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Huawei MateBook E review: Decent Surface alternative

Huawei MateBook E review: Decent Surface alternative

Huawei MateBook E

The Huawei MateBook E is a good first try from the Chinese tech firm at making a Windows 2-in-1 convertible with a detachable keyboard. Comparisons with the Microsoft Surface Pro 8, arguably the gold standard for such devices, are inevitable. While I find the Surface Pro the better device, the MateBook E is decent enough, and cheaper, too. The MateBook also plays nice with other Huawei Smart Office devices like the MateView monitor. So if you already have a Huawei device, the MateBook E is worth checking out.

Quick specs

  • 12.6-inch 2,560 x 1,600-pixel OLED screen
  • Intel Core i5-1130G7 processor with 16GB system memory
  • 709g (tablet only)
  • 42 watt-hour battery

Like the Surface Pro 8, the Huawei MateBook E transforms into a clamshell notebook when you attach the Huawei Smart Magnetic Keyboard accessory. But there are some key differences. For starters, the kickstand that props up the MateBook E is actually part of the keyboard, and not integrated into the MateBook itself. I feel this makes the keyboard more of a necessity than an optional accessory. The upside, though, is that the MateBook E is slightly lighter (709g) and slimmer than the Surface Pro 8 (891g). Meanwhile, the Huawei M-Pencil attaches magnetically to the top edge of the MateBook for charging. But this also means you're more likely to lose it in your bag. In comparison, Microsoft's stylus nestles securely inside a slot in the Type Keyboard Cover.

Huawei MateBook E
The top of the keyboard cover folds down to prop up the MateBook E. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

While the Huawei boasts a nice and vibrant OLED screen, the Surface Pro's display has a higher 120Hz refresh rate. Both displays offer crisp screen resolutions and are optimised for productivity. However, the Huawei keyboard is not as good as Microsoft's. The former doesn't have a backlight, and it's completely flat without any tilt. Hence, the MateBook in laptop form doesn't feel as stable on my lap as the Surface Pro. But at least the key travel is adequate. In addition, the MateBook E could definitely do with more ports. Its single Thunderbolt 4 port is simply not enough, for example, you can't charge it and use an external USB device at the same time. Meanwhile, the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader. It's pretty accurate and makes up for the web camera's lack of face unlock (unlike the Surface). This 8MP camera is decent for video calls.

Huawei MateBook E
The key travel is fine, but there's no backlight. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

With its 11th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, the MateBook E is capable enough for normal office work, like editing documents and spreadsheets. Its PCMark 10 score (4,171) is on par with other Core i5-powered convertibles such as the Acer Spin 3 (4,282). Navigating Windows was snappy enough. However, battery life is middling, with the Huawei lasting just 4hr 30min in our video-loop battery test at maximum brightness. Now you probably won't be using it at its peak brightness since it is fairly bright. But I was expecting something closer to the Surface Pro 8 (5hr 10min). Surprisingly, the quad speakers can get very loud and do not distort at maximum volume. They do come across as slightly shrill at higher volumes.

At S$1,998, the Huawei MateBook E is a tad cheaper than a similarly-configured Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (S$2,099). But Huawei says it will throw in the keyboard and stylus for free. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro's keyboard and stylus is an extra S$399. This makes the Huawei a fair bit more affordable. However, I'm disappointed by its single Thunderbolt 4 port, while the keyboard and stylus are not as good. The Huawei, though, is lighter, and its OLED screen is nice. The MateBook E also works better with other Huawei devices. Get it now from Lazada and Shopee.

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Note: Review unit provided by Huawei.

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Decent, cheaper alternative to the Surface Pro, especially if you already have other Huawei devices.

Available at Lazada
Buy it at Shopee

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