The first thing that strikes one about the Huawei Matebook D16 is the size of the screen. Thanks to one of the thinnest bezels, or frames, yet on a Matebook screen, the 90% screen-to-body ratio is a massive 90%, delivering a full 16-inch Eye Comfort FullView Display that offers 1920 × 1200 high-res screen resolution and a 178° viewing angle. Yet, the machine itself is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, weighing just 1.68kg.
That’s saying something when one considers that it is powered by the new, high-end 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13900H processor, running at 2.6GHz. With that kind of power, overheating can be an issue on laptops, and Huawei has introduced Dual Shark Fin Fan technology, a cooling system that regulates heat dissipation and prevents system crashes.
The machine also comes in lower-specced options running on the 13th Gen i7 and i5 processors, as well as the 12th Gen i5, making for a good spread of pricing,
Bigger is not always better, but it sure is with several aspects of the new D16. On a personal level, the standout is the solid state drive (SSD), which provides fast access to storage. As a long-time Macbook Air user in a previous life, my greatest frustration was the fact that it always came standard with a 256GB SSD and could not be upgraded.
The thinking was that the typical user would be American, and storage in the cloud would be a default setting. Try that when you are creating massive video files and need on-board access to complex documents. And when Internet connectivity is spotty or slow.
There is no messing about with storage on the D16: it goes straight to a 1Terabyte (TB) SSD and offers extensive storage management options. We put It to work editing and storing videos, running multiple applications at the same time, and it kept up with our demands.
An unstated option of the laptop is its support for external storage via Huawei smartphones and tablets.
The battery is a hefty 75Wh power supply, and the laptop comes with a 65 W USB-C power adapter in the box. That’s the same adapter that can charge smartphones that support fast charging, so it becomes a versatile option too.
It has to be said that this is an essential accessory when working on demanding multimedia applications for an extended period: the battery does not always live up to its full-day promise.
On the other hand, the device’s connectivity is startlingly good, thanks to Huawei’s new Metaline Antenna. Huawei says it learnt from its Antenna Project and from countless patents and designs to create metamaterials, “artificial materials with special structures that give them unique electromagnetic properties”. This makes possible ultra-long-distance connections of up to 270 metres.
Ironically, this came into its own in hotel rooms, where Wi-Fi is always on offer, but invariable with such weak signals it is almost unusable. The D16 seemed to magnify the signals, so effective was it at capturing access points that were too far away for stable connections on other devices. This means a reduction of lag, and more viable videoconferencing meetings while on the road.
Talking of which, the 720p webcam was a little underwhelming. While the resolution was adequate, and the camera supports AI noise cancellation, the camera does not support facial recognition, for example in support of Windows Hello. That’s a secure way to get instant access to Windows 11 devices using facial recognition, among other options. Given that the D16 is a Windows 11 machine, it is an oversight that the user has to resort to “other options”.
There are plenty of compensations: a full-size backlit keyboard with a number pad allows for spacious and smooth typing, support for Windows 11 multi-touch gestures, and ergonomic hand and finger positioning.
What does it cost?
The Huawei D 16 starts at R14,999 for the basic Intel Core i5 version with 8GB memory and 512GB SSD storage. It is also available form a range of outlets for R699 per month over 36 months.
Why does it matter?
The 2024 iteration of the Huawei MateBook D16 builds on a solid foundation established by its predecessor, addressing some pain points and introducing a number of new features. It has a sleek and minimalist aluminium chassis, giving it a premium feel. Thinner bezels result in a more immersive screen experience, and the Metaline Antenna allows for highly effective connectivity.
What are the biggest negatives?
- No support for facial recognition in Windows Hello.
- Battery life falls a little short of the full-day promise when using multimedia.
What are the biggest positives?
- Comfortable, ergonomic keyboard with number pad and touchpad.
- Power button integrates fingerprint recognition.
- Dual Shark Fin Fan technology regulates heat dissipation keeps the laptop cool.
- Connectivity is excellent.
* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za and author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI”. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee.