Huawei MateBook 13 (2020) review: Up there with the best

Could any other notebook beat this for feature set?


Externally, the Huawei MateBook 13 (2020) is a small upgrade, still boasting a minimal design and a lightweight 1.3kg chassis. In the Space Grey color finish we have, its similarities to Apple’s MacBook series are uncanny. However, the laptop brings more both with its processing power and software suite.

Build quality and design

As mentioned before, the notebook does not see any substantial change from its previous version. We are looking at a metal chassis that feels both premium and rugged. On the lid of the device, you find some minimal Huawei branding whereas the bottom sports feet for grip. The feet at the rear of the device are a bit larger than those on the front giving the laptop not only a good ergonomic feel but also enhanced air flow.

The laptop’s feet help with air circulation and ergonomics

At the bottom, you also find considerable perforations for cooling the device. When pushed, the laptop’s Shark Fin Fan 2.0 definitely kicks in. However, it is not as loud as expected. Furthermore, the laptop does a fairly good job of handling moderate to heavy loads without heating up excessively. Just, graphic rendering or video editing makes the underside a bit uncomfortable to touch.

A fingerprint scanner embedded into the power button is a great move

Speaking of the bottom, this is also where you find a pair of stereo speakers. If the laptop is intended to be used on a flat surface, this is not much of a problem. At up to 70 per cent volume, they are great but at maximum, they do show signs of peaking. But if you intend to use the laptop on a softer surface, the experience is underwhelming. Because of the soft surface, the speakers sound muddy and muffled and we wish in this case, they were designed to be on the side or top of the laptop.

Display technology and I/O

While the speaker experience could be better, something Huawei has done well with the MateBook 13 is the display. The 3:2 panel sports a 2K resolution and an impressive 88 per cent screen to body ratio. It comes equipped with multi-touch support for increased interactivity and despite the small bezel, Huawei has done well to include a front camera, albeit of mediocre quality.

Being a 3:2 panel, you will always see black bars when watching content

The display being of that aspect ratio, your typical 16:9 video content online will have black bars on the top and bottom when viewed. However, its quality is great. Contrast levels are good and so is saturation when looking at colorful content. There is a hint of motion blur in content but that is not particularly evident unless you are looking out for it with scrutiny.

While the display is great, the speaker system could have been better

One thing though that is a bit of a drawback is brightness. While indoors, the laptop exhibits good levels however outdoors especially in brightly lit areas, the screen may struggle just a bit. Of course, it being a touchscreen does not help as this means you cannot have anti-glare properties on the screen. Even the non-touchscreen Intel Core i5-10210 variant comes with no anti-glare.

Port selection is not good and for heavy duty users, you will need a dongle of some sort

With regards to I/O and connectivity, your choices are rather bleak. The laptop features just three ports, 2 that are Type-C USB with no Thunderbolt 3 support and a 3.5mm headphone jack. In this scenario, it would have been nice to see both ports support charging for added flexibility but unfortunately, that is not the case. It looks like for anyone wanting to use many peripherals with the notebook, a dongle would be their best bet.

Track-pad and keyboard

In spite of having no separate click keys, the track-pad on the MateBook 13 is a joy to use. Its precise, responsive and supports a lot of gestures which work smoothly. Of course, this is partly due to the Windows 10 software the laptop runs but even so, the experience has been natural. Scrolling web pages, zooming in and switching applications has become a lot easier because of this.

Using the track-pad was a delight given its gesture support

With regards to the keyboard, it is more good things. Keys on it are well spaced out and support two levels of back-lighting. There is a satisfying ‘thud’ to keys when you press them and their travel distance is great too. One chance I would have liked to see was the inverted-T style arrow keys however this is still not a deal breaker.

Typing is satisfying with the keys having an ample travel distance

While we are at it, an honorable mention goes to the bio-metric support on the laptop too. It comes with Windows Hello support for both facial and fingerprint recognition. The latter is built into the power button of the device which improves convenience and we are happy this has been borrowed from Huawei’s MateBook X series.

Hardware performance

On our variant of the MateBook 13, we have an Intel Core i7-10510 CPU clocked at 1.8GHz with Turbo Boost support up to 2.3GHz. This the latest Intel ultra-low power processor on the market for notebooks and it is accompanied by 16GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe SSD storage. In our sequential read and write tests, the storage drive registered a read and write speed of 2,234MB/s and 1,656MB/s respectively. As for the CPU, we ran Cinebench R20 on it, where it mustered a score of 1,355.

The processor on-board helps with low power consumption

Benchmarks aside though, the laptop shows some incredible real world performance. You could have multiple browsing windows open alongside demanding programs and the laptop will show little to no signs of strain. Throughout usage, there have been no force closes or lag spikes that I have experienced either.

Editing videos is a breeze although rendering them may take a long time

Even as a tool for content creation, the MateBook 13 is a handy device. Editing video content is smooth and you should be able to get away with simple 1080p quality edits with no problem. This is also thanks to Nvidia’s MX250 on-board our variant of the device. But when dealing with 4K content or 3D rendering on Blender for example, the laptop may be a bit under-powered. For reference, we rendered a five minute 4K test file on the machine, clocking a time of 14:36. In comparison, a two year old Lenovo Y520 with a dedicated Nvidia 1050Ti graphics card could complete the same test in 08:14 whereas the new Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch with AMD Radeon 5500 graphics clocks a time of 02:44.

Software performance

While much of Windows 10 is fairly standard, Huawei has made efforts to customize the experience. One key feature about the MateBook is Huawei Share. While it works on select devices equipped with EMUI 10, if you happen to have the recent Huawei Mate 30 Pro, you are in luck.

Huawei Share has a lot of practical applications including dragging and dropping files from your smartphone to laptop

By simply using NFC, you can connect your smartphone to the laptop to open up new ways of interacting with your social media feeds or games. The smartphone’s screen is displayed on the notebook and can be controlled all on the single panel. Furthermore, you can also use this feature to change how you play games.

I particularly enjoyed playing games via Huawei Share

Your smartphone can act as the console to game whereas the MateBook 13’s display being the main screen. However, the most useful for has been to transfer files. By connecting, I can simply drag and drop files and images from my smartphone to laptop. And the process is not only quick but fairly seamless.

We wish Huawei Share worked with other smartphones

Pertaining to the touchscreen and away from Huawei Share, you can even three finger swipe on the display to capture a screenshot. Small things like this are great additions that enhance utility and we are excited to see where Huawei takes this further. Perhaps, enabling access to Huawei Share for non-Huawei smartphones could be on the cards via an application as that would be make this notebook a much more popular choice for sure. But as with many companies, Huawei may want to keep this feature proprietary to encourage more users in its ecosystem.

Battery life and charging

The MateBook 13 (2020) features a 41.7Wh battery, which is impressive for a chassis so thin and lightweight. You can use its out of the box 65W Type-C charging to top it up, which takes about two hours. Furthermore, you can use the notebook to also charge your Huawei smartphone using Supercharge, which is an added benefit.

The MateBook 13’s battery life could be a bit better when at low or moderate loads

As far as battery endurance is concerned, it will vary depending on usage. For light tasks such as music listening, word processing and video watching, you can get about eight hours of backup before plugging in. Moderate tasks such as video calling and data processing will lower this to around five hours. Lastly, extremely demanding tasks such as video editing, photo retouching and rendering will knock this down even further to two hours.

Our verdict

If you currently own a Huawei smartphone and are looking for a notebook for productivity, the MateBook 13 (2020) is a great choice. But even for people with other devices, it is still a machine worth considering, both because of its feature set and functionality. But if you are a full time graphic or video creator, this may not be the ideal choice, from a longevity and raw hardware standpoint.

If you are in the market for a notebook and happen to own a Huawei smartphone, this is the perfect choice

This MateBook 13 retails for Dh4,499 given its high-end internals and touchscreen support. But for the regular consumer, the Intel Core i5-10210U powered device with 8GB of RAM priced at Dh2,999 may be worth it. However, the biggest drawback to it would be the lack of a touchscreen, which you should not sacrifice on especially if you want to use the notebook’s Huawei Share features to their full potential. Both variants of the notebook are currently on sale with Huawei bundling a Bluetooth speaker and sport Bluetooth headphones with every purchase. While the Core i5 variants ship next week, the Core i7 variants will ship by the end of March.