Huawei MateBook E review: Hands-on with Huawei’s second gen Surface Pro 4 rival

There were things the original MateBook got right, but plenty it got wrong, so Huawei thought it would have another go with the Huawei MateBook E. And, launching alongside the MateBook X and MateBook D in Berlin, 2017’s model looks to have solved the original MateBook’s biggest problems.

Last time out, we loved the MateBook’s slender dimensions and stunning screen but hated the folio keyboard case and below-average battery life. This time there’s an all-new keyboard that looks like you could comfortably type on it for longer than five minutes without wanting to throw it out of the window. And, thanks to an upgraded Intel Kaby Lake processor, the new tablet ought to have better battery life as well.

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Huawei MateBook E review: Key specifications, price and UK release date

Processor

Intel Core m3-7Y30 / Intel Core i5-7Y54 7th gen Kaby Lake

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 615

Memory

4/8GB LPDDR3 RAM

Storage

128/256/512GB PCIe

Display

12in, 2160 x 1440 IPS touchscreen, 400nit brightness, 1,000:1 contrast ratio

Dimensions (WDH)

279 x 6.9 x 194mm

Weight

640g without keyboard; 1.1kg with keyboard

Battery

4,430mAh capacity, 10hrs video playback at 50% brightness

Operating system

Windows 10

Price

Core m3, 4GB, 256GB: €999; Core i5, 4GB, 256GB: €1,199; Core i5, 8GB, 256GB: €1,299

UK Release date

Summer 2017

Huawei MateBook E review: Features, design and first impressions

As with last year’s MateBook, the tablet part of Huawei MateBook E is ultra-slim (6.9mm) and utterly gorgeous. It’s available in gold, blue and pink colours, and it looks more like a large Android tablet than a device running Windows 10 designed to rival the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

In fact, it’s so similar to last year’s tablet that I struggled to pick out any differences at first. Indeed, the only physical change amounts to a smaller set of magnetic contacts on the bottom edge. The tablet’s single USB Type-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack and combined fingerprint reader and volume rocker are all to be found in precisely the same locations as before.

It’s instantly clear, though, that Huawei has learned lessons from last year’s lacklustre effort and it’s all about the new keyboard case, which is included in the box this time. The first MateBook’s keyboard case was, simply put, awful: the keys weren’t separated, making it tricky to touch type on, it didn’t sit flat on a surface; it had only two positions and in one of those positions it was prone to fall over at the slightest provocation.

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The new keyboard case is a huge improvement. First, it’s more stable: instead of folding around, Toblerone-style to support the tablet, it incorporates a stiff piano hinge that runs across the whole of the rear portion of the case. This makes the whole thing more stable both on a desk and on your lap and, because the hinge is adjustable, it’s easy to set the screen at the angle you wish.

The keyboard itself, too, is far better. It’s backlit again, each key is now separated from its neighbour with a small gap, which makes it much easier to type on quickly. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the keystroke feels a touch light. Still, beggars can’t be choosers.

Elsewhere it’s much the same as last year, but with upgraded Kaby Lake internals and a choice between Core i3 Y-series and Core m3 processors. This is supported by either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and either 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of PCIe storage, with no option to expand via microSD.

The slender frame means there isn’t much room for ports around the edges of the device, though. All you get is a single USB Type-C socket and Huawei isn’t including a docking station in the box this year. The Huawei MateBook E does come with the same optional pressure-sensitive stylus as last year, though.

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Huawei MateBook 2 review: Early Verdict

I haven’t yet been able to run full benchmarks and battery life tests, and we don’t have final UK pricing yet, although the euro prices, which start at €999, set a worrying precedent. However, so far the Huawei MateBook 2 looks to be a considerable improvement on last year’s lacklustre model.

It’s nice, of course, to have upgraded internals, but the new MateBook E is all about the design of the new keyboard case, which transforms the Chinese firm’s 2-in-1 from also-ran into a genuine contender for the Surface Pro 4’s crown. With Microsoft having just launched its updated Surface Pro 4, it’s an update that comes just in the nick of time.

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