Huawei MateBook 16S in the test: large-screen workhorse

Huawei MateBook 16S in the test: large-screen workhorse

Sixteen inch laptops used to make little sense as the main reason for owning a laptop is portability. And 16-inch screens just didn’t work well in the laptop space years ago, when bezels were thicker and components weren’t as streamlined.

But display technology has improved to the point where bezels can be ultra-thin and modern silicon is getting smaller and more energy efficient. This has allowed laptop manufacturers to produce 16-inch laptops that resemble the body of a 15 or even 14-inch laptop from five years ago.

Apple makes a very good one that runs on the company’s M1 Max silicon. If you want the equivalent but in the Windows space with Intel silicon, then Huawei has one for you.

Dubbed the MateBook 16S, this is a Windows computer powered by Intel’s latest 12th Gen H-series CPU, with a beautiful 16-inch 2.5K display with touchscreen support and a surprisingly thin 17.8mm display . It’s not light at just over 4 pounds, but it’s not heavy for a 16-incher either.

Huawei only released a 16-inch device last year, but it ran on AMD’s Ryzen processor, so this 12th-gen Intel model is an upgrade in computing power. And indeed, Huawei’s MateBook 16S outperformed the recently released and similarly priced M2 MacBook Pro in the CrossMark benchmark test.

The laptop is available in either i7 or i9 configurations and costs around $1,530 and $1,720, respectively. I say “around” because the laptop isn’t sold in the US but is officially available in the UK and parts of Asia including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and of course mainland China. In some markets, a free monitor is also included in the purchase price.

That’s a fair price for a device with a high-end display and Intel’s latest display. However, there is no decent GPU – Huawei relies on Intel’s Iris Xe graphics. From my testing, this is more than good enough for normal computing tasks and even casual gaming and video editing, but if you’re doing intricate 4K timelines, the render time is slower than Windows computers with a dedicated GPU, and definitely slower than the 16-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro.

But creatives aren’t the market Huawei is targeting here, this laptop is still meant for office and business work. And the machine is very good at it, with a large keyboard of bouncing, tactile keys. With 1.5mm travel, this keyboard has more depth than most laptop keyboards.

The trackpad has also been greatly improved over Huawei’s 2021 offerings. I can navigate Windows 11 without accidentally triggering things like I did on older Huawei laptops. This is a machine I’m fine with using without a mouse, which I can’t say for many Windows laptops.

Despite its thin build, the MateBook 16S also offers more ports than most laptops, including two USB-C ports (one of which is Thunderbolt 4), HDMI, a headphone jack, and two full-size USB-A ports. The latter are becoming increasingly rare in new laptops as the industry tries to force a switch to USB-C. To be honest, I mostly use USB-C too, but it’s still good to have USB-A ports.

Coming back to that display, it offers impressive color calibration and maximum brightness, and as mentioned, it supports 10-point multi-touch. A touchscreen on a laptop isn’t something I need badly, but it’s very nice to have. For example, when I’m typing long blocks of words, it’s nice to be able to move the cursor up two paragraphs with a tap of the screen instead of dragging the mouse arrow.

I’m also a fan of the 3:2 aspect ratio instead of widescreen because it shows vertical content better. You can even open four apps at once in Windows 11 and don’t have to squint too much. However, this means a lot of letterboxing when watching movies or videos.

There are two speaker grilles enclosing the keyboard and they sound great: audio is loud and full.

This makes the laptop a good media consumption machine and also has the battery life to match. Expect at least 11 hours of video playback. For work, I get about seven to eight hours to do my non-video tasks, including using a web browser with half a dozen tabs open, Spotify streaming in the background, and Slack, Twitter always open. That’s good battery life.

Charging is via the USB-C port, the laptop comes with either a 90W or 135W charger depending on whether you buy the i7 or i9 model.

On the software side, the MateBook 16S runs Windows 11 as mentioned, but there are additional benefits for those using Huawei’s device ecosystem. For example, you can quickly connect a Huawei smartphone and mirror your phone screen on the laptop display. This isn’t a silly connection, it’s an interactive one. You can actually control most of your phone’s functions from the laptop screen. If you have Huawei’s excellent MateView laptop, you can also easily cast content and use a Huawei tablet as a secondary display. Outside of Apple, Huawei currently has what may be the most seamless ecosystem synergy in consumer technology, which the company has dubbed a “super device.”

Since major hurdles were laid in front of Huawei’s then-rising cellphone line, the company has focused on other areas of consumer technology, and it looks like the company will make the same rapid ascent in the wearables and computing space that its phones used to do.

The MateBook 16S is an excellent large screen Windows device for those who need one. Most people would still be better off with a smaller 13-inch model, but for those who just want more screen real estate or something that can realistically be a full-time home computer, this is a worthy addition.

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