Review: Huawei MateBook 14 Laptop

Selecting a new laptop is not an easy task, with so many choices on the market. The best thing you can do to narrow the field of candidates, is to refine your requirements.

Take some time to consider your favourite screen size, how much battery life you would need between charges, how mobile you’ll be which determines the weight you’re willing to carry around.

There’s also considerations to be made around how the device will integrate into your life. This includes not only the number and type of ports, but also the orientation of them, if you’re going to dock the laptop and integrate with an existing setup.

While you may never find the perfect laptop, what you can aim to do, is tick off a majority of your requirements in a single device and you’ll know you’re on a winner.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been living with the 2021 Huawei MateBook 14″ which features an Intel 11th Gen processor, 14″display in a 3:2 aspect ratio along with a large trackpad, great keyboard and many other ticks in my columns.

I suspect I’m not alone in enjoying the combination of features, design, and performance assembled by Huawei engineers on this device and now it’s time for a full review.

DESIGN

Curves in all the right places

The design of the Matebook 14 includes a really nice exterior, matte grey finish and something I found a nice inclusion was so simple. Opening most ultrabooks is actually more difficult that it needs to be, with the two halves beautifully sitting atop of each other. While this looks slick, it can be hard to open the display when you’re ready to use it.

Thankfully Huawei has included a really nice cut-out in the lower chassis below the spacebar, which provides a really easy place to slide your finger under to lift the display. It sounds simple, but really is a nice design choice that makes it far more functional, without impacting the overall design.

The size of the 14″ laptop is really driven by that screen, a 14″ display running 2160×1440 in a 3:2 aspect ratio. This is the same found on Microsoft’s Surface Book and a couple of other rare exceptions, but the additional vertical resolution afforded by this, over a 16:9 aspect ratio, is something I love.

When you use applications with a lot of toolbars, often found in creating and productivity software, then this arrangement of the pixels allows for more real estate for the content to be created.

The display is crisp and sharp, with 185 pixels per inch, 300 nits of brightness and 1500:1 contrast ratio. I often ran the display at 50% or less of the available brightness, but if you did find yourself in direct sunlight, it’s great to know you have the ability to boost the brightness and still see the screen.

For editing photos, I found the colour to be fantastic and overall I love this display. Of course, most of us use external displays when we dock at our desks, but having a great display is really important when you’re using the laptop on the go.

PERFORMANCE

How does it perform ?

When it comes to the performance of this laptop, I was seriously impressed at the speed in which day-to-day productivity occurs. Powered by an 11th generation Intel Core i5 (1135G7) 2.4GHz quad-core processor, complemented by 8GB RAM.

While there’s no dedicated GPU here, there is Intel’s best on-board graphics, the Intel Iris X Graphics.

Running applications and common functions like batch processing images in photoshop, or exporting 4K videos in Premier, happen quickly, also thanks to a fast 512 GB NVMe PCIe SSD. For many years, laptops standardised on 128GB storage options and thankfully in 2022, we’ve now got a far more generous local storage, which combines with cloud options for a great mix to meet modern needs.

FEATURES

Stand out features of this display.

As you go about integrating this laptop into your life, you’ll want a great typing experience and to accommodate that, Huawei has a really nice full-size backlit chiclet keyboard. For a touch typist, your fingers really float between the keys effortlessly, allowing fast and accurate typing.

This keyboard is complemented by a massive multi-touch Trackpad and again your fingertips glide across this with ease, allowing for precise navigation of your cursor. Having a great trackpad may be a nice to have for casual users, but if you’re serious about productivity on the road, then this definitely won’t be optional. This trackpad is easily one of the best I’ve used and Huawei clearly took leaf out of Apple’s book with the size of this, consuming much of the available space between the palm rests.

When you’re running Windows (in my case Windows 11), you’ll most likely want to leverage Windows Hello. On the MateBook 14, you’ll have the option of the fingerprint reader, which is conveniently built into the Power Button. This allows you to turn on the device, or typically wake from sleep, and authenticate using Windows Hello biometrics at the same time.

A feature called Huawei Share allows you to seamlessly connect and work between mobile and laptop, sharing photos etc, if you also carry a compatible Huawei smartphone. I actually think the majority of customers for this laptop may use an off-brand phone so this may have limited benefits and for those people, Microsoft’s Phone Companion is the next best thing, but certainly more hoops to jump through and slower to achieve many of the same functions.

One of the topic of Battery Life, Huawei packs in a 56 Wh battery, and all the modern battery management available helps this easily gets you through the workday and some. It feels generous and capable but obviously does depend on how demanding your workload is.

If you’re rendering out 4K video clips in Adobe Premiere, then you can expect a lot shorter life than running Tweetdeck, OneNote, YouTube and Gmail.

Connectivity
There’s a nice collection of connectivity options available here. As I used the laptop for my daily driver, it coped well with all the common configurations I threw at it.

Often I would sit at my office desk and connect it to the dock via the USB-C port, which then powered my 49″ Ultrawide monitor, requiring it to run an additional 5120×1440 pixels which it did happily, without issue. I connected to my studio speakers via Bluetooth and was able to leverage one of my USB-A ports to charge devices like GoPros from it.

The full list of ports and connectivity options are:
  • 1x USB-C port (support data, charging and DisplayPort)
  • 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 USB-A
  • 1x HDMI port
  • 3.5 mm Headset and Microphone Jack x 1
  • WiFi 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth 5.1
Dimensions 

For those with physical constraints, like backpacks, you’ll want to know exactly how large, or thin the device is. If you plan on simply carrying in your hand, then you’ll be much more interested in the weight, all of which are listed below, but I can say, for a 14″ laptop, Huawei has done well to fit this level of performance and features into a slight and light device. This is probably one of the best implementations of an ultrabook I’ve seen in some time.

The dimensions are 307.5 mm (Width), 223.8 mm (Depth), 15.9 mm (Height) and the Huawei Mate 14 weighs just 1.49 kg.

ISSUES

Not everything’s perfect

Webcam position

Many laptop companies are responding to webcam privacy concerns in different ways. Some are adding webcam hardware sliders that physically block the lens, while Huawei has taken the approach of hiding the camera away under a key in the keyboard.

While this is certainly an effective method of ensuring there is no way the webcam can see when you don’t want it to, it does come with the drawback of being positioned lower, giving an upward-facing view, which may not be your best angle.

If you happen to have a laptop mount at your desk to raise it up, this may end up being perfect, but given the mobility, most of us buy laptops for, it’s far more likely you’ll have to have a meeting with a client from the coffee shop and you’ll wish you had it back in the top bezel of the display.

Lack of touchscreen

While many won’t mind that this device doesn’t have a touchscreen, personally, I certainly did. While I don’t use it all day every day, there are times like signing a document, annotating a screen capture or just interacting with buttons on a dialog box, I do touch the screen. Another common use case is the standard pinch and zoom and swipe gestures while interacting with photos. While many of these are also available on the trackpad, I’ve come from a device that has a touchscreen and miss it.

For the few extra dollars the digitizer costs in a display, this feels like a decision to save cost where the expense would have been justified.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

How much and when can you get one ?

This price of this laptop seems to vary wildly based on where you choose to buy it from, so pay attention to the list below.

The Huawei Matebook 14″Laptop (KLVD-WDH9) is available now from the following retailers:

For what’s on offer, that price is really competitive to other options in the market. If you’re smart about where you buy it from and save a few hundred dollars, you could easily pick up a great Logitech webcam to resolve that issue and still walk away under $1,500.

OVERALL

Final thoughts

One of the things about reviewing laptops that you can’t get from a spec sheet, is the feel of the thing. I’m not talking about the rigidity of the hardware, but rather the speed at which your interactions and commands are responded to.

When using the Huawei Mate 14 laptop, I got a great feeling of speed and ease that the hardware and software were coming together to deliver a delightful user experiences.

I actually had 3 laptops available to me when going on a field trip this week and opted to take the Matebook for a couple of reasons. Firstly I knew that 14″ screen was fantastic, secondly I knew that waking from sleep, logging in, launching applications and running tasks like batch processing images in Photoshop, all happened extremely fast.

Finally, I knew the battery life was going to be more than capable of getting me through the day of blogging, photo editing etc on location. After putting the laptop through its paces over the past couple of weeks, I am seriously impressed with its capabilities, even if there are a few things I think can be improved with future versions.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwrighthttp://techau.com.au/author/jason/
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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