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Huawei MateBook review: Hip, hip Huawei is just a little too stylish for its own good

Mark Hachman | June 29, 2016
The MateBook is a fine tablet in many ways, but its design involves some sacrifices.

The MateDock itself? Slightly less so. The MateDock includes two USB-C connectors: an inbound one for charging only, as well as a second, 5-inch USB-C cable that connects the MateBook to the dock itself. The short length of the connector cable limits how the dock can be placed on your desk—and because it’s built into the internals of the dock itself, it can’t be replaced with a longer alternative. Even worse, the cables had an incredibly irritating tendency to loosen whenever I adjusted the dock’s position, enough that charging would (unknowingly) cease.

Unlike the Surface docks, which tend to align themselves with the miniDisplayPort standard, the MateDock includes an ethernet jack plus VGA and HDMI connections on one end, as well as two USB 3.0 ports on the other, which supply 0.5W and 0.9W, respectively, for charging. 

huawei matebook matedock retouched
Mark Hachman

The MateDock fits within a leather case, clasped by two magnetic buttons that don’t do a great job of securing the dock. A VGA and HDMI connection are on the other side.

When I’m on the go I’m often content with just a single USB connection, and the USB-C to USB-A cord Huawei includes serves that purpose. I think of a dock as a desktop accessory, though, and I’d like to see a microSD card reader built in at the very least. From a connectivity standpoint, the MateBook and its MateDock still feel like they fall just a bit short—and it gets even more complicated when the MatePen is factored in.

MatePen: Swiss Army meets Rube Goldberg

Though digital ink may eventually become predominant with technologies like Windows Ink, e-ink largely remains a matter of personal choice. I tend not to use it except in certain specific cases. Nothing struck me as that unusual about the MatePen, although I do like its broad nib (a spare was provided) and its 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, which is a step up from the 1,024-level sensitivity provided by styluses for other, older tablets. In a bit of a Swiss-Army-knife move, its upper half separates to become a battery-powered laser pointer.

huawei matebook matepen
Mark Hachman

The MatePen, connected to its charging cable.

Charging the MatePen, though, is where Swiss-Army versatility crashes into Rube-Goldbergian complexity. The Apple iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil requires you to connect a Lightning cable to its top. Huawei apparently thought that was too easy, and requires you to unscrew the upper, laser-pointer half of the pen and connect a microUSB cable to the lower half of the pen to charge the main battery. Huawei hasn’t said whether you can use a third-party cable or USB charger to charge the pen. To be on the safe side, we charged directly from the tablet, using the associated USB-C-to-microUSB cable. Of course, that meant we couldn’t charge the pen and the tablet at the same time. 

 

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