you’ll need to do some gymnastics to position yourself correctly in frame. And even when you do, you can’t then use the laptop or else your hands completely block the camera.
This unfortunate positioning is a result of pursuing super-thin bezels for the display. This makes the Matebook a poor choice for those important work Zoom calls that so many of us now live by. Whilst I do appreciate even having a webcam to begin with, there surely has to be a better design solution.
There is one benefit though and thats security. Having the camera recessed means even if someone tried to hijack it, they wouldn’t be able to see anything except black. This is great but it’s not enough to overcome the horrendous angle and the poor video experience that goes with it.
Great productivity, not so great gaming
The Matebook isn’t designed to be a high performance machine but don’t dismiss it outright. Sure, it scores pretty low on our usual benchmarks when compared to the gaming rigs I usually test. But what matters is how it handles every day tasks and I’m happy to report that it’s great.
The Intel Core i7-10510U has more than enough power for the kind of work the Matebook excels at; office work, web browsing, photo editing and media consumption. Windows flies along smoothly and my usual multi-tab Opera browser instances never choked.
But being a gamer, I had to see how well the 2GB NVIDIA GeForce MX350 would cope. I knew high settings would be unthinkable and certainly not at the native 2K resolution. I put a few games through the ringer at 1080p with medium settings. I was surprised that Gears 5 ran at an average 48FPS while Forza Horizon 4 struggled to maintain 30FPS. Shadow of the Tomb Raider however, could barely hit 20FPS at lowest settings.
Less demanding 2D style games like Ori & Will of Wisps, Dead Cells or Hades can run at more console levels of performance. Hardcore gamers will have to look elsewhere for their mobile gaming fix. The stunning Asus Zephyrus G14 is an excellent alternative. Otherwise, use the Matebook for your Discord chats and web browsing and leave the heavy lifting for your gaming PC.
The Huawei Matebook has trully excellent battery life, something we aren’t used to writing about on this site. I was able to get close to 10 hours on a charge or a full work day which is fantastic. This is still lower than Huawei’s 13 hour office work claim but I’m not complaining.
The Matebook’s 56Wh battery is tiny by gaming laptop standards. Most 15-inch laptops have at least a 80Wh or larger. But because of the far more power efficient CPU and GPU in the Matebook, you get far more mileage than on a gaming laptop. And when the Matebook does run out of power, you can get 3 hours or 50% in an astonishing 30min.
Fast charging is something we’re used to seeing on our smartphones and I’m thrilled to see it on a laptop. Not only that, but just like your smartphone, the Matebook charges via USB-C. The bundled 65W charger looks like a large phone charger.
And if you have Huawei phone, this will SuperCharge them rapidly. It’s light enough to drop in an everyday carry bag and you can use it on your phone and other devices. I love, love this.
Having a single charger for all your devices isn’t a luxury anymore but a complete necessity. So much of our tech uses USB-C to charge from smartphones to headphones to tablets so kudos to Huawei. I’d love for every gaming laptop in 2021 to have USB-C fast charging.
I received the Huawei Matebook along with the excellent Huawei P40 Pro and the reason was to highlight what the company is calling intelligent experience. At the center of this is Huawei Share which enables multi-screen collaboration between Huawei smartphones and Matebooks.
Simpy put, tapping the phone on a Matebook brings up a fully interactive mirror screen of your phone. You get full control over your phone right from your desktop. You can run all your apps, take calls and send messages. This is something that Windows 10 is working to achieve in future versions of YourPhone app.
The big difference though, is that Huawei gives you real-time interactive functions. You can simply drag files or photos from the phone onto the laptop and vice versa. You can also copy text from your laptop and paste it into a message on your phone. It’s super handy and works very well.
However, I noticed that if you lock your phone, the connection will be reset and you’ll have to reauthenticate for the Matebook to connect. This happened more often than I’d like and kinda ruined the experience a bit.
As good as this shared experience is, it only works if you have Huawei devices. For most people(at least in Australia), owning a Huawei smartphone is a highly precarious proposition given they lack Google services. That said, if you do have a Huawei Matebook and want a companion phone, this certainly sweetens the deal.
The new Huawei Matebook 14 is an excellent ultra-book that is sure to please. At around AUD$2,300, it’s exceptionally crafted and offers great productivity performance and endurance. After reviewing so many power hungry laptops, it boggles my mind that a laptop can last you the whole day. And that you can fast charge it too? Hell yeah.
For some of you readers, the Matebook won’t meet your gaming needs. I’d point you to the excellent Asus Zephyrus G14 or Razer Blade 13 Stealth for that. Those will also give you great battery life but far more horsepower for serious gaming. But for everyone else, the Matebook is a great laptop to have in your everyday carry.
The Huawei Matebook 14 was loaned to PowerUp! by Huawei Australia for the purpose of this review.