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Huawei MateBook E review: Hands-on with the newest Surface Pro contender

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Last year’s Huawei MateBook ticked plenty of boxes. It featured a dazzlingly beautiful screen with notably speedy performance, but was hampered by atrocious battery flaws and a keyboard that just wasn’t up to snuff. Huawei’s having another go again this year, though: and it looks to take Microsoft’s Surface Pro by storm.

Launching hand in hand with the firm’s other MateBook offerings: the MateBook X and MateBook D at an unveiling event in Berlin, the Huawei MateBook E looks to have taken the criticisms of its predecessor, and improved on all of its flaws.

READ NEXT: Microsoft Surface Pro review: Goodbye Surface Pro 5, hello hybrid perfection

That awful keyboard I mentioned earlier? That’s been thrown out in favour of an all-new keyboard design that’s actually considerably more usable this time around. That, and thanks to greater power efficiency in those new Kaby Lake processors, battery life should be far more commendable, too.

Huawei MateBook E review: UK price, release date and specifications

Processor Intel Core m3-7Y30 / Intel Core i5-7Y54
RAM 4GB / 8GB
Storage 128 GB / 256 GB / 512 GB SSD
Display 12in 2,160 x 1,440 IPS
Dimensions 6.9 x 278.8 ×194.1mm
Weight 1.1Kg
UK price €999 (Core m3, 4GB, 256GB); €1,199 (Core i5, 4GB, 256GB); €1,299 (Core i5, 8GB, 256GB)
UK release date Summer 2017

Huawei MateBook E review: Design and first impressions

It’s no surprise to see that Huawei isn’t deviating from that svelte look of the original. The MateBook E is still an absolute stunner, and it’s beautifully slim to boot. Strangely, it doesn’t look like the Surface Pro rival you’d expect, running Windows 10, rather: it’s more reminiscent of an Android tablet if anything else.

Regardless, you’ll fine the MateBook E’s solitary USB-C port on the left edge, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack, volume rocker and – crucially – a fingerprint reader. In case you were wondering: all these little extras are in the same location as before.

When it comes to that folio keyboard – it’s pretty clear Huawei has taken those harsh criticisms of the original on board. Last year’s effort was, to put it mildly, dreadful – a keyboard with keys that weren’t separated, all while struggling to sit flat on a surface? Absurd.

But, this new and improved keyboard is night and day. There’s a hinge at the rear of the keyboard (which also doubles as a case) to prop the tablet up, which makes the whole experience immediately more comfortable. It’s fully adjustable, too – so you can easily set the angle as you see fit.

Each key is now individually backlit, and all are nicely spaced apart – a far cry from the cramped experience of the original. Keystrokes did feel a tad light during my brief time spent typing away, but I may be nitpicking a touch, here.

Internally, it’s much the same as last year’s albeit with one crucial difference. There’s a Kaby lake upgrade this year: with a choice of either Intel Core i3 Y-series or full-fat Core m3 processors. This is paired with either 4GB or 8G of RAM, and a choice of 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of storage. And alas, there’s no option to expand via microSD either, best choose wisely.

Huawei MateBook E review: Early verdict

Now, it’s still early days when it comes to my MateBook E review, but initial first impressions are positive. While we’re yet to get any proper UK pricing quite yet – that €999 price tag does seem a trifle steep, and I’m a touch worried about it in the run up to its release.

Regardless, it’s a marked improvement over last year’s model – with upgraded internals and a lovely keyboard – and i’ll be watching the MateBook E’s launch with great interest. Keep that cost down Huawei, and you might just have a proper Surface Pro rival on your hands.

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