Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

By | October 5, 2020

Introduction

Huawei has a quickly growing lineup of laptops that span its own brand as well as its sister brand Honor. Covering sizes from 13 to 16 inches, most of those laptops have 16:9 screens with the exception of the 3:2 aspect MateBook X and X Pro, and the star of this review – the MateBook 14 2020 AMD.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

You could have had a Huawei MateBook 14 2020 with a 10th gen quad-core Intel Core-i5 or Core-i7 for a while now, but the unit we have here is the new Ryzen-powered model, which is decidedly more exciting. The choice is between a six-core Ryzen 5 4600H, which we saw on the Honor Magicbook Pro or an eight-core Ryzen 7 4800H, which we have here, and you can configure the machine with 8GB or 16GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM and 256GB or 512GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage.

Now sprinkle in niceties like the metal body, the bright touchscreen display, the great selection of ports, the big 56Wh battery and the price tag is starting to look like a steal.

Design, quality and I/O

The Huawei MateBook 14 2020 is a classy looking device. It’s thin and light and doesn’t take up much space when closed and tucked into a bag. It weighs just 1.49kg, but the weight isn’t evenly distributed – the laptop is noticeably rear-heavy. Then again that’s something you’ll notice only when carrying the machine open, which will rarely be the case.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The MateBook 14 2020 comes in a single Space Gray color and it’s mostly made out of aluminum (except some plastic bits around the hinge and the sides). Huawei has sand-blasted the surface for a smooth finish.

There is a good selection of ports, especially given the laptop’s thin frame (15.9mm when closed). On the left side there is a USB-C port that supports 65W charging, a 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack and an HDMI port. On the right there are two full-sized USB-A ports with support for USB 3.2.

Ports
Ports

Ports

The lid, the keyboard and touchpad border and the touchpad itself have a chamfered edge with a bare metal accent. Some of us here at HQ would’ve preferred the blue accent of the Honor MagicBook 14, but that’s always going to come down to personal preference.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The hinge is very sturdy and stiff, which is handy when you start tapping on the display with your fingers.

The underside of the Huawei MateBook 14 2020 has two strips that raise the machine a few millimeters from your desk to allow air to pass through the intake grille underneath the laptop. The grille spans the entire length of the laptop and sits above the dual cooling fans, which direct hot air from the CPU and GPU and out through the rear of the laptop and away from the keyboard and touchpad.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The display has a glossy glass cover and slim black bezels, which does lend the MateBook 14 2020 a MacBook-esque aesthetic, however the Huawei machine has noticeably thinner screen borders than any current Apple computer.

Display and sound

Speaking of the display, it’s a 14-inch 2160x1440px IPS LCD touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That last bit is particularly important since a more squarish screen of the same diagonal has more surface than a wider one.

Simply put the MateBook 14 2020 has a bigger screen than just about any other 14-incher out there. It is is around 8% larger than a 14-inch 16:9 screen and just 15% smaller than a 15.6-inch 16:9 screen, even though the difference in diagonals would lead you to expect 24% more surface area on the 15.6″ one.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

There’s also the fact that the 3:2 aspect is better suited for web browsing, reading long documents and photo editing. 16:9 on the other hand is better for watching videos.

The screen on the MateBook 14 2020 is almost edge to edge, claiming 90% screen to body ratio. Huawei advertises 300 nits of brightness and a contrast ratio of 1500:1 from the IPS panel. We measured a much higher 400 nits of brightness in the center of the display and 380 nits at the edges.

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Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The display is of the glossy variety, necessitated by the touchscreen functionality. A matte screen would cope better in environments with bright light sources (overhead lights, the sun, etc), while the glossy panel of the MateBook 14 2020 does reflect a lot of its surroundings. However the glossy finish does add more punchiness so if you primarily use it indoors this might be an advantage.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The display offers 100% sRGB coverage, but came with a blue tint out of the box. Huawei’s built-in Display Manager software allows you to fine-tune the tint to a setting you find more enjoyable, but we ended up calibrating the display with our professional tool.

The MateBook 14 2020’s display is a joy to use and is easily among the best we’ve seen on a laptop. You’d need to look at an machine costing at least twice as much to find a brighter and higher-quality panel even if you are willing to give up the 3:2 ratio and bezel requirements.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

There are two speakers on the Huawei MateBook 14 2020. They’re each rated at 2 watts, which is about average for laptop speakers these days. They’re placed either side of the trackpad and fire downwards.

The speakers sound well enough – they get loud and offer adequate bass. But they get muffled on a lap, so you’d better keep the laptop on a table or a desk for a better experience.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

Keyboard and touchpad

We’ve seen a few Huawei keyboards at the office already and the one on the MateBook 14 2020 is by far the best. It’s full sized and uses the entire width of the machine. Thanks to the more squarish aspect of the screen there’s more space for your palms underneath the keyboard than there is on the 14-inch Honor MagicBook 14.

The layout of the MateBook’s keyboard is the same as on that excellent MagicBook 14, but the keys have slightly more travel and are more stable. We typed a big part of this review on the MateBook 14 2020’s keyboard and can happily attest that it doesn’t get tiresome after a few hours of typing.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The Fn button is lockable and by default pressing F1 and F2 will adjust the screen brightness. The 720p camera is hidden under a false button in the center of the F row.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The power button is also a fingerprint reader and it supports memory caching, meaning that you can press it while the laptop is off and it will boot up and then log you into Windows without you needing to enter your fingerprint again.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The touchpad is multi-touch with support for Windows precision drivers and works well. The surface is plastic, instead of glass, which might put off some users, but we found it perfectly fine. The touchpad itself is about as large as could be fitted into the space underneath the keyboard.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

Software

Huawei has a neat approach to software on its laptops. You get Windows 10 Home preinstalled along with AMD Software, AMD Radeon Software, Nahimic software for the speakers and Huawei’s own PC Manager app.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

PC Manager is integrated into the system and handles all of Huawei’s software, laptop components such as the fingerprint sensor or the audio, as well as all the drivers. That last one is especially nice as you can quickly and easily see all the installed drivers and all of the driver updates that are available.

When we got the machine the Wi-Fi was constantly dropping our office network – something we’d encountered with the MagicBook Pro earlier. Like that machine, all it took was a driver update to the Realtek Wi-Fi Driver and we never got another drop.

The 512GB SSD came divided into two particians, which is how most people prefer it, however it’s easy enough to unify those if you want.

Huawei has implemented an NFC tag, underneath the touchpad, which initiates Huawei Share – a connection with a smartphone running EMUI 10.1 and above, which mirrors the screen of the phone to the laptop – you can control it, share files between the two and answer calls on the laptop.

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Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

Performance and battery life

You can configure the Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD with either a 6-core 12-thread AMD Ryzen 5 4600H or an 8-core 16-thread Ryzen 7 4800H, both built around AMD’s excellent 7nm Renoir (Zen 2) architecture and both having full-fat 45W TDP. The unit we have here is the Ryzen 7 4800H, which has a 12MB Cache and a base frequency of 2.9GHz with a boost of up to 4.2GHz.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

There’s no discrete GPU option, but you get a built-in Vega GPU with 7 compute cores with a 1600MHz max clock on the Ryzen 7 4800H and 6 compute cores with a 1500MHz max clock on the Ryzen 5 4600H.

You can get the MateBook 14 2020 AMD with either 8GB or 16GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM and a 256GB or 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD.

Before we get to benchmarks, let’s talk performance and cooling. The MateBook 14 2020 AMD comes with dual fans that are connected to the SoC through a pair of heat sinks.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

During our stress test the CPU, which normally runs at about 45° and 1397Mhz ramped up to as high as 92° and 3.5GHz across all 8 cores, before throttling to 3.3GHz to maintain 85°. After 30 seconds the CPU was back at 3.5GHz and 92°. The fans kicked in but even at full blast were barely audible in a typical office environment, while the laptop, despite showing around 40° surface temperature, didn’t feel warm anywhere your hands would be, only around the hinge and the very top of the keyboard. The intgrated GPU runs at about 40° and gets as high as 73° but no more. That’s excellent thermal performance giving you a lot of processing power without causing discomfort.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

Here are Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R20 for you synthetic maniacs out there.

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Intel Core i7-10875H
    1345
  • Ryzen 7 4800H
    1180
  • Intel Core i9-9880H
    1117
  • Ryzen 5 4600H
    1070

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Intel Core i7-10875H
    7889
  • Intel Core i9-9880H
    7295
  • Ryzen 7 4800H
    6604
  • Ryzen 5 4600H
    4331

Cinebench R20 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Intel Core i7-10875H
    506
  • Ryzen 7 4800H
    481
  • Ryzen 5 4600H
    450
  • Intel Core i9-9880H
    448

Cinebench R20 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Ryzen 7 4800H
    4194
  • Intel Core i9-9880H
    3668
  • Intel Core i7-10875H
    3354
  • Ryzen 5 4600H
    3271

You can even do some light gaming, even if the built-in Vega isn’t specifically made for it. A simple title like Age of Empires Definitive Edition ran just fine on the native 2560x1440px resolution at 60fps. Battlefield V at 1080p with textures on high and just about everything else set to off or low gave us 45fps and a sub-par visual experience. Resident Evil 2 was similar – 44fps at 1080p with settings on low.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

Video editing at 1080p is perfectly fine in DaVinci Resolve 16. 4K is usable, but scrubbing through a timeline is jerky. You can get by, but you’d have to go frame by frame in most cases and be prepared to wait a second or two before playback starts.

The Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD is a fine 4K video editing machine if you create a proxy of your media – that’ s an easier to work with lower-res version of your clips, but it takes some time to build. During such an encoding the machine got hot and loud, but after it converted the 4K clips to lower-res 1080p ones, editing was a breeze. Rendering is close to real time – an 8 min [email protected] clip took 10 minutes to export.

The Ryzen 7 4800H is among the fastest CPUs in the world at the moment and it packs more than enough performance for a thin and light machine like the MateBook 14 2020. In fact we believe it might be smarter to save a bit of money and go for the six-core Ryzen 5 4600H, which will bring more than enough oomph for the type of machine the MateBook 14 2020 is. After all both CPU options are usually reserved for big and powerful desktop-replacement laptops with dedicated GPUs inside. Simply put, the MateBook 14 2020 AMD is unmatched for performance in its size and weight segment.

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The storage drive inside our MateBook 14 2020 AMD is the PC SN730 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD by Western Digital. It’s a very fast drive with great speeds and it helps the machine boot from cold to an operational desktop in just 11 seconds.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The Huawei MateBook 14 2020 comes with the same 56Wh battery that we saw in the Honor MagicBook 14 and 16-inch MagicBook Pro and the same 65W charger in the box. In our testing the machine gained 60% charge in 1 hour and was fully charged in 90 minutes, a bit faster than the 16-inch MagicBook Pro’s 100 minutes.

We ran a couple of battery tests, but instead of setting the screen to 50%, we set it to 100%, making use of its excellent 400 nits. So these numbers will tell you the absolute minimum you can expect from the MateBook 14 2020 AMD.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

The laptop managed 5 hours and 20 minutes of constant YouTube video playback at the aforementioned 100% brightness and a very audible 65dB volume (60%) and 6 hours and 10 minutes of constantly refreshing web pages, again set to 100% screen brightness.

Those are some impressive numbers indeed. What they mean is that in less intensive use the MateBook 14 2020 is perfectly capable of going a full day of normal use. That includes photo editing in Photoshop, writing news and reviews, constant use of Skype and various other messengers, and yes, watching the occasional YouTube video (not a word to Management!).

Conclusion

The Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD starts at €849 for a 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H with 8/256GB and €949 in a 16/512GB configuration. The flagship Ryzen 7 4800H paired to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD goes for €1,049.

The Ryzen 5 4600H model with the higher memory and RAM configuration is the one we’d recommend. You’ll never need any more power in such a thin and light design. The Ryzen 7 4800H chip is a beast that’s better spent on a machine with a big and powerful GPU.

And at that sub €1,000 price the Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD is an amazing proposition. Just a look at laptops in the thin and light segment reveals a Dell XPS 13 9300 that’s slightly better made, but not nearly as powerful with a 10th generation Intel U processor, starting at €1,040 (currently on offer, normally €1,197), a MacBook Pro that starts at €1,461 with an 8th generation Intel U processor that has only a fraction of the processing power, and the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 that costs €1,259 with a 10th gen Intel U processor.

The Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD is more powerful, has a bigger display and beats all those laptops spec for spec in most areas, and costs less – easily winning the value for money race!

In fact the only thing that comes close (or even better depending on your usage) is from the same maker. Honor MagicBook 14 has a slightly smaller by virtue of its 16:9 aspect 14-inch display and the 15W Ryzen 5 4500U at just €700. It forgoes the touchscreen and the U CPU doesn’t quite have the same performance headroom, but that one is still a beast and the battery life is even more impressive.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD review

But death, taxes, and the desire for a faster CPU are innevitable so we can see how you can end up in the MateBook 14 camp. Thin and light with a superb 14-inch display that’s both bright and larger than its diagonal would have you believe, full-day battery and a lovely keyboard are currently unbeatable at this price.