Although Huawei is going through a turbulent time on the mobile side of things, the Chinese firm is making some of the best Windows laptops money can buy. The X Pro might get all the headlines but we think the MateBook 14 is actually a better choice for almost anyone. Find out why in our full review.
You probably know Huawei for devices like the Mate 20 Pro, but its laptops are worth a look if you want a MacBook alternative, or even something to rival the likes of Dell, HP and Lenovo. The firm is something of a dark horse in this area if you ask us. See our MWC 2019 Award Winners.
Price & Availability
Although Huawei originally told us the MateBook 14 would go on sale in April, there’s no sign of it currently. This is one of the big problems with its laptops and is a shame for those keen to get one.
We still don’t have UK or US pricing but we do know that it sits in the middle of Huawei’s 2019 range starting at 1199 Euro, with the MateBook 13 at 999 and the MateBook X Pro (2019) at 1599 (also Euros for easy comparison).
That initial price for the MateBook 14 will get you a Core i5 at the lower price with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage (KLV-W19D). You can then jump to a 1499 Euro option to upgrade to a Core i7 with 16GB of RAM (KLV-W29D). That’s the model we’ve tested for this review.
As we thought, the MateBook 14 sits slightly above the MateBook 13 which starts at 999 Euro. The laptop starts at 1199 Euro (we’re waiting for UK and US prices), then jumps to 1499 Euro.
Check out our chart of the best laptops you can buy.
Design & Build
Humble in its initial appearance, the MateBook 14 has some impressive design features like a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. That’s only one percent off the X Pro.
It’s not quite as svelte but at 15.9mm and 1.49kg it’s not exactly a brick. This is still a premium laptop but Huawei has to hold something back for the X Pro.
That’s one of the main differences between the two, with the X Pro at 1.33kg. They actually feel further apart in weight than the figures suggest but the MateBook 14 is still perfectly portable and doesn’t feel too heavy when it’s in a rucksack, for example. It’s a small price to pay, or the opposite in actual price.
These are almost identical laptops, and having both in the lab at the same time, we’ve confused them for each other a number of times so don’t think that buying the MateBook 14 is a big downgrade.
You still get the same excellent trackpad and backlit keyboard, including the webcam hidden in a pop-up key – which is neat albeit with an awkward angle for calls. If you never really use a webcam then it’s simply a boon having it tucked away. There’s also a fingerprint scanner hidden in the power button.
The MateBook 14 might be a little heavier than its flagship brother but the slightly thicker chassis comes with a number of advantages in the way of port. For a modern portable laptop it’s got loads including, shock horror, full-size HDMI. There’s also two USB-A ports, one USB-C (used for charging) and a headphone jack.
You’re unlikely to need a dongle here unless you really need an ethernet port, but we live in a world of Wi-Fi now. There’s no Thunderbolt 3 here which might be a deal breaker for some users. We’d also like an SD card slot since there’s plenty of space for one.
Like the X Pro, this laptop is available in Space Grey and Mystic Silver colours but also a Pink Gold option.
Specs & Features
As the name suggests, the MateBook 14 has a 14in screen. It’s pretty similar to the X Pro’s (13.9in) with a 3:2 aspect ratio and touch input (if you but the Core i7 model) but a more modest 2160 x 1440 resolution (185ppi).
It’s also not as bright at around 300cd/m2 set to maximum but that’s still a decent amount. The colours are vibrant and contrast is good, too. You get small bezels around the screen, partly thanks to the webcam being in the keyboard.
The MateBook 14 comes with either an Intel Core i5-8265U or a Core i7-8565U. Either way you’ll get an Nvidia MX250 discrete graphics card and a 512GB SSD so that’s pretty impressive.
The Core i5 model comes with 8GB of RAM, while the i7 doubles that to 16GB so we’re not talking about basic specs. Even the cheaper model here will be pretty decent for most users.
As you might expect then, the MateBook 14 performs very well in benchmarks with our i7 model matching the X Pro with it’s same spec line-up in the engine room. The lower screen resolution helps achieve a better score in 3DMark and the MateBook 14 also comfortably beats rivals.
This is a bit of a powerhouse without having to splash out a couple of grand. As we’ve said, even the Core i5 model has an MX250 GPU with 2GB of memory.
Like the other MateBooks for 2019, there’s Bluetooth 5 and upgraded Intel 9650 Wi-Fi. It’s also impressive to see a quad-speaker setup like the X Pro which includes Dolby Atmos support. They sound a lot better than most laptops so this is a good choice if you want to watch some TV shows and movies on the go.
We’ve mentioned all the ports above, but it’s worth noting a second time that there’s no Thunderbolt here (despite there being USB-C) so you’ll need to get the X Pro if that’s a deal breaker.
Moving on and Huawei promises 15 hours of video playback here which is the longest of the new MateBooks, thanks in part to a 57.4Wh battery. In our battery test – looping a 720p video at 120cd/m2 (50% brightness in this case), the laptop lasted a whopping 16 hours which is very impressive indeed. That’s two hours more than the X Pro.
We also found the MateBook 14 charges quickly with it reaching 40% in 30 minutes from being dead using the supplied 65W charger.
One of the most interesting features comes in the form of a hardware and software combination. It’s odd for a laptop to have NFC but a sticker to the side of the trackpad has a chip so you can tap your phone and do some neat tricks. Well if you have a Huawei or Honor phone running EMUI 9 that is.
It’s called Huawei Share 3.0 and tapping a compatible device will set up a Wi-Fi connection between it and the laptop. You can then use elements like OneHop to quickly transfer files like photos or videos. Any text in images can be pulled out and copied which is really useful.
There’s also things like a shared shared clipboard and you can also shake your phone to record what’s happening on the laptop’s display. It’s pretty cool and generally words well. For some people could be a real boon and time saver so we’re looking forward to trying it in the real world.
There are also some other useful additions to Windows including Huawei’s PC Manager which has a notification centre, a clipboard and some useful tools like screen selection.
The X Pro might be the shiny flagship with all the news headlines, but we’re really quite taken by the MateBook 14. It’s got many of the same specs as its bigger brother without being much thicker of heavier, and some that the X Pro doesn’t offer.
You get an MX250 GPU and a 512GB no matter which model you choose. Even the cheaper option has a Core i5 and 8GB of RAM which will be enough for most users. The screen, although not the brightest around, is decent in other areas and the lower resolution (compared to the X Pro) helps with performance.
A whopping 16 hours of battery life is the icing on the cake really and we’d say it’s worth the laptop being slightly heavier than the X Pro and not having Thunderbolt unless those are deal-breakers for you.
It might not have flare but the MateBook 14 is quietly the best option in Huawei’s 2019 excellent range and one of the best laptops you can buy, full stop.