27th February 2024 6:34 pm
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Huawei MateBook D 16 (i9-13900H) review: Pedigree workhorse

While Huawei may be mainly known for its phones the rest of its portfolio really should not be overlooked and, as we start 2024, it has introduced a pair of notable notebooks in the form of the MateBook D 16.

Of this there are two versions to consider: the 12th Gen Intel i5-12450H which retails for R14 999 in South Africa (which we detailed in a news segment here) and the 13th Gen i9-13900H which retails for R24 999. We have the higher tier i9 in for review and we can now report back on the ownership experience after a few weeks.

The unboxing is a rather simple affair with the “Mystic Silver” notebook arriving in a nondescript brown cardboard box. Inside the MateBook is wrapped in a plastic sheath and with protection around it and, off to the side, is the charger.

Let’s look at the charger first because we both love and hate it.

This is a 65W Huawei SuperCharge unit that is a standard South Africa two point plug on one end and USB Type-C on the other. We love its tiny size compared to the power bricks of many other notebooks, the great performance (more on that later when we discuss battery life) and the continued standardisation of USB Type-C.

On the other hand we hate the fact that the USB cable is not removable so if that part of the charging unit breaks the entire thing will become unusable. This isn’t helped by the fact that the USB cable is very thin and doesn’t have robust ribbing around the end points to prevent fraying. If Huawei wasn’t going to beef up the cable it really should have been removable so owners could replace it themselves.

We also would have liked this cable to be longer. At just under two metres including the power brick itself it’s simply not as long as you would usually want for a notebook and you may find yourself sitting in some weird positions at home, work or at university.

On to the main show, however, and taking the MateBook D 16 out of the box reveals a very Apple MacBook design aesthetic with the metal body and silver colour. Huawei deftly pulls off the balancing act of high quality construction, sturdiness and weight with this notebook weighing only 1.72 kilograms.

The MateBook D 16 does fail the “one finger lift test”, but that’s acceptable for a notebook that packs so much into those 1.72 kilograms.

As we wait for the pre-packaged Windows 11 to do its initial setup (which takes quite a while even with these high specs, thanks Microsoft) let’s discuss what you get for the R24 999 price tag.

Our review Huawei MateBook D 16 is outfitted with the 13th Gen Intel i9-13900H processor, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 1 TB NVMe PCIe SSD, and a 70Wh battery.

From the factory that storage is partitioned with 199GB as the main Windows C drive and the remaining 733GB becomes the local D drive.

All of this is housed in a metal body dominated by a 16-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1920×1200. yes this isn’t the standard 16×9, but instead16x10 which many have long lauded as a better use of space in notebooks. On the other side of the notebook you will find a keyboard that also has a numpad.

Once Windows 11 is finally going after a few reboots and updates and we’re immediately impressed with this entire package and all its little features. The power button is also a fingerprint reader so you can skip any written passwords making the bootup even faster. We saw this notebook go from off to the Windows homescreen in just about 8 seconds which is incredibly quick.

That screen looks great, is decently bright at 178 degrees of viewing angle and we really appreciate the 90 percent screen to body ratio. We also like these larger notebooks and it’s an interesting experience going from the standard 15.6-inch / 16×9 screen to an even 16 inches at 16×10.

Are we now converts and want all screens to be 16X10? Not really. It’s a nice tiny extra piece of workspace to have for a mobile device but it isn’t a game changing as we’ve heard some other voices on the internet say it is.

Rounding out the exterior of the MateBook D16 is a decent array of ports. The left side houses the USB Type-C port which is used for a charging, one full size USB Type-A port, one full size HDMI port and finally an audio jack. The right side of the device is extremely lonely with a sole full size USB Type-A port.

While we can forgive a lack of Ethernet here we will really miss the memory card slot. With so much free space on either side of the machine we don’t see why this couldn’t be included and it really limits the MateBook D 16 for a lot of creative professionals who use this standard.

If we’re being super nitpicky we would have also liked a second USB Type-C on the right hand side so the notebook could have been charged from either side.

But nitpicking is the theme here. This notebook does most things well and all we really have to argue about is asking for things to be a little better. It’s a good day when the features are good and you only want more.

This trend continues with the speakers which are decently loud if lacking a bit of depth. Their real problem is that they’re downward facing so your audio quality will change dramatically depending on where your notebook is sitting.

For those wondering why we use the term “notebook” instead of “laptop” well it’s because most manufactures don’t really recommend using these devices on your lap or other soft surfaces like the couch or a bed. While this is usually for heat-related reasons, it’s worse here as these soft surfaces will affect the audio dramatically.

All that being said the speakers are plenty loud, something we discovered in our battery test. We turned off all battery saving options and cranked the power mode to performance. The screen brightness and volume was left at maximum and we streamed video in full screen nonstop until the battery ran out.

We could hear the MateBook D 16 from behind two brick walls so if all you want is loudness, you have it.

But more important is the battery. In this test we got just shy of six hours before the notebook shut itself off at two percent battery remaining. This is, again, rather impressive. In real life use we saw similar performance, but only when we turned on some of the battery saving options. With these turned on you will almost always get through a full eight to 10 hour work day, but if you have performance mode turned on at all times it may be a struggle.

Charging was a quick affair with the included 65W charger. We went from the two percent shut off state back up to 100 percent in around 100 minutes. Another solid showing for this device.

The i9-13900H paired with the 16GB of RAM and the already discussed fast storage makes for a notebook that really doesn’t slouch at all when it comes to even heavy multitasking, but let’s look at some raw numbers to back that up.

We ran some benchmarks both on the battery and with the charger connected, and here are our findings:

On battery

  • Time Spy benchmark score: 1 824,
  • Time Spy graphics score: 1 603,
  • Time Spy CPU score: 10 121,
  • Cinebench 2024 CPU multi-core: 734,
  • Cinebench 2024 CPU single-core: 109.

On charger

  • Time Spy benchmark score: 2 025,
  • Time Spy graphics score: 1 780,
  • Time Spy CPU score: 9 216,
  • Cinebench 2024 CPU multi-core: 753,
  • Cinebench 2024 CPU single-core: 113.

As you can see synthetic scores across the battery and charging options are relatively close with the charger option beating it out, albeit in thescore in Time Spy. This wasn’t due to back to back testing and heating as we let the notebook cool completely down before starting a new test. This was likely just a small deviance.

Speaking of heat the MateBook D 16 handles it quite well despite the power of the i9-13900H. Much of the heat is kicked out the bottom thanks to a large fan grill that stretches most of the width of the notebook. Again this is why you should use these devices on your laptop or soft surfaces.

Some of the heat, in these extremes, does radiate through the top where your hands will be. We found most of the heat coming from the left hand side of the keyboard but it was on the mild side and not worth too much worry.

Looking past synthetic results and this Matebook did everything we asked of it with absolutely no slowdowns. We had dozens of Chrome tabs open and programmes running at the same time in a regular work day and this notebook flew through all of them. If you want a productivity machine that runs smooth as butter without any hiccups, this is the way to go.

While raw performance wasn’t a problem, we do have to mention some weird internet performance we got. The MateBook sometimes had troubles connecting to our network. Home / office networks are a complicated topic where any weak link in the chain can affect overall performance and the problem may have not been the MateBook, but we do want to mention this small problem here should any future customers experience the same.

Moving even more away from productivity is gaming. Huawei very much promotes these devices as productivity tools, and not something for games, but we had to kick the gaming tires of this machine given its huge CPU capabilities and those Intel iris Xe graphics, something the lesser i5 variant does not have.

On that front you can game on this version of the MateBook if you make a lot of sacrifices in resolution and quality. It definitely isn’t close to being your main gaming machine but, sticking to the fact that this a productivity device, you can definitely sneak in some rounds of your favourite esports title on your lunch break… or when the boss isn’t looking. Playing some Counter-Strike 2 on here gave us fond flashbacks to playing Counter-Strike 1.6 on school computers against the wishes of the IT teacher and that’s the gaming area where this PC can only really function: small bursts of lower spec games.

Let’s go back to the keyboard now which we used when gaming and for productivity. It’s fine but definitely on the softer side. We would have killed for a sharper, more tactile mechanism and we simply didn’t get it. It’s a real shame, but we think most people will get used to it after a while. Again looking at this from a purely productive point of view and we can see some professionals preferring the numpad inclusion over a better typing experience, but we don’t think it’s too much to ask for both.

There’s very little flex in the keyboard and trackpad, thankfully, which is a real feat given that the MateBook D 16 doesn’t sit flat, but is instead angled forward on rubber feet to give those fan grills more room to breath.

The i9-13900H version of the MateBook D 16 is an extremely competent device that does exactly what Huawei claims it will do all while looking great and being priced very well here in South Africa. Taking a quick gander at Takealot, for example, and you’ll see a slew of notebooks from other manufacturers with much higher prices for similar performance.

At R24 999 those other companies will be selling you notebooks with outdated i5 or i7 CPUs paired with half the RAM and half the storage.

With these positives in mind, just take note of the MateBook D16’s specs and what use cases you have in mind. The RAM, storage and graphical capabilities may not be exactly what you need if you mainly work in fields such as design, CAD, animation and more. Also this notebook lacks some features which other offerings at many price points have, such as a touch screen and the ability to be folded into a tablet or tent mode.

But then, as always, those features may increase the size of the notebook, its battery draw and form factor, even speaking of comparisons outside the scope of exact price.

As a total package then there are a few niggles and features we could have asked for but nothing significantly brings it down and we’re very happy to have such a powerhouse like this in a reasonably compact package as loadshedding continues to plague the country in 2024.

FINAL SCORE: 8 OUT OF 10.

FULL DISCLOSURE: THIS HUAWEI MATEBOOK D 16 WAS SEEDED TO HYPERTEXT TO KEEP FOLLOWING THE REVIEW PERIOD.

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