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Huawei MateBook: Nice try but falls short of Microsoft Surface Pro 4

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.
Huawei's CEO Richard Yu presents the accesories of the new product Matebook during a press conference before the start of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. AFP
Huawei's CEO Richard Yu presents the accesories of the new product Matebook during a press conference before the start of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. AFP

BARCELONA // 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. That is hardly surprising, given the growth that the segment is experiencing.

Huawei says the MateBook will start at US$699 when it goes on sale later this year – it goes on sale across the Middle East by the end of April – making it about $100 less expensive than the Surface Pro 4.

So how does it compare with its Microsoft rival?

As a Windows tablet, there is a lot to like about the MateBook: it is one of the first devices of its kind to use the new USB-C port, allowing it to be just 6.9 millimetres thin, weighing only 630 grams – improvements on the Surface Pro.

While USB-C brings ergonomic advantages, the current lack of peripherals supporting the standard means you would, most of the time, need the accompanying adaptor, which also sports an Ethernet port.

The MateBook’s screen does not match either the Surface Pro 4 or the iPad Pro for pixel density but, nonetheless, performs admirably, with 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 would be able to stream nine 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 elegant, the typing experience it offers falls short.

The Surface Pro 4’s keyboard offers a genuine laptop experience, but the MateBook’s keyboard case feels very spongy by comparison, something the productivity users Huawei is hoping to attract would prob­ably find off-putting.

It is 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.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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Updated: February 23, 2016 04:00 AM

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