The Huawei MateBook is part sizzle, part lukewarm – a slim and sexy 2-in-1 that has a few work-related inconveniences. How does it match up next to its obvious muse? Let's compare the features and specs of the MateBook and Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
The MateBook comes out a little smaller: 3 percent shorter and 4 percent narrower.
One of the best things about the MateBook is how ridiculously thin it is, at a nearly iPad-like 6.9 mm (0.27 inch). It's 19 percent thinner than the Surface Pro 4.
The MateBook is also incredibly light for a full-blown PC. It's 16 percent lighter than the entry-level Surface Pro 4 and 19 percent lighter than all other models.
The MateBook follows the Surface's detachable 2-in-1 blueprint, to the degree that you're often going to hear it called a Surface clone, wannabe or knockoff.
Ultimately, though, Microsoft created the Surface line not just to sell Surfaces, but also to inspire other OEMs to do something similar, with an equally high attention to quality and detail. So while the media will often make "Surface copycat" sound like a negative, we suspect the folks in Redmond see it as a sign everything is going according to plan.
While skipping a built-in kickstand makes the Huawei MateBook better (lighter, thinner and unibody) in tablet mode, it also makes it inferior as a laptop. Relying on the keyboard cover to stand it up is a much less versatile approach.
Screen angles in laptop mode
That keyboard cover also limits the MateBook to just two positions, neither of which is a perfect angle on lap. The Surface's dynamically adjusting kickstand makes it much more comfortable to use anywhere, including on lap.
This is our biggest caveat about the otherwise impressive MateBook. If you're considering it, you might want to play with a store demo model (after it launches) to see if its limited screen positioning will work for you.
Each 2-in-1 has an active pen to use as a pointer or for jotting notes, especially in tablet mode. We were impressed with Huawei's MatePen; it's roughly in the same class as the excellent Surface Pen.
The big difference – keep this in mind when we get to pricing – is that the Huawei pen is sold separately, while the Surface Pen is bundled with the tablet. Oh, and the MatePen also has a built-in laser pointer, if you ever need one for presentations.
Both devices have premium tablet bodies: aluminum (again, very similar to an iPad) for the MateBook and magnesium for the Surface.
We've yet to see multiple color options for the Surface Pro series, unless you count keyboard options. The MateBook is sold in both gray and gold hues.
The Surface Pro 4 gives you 5 percent more screen real estate.
The Surface has a 24 percent sharper screen, but on the whole we slightly prefer the MateBook's display. It has excellent brightness, contrast and color richness – and, despite these numbers, we didn't notice much of a disadvantage in perceived sharpness.
Facial recognition login
The Surface uses a camera to allow you to log in just by flashing your pretty mug.
The Surface doesn't have a built-in fingerprint sensor, but you can buy a (slightly more expensive) keyboard cover that includes one. The MateBook has a fingerprint reader on the tablet's right side (sandwiched between the volume buttons), which responds almost instantly – noticeably faster than the Surface's facial login.
If you need a work-first machine, then the Surface gives you more power – at least once you get past the entry-level tier. With that said, the Core m5 MateBook we reviewed was surprisingly capable, even for tasks like Photoshop and Lightroom, given its more mobile-focused silicon.
All versions of the MateBook are fanless, while only the entry-level Surface is. Expect to hear some "wind" on the Core i5 and i7 SP4 models.
Of course each model's integrated graphics correspond to its respective processor.
If your work goes far beyond basic web browsing and other low-intensity tasks, you might want to consider going for at least the 8 GB model of either tablet.
Storage tiers are almost identical, with the lone exception being the Surface's (expensive) 1 TB option.
Only the Surface, though, gives you the option of expanding on its internal storage.
Each tablet has just one USB port, with the MateBook going with the newer, reversible Type C standard (and it includes a couple adapters in the box). The Surface also adds a separate Mini DisplayPort for video out.
Separate charging port
Just remember that the MateBook's lone USB-C port is also used for charging, so you won't be able to use any accessories and charge at the same time – unless you use some kind of dock/adapter.
The MateBook sticks with a front-facing webcam, while the Surface also adds a (likely seldom used, considering the form factor) rear camera.
The Surface has the bigger built-in battery, and it also won out on our battery benchmark, but our (more anecdotal) real-world observations of battery life may have tilted slightly in the MateBook's favor. That's because our video streaming test had both tablets at 75 percent brightness, and the MateBook's screen gets brighter.
It's Windows 10 either way, though there is the minor difference of standard Windows 10 Home shipping on the MateBook and Windows 10 Pro running on the Surface.
This isn't a completely fair comparison, as the Surface Pro 4 is already going on nine months in the wild. The Matebook releases on July 11.
The MateBook has a lot going for it, but if a) you aren't sold on its weak kickstand cover and b) you can wait a while, then you might want to see if Microsoft has a Surface Pro 5 around October. It will be here before you know it.
On the other hand, the MateBook can save you some money. Looking at entry-level models, with keyboard cover and pen for both devices, the MateBook runs US$142 cheaper.
If you're ready to buy, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is available from Amazon.