Huawei Matebook D Review

Cover

Introduction

I recently found myself looking for a new laptop. I mostly use it for university and occasionally some light gaming, so here are my requirements:

  • Between 12 and 14 inches
  • Nice design and build quality, no gaming aesthetics
  • Decent CPU and GPU
  • Good battery life
  • Below 1000€

At only 699€, I decided to buy this Huawei Matebook D with Ryzen, because it seemed to fit all the requirements and it has a Ryzen CPU with Vega graphics, both of which I wanted to try.

2 days later and it's finally here. I know I'm hard to please, so let's see if this notebook is any good.

Unboxing

The notebook comes in a fairly minimal packaging, with the only accessories being the charger and some warranty cards.

Box Box contents Box contents

The body of the laptop is all metal with a silver finish, which gives it a premium feel and makes it sturdier.

Back Front

The 14 inch screen has thin bezels, with a screen to body ratio of 83%. In my case, it's matte and not a touchscreen, but they also make a touch version if you want it.

As you may have noticed, the design of this laptop looks a lot like a Macbook. Whether you like this or not is up to personal preferences (personally I would have preferred a more original design, but it looks good so I'm happy with it).

Unlike the Macbook that it tries to mimic, this laptop has dececnt connectivity: on the left side we have a single USB Type C for both data and charging, which is fantastic because I can use my power bank in case of emergency as well as a dongle, a full size HDMI output, and a USB 3 connector; on the right side we have a second USB 3 connector, and a headphone/microphone 3.5mm jack.

Left side Right side

As you can see, the notebook is quite thin, at only 15.8mm; it is quite heavy though, at almost 1.5kg.

The overall build quality is really good, exceptional for this price range. There is no real flex on either the keyboard or the screen.

Tech specs and benchmarks

  • CPU: Ryzen 5 2500U, 4 cores 8 threads, 2GHz base clock, 3.6GHz boost
  • GPU: AMD Radeon Vega 8
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 2400MHz CL17 (Not expandable!), of which 6.9GB are usable, and 1GB are assigned to the GPU
  • Storage: 256GB LiteOn CV8-8E256 (Can be replaced with any M.2 SSD, both SATA and NVMe)
  • Screen: 1080p IPS 60Hz

CPU-Z CPU-Z GPU-Z

Cinebench

Cinebench gives us an idea of CPU performance in both multi thread and single thread scenarios.
The Ryzen 5 2500U scored 540 points in multi thread, and a miserable 90 points in single thread. While this isn't a bad score for a laptop, this shows that single thread performance still isn't AMD's forte. On the plus side, the score is the same when the laptop is unplugged.

Cinebench

CrystalDiskMark

This test gives us an idea of the speed of the SSD.
The 256GB drive isn't particularly great, but the system is snappy, so it's good enough. Still, replacing it with a larger, faster, NVMe drive would be a good choice.

SSD benchmark

Unigine Valley and Superposition

Since we have a GPU, let's see how good it is for gaming.

We tested Unigine Valley with in both 720p Ultra and 1080p Ultra. Clearly, if we're going to play games on this, we'll have to do it in 720p, but it's not a terrible result, especially compared to Intel graphics.

Unigine Valley

We also tested Unigine Superposition in 720p with the Low preset, and it managed to get through it with a score of 3997.

Unigine Superposition

This integrated GPU is about as powerful as a 2009-10 high end GPU, like the AMD HD5870. Still enough to play some games, but not for any serious gaming, which is good for me, I have a desktop for that. I need to point out that this is an AMD GPU, so don't expect old games to run easily on it.

Keyboard and trackpad

As a keyboard snob, I have to say that the keyboard is not bad at all.
It's a rubber dome, chiclet keyboard, with fairly short travel keys (but not as short as the Macbook) and 3 brightness levels for the backlight. What's most important, it doesn't flex at all, unlike my previous laptop.
I did a typing test and got a fairly decent 77 WPM on it.

Keyboard

One negative thing I have to say however, is that the Function keys and the F keys are swapped (so for instance, to refresh a page I have to press Fn+F5 instead of just F5) and this cannot be changed in the BIOS like other laptops. It also lacks a menu key next to the spacebar, which is mildly frustrating because I use it a lot.

The trackpad is good (although not as good as the Macbook it's trying to copy): it's smooth, it doesn't glitch, gestures are detected properly, and there is no significant delay. Overall, it's better than my previous laptop's trackpad.

Screen, camera, speakers

The 14 inch 1080p IPS screen is good but not exceptional.
The image is crisp, it is a proper RGB display and not pentile so it can be used at 96 DPI just fine; the colors are good, not overly saturated, and the maximum brightness is high, but the viewing angles are a bit mediocre for an IPS display. The backlight shows some PWM flickering at lower levels.

Screen closeup
Viewing Angles

The 720p webcam is pretty bad, but nobody uses it anyway. Here's a picture I took with it showing all my disappointment.

Camera quality

The stereo "Dolby Atmos" speakers actually sound pretty good, not too tinny, with some bass, but they're not very loud.

Speakers

Battery life

I'm happy to say that the battery life is quite good. With normal use, it lasts 7-9 hours, which is enough for a full day in university, or to run a bunch of benchmarks and write this review.

The battery capacity is 56316mWh, not replaceable of course.

Battery life

BIOS and preinstalled bloat

Of course, not everything can be good. The BIOS in this machine is simply terrible. There are almost no settings to change and the interface sucks.
This picture shows ALL the settings that the laptop has. Nothing relevant can be changed other than secure boot. No legacy boot, by the way.

BIOS settings

As you can see, there are no fan settings, which I don't like, because the fan in this laptop turns on at around 50 degrees which is quite a low threshold, and it would be nice to change it, as well the fan ramp up/down times. At least the fan is not super loud.

Thankfully, Huawei kept the Windows bloat to a minimum, with only a proprietary settings app preinstalled and a "Dolby Atmos" app that I didn't try. It was running Windows 10 1803 so I wiped it and installed the 1809 update. I did not see any signs of bloat (or chinese botnet) after wiping it.

Conclusions

I give this laptop an 8.2/10.

The good:

  • Very competitive price of 699€
  • Excellent build quality
  • Good performance
  • Good battery life
  • Decent screen, keyboard, trackpad and speakers

The bad:

  • Only 8GB of non expandable RAM
  • Macbook copycat aesthetics
  • Crappy webcam

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