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Huawei Matebook poster in Barcelona

Microsoft’s Surface Pro has been the best Windows computer money can buy for over a year. Now it faces direct competition from an unexpected direction.

Like the Surface Huawei’s MateBook is a similar thin, light hybrid with a 12-inch display.

It follows the same basic format as the Surface: A tablet with a theoretically separate keyboard that everyone is going to buy anyway.

Matebook comes with a similar range of processors and memory configurations. Like the Surface Pro there’s a stylus, although Huawei’s also includes a laser pointer.

It even looks a lot like a Surface although there is also a nod of the head to Apple’s iPad Pro design. One nice touch is the fake leather keyboard case.

Perhaps the most important feature is that the Matebook is priced about 20 percent below Microsoft’s prices. That’s enough to make a difference.

Matebook prices start at €800[1] for a model with a Core m processor and 128 GB of storage. Microsoft has a similar configuration Surface Pro that sells for €1000.

This isn’t a direct comparison, Microsoft’s Surface Pro has a 2736 x 1824 pixel screen. Huawei says its Core m model runs faster than Microsoft’s Core m Surface Pro. The Matebook has a lower resolution at 2160 x 1440 pixels, but it also has the same fingerprint sensor technology used on Huawei’s phones.

Huawei has followed Microsoft’s practice of charging extra for a keyboard (€150), stylus (€70) and dock (€100). A Huawei New Zealand representative told me that when it reaches the country the Matebook will probably be sold bundled with a keyboard.

Bill Bennett travelled to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to the Matebook launch as Huawei’s guest.


  1. Prices are in euros because Huawei plans to sell the Matebook in Europe first. It goes on sale there in June. If the same price difference holds in New Zealand you can expect prices to start at around NZ$1250. Huawei expects it to be on sale in New Zealand in September.  ↩

One thought on “Huawei Matebook: A Surface for less

  1. Technology develops at two speeds.
    Most of the time it moves at a smooth pace. There is a constant stream of small, incremental updates, bug fixes and minor changes. Software version numbers tick over by decimal point or less.
    Now and then we see a great leap forward. An unexpected new device, app or service emerges almost from nowhere.
    Everything changes
    Great leaps change everything. They destroy old categories and create new ones. Think iPhone, Google search, tablets or Amazon Web Services[1].
    It has been a while since the last great leap forward. We can argue about what it was in the comments if you like[2].
    Despite the industry pushing hard in 2015, nothing seismic happened. It was a year of consolidation.
    At best we can say some companies laid the seeds of possible future great leaps. While we won’t know what they are until they flower, driverless cars may be one.
    This isn’t unusual. Great leaps forward don’t happen every year. Indeed, there are more years without great leaps than with them.
    Stagnation
    Something that is almost the inverse of a great leap forward happened in 2015. We saw stagnation and worse.
    The worse would be Personal computers. These have struggled for years. Sales continue to fall. There has been little noteworthy innovation since Apple introduced the MacBook Air.
    Touchscreens were a fizzer. The biggest slump in PC sales coincided with the mainstream arrival of touchscreens.
    The problem is with Windows PCs. Apple sales have grown while Windows computer sales show double-digit declines.
    Even Apple shows weakness. The new MacBook was a clever attempt to meet a market need. It works well for some users, but sales haven’t caught fire.
    Bright spot
    One bright spot is advanced hybrid portables like Microsoft’s Surface Pro and the Huawei Matebook introduced last week. Their sales are growing at around 20 percent albeit from a small base.
    Hybrid sales may be growing, but they aren’t winning new hearts fast enough to plug the gaps elsewhere in the PC business.
    Phones have replaced PCs at the centre of our working and online lives. For years they developed at a clip adding exciting and useful new features each year.
    In 2015 that came to a halt. Phones got a little better. Cheap phones got better. But there was no compelling new features to justify faster-than-essential upgrades.
    Phone technology has stagnated. No doubt there are cool new ideas bubbling in the labs in Apple, Samsung or Huawei. But, at least for now, we appear to have reached the limit of existing phone formats.
    Fixing Windows
    Windows 10 is a better effort from Microsoft than the limp Windows 8, but it does little more than put the operating system back on track. It is not a dramatic breakthrough. It is a much-needed fix.
    Microsoft scores better elsewhere. Office continues to evolve and spread its reach to new devices. The Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book are great computers, but neither is a great leap forward.
    The most hyped introduction of 2015 was Apple’s Watch. It wasn’t new, a slew of watches were already on sale when it arrived.
    It wasn’t special. Sure, many people reading this will disagree and tell me how their Watch is an essential part of their life. It’s almost a year after the Watch first appeared and there is no buzz. Even developers have given up sending out gushing press releases about Watch apps.
    Virtual reality continues to generate media copy. Devices may pour out from factories, but little is happening with content. And the content that has appeared is lame.

    This, it turns out, is how most life scientists now think evolution works. Smooth changes and occasional big jumps.
    My picks for the most important recent developments are software defined networking and network function virtualisation. While the technologies are big news for service providers they’re invisible to everyday technology customers. That’s hardly the stuff of a great leap forward.

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