Laptops

Huawei MateBook 13 review: 5 reasons to make the switch

And a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t

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Lots of tech reviewers, including myself, considered the MateBook X Pro as one of the best Windows laptops of 2018. It has the build quality, performance, and look that could easily take on the MacBook Pro.

Naturally, Huawei followed up this major release with a set of new notebooks in early 2019. These include an updated MateBook X Pro, MateBook 14, and finally, the MateBook 13 we have here.

Given its name and pricing — starting at US$ 999 for the Intel Core i5 variant — it’s a given that this is at the lowest end of the MateBook lineup. But don’t let any of those figures fool you; this is one solid product.

I can provide a few reasons why.

Smaller yet equally powerful

Having used the MateBook X Pro as a daily driver for several months now, switching to the MateBook 13 felt like a downgrade at first. I’d miss the quad speaker setup and larger screen, but those were the only losses in the grander scheme. If you took even a single glance at the MateBook 13’s specs sheet, you’d know that it still packs a punch.

The particular model I reviewed, which retails for US$ 1,299, comes with a Core i7-8565U, 8GB of memory, 512GB of fast storage, and a GeForce MX150 GPU. That’s loads of power for a slim laptop that’s only 14.9mm thick with a weight of 1.3kg. That’s also perfect for pushing the 2160 x 1440 pixels on the 13-inch display.

All the convenience is here

I was a little worried that Huawei would remove the fingerprint scanner as a way to cut costs, but fortunately for me and everyone who uses the MateBook 13, it’s still conveniently placed on the power button. Keep your finger on the sensor for a couple of seconds during boot-up, and you’ll go straight to your desktop.

Another handy feature is the fast charger the MateBook 13 comes with. At 65 watts, it can bring this laptop from zero to full in about 1.5 hours, which is similar to what Huawei does with SuperCharge tech on its flagship smartphones. As a bonus, the cable ends in USB-C, so it can quickly charge your handset, as well.

Huawei Share is surprisingly good

I admit, there was some skepticism at the beginning with the Huawei Share sticker placed on the lower-right corner of the notebook. I’ve seen multiple attempts at making syncing between a smartphone and laptop seamless for ages, but nothing has really made it worth the try over simply plugging the mobile device in.

To my delight, Huawei Share legit works. I tap my P30 Pro to the right of the trackpad, and it automatically pairs through NFC. From there, you can select photos, videos, or music you’d like to share between the two devices. The only downside, of course, is that you need a compatible Huawei phone to make this work, which would alienate tons of users.

A much better webcam placement

The biggest complaint of any MateBook X Pro user centers around the notebook’s awkward webcam placement. While the pop-up mechanism is cool, the videos you get out of it aren’t. It’s the lone downside of an otherwise perfect Windows laptop.

Huawei took notes and put the webcam where it belongs on the MateBook 13. It’s right above the display this time and doesn’t add much to the top bezel. It’s a shame that Huawei didn’t just apply this to all of its laptops from the start, but I do miss the privacy I got from the hidden placement of the MateBook X Pro.

Pretty much everything about the design

I believe that 14 inches is the sweet spot for ultra-slim laptops; it provides enough real estate while fitting well inside any sort of backpack. However, the MateBook 13 makes a strong case for why 13 inches is even handier without losing much work space. Because the bezels are still so slim, the display always feels bigger than it looks.

I’m also glad that Huawei didn’t make any comprises with the keyboard and trackpad. The clickiness and response of every backlit key is spot on, and although the trackpad may be a bit too wide for its height, the responsiveness is equally satisfying and it’s so easy to apply gestures on it, especially if you pick the non-touchscreen option.

But then…

As usual, there are a few downsides. The most glaring one is the absence of a USB-A port. One can argue that USB-C is the future — and the MateBook 13 has two of these — but if the MateBook X Pro can have a couple plus one USB-A, so should the MateBook 13. There’s a dongle for this, but being able to plug in straight away is miles more convenient.

As alluded to earlier, this laptop bears only two downward-firing speakers. They can get loud, but clarity is lost at the higher levels, and is totally muffled when placed on a soft surface. And because of the smaller overall heft, battery life takes a hit. I could get easily get over six hours of usage on one full charge, but that isn’t MateBook X Pro levels.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The MateBook 13 is best described as a more affordable MateBook X Pro that doesn’t compromise too much. In effect, it’s yet another MacBook competitor.

With the exception of video calls, there were several moments wherein I wished I’d been using the MateBook X Pro instead, specifically when binge watching shows and plugging in a flash drive.

Otherwise, for the price it commands, the MateBook 13 is one of the best in its class. I love how you can get high performance and a quality build in such a compact package.

The best alternatives here are the MateBook 14 for something a little bigger and Dell’s XPS 13 line, which had been the undisputed champ before the current-gen MateBook series arrived. Now, that crown has to be shared.

CES 2020

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 screams premium

Simple, clean, and light

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Despite Apple’s dig at Chromebooks, it appears to be going strong with yet another addition to the portfolio — the ASUS Chromebook Flip C436.

Simple, clean, and light

ASUS is calling this the thinnest and lightest 14-inch Chromebook. It’s only 13.7mm thick and weighs just 1.1kg.

Complementing the slim form factor are two unique finishes: An iridescent Aerogel White which changes color depending on your viewing angle, and a more subtle Transparent Silver.

The sexy look extends to the display which has an 85 percent screen-to-body ratio.

Unexpected power

One would think something this slim form-factor will hold it back from going all out in performance. Fortunately for us, that’s not the case.

Here’s a specs and ports dump: Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6. Two USB-C ports, microSD card slot up to 2TB.

Whether you’re typing in laptop mode or writing on it in tablet mode, this will help you get your work done. Yes, write on tablet mode. This Chromebook supports any USI-compatible stylus.

The ASUS Chromebook Flip’s 42W all-day battery promises to delivery up to 12 hours of battery life.

Not just for work

When you’re done with the day’s work, you can flip it to tent mode for a Netflix session. The display along with the Harman Kardon-certified speaker setup should produce audio perfect as you unwind for the day.

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 starts US$ 999 will be available at around the first and/or second quarter of 2020.

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CES 2020

The Lenovo Ducati 5 is a racing inspired laptop

It even gets an exhaust note on startup!

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Lenovo has been partnering with Ducati on the racetrack for a couple of years now, and today, the company announced the Lenovo Ducati 5, a new Windows 10 laptop that was designed in collaboration between the two companies.

The racing stripe and additional design features come together well, and the fresh 10th-gen processor from Intel should keep it running quickly. The BIOS chime is meant to match the sound of Moto GP riders, and it comes in a Ducati gift box that has matching colors. It also comes with a sleeve that has a Ducati shield.

Apart from the Ducati branding, Ducati 5 is a standard mid-range laptop. It comes equipped with a 10th gen Intel Ice Lake Core i5-1035G1, Intel integrated graphics, 8 GB of RAM, a 14-inch display, and up to a 1 TB PCIe SSD.

Unsurprisingly given the size, there’s no discrete graphics on board, just the integrated graphics of the chip. This is not meant for serious video work or gaming.

Port selection is fairly good, offering users two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, one USB Type-C port, HDMI, an SD card reader, and a 3.5 mm audio jack.

The Lenovo Ducati 5 starts at EUR 900 and will be available in April 2020. Lenovo does not list a U.S. pricing. With a production run of just 12,000 units, the Ducati 5 is clearly a niche product.

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CES 2020

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold: Not just a computer

Best foldable so far?

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Last year in the midst of a foldable smartphone war, Lenovo showed us that a computer with a foldable display was also possible.

At that time it didn’t come with a name. Or specs. Or a launch date or a price. But all of that changes here at CES 2020.

What makes the Thinkpad X1 Fold so special? If you saw our preview video you would know, but if you didn’t don’t worry, we got you covered.

It’s not just a computer, its many things.

It’s a huge 13.3 tablet with an OLED display that folds close just like this. When shut, it looks just like a notebook complete with its built in leather folio cover.

You can also hold it like a book and and enjoy an e-book the way you would regular books. Use it with a pen, and it’s a notebook!

You can fold it horizontally too and the bottom half turns into a virtual keyboard. Or, and we weren’t allowed to tell you before, use a real keyboard.

When the X1 Fold is closed it fits snuggly in the middle of the display, so you can easily take it anywhere with you. Flick open the kickstand to use the tablet as a monitor and control everything with the physical keyboard.

You could also fold it horizontally and prop the keyboard on one half of the display and use it like you would any laptop. Key travel feels good and satisfying. It connects wirelessly and automatically. And it charges while tucked in the middle of the display.

The keyboard and pen are bundled and come free.

But Lenovo will also sell a stand for propping it up when you want to connect it to an external monitor. Yes you can do that do.

Another thing we weren’t allowed to show you before is its hinge mechanism. The secret sauce that allows it to fold and unfold like this.

It’s worth pointing out. While the durability of flexible displays is still questioned, Lenovo is willing to risk the name ThinkPad — a brand that’s synonymous with durability and performance.

Now that the design is final. We can also now share button and port placements: Two USB-C ports. One on the bottom, the other is on the right along with SIM card slot, volume button, and the power button.

At launch Lenovo will first be offering a model with a full version of Windows 10 Pro. A version with the upcoming Windows 10X is eventually coming.

Because many of you will ask. Here is the spec sheet: You get the latest Intel processors, up to 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

While the future of computing is still being debated. A versatile device like the ThinkPad X1 Fold is exciting and makes sense. It’s an idea we can get behind. And it’s one of GadgetMatch’s Best of CES 2020 Awardees!

The question now is people will go out and buy it. Would you?

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