HUAWEI MATEBOOK 13 First Impressions on Linux (elementary OS)

April 29, 2020

I’ve just received my new Matebook 13 laptop ! I’m going to use it for writing my novels, mainly, but also at work to replace my macbook air 2018 which is pretty slow and underpowered. I’ll make a video series on that laptop and how I use elementary OS at work, but in this first part, I’ll just give my first impressions of the laptop.

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** The machine**
I went with the core i7 version of the Matebook 13. In europe, unfortunately, this version doesn’t come with an MX150 as a graphics card, but just an intel HD 620. The processor is an i7, quad core from the U series, designed for low power consumption. It has 8gb of RAM, 512 gb of SSD storage, and an integrated graphics card.
Its screen goes up to 1440p, which is kind of a problem for me, but we’ll talk about that later, and it only has 2 usb C ports, which have their own set of issues as well, as well as a headphone jack.
It shipped with windows 10, but I quickly replaced it with elementary OS, thanks to a handy USB-C to usb A adapter I got with my galaxy S10e.
The matebook has a large trackpad, which is very nice to use, smooth and responsive, even on Linux, where trackpads are mostly… garbage. It supports up to 4 finger gestures out of the box on Linux as well.
The keyboard is really nice to type on, with a good key travel, and springy keys that don’t feel like they stick. I must confess, I kinda liked the macbook air keyboard, apart from its issues, but this keyboard is much much better, and doesn’t feel like you’re clacking away and hurting your fingers.
The whole laptop is made of aluminum, I got the dark grey color, but it also exists in silver, and although the design is not unibody, it does feel really nice and sturdy, with little to no give when you press on the palm rests.
The screen can’t be opened with one finger without tilting the whole laptop, but I don’t personally mind.
Finally, the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader, but that doesn’t work on Linux, so you’ll jet use it a regular power button.
I paid 1100 €, including taxes, for that machine, which is not cheap, but still reasonable for what you get and the build quality.

To be noted, the laptop ships with a dongle with USB C, USB A, HDMI, and DVI ports, so you won’t have to buy it yourself. It also has a quite large power brick, and a usb c cable for charging it.

Now, the elephant in the room: yes, it does look like an Apple laptop, apart from the big huawei logo on the back. The color is the same, and the general look and feel is clearly heavily inspired, but that was what I was looking for.

**How does Linux work on it**
Perfectly! I only installed elementary OS after rebooting windows in recovery mode to select the USB key as a boot device, and although it’s not the most up to date distro, it worked flawlessly out of the box. The function keys are recognized, all the hardware is present and detected, apart from the fingerprint reader, and the webcam, the wifi and bluetooth modules work out of the box.
The trackpad feels great, much better than my previous laptop, an Aspire V Nitro.

I still have to use it more to draw conclusions on battery life, but browsing the web and typing a few documents made a small dent, and I’d say you can expect about 5 hours, but I’ll test that more thoroughly.

**First issues**
The screen is one. 1440p for a 13 inch laptop is way too high. Everything was either too big, with 2x scaling, or too small, with 1x scaling. Increasing font size helps a little bit, but it’s not perfect. I’d have taken a 1080p panel over the 1440p one, but that was not an option.
USB C ports also are weird. The one on the left can only charge the laptop or use USB devices, and the one on the right is the only one that can be used to connect external displays, which seems like a weird decision to me.

Apart from that, and the fingerprint reader not having drivers for Linux, I didn’t encounter any hardware issue yet.

**Use cases**
I’ll use this laptop mainly as a typing machine. I don’t like writing on a detached keyboard, and writing my books on a laptop is more natural to me, so this machine will basically be my typewriter.
More than that, though, it will also be my dedicated work machine, for my day job. I’ll use it to write project specifications, do mind mapping, a bit of graphic design, creating slides and spreadsheets, and editing a little bit of video as well. It will also handle emails, appointment management, and be used to present our work every three weeks.

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