The Huawei MateBook is trying to replace your laptop. It’s Huawei’s first PC and first Windows device and it’s trying to bring style to a category–Windows laptops–that’s known more for function than fashion.

Overall, the MateBook has the looks, but not the substance to back it up. The newest product release from the Chinese manufacturer is a slim 12-inch Windows tablet with a starting price of $699. An array of accessories are available to complement the tablet, including a portfolio keyboard, a stylus, and a dock to use with a monitor. But, they come with hefty price tags.

It targets a wide audience of business users who want something stylish that combines the portability of a tablet with the utility of a laptop.

Executive summary

  • What it is: The Huawei MateBook is the company’s first 2-in-1 tablet PC, and it is the size of an iPad, and just as slim, yet runs Windows 10 to give the user a full PC experience.
  • What it does: It serves dual use as a tablet, and with the addition of the keyboard, dock and stylus, it can also be used like a PC.
  • Why it matters: This is the first dual tablet/PC from Huawei and brings another competitor into the market for Windows PCs with design sense
  • Who it’s for: It is intended for business users who want to look stylishly professional while not giving up any core functions.
  • Why you should get it: It’s a fully functioning tablet/PC with great graphics and sound, and it will easily fit into a purse or tote bag.
  • Why you shouldn’t get it: It’s a sleek tablet with stylish accessories, but there are problems with the basic functionality.
  • How to get it: You can pre-order it at Microsoft online or on Amazon and Newegg beginning July 11. It’s $699 for the base model.
  • What it looks like: See photos of the Huawei MateBook in our TechRepublic gallery.
  • The style quotient: It’s cool and stylish, but at the supreme cost of functionality. Which on a scale of 1-10, results in a 6 in style.

What it is

Huawei has come out with a brand new 2-in-1 tablet/PC product and it’s named the MateBook, with clever accessory names such as the MatePen (a stylus), the MateBook Portfolio Keyboard (which is exactly that), and the MateDock (which is a dock for a monitor).

The price tags aren’t so cute, however, with the MateBook ringing in at a base price of $699 for 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Keep in mind that unless you spring for the portfolio keyboard case for an extra $129, you won’t be able to use the tablet like a laptop. And then the stylus pen, that includes a laser pointer, is $59, and the docking station required for a monitor is $89, and it also includes two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI, a VGA port and an Ethernet port.

The sleek metal oxide case is nearly seamless, and it comes in two colors: gray or gold. The portfolio keyboard case is available in black, brown, orange or beige.

What it does

It’s the first Huawei tablet that houses a full Windows 10 computer and uses Intel’s new Core M processor. It has a fast fingerprint sensor that allows you to log onto Windows easily, and the speakers and screen are high quality as well.

It can be used as a business slate, or, once the portfolio keyboard case is added, it becomes a full Windows 10 machine. The keyboard is easy to use, and the touchpad is responsive. It’s simple to switch functions, and the resolution on the screen is impressive. The dual speakers also provide ample sound.

It has a 12-inch display, weighs in at 640 grams and is 6.9mm thick. Huawei says it can play 29 hours of music, or 9 hours of video, or handle 10 hours of work on a single charge of it’s 33.7 Wh high-density lithium battery. The screen is 2160 x 1440 resolution and has 160-degree viewing angles. It uses 6th Gen Intel Core m processor, dual core up to 3.1 GHz. The OS is Windows 10. The memory is 4GB or 8GB of RAM, with 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of storage. The front camera is a 5 megapixel fixed focus. There is no back camera.

Why it matters

This is the first time Huawei has produced a tablet. It’s never manufactured a laptop or a Windows device, either. So it’s their first entry into the market and they wanted to be noticed. The ad campaign and packaging is very polished and stylish, to match the product.

Who it’s for

Business users, particularly those in the creative fields, are the target audience for the MateBook. The MatePen accessory detects 2048 levels of sensitivity for fine or broad brush strokes, which is particularly useful for those in design. It could also serve students who want a tablet that functions as a PC to help do their work.

Why you should get it

It’s an admittedly handy tool for your business arsenal, with dual functionality as a tablet or PC (with the portfolio keyboard). The laser function on the stylus works well for PowerPoint presentations, and the pen produces fine details for etchings or drawings. Windows 10 runs seamlessly, the touchpad works brilliantly, and it offers high-quality sound. In addition, it’s all wrapped up in a pretty package, so if style matters to you more than substance, then this might be the machine you need.

Why you shouldn’t get it

Despite all of the pros about the MateBook, there are basic problems with the function of the accessories. For instance, it’s far too easy to dislodge the tablet when it is propped up using the portfolio keyboard. The stand doesn’t work effectively, despite having magnets that give two viewing angle options. If it’s even slightly bumped, it will fall flat. And if you make the mistake of picking up just the tablet while it’s in the open folio case, you’ll find the case crashing to the ground and you’ll be scrambling to keep the tablet from falling as well, since the only thing holding it in place is a small connector with seven prongs.

Also, the cables are precious. Literally. The review unit arrived without a charging cable, and the only cable that we could find in the vast TechRepublic storeroom of cables and chargers that would power it was an Apple MacBook USB-C charger. And that didn’t work on the stylus. The only cable and charger that would work on the MatePen happened to be one from Mophie. But let this be a lesson for Matebook buyers: do not lose the original charger or else you may be out of luck finding a replacement in the short term. Also, the Micro-USB to USB-A adapter is less than an inch long, and could be misplaced. There are two slots in the MateDock carrying case for the adapter and the USB Type-C to Micro-USB cable, but the case is open on both ends, and it would be easy for them to fall out in transit.

It seems that Huawei was trying to create an Apple lookalike, even down to the sleek white packaging that it arrives in. But the result is a tablet that falls short of what it needs to be in order to warrant the high price tag.

How to get it

It’s available for pre-order now at the Microsoft store and after it’s July 11 release it will be available on Amazon and Newegg. It’s $699 for the base model, and the accessories add to the final price, with the Portfolio Keyboard an extra $129, the MateDock at $89, and the MatePen at $59.

If you want a faster processor, or more storage or memory, the prices go up accordingly:

  • The Intel Core m3 version with 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage is $699.
  • The Intel Core m5 version with 4GB RAM and 128 GB of storage is $849.
  • The Intel Core m5 version with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage is $999.
  • The Intel Core m5 version with 8 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage is $1,199.

What it looks like

To see the Huawei MateBook, check out TechRepublic’s gallery of images.

The style quotient

Yes, it’s a stylish tablet and you’ll look good carrying it around town. But that’s about all it will really be good for, since once you’re in a meeting, and trying to use the stand, you’ll continually be refolding the stand to try to prop it up again after it falls.

Plus, once reviews are read, and your colleagues know that the Huawei MateBook leaves something to be desired, they’ll question your tech savvy since you were willing to spend $1000 (for a basic MateBook and all of its accessories) on something that isn’t worth it.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. The base price of a MateBook with accessories is $976.
  2. The Huawei MateBook sacrifices functionality for style.
  3. The accessories–especially the folding keyboard–fall short of giving professionals the functionality they need to get work done efficiently.

See also