Huawei MateBook review: Can it beat the Surface Pro 4?

Huawei MateBook review: Keyboard case and Mate Pen stylus

So, how about that keyboard case? First, the good news: you can type on it at speed given a little practice. Although there’s barely any space between the keys, they’re large, give plenty of positive feedback and are backlit so you can see them in darkened rooms. The touchpad is large, smooth under the finger, and works brilliantly with Windows 10’s gestures.

The optional stylus also works well. It supports 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, has effective palm rejection, and the feel of it on the screen is fluid and ever-so-slightly soft and grippy. It’s as comfortable to write and sketch with as the Surface Pen that comes with the Surface Pro 4.

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It has two buttons on the barrel that fall neatly under your forefinger. One of these enables right-clicking; the other doesn’t appear to do anything yet. Pull off the top, meanwhile, and a micro-USB port is revealed for charging, and if you reverse the pen and press the button near the cap, the Mate Pen doubles up as a laser pointer.

As usual, there’s nowhere to stow the stylus within the body of the tablet itself – that’s the price you pay for such a slim profile – but the pen is provided with a magnetic loop that can be attached to the rear of the case to keep it out of harm’s way.

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The keyboard case is the big problem here. It offers plenty of protection for the tablet when it’s folded up, wrapping around the back and front of the MateBook. It looks smart, too, the tan-leather finish complementing the tablet’s subtle gold colour rather nicely.

But ergonomically, the case is a disaster. Like the iPad Pro, it has an extra flap that folds around and creates a supporting Toblerone shape for the tablet to lean against. My problem with this is that the angle it creates is simply too steep for anything but watching movies.

And while it is possible to shift the flap up, engaging a set of magnets at the back of the MateBook and tipping the screen back a few degrees in the process, this second position isn’t at all secure. A firm prod on the touchscreen is enough to send the tablet crashing to the desk with a resounding smack; I’d prefer not to think what might occur if this happened while I had the MateBook perched on my lap.

It’s also worth noting that the keyboard doesn’t lie entirely flat and can’t be tilted for more comfortable typing. However, it’s the insecurity of the design that really matters here, and that undermines the Huawei MateBook’s attempt to snatch the Surface Pro 4’s crown as the best 2-in-1 hybrid.

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