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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Huawei MateBook 16 assessment: a nostril(cam) wanting nice

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Huawei laptops haven’t been extensively out there within the US for years. However they’ve historically been fantastic products, with adequate efficiency and construct high quality to make them severe MacBook opponents. So I figured I’d assessment the MateBook 16, Huawei’s newest flagship pocket book, though it is probably not on the radars of our US readers. Take into account this a useful resource for these in markets the place Huawei remains to be working but additionally a fast verify on what the remainder of us are lacking out on.

On the skin, the MateBook 16… type of seems to be like a MacBook Professional. Huawei’s obtained the colours and the final vibe down pat. Whether or not it performs in addition to a MacBook is, in fact, one other query. Many of the MateBook 16 is nice, from the speedy and cozy keyboard to the all-day battery life, large 3:2 show, and surprisingly highly effective audio system. I do know individuals who have changed MacBooks with MateBooks as a main driver, and I can see how for many workplace staff, the day by day expertise is sort of comparable.

However the primary distinction is that once I’m utilizing a MateBook, I sometimes come throughout bizarre issues. They’re not issues that make or break the expertise, however they’re simply odd flaws for such a pleasant laptop computer to have. They usually add as much as make a product that’s nice however not as nice because it feels prefer it simply could possibly be.

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The Huawei MateBook 16 on a black table facing forward, open. The screen displays The Verge homepage.

You possibly can persuade me this was a MacBook in dim lighting from far-off.

I ought to notice, earlier than we get too far into this, that the MateBook is just out there in a considerably restricted variety of international locations. At present, you possibly can solely order it instantly from Huawei’s site in the event you’re in China or Germany as of this writing. (I can’t think about it will likely be out there throughout the US any time quickly, given Huawei’s relationship with the Biden administration.) In the event you’re exterior of these international locations however are keen to ship one over, I’ve discovered models on AliExpress for as little as $1,259. My take a look at unit, which has a Ryzen 7 5800H, 16GB of reminiscence, and 512G of storage, is at present out there for $1,469 on AliExpress. (After all, the standard caveats about ordering from third-party websites apply in the event you’re going to buy there — you most likely gained’t recieve a guaranty, it’s possible you’ll must get a separate charger, and you must be sure you’re shopping for from a good vendor.)

If you’ll be able to get your palms on considered one of these, it has quite a lot of promoting factors. It’s pretty mild for a 16-inch pocket book at 4.39 kilos. The trackpad is clean and roomy, although it sometimes had points with palm rejection. The keyboard is sturdy and impressively quiet — it’s most likely probably the most MacBook-esque keyboard I’ve ever used on a Home windows laptop computer (and I imply the recent models, not the god-awful butterfly ones). There’s a helpful port choice with two USB-C, two USB-A, a headphone jack, and HDMI. The audio system are fairly good, with bass that’s a bit weak. It’s obtained an unobtrusive, skilled look.

The touchpad on the Huawei MateBook 16 seen from above and to the left.

The touchpad is “a sturdy matte glass.”

The spotlight of the machine, for me, is the show. Not solely is it a whopping 16 inches, but it surely has a 3:2 facet ratio, which is my favourite laptop computer facet ratio. (Yes, I have a favorite.) There’s a ton of vertical house, and I comfortably labored in a number of home windows facet by facet; as somebody who usually makes use of a 13-incher, the additional room feels luxurious. The panel itself, whereas not fairly MacBook high quality, nonetheless shows robust colours and sharp particulars and kicked again virtually no glare. I loved taking a look at it.

The power button on the Huawei MateBook 16.

Fingerprint reader within the energy button.

Now, for the bizarre issues. The MateBook’s microphones come geared up with Huawei’s Ai noise cancelation know-how that’s supposed to scale back echo and ambient noise, however coworkers mentioned that it made me sound very bizarre on Zoom calls. It was clearly processing my voice whereas I used to be talking; somebody mentioned I gave the impression of I used to be underwater. They may nonetheless hear and perceive me simply nice, but it surely’s an odd caveat to such a pleasant laptop computer. I’ve requested Huawei about this problem.

One other oddity: the SSD is partitioned? There are basically two drives on the MateBook 16. I’ve requested Huawei why that is, however I actually can’t fathom why this might be obligatory on a client laptop computer. It appears more likely to trigger pointless confusion and problem — I had numerous downloads interrupted halfway as a result of they’d been dumped right into a partition that didn’t have room, and I needed to transfer a bunch of issues round to accommodate a big folder I used to be attempting to load that was effectively underneath 512GB however too huge for both partition. Discovering information and functions that I wanted was additionally extra difficult, as a result of I couldn’t all the time bear in mind which drive they have been on.

And eventually, the webcam. The MateBook has a nosecam that pops out of the keyboard’s prime row while you press down on it. This, to me, is the equal of getting no webcam — I’d relatively be a black sq. on Zoom calls than have coworkers staring up my nostrils. In order that’s additionally a factor.

The webcam of the Huawei MateBook 16, open.

Yep, that is the place the webcam is.

The webcam of the Huawei MateBook 16, depressed.

No, significantly.

Huawei fans can use a Multi-Display collaboration function to attach the MateBook 16 to a Huawei cellphone or pill. You’ll be able to then drag and drop information between the tethered units, entry their apps interchangeably, or use the latter as a standard exterior show. I wasn’t capable of take a look at this, as I didn’t have any Huawei telephones or tablets readily available, but it surely sounds handy and much like Apple’s Sidecar function. It does appear that you must enter a passcode each time you reconnect a tool, which might most likely drive me up the wall after some time.

The MateBook additionally connects simply to Huawei earbuds — per Huawei, the 2 devices will immediate you to pair them robotically in the event you put them close to one another. Huawei is clearly shifting in direction of a sturdy and developed ecosystem, although whether or not individuals purchase in will doubtless rely upon how effectively the options proceed to work as new merchandise are launched. Regardless, it’s one thing I’m jealous of as somebody whose Bose 700 come disconnected from her Surface Book at the very least a couple of occasions per week.

The Huawei MateBook 16 seen from above angled to the right side, open. The screen displays a blue and purple desktop background.

With Multi-Display Collaboration, use a Huawei pill as a touchpad.

The Huawei MateBook 16 on a table with a potted plant in the background, angled to the right, open. The screen displays a blue and purple background.

90 p.c screen-to-body ratio — it’s a magnificence.

As a piece driver, the MateBook’s eight-core Ryzen processor did a superb job. The followers have been silent underneath heaps of Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming, and Zoom calls. I used to be by no means fearful about something crashing or slowing down, and nothing was ever scorching. You’ll be able to change to a devoted Efficiency Mode by urgent FN+P, although I’m undecided the place a consumer who doesn’t have Huawei’s reviewers’ information would discover that data out.

As we usually count on from AMD Ryzen 5000 techniques, the MateBook did fairly effectively on multi-core benchmarks and lagged behind a bit on single-core units. It additionally didn’t blow any graphical duties out of the water — AMD’s built-in graphics haven’t obtained a significant replace for a pair years. We noticed a mean of 15 frames per second on Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the MateBook’s native decision of 2520 x 1680 and 28fps at 1920 x 1080. Neither of these is a implausible gaming expertise, they usually’re considerably worse than what we noticed from the 13-inch M1 MacBook Air.

MateBook 16 Benchmarks

Benchmark Rating
Benchmark Rating
Cinebench R23 Multi 11666
Cinebench R23 Single 1415
Cinebench R23 Multi looped for half-hour 11928
Geekbench 5.3 CPU Multi 7213
Geekbench 5.3 CPU Single 1466
Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL / Compute 15783

The MateBook took 13 minutes and 44 seconds to finish our 4K export take a look at. This isn’t a horrible outcome amongst AMD techniques with built-in graphics, but it surely does underscore the delta between a system like this and a heavier-duty artistic workstation (which individuals usually count on 16-inch laptops to be). The newest MacBook Professionals, even the 14-incher, all took underneath three minutes for a similar activity. On the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Professional, the MateBook also landed far behind Apple’s machines, together with the very similarly priced MacBook Air. None of that is to say that the MateBook is a foul laptop computer; it’s simply to emphasise which you could get extra graphics energy for this worth if that’s a precedence for you.

The ports on the right side of the Huawei MateBook 16.

Two USB 3.2 Gen 1 on the correct.

The ports on the left side of the Huawei MateBook 16.

Two USB-C, one HDMI, one audio jack on the left.

What AMD’s chips are inclined to lack in single-core energy, although, they usually make up for in battery life. The MateBook comes with an 84Wh battery, and I averaged simply over 10 hours of steady use with the display screen round 200 nits of brightness. (Huawei claims you’ll get 12.5 hours of “steady native 1080p video playback,” so I suppose take notice in the event you do plenty of that.) That does beat the MacBook Air (though not by a ton) and lots of Intel laptops of this dimension.

To me, the battery life is the strongest argument in favor of shopping for the MateBook. It ought to get you thru a workday with no downside, which is very spectacular contemplating the large high-resolution display screen. I’d love to have the ability to carry this round a convention, charger-free, and have a lot actual property to work with each time I opened it.

The AMD Ryzen 7 sticker on the right palm rest of the Huawei MateBook 16.

Because of AMD, it’s Huawei’s strongest MateBook so far.

Whereas the MateBook 16 looks as if a pocket book with the potential to have widespread enchantment, the parents I’d most suggest it to are largely nonetheless Huawei superfans. The MateBook’s compatibility with different Huawei merchandise is one thing that nothing from Apple or Asus can provide. I can see that profit outweighing the odd drawbacks for those who already personal different Huawei units.

For everybody else, I feel the MateBook could possibly be a nice buy for a common work driver, however you may get different laptops with a lot of the similar advantages and with out the weirdness surrounding the webcam, audio system, and drive. Even when MacBook Professionals are exterior your worth vary, many Ryzen units have comparable efficiency and battery life to the MateBook, in addition to a useful webcam and microphones. The MacBook Air is principally there as effectively (and as unhealthy as its webcam is, I’ll take that over a nostril shot any day). Mainly, I feel you must actually, actually need the 16-inch, 3:2 display screen for the MateBook to have a shot.

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