It’s been three years since Microsoft introduced the first Surface Pro, and still nobody’s nailed the “tablet PC” concept — at least, not comfortably.
While the likes of Lenovoand HP have made very good laptops that can also serve as makeshift tablets, few companies have gracefully pulled off the reverse.
It’s entirely possible to get things done with that “stronger-than-usual tablet + attached keyboard” combo, but often times the experience feels compromised. As a tablet, it’s strong, but unwieldy. As a laptop, it’s super portable, but not as comfortable to use. That these 2-in-1s tend to come at a price premium doesn’t help.
That said, they’ve become popular. The Surface Pro has its share of rabid fans, and even Apple jumped into the game last fall with its jumbo-sized iPad Pro. There’s an audience out there — and probably one with deep pockets — that’s hungry for this kind of flexibility.
The latest company aiming to sate that crowd is Huawei, the fast-growing Chinese firm that’s best known for making smartphones. Now, it’s launched its first stab at the tablet PC market: the Huawei MateBook. It’s gorgeous. It also showed me what's wrong with tablet PCs in general. Let’s take a closer look.
The MateBook’s build is easily the best thing it has going for it. Everything about it comes off like a substantial, premium tablet.
It’s not hard to see the iPad influence here, but that’s far from the worst thing to take after. The metallic back is smooth and solid, with few flourishes and no creakiness. The bezels aren’t big, the edges are nice and chamfered, and the volume and power buttons have a satisfying click. There’s a clean, professional feel to the whole thing that invites you to show it off.
That’s helped by how light and thin it is. At 0.27 inches thin and 1.4 pounds, the MateBook is a breeze to carry around, and no burden at all in your bag. It’s way more “tablet” than “detached laptop screen.”
The only real complaints I could see are the lack of a rear-facing camera, just a decent 5-megapixel selfie cam, and the lack of a Start menu key on the tablet’s front. I can’t save you if you’re someone who uses a tablet to take pictures, but you can get around the latter with the MateBook’s keyboard case.
The MateBook's case has its ups and downs. Even if its leathery finish isn’t genuine, it looks great, and doesn’t feel cheap.
The keyboard could be better, though.
It’s not bad, just unspectacular. The keys themselves are big, but barely spaced out, and they hit down with more impact than I’d prefer.
I still prefer it to the mushiness of Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro, but it’s not as fast or gentle as the board on a hybrid like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga.
The mousepad, meanwhile, responds to clicks, gestures, and general movements just fine. It’s not buttery smooth, but it didn’t cause any complaints.