Now that Huawei’s successfully made the best MacBook Pro clone — the MateBook X Pro — it’s taking a stab at improving on Apple’s new MacBook Air. Yes, Apple finally updated its entry-level laptop with a sharp, high-res screen, but the MateBook 13 starts at less and offers much faster performance, thanks to its U-series Whiskey Lake processors. They keyboard on the Huawei is comfier than Apple’s, too. The big catch, though, is the MateBook 13’s subpar battery life, which may be a dealbreaker for some If speed is your main priority, though, this laptop is worth a look..
Just like Huawei’s MateBook X Pro, the MateBook 13 looks so much like a MacBook — with its restrained, minimalist design — that it could be easily mistaken for one, were it not for the shiny Huawei logo on the top. We tested the Space Gray version of the MateBook 13 (which also comes in a hue Huawei calls Mystic Silver), which is an elegant color.
Weighing 2.9 pounds and measuring 11.3 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches thick, the MateBook 13 is similar to the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2.9 pounds, 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches), which fits a larger 13.9-inch screen inside its frame. The new MacBook Air (2.8 pounds, 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches) is a hair lighter, but it’s got a larger footprint, which includes a slightly bigger 13.3-inch panel. The new Dell XPS 13 (2.7 pounds, 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches) is lighter, thinner and smaller in height, with a wider chassis for its 13.3-inch screen.
The MateBook’s screen-to-bezel ratio also beats the MacBook Air’s, which seems chunky by comparison. The MateBook 13’s got slightly thicker bezels than the MateBook X Pro, but that’s because its webcam is stored in its top bezel, and not hidden inside a fake Function-row key.
The MateBook 13 has dual USB Type-C ports — one draws power; the other includes DisplayPort technology for extending your screen — and a headphone jack. Frustratingly, neither of those Type-C ports are Thunderbolt 3, the superfast premium version of Type-C that allows dual 4K monitor connections.
The MacBook Air features dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, while the MateBook X Pro has one Thunderbolt 3 port and a traditional USB 3.0 port, so your older devices don’t require a dongle. The Dell XPS 13 also has dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, plus an SD memory reader.
Hidden inside the Power button, you’ll find a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello logins. It logged me in quickly during my testing. I’m happy that Huawei didn’t reserve this option to the MateBook X Pro, which features the same technology in the same spot, just like the XPS 13 and MacBook Air. (Though that uses Apple’s Touch ID, which also works with Apple Pay.)
The 13-inch, 2K screen in the Huawei MateBook 13 offers solid color reproduction, but could stand to be a bit brighter. Watching the John Wick Chapter 3 trailer, I noticed inky-black shadows in the corridors Keanu Reeves races around, rich, saturated green lighting in a bank heist scene and vibrant, ornate golds in a hotel lobby. The MateBook’s 2560 x 1440-pixel display offers a ton of detail, enough that I could see the plunking splashes of raindrops and read small names on a faraway chalkboard at the assassin headquarters.
According to our colorimeter, the MateBook 13’s screen produces 122 percent of the sRGB spectrum, a rate that exceeds the 117 percent premium laptop average and the 119 percent from the XPS 13, while coming very close to the 124 percent from the MateBook X Pro. The MacBook Air scored a lower 109 percent.
The MateBook 13’s screen emits up to 318 nits of brightness, which is close to the 321-nit category average, and above the 234-nit MacBook Air. The 458-nit MateBook X Pro and 375-nit XPS 13 get brighter. While that’s bright enough for the neon lights of the John Wick trailer to stay strong at 30 degrees to the left or right, they darkened when I moved farther off- angle.
The MateBook 13’s touch-screen display accurately tracked my taps and swipes, as I navigated the desktop and opened Windows menus. I also noticed smooth scrolling when I dragged a finger up and down on the screen to skim a Google Doc.
Keyboard and Touchpad
I found the Huawei MateBook 13’s keyboard easy to type on. When I took it for a spin on the 10fastfingers typing test, I comfortably clicked my way to 71 words per minute, with 97 percent accuracy, reasonably close to my 80 wpm/98 percent average. The MateBook’s keys feature 1 millimeters of travel, which is taller than the 0.6 millimeter keys in the MacBook Air, and tied with the 1 millimeter keys in the XPS 13.
The 4.6 x 2.4-inch touchpad in the MateBook 13 provided solid accuracy as I navigated the desktop. It even kept up with speedy doodling in MS Paint.
The Huawei MateBook 13 pumps a decent amount of sound, as I discovered when it filled one of our medium-size private offices with a solid reproduction of James Blake’s “Where’s The Catch?” Not only did Blake’s haunting vocals sound accurate, but the warbling synths sounded sweet and the drum claps hit crisply.
The Huawei MateBook 13 packs a ton of speed, thanks to its 8th Gen Core i7-8565U processor and 8GB of RAM. When I split my screen between a 4K episode of the Binging with Babish cooking series on YouTube and a dozen Chrome tabs (including Gmail, Giphy and the Google Doc of this review), I saw no slowdown or stutter as I typed, scrolled and watched.
On the Geekbench 4 general performance test, the MateBook 13 earned a high 17,136, leaping over the 13,058 premium laptop average, the 13,769 from the MateBook X Pro (Core i7-8550U with 16GB of RAM), the 7,871 from the MacBook Air (Intel Core i5-8210Y with 8GB of RAM) and the 14,936 from the XPS 13 (Core i7-8565U processor with 16GB of RAM).
The 512GB NVMe SSD in the MateBook 13 copied 4.7GB of media files in 8 seconds, for a blisteringly fast speed of 636 MBps, which dusts the 526.92 MBps category average. We saw slower speeds from the SSDs in the MateBook X Pro (283 MBps) and the XPS 13 (565 MBps). The MacBook Air’s 2,066 MBps rate blows everyone out of the water, however.
The MateBook 13 completed our Excel VLOOKUP test, matching 65,000 names and addresses, in 1 minute and 5 seconds, sliding under the 1:31 category average, as well as the 1:49 from the MateBook X Pro, the 3:26 from the MacBook Air and the 1:10 from the XPS 13.
The MateBook earned another win on our Handbrake test, transcoding a 4K movie to 1080p in 18 minutes and 30 seconds, which is less than the 21:48 premium notebook average and the 19:20 from the XPS 13. The MateBook X Pro (27:18) took nearly 10 minutes longer to complete the task, while the MacBook Air needed almost 20 minutes more than the MateBook 13.
On the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, the MateBook 13’s combination of integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 and its discrete Nvidia GeForce MX 150 GPU (2GB of memory) earned a high 141,995, which beats the 88,029 average. We also saw lower scores of 116,359 from the MateBook X Pro (Nvidia MX150 with 2GB of memory) and 88,473 from the XPS 13 (Intel UHD Graphics 620.
The MateBook 13 also kicked butt running the Dirt 3 racing game, which sped along at 166 frames per second, a much smoother rate than the 75 fps category average, as well as numbers we got from the MateBook X Pro (117 fps), the MacBook Air (22 fps) and the XPS 13 (88 fps).
Unfortunately, the Huawei MateBook 13 doesn’t provide much endurance. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits), the MateBook 13 lasted only 6 hours and 15 minutes. That’s a whole movie shorter than the 8:38 category average, and less time than we got from the MateBook X Pro (9:55), the MacBook Air (9:32) and the XPS 13 (7:50).
The 0.9-megapixel webcam in the MateBook 13’s top bezel captures the same grainy selfies that most integrated laptop cameras do. While my skin tone looks more or less accurate in the shot, there’s a slight chromatic distortion, a sprinkling of hints of different colors, throughout the image, so no colors such as the black of my T-shirt look exactly correct.