Huawei MateBook 16s review: An excellent 16-inch all-rounder

Prost

  • Understated design & solid build quality
  • Color-accurate 2.5K 3:2 IPS screen
  • Good performance
  • Decent battery life
  • Good speakers

Cons

  • No discrete GPU support
  • No SD or MicroSD card reader
  • No separate number pad
  • No IR support on webcam

Laptops with 16-inch displays hit the sweet spot for a variety of use cases because they can, if properly designed and built, deliver a winning combination of screen real estate and reasonable portability. Huawei’s recent MateBook D 16 impressed us with its understated design, comfortable keyboard with separate number pad, and conventionally located webcam. However, we thought that battery life could be better.

Enter the MateBook 16s — successor to the AMD-based MateBook 16, which earlier this year we judged ‘could be a real winner’ with a better webcam. This comment was aimed at Huawei’s notoriously quirky camera that popped up from a key in the Fn row, giving an unflattering ‘up the nose’ viewing angle during video calls. That’s fixed in the new model, which is based on 12th-generation H-series Intel Core processors and features a 2.5K IPS touch-screen plus a large-capacity battery.

This all sounds very promising, but does the MateBook 16s — which in the UK starts at £1,299.99 and currently comes with a free MateView GT 27-inch monitor worth £199.99 — deliver in practice?

Huawei MateBook 16s

Huawei MateBook 16s: 16-inch 2.5K IPS screen, 12th-generation H-series Core i7 or i9 processors, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage.

Images: Huawei

Design

The MateBook 16s is very clearly from the same stable design as the D 16, presenting a smart but minimalist look based around an aluminum chassis and a Space Gray finish. It has a slightly bigger footprint, is a touch slimmer (17.8mm vs 18.4mm), and weighs 290g more. Still, at 1.99kg it’s portable enough for the odd journey, if not perhaps your everyday commute.

The main differences between the two 16-inch models become evident when you open the lid, which reveals a keyboard flanked by speaker grills rather than accommodating a separate number pad, plus a considerably larger touchpad. The keyboard is backlit, offers 1.5mm of key travel, and is comfortable and quiet in use. Above the display, in its proper place in the center of the screen’s bezel, is a 1080p webcam.

Huawei MateBook 16s: keyboard

Unlike the MateBook D 16, which has a separate number pad, the MateBook 16s keyboard is flanked by speaker grilles. The power button in the top right corner incorporates a fingerprint reader.

Image: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

The 16-inch IPS screens are different, too, with the MateBook 16s delivering 10-point touch functionality and 2.5K resolution (2520 x 1680, 189ppi) with a 3:2 aspect ratio, compared to the D 16’s more modest non-touch FHD+ (1920 x 1200, 142ppi) panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Both panels offer maximum brightness of 300 nits and support 100% of the sRGB color gamut, but the MateBook 16s has the edge on contrast ratio – 1500:1 versus the D 16’s 1200:1. Huawei also claims high color accuracy (ΔE < 1) for the MateBook 16s's panel, making it a more suitable platform for creative use cases such as photography.

Features

The MateBook 16s is based on Intel’s 12th-generation H-series Core processors. Our £1,299.99 review unit had a 14-core (6 performance, 8 efficiency) Core i7-12700H CPU, while a top-end Core i9-12900H model is also available for £1,499.99. Both variants have 16GB of LPDDR RAM and 1TB of NVMe PCIe SSD storage, and there are no purchase-time or user upgrade options. The GPU is Intel’s integrated Iris Xe Graphics – there’s no support for discrete graphics here.

Wireless communication is handled by Intel’s Wi-Fi 6E AX211 module, which, as the name implies, supports the latest tri-band (2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz) Wi-Fi 6E standard along with Bluetooth 5.3.

Huawei MateBook 16s: ports

Right side (top): 2x USB-A. Left side (above): 2x USB-C (one with Thunderbolt 4), HDMI, audio in/out.

Images: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

There’s a good, but not lavish, selection of ports on the MateBook 16s. On the left side there are two USB-C ports, both with support for data, charging and DisplayPort, and one with 40Gbps Thunderbolt 4 support. Also on the left side is a full-size HDMI connector and a 3.5mm audio in/out jack. The right side has two USB-A ports with support for 5Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 1. SD or MicroSD card slots are increasingly common, and useful, on laptops, but you won’t find either here. Photographers who like the look of the display may be disappointed about this.

The MateBook 16s packs a large-capacity 84Wh battery – a considerable step up from the 60Wh unit in the MateBook D 16, and a reflection of this laptop’s higher-resolution screen and more powerful processors.

Performance & battery life

The 14-core Core i7-12700H processor in our MateBook 16s review unit delivered Geekbench 5 CPU benchmarks of 1840 (single core) and 9715 (multi core), which bear comparison with those we recorded for the M1 Max-based 16-inch MacBook Pro — 1790 (single core) and 12780 (multi core).

Huawei MateBook 16s: Geekbench 5

Chart: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

Under the PCMark 10 benchmark suite, the MateBook 16s delivered an overall score of 5628, and comfortably exceeded the recommended performance levels for the Essentials, Productivity and Digital Content Creation segments.

Huawei MateBook 16s: PC Mark 10

Chart: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

All this suggests that the MateBook will perform most workloads very capably, but what about demanding graphical applications – especially given the lack of a discrete GPU?

To investigate, we ran two 3DMark benchmarks: Night Raid, a DirectX 12 test for PCs with integrated graphics (such as the MateBook 16s); and Time Spy, a DirectX12 test for gaming PCs (with discrete GPUs). Not surprisingly, the MateBook 16s did much better in the less demanding Night Raid benchmark, with frame rates of 99.6 and 119.7 in the two graphics tests, compared to 11.4fps and 9.9fps in the equivalent Time Spy tests. A notebook equipped with the discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU gets an average Time Spy graphics score of 12073 (at the time of writing), putting the MateBook 16s score of 1743 into perspective.

In a nutshell: this laptop copes well with low-level gaming, but graphically demanding titles will likely prove too much for its integrated GPU.

To test the 84Wh battery’s performance, we carried out two rundown tests: one subjected the MateBook 16s to a heavy workload, involving multiple runs of PCMark 10 interspersed with live TV streaming from BBC iPlayer over wi-fi; the other was a far lighter regime, comprising web browsing, the occasional burst of iPlayer video and some word processing.

Huawei MateBook 16s: battery rundown

Chart: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

On this basis, you can expect somewhere between 5 hours and around 12 hours, depending on your workload mix. Note that we had screen brightness at the full 300 nits during these tests, so runtimes will be longer if you turn this down.

Huawei supplied a 65W smartphone-style USB-C charger with our review unit, although the spec sheet talks about 90W and 135W adapters (the latter for the Core i9 model). Starting with the battery at 16%, it took the supplied charger 40 minutes to restore it to 50% and 110 minutes to reach 100%.

We didn’t notice undue heat emanating from the MateBook 16s, even under heavy load. The cooling system includes dual ‘gaming-grade’ fans, vents on the underside and rear, and ‘extra-wide’ dual heat pipes. The laptop runs quietly, too. Here’s the thermal picture after the MateBook 16s had been running the ‘heavy’ workload mix described above for about 5 hours:

Huawei MateBook 16s: thermal image

Thermal camera images of the MateBook 16s lid (left), screen and keyboard (center) and underside (right), after running a heavy workload for about 5 hours.

Images: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

User experience

There are a couple of noteworthy UX features on the MateBook 16s, the first being AI Camera, which adds three layers of functionality to the 1080p webcam: Background, which can be blurry, a choice of three supplied by Huawei (living room, office, meeting room) or custom; Auto-centering, which keeps people centered in the field of view; and Gaze adjustment, which tweaks the image to make it seem as if you’re looking at the camera rather than the screen.

This is more diverting than essential, and frankly I’d prefer infrared support on the webcam to enable Windows Hello face authentication. As it is, you’ll have to make do with the fingerprint reader that’s integrated into the power button.

Huawei MateBook 16s: Super Device

Multi-device collaboration via Huawei’s Super Device system: The MateBook 16s and P50 Pro smartphone are logged into the same Huawei account and can share the phone’s screen on the laptop, and drag and drop files between them.

Screenshot: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

The other UX feature is Huawei’s Super Device system, which lets you connect the laptop to another compatible Huawei devices — phones, tablets, monitors — to share screens and files, and more. Clearly you need to be invested in the Huawei ecosystem to take advantage of Super Device, but if you are, it’s a useful extra.

Conclusions

If you’re looking for a laptop that combines a large, high-quality screen, good design and build quality, solid all-round performance, and a degree of portability, Huawei’s 16-inch, 1.99kg MateBook 16s fits the bill in many ways regards. It has addressed our main criticisms of the previous-generation MateBook 16, which remains a good option starting at £799.99, and is itself only a discrete GPU option, and perhaps an SD card slot, away from being unbeatable value.


Huawei MateBook 16s specifications

OS Windows 11 Home
Dimensions 351mm x 254.9mm x 17.8mm
Weight 1.99 kg
Display 16-inch IPS, 2520 x 1680 (3:2, 189ppi), 300 nits, 1500:1 contrast ratio, 100% sRGB
Colors 1.07 billion (10-bit color)
Screen to body ratio 90% (claimed)
Viewing English 178 degrees
Touch-screen 10-point multi-touch with finger gesture screenshot
Processor Intel Core i7-12700H, Core i9-12900H
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM 16GB (LPDDR5)
Storage 1TB (NVMe PCIe SSD)
Battery capacity 84Wh
Battery charger 90W (Core i7 model), 135W (Core i9 model)
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz)
Bodybuilding 5.3
Connections 2x USB-A (USB 3.2 Gen1), USB-C, USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, 3.5mm audio in/out
Keyboard full-size, backlit
Fingerprint reader integrated into the power button
Camera 1080p FHD (above screen)
Audio 4x mics, 2x speakers
Applications / features Super Device, Huawei PC Manager, Display Manager (Eye Comfort Mode), Performance Mode (Fn+P), Huawei Factory Reset
In the box Huawei MateBook 16s, 90W/135W USB-C power adapter, USB-C charge cable, quick-start guide, warranty card
Price £1299.99 (Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD) • £1499.99 (Core i9, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD)

Alternatives to consider

The benchmark for 16-inch laptops remains the MacBook Pro, which costs a hefty £2,399/$2,699 for an M1 Pro model with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. If you’re looking for the ultimate in portability with this form factor, you’ll want to consider the 1,199kg LG Gram 16.

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