Huawei MateBook 16 review: A great laptop that’s still using a terrible webcam

Huawei MateBook 16 review: A great laptop that’s still using a terrible webcam

In my relatively short time as a PC reviewer, most of my experiences have been with Honor laptops. Formerly a sub-brand of Huawei, Honor’s MagicBook laptops used very similar designs to those of Huawei, and usually similar specs, too. And all of them were solid laptops with good performance and a premium design, but they didn’t do a whole lot to stand out, and they were marred by atrocious webcam placement. The Huawei MateBook 16 is my first experience with a proper Huawei laptop, and it’s been a great one – far better than any of the Honor-branded laptops I’ve used.

There’s a lot to love with the Huawei MateBook 16, and I certainly love using it for almost anything. But that’s the key word here: Almost. As much as it’s better than other Honor laptops I’ve used, it’s still using that terrible webcam, a part that has become critical in the era of working from home.

Navigate this review:

Huawei MateBook 16 specs

CPUAMD Ryzen 7 5800H (8 cores, 16 threads, up to 4.4GHz)
GraphicsAMD Radeon Graphics (integrated)
Body13.82″ x 10.04″ x 0.7″ (351mm x 254.9mm x 17.8mm), 4.39 lbs (1.99kg)
Display16″ (3:2) 2520 x 1680 IPS, 400 nits, 100% sRGB, Average Delta E = 1
Memory16GB DDR4 (dual-channel)
Storage512GB NVMe PCIe SSD
Ports2 x USB Type-A (USB 3.2 Gen 1) 2x USB Type-C (supports charging, DisplayPort, and data) 1x headphone / microphone combo jack (3.5mm) 1 x HDMI
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6 2 x 2 MIMO + Bluetooth 5.1
Camera720p HD Recessed camera
Keyboard6-row, LED backlight, includes camera in function row Glass touchpad with multi-touch
AudioDual top-firing speakers, Dolby, dual microphones with 5-meter pickup, echo reduction, and AI noise cancellation
SecurityFingerprint sensor in power button
Battery84 Wh, supports Huawei SuperCharge with 135W USB-C power adapter
ColorSpace Gray

Design: The Huawei MateBook 16 is as standard as it gets

As far as looks go, you can’t get much more basic than the Huawei MateBook 16. The Space Gray color I got is the only one it comes in and it’s completely inoffensive, but it’s not particularly exciting either. Variations of silver seem to be the standard for many of the best laptops out there, and I imagine a lot of people will find this fits their needs perfectly, but to me, it’s just kind of boring.

The laptop does look and feel fine, though. The lid curves nicely at the edges, and when you open it up, the keyboard deck has these etched edges that remind me a lot of the lid on the Honor MagicBook laptops I reviewed in the past. The difference is, those used a blue highlight for the edges while this is still silver, just now much more reflective. It does add a little bit of flair to the overall design.

Considering the lack of dedicated graphics, the MateBook 16 is surprisingly heavy at 4.39lbs. I did try carrying it around in a backpack for a short walk (read 20 to 30 minutes) and it didn’t bother me at all, but if I was walking around all day, it would probably start taking a toll on my back and shoulders.

Looking at the ports around the laptop, there’s a solid supply of them overall. The left side features two USB Type-C ports, both of which support charging and DisplayPort, and the included 135W power adapter is also USB Type-C. You also get an HDMI port – something I value a lot since I still use a fairly traditional monitor, and a combo headphone/microphone audio jack.

On the right, you just get two USB Type-A ports, covering your needs if you need some legacy peripherals. Overall, you get a good range of ports here, so you can connect just about anything you might need. Except, of course, Thunderbolt devices, since this is an AMD-powered laptop.

Display: A stunning 3:2 IPS panel and powerful sound

The display on the Huawei MateBook 16 is definitely one of its highlights. It’s a 16-inch panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and it comes at an odd resolution of 2520 x 1680, which is similar to Quad HD. I’ve been used to standard Full HD laptop displays for years, and they’ve always been in the 16:9 aspect ratio, so getting to use something so different was almost jarring at first, but it’s fantastic. That tall aspect ratio really does make it feel like there’s so much more space compared to most 15-inch laptops, and browsing the web, reading articles, and so on feels really nice here.

It also helps this laptop feel compact in comparison to other 16-inch laptops I’ve used, which is helped by the small bezels around the screen. It has a 90% screen-to-body ratio, which is helped by the lack of a webcam at the top of the screen. It’s got up to 300 nits of brightness, and while it could be better, I found outdoor visibility to be just fine on the MateBook 16’s display. The screen is somewhat reflective, but it’s bright enough to stay visible.

It has 189ppi, which may not sound incredibly sharp on paper when we have technically much sharper screens in some phones, but this is still absolutely fantastic. Even looking closely at the screen, I couldn’t see an individual pixel if I tried. This pixel density and resolution also allow me to scale the Windows UI to be much smaller, which I always tend to do on any laptop. This also helps the screen feel that much more spacious. The display doesn’t support touch, which is a bummer for me personally, but that’s up to personal preference. I’m a big fan of convertible laptops, but they’re not for everyone.

Huawei touts 100% coverage of the sRGB color gamut, too, as well as an average color accuracy of Delta E = 1. Unfortunately, I’m not equipped to measure color values on the display on a more technical level, but again, this screen looks fantastic. Colors are bright and vibrant, and the contrast levels look good, too. Huawei claims a contrast ratio of 1,500:1, and again, I can’t test that accurately, but it certainly does look great.

If you want to change the way it looks, you can always use Huawei’s Display manager to tweak the color temperature. I personally loved it out of the box, but one setting I did change was in the AMD Radeon Software settings. Many laptops (and not just AMD ones) ship with a feature that changes the way colors are displayed when using battery power, and it ruins the contrast ratio of the display, making it very hard to read certain elements. On AMD laptops, this feature is called VariBright, and I’d recommend disabling it if you’ve noticed any issues like this.

Huawei MateBook 16 review: A great laptop that’s still using a terrible webcam

For sound, Huawei packed two top-firing speakers next to the keyboard, and these things are powerful. Having top-firing speakers is always a good thing, but in the few laptops I’ve used that had them, they weren’t that much better than bottom-firing speakers. Here, that’s not the case, these speakers are loud and they provide a pretty immersive stereo experience.

Keyboard: It’s great, and it’s hiding a webcam

For someone who writes for a living, I’m surprisingly not all that picky with keyboards, but I did find the Huawei MateBook 16 to be very comfortable. All the keys have a good amount of travel, and I’ve never had any issues with actuation or stabilization, everything works really well. The keyboard also has a white backlight with adjustable levels of brightness, which is a feature I don’t use that often, but it truly comes in handy at times.

But let’s talk about the big drawback of this keyboard: the webcam. If you’ve never seen a Huawei laptop, the idea of a webcam in the keyboard may sound absurd – and it is. As I said at the top, I’ve used a few Honor laptops in the past that did the same thing, and it’s just terrible. The webcam itself is just 720p, which isn’t great, but frankly not that bad, in my opinion.

The problem with having a webcam inside the keyboard is that it’s on the keyboard – where your hands are if you’re typing anything. Any time I’m in a meeting and trying to write at the same time, my fingers inevitably cover a big part of the frame, which is not the best look during an important meeting. Plus, it’s very likely it’ll get your ceiling lights in the frame, too, so you then have to be careful to be well lit. I’m one of the few people that cared a lot about laptop webcams even before last year, so I never understood why companies did this in the first place. A year and a half after the world changed, it’s even less understandable. You’re going to be looking like this in meetings.

Below the keyboard is a glass trackpad that’s positively huge, at least in comparison to other Windows laptops I’ve used. The tall aspect ratio of the screen means the laptop itself is also tall, and that makes room for a large trackpad that’s fantastic to use. Gestures with multiple fingers are super easy to do, and moving the mouse pointer all around never gets interrupted because of the touchpad size. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that while typing I’ll often touch the touchpad and it registers as a click, which can really mess up my typing. It’s not a problem I’ve had only with this laptop, but I do wish some form of palm rejection was put in place to prevent misclicks like that.

Another thing that’s on the keyboard deck is the power button, which includes a fingerprint reader built-in. This is a staple of Huawei laptops, and it works great here. It’s a nice size so it’s always easy to get an accurate reading, and it reads your fingerprint as soon as you press the button, so it can unlock your PC automatically when you turn it on.

Performance: AMD Ryzen 5000 is great, but there’s no discrete GPU

Now let’s talk performance, and this is my first time experiencing AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series processors in any way. The Huawei MateBook 16 comes with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, which has 8 cores and 16 threads. It has a base clock of 3.2GHz, and it can boost as high as 4.4GHz, which means you already have a recipe for solid performance. There’s no dedicated GPU, though, which is always an odd choice for a laptop using 45W processors.

Of course, in day-to-day use, you’re not going to be pushing this thing to its limits, and it breezes through web browsing and writing, which is most of what I do on a daily basis. I did run some benchmarks, though, and the Huawei MateBook 16 performed about as well as you’d expect. Of course, because there’s no discrete GPU, 3DMark performed a lot worse compared to most other laptops with this kind of CPU.

Huawei MateBook 16 Ryzen 7 5800HSurface Laptop Studio Core i7-11370H, RTX A2000Lenovo Legion Slim 7 Ryzen 7 5800H, RTX 3060Dell XPS 15 9510 Core i7-11800H, RTX 3050 Ti
PCMark 8: Home4,5994,1815,3223,969
PCMark 8: Creative4,7344,9626,2235,731
PCMark 8: Work3,8133,8434,5043,571
PCMark 105,9925,5736,4285,988
3DMark: Time Spy1,3765,0758,3164,801
Geekbench1,474 / 7,3231,546 / 5,8261,446 / 7,3351,538 / 7,514
Cinebench1,434 / 11,7691,504 / 6,2831,415 / 11,8331,491 / 9,339

Aside from that, the MateBook 16 performs very well, as you’d expect with a powerful CPU like this. I tried rendering video, too. I recorded a 4K video at 60fps with my phone, and it was about 1 minute and 1 second long. I threw it into DaVinci Resolve (version 17.4) and rendered it out in the same resolution and frame rate, and that took 4 minutes and 1 second to finish. For the sake of it, I also tried playing Rocket League, and it runs fairly well. At native resolution and render quality set to the Quality profile, I got frame rates around 30fps. You can definitely scale down the resolution and it’ll still look great, though, so you can get more performance without a huge downgrade. Still, you shouldn’t expect this to run the latest AAA games smoothly, and it’s obviously not meant for that.

Despite using a more power-hungry 45W processor, the Huawei MateBook 16 has impressive battery life. It was a struggle to get a proper measurement with real-life usage because I couldn’t easily get the laptop to reach an empty battery level with my typical usage. I usually measure battery life with the laptop unplugged from my second screen, and eventually, I got it to run out of battery after about 11 and a half hours of use in a day. That’s with brightness at around 30%, Wi-Fi on, and usage mostly consisting of web browsing and writing in WordPress using the Edge browser. It’s also based on Windows 10, which the laptop ships with, though I did upgrade to Windows 11 afterward.

It lasted me much longer than I expected, so I also decided to test it with a second screen connected, and even that was impressive. The Matebook 16 lasted me over 9 hours on a charge with my Full HD monitor connected to it in addition to the main display. Of course, if you’re doing intensive tasks like video editing or gaming, that’s going to be lower, but this was still very impressive to me.

The Huawei ecosystem and the MateBook 16

A staple feature of Huawei laptops has been the integration with other devices from the company, and with the recent launch of HarmonyOS, the company has taken that even further. Huawei sent me a MatePad 11 tablet alongside the MateBook 16 to test the new integration between the laptop and tablet, and it’s honestly very cool.

Using the Huawei PC Manager app, you can connect the two devices, and then you can choose how you want to use the tablet alongside the laptop. You can expand your laptop’s screen onto the tablet or duplicate, just as you can with a wired monitor. Once you do, the tablet itself gives you a side bar with buttons for common Windows actions like showing the desktop, opening task view, or taking a screenshot. You can also quickly switch the active app from the tablet screen back to your laptop display and vice versa.

This isn’t necessarily meant to be used in your office setup. In fact, if you have a wired monitor connected, you can’t add another display with the tablet. However, if you need a multi-screen setup on the road, this works very well and it’s a great way to expand your working space. You can even set audio to come from the tablet’s speakers, which are also quite loud.

Possibly the coolest feature when connecting the laptop and the tablet is using the touchpad as a cursor for the mouse in the tablet itself. Instead of projecting your screen to the tablet, you can just control the tablet’s interface using your laptop’s mouse, and you can even drag and drop files from one device to the other.

And of course, older Huawei features are still here if you have a Huawei phone. You can easily share files from your phone to your laptop, or have your phone screen mirrored on the laptop, with the same ability to move files between the two devices. You can even use your phone to record your computer’s screen when they’re connected. In the US, this hardly matters since you’re very unlikely to have a Huawei phone, but if you can make use of the ecosystem, it’s very cool.

Conclusion: Is the Huawei MateBook 16 worth it?

At the end of the day, the Huawei MateBook 16 is a truly great laptop in more ways than one. It has a solid aluminum design, a beautiful and sharp display, and great performance all around along with fantastic battery life. If you happen to be in the Huawei ecosystem, it’s also a great complement to your tablet or phone, and it’s one of the more integrated experiences you can get on Windows. Taking just that into consideration, the asking price of $1,150 (plus tax) isn’t that bad. You do get a great laptop for that price, and this will serve you well for a long time.

But you have to ask yourself about the important of things like the webcam in the times that we live in today. With remote and hybrid work more common than ever, a bad webcam is enough to make a whole laptop bad for some people, and the MateBook 16 has a terrible webcam. I also think the form factor and overall design of the MateBook 16 are pretty boring, but those are very subjective areas, and it all depends on what you need.

You should also consider what your specific workload needs are. There aren’t a ton of workloads that require a high-power CPU like this one that wouldn’t also benefit from a discrete GPU, such as what’s in the Dell XPS 15, for instance. Of course, that will be a much more expensive laptop, and a fast CPU like the Ryzen 7 5800H is already going to be great if you want a laptop that can handle more demanding tasks like video rendering, even without a discrete GPU. Combined with the great display and relatively affordable price, that does make this a valid choice for some use cases.