HUAWEI Matebook 16S Review – Intel Core i9 In Sheep’s Clothing | Tech Reviews
HUAWEI Matebooks are a constant here on the blog and if there are new models, we will of course also test them. With the Matebook 16s, HUAWEI has not only squeezed a lot of performance into a 16″ case, but also some exciting features for everyday office life.
But let’s start at the beginning, or rather on the outside. The scope of delivery is quickly ticked off: Notebook and 135W USB-C power supply are included and that’s it. A bit unfortunate: The USB-C cable is permanently connected to the power supply unit, so if something breaks here, the entire power supply unit has to be replaced.
Connections, Workmanship and haptics
There is a lot of choice on the connection side, but an Ethernet port and an SD card slot are missing for my use. There would certainly have been room for both. Otherwise there are two USB-A and two USB-C as well as HDMI and a jack connection.
HUAWEI mainly used the larger case to enlarge the keyboard and touchpad. The loudspeakers are also located on the front left and right of the keyboard. However, the “HUAWEI Sound” logo from the Matebook 16 has disappeared. Pleasing: The webcam has moved from the keyboard to the display frame. There is now a dedicated WiFi key in the keyboard that has no F function. A bit unusual to break the order of F-keys for a dedicated WiFi key – but probably it was easier here not to redesign the keyboard PCB, just to expand it.
Otherwise, the keyboard is very easy to type on and the haptic feedback is excellent. The keys and the keyboard as a whole are very large and incorrect entries can be avoided as a result. If you come from smaller notebooks, it can be unusual at first. However, I miss a few keys in everyday life: I use Pos1 and End relatively often, but both are not available.
The touchpad is very large and can also be operated very well. The surface is nice and smooth and glides comfortably under the fingers. Inputs are recognized precisely, clicks are smooth, but not so easy that you accidentally click. Otherwise, the workmanship is very good, as is typical for HUAWEI. It doesn’t creak or wobble, everything feels high-quality and the aluminum housing looks very valuable. Despite its size, it hardly twists.
The display is the heart of every notebook, including the Matebook 16s, of course. As the name suggests, the diagonal is 16 inches. With 2520×1680 pixels, the resolution is somewhere between 1440p and 4K. Definitely more than enough for the diagonal and so that everything is really sharp. In general, the display is subjectively very good and the colors are pleasing right away. Despite the reflective surface, the screen is bright enough even in bright surroundings so that everything remains easy to read.
According to HUAWEI, the display should also be ready for demanding users and also TÜV-certified. A DeltaE <1 is specified for this, so the colors on the display should not be distinguishable from the original – at least not with the naked eye. It should also cover 100% of the sRGB color space. HUAWEI does not provide any further information on the color space coverage at first, so our SPYDER X Elite has to do it here.
The measurements then also prove a very good display: 95% sRGB, 70% AdobeRGB and DCI-P3 correspond to HUAWEI’s specifications. Gamma is optimal ex works, as well as a static contrast of up to 1050:1. The color and luminance homogeneity only deviates from the target by 5% and 7% respectively. This is also very good. The DeltaE of <1 is also achieved with a measured average value of 0.97. There is only room for improvement with the white point, which is a bit too cold, and the maximum brightness of 330nit.
The display also offers 10-finger multi-touch, and inputs are recognized correctly. Even in Windows 11, which is still fiddly to some extent, you can navigate via touch without any problems. The usual gestures work, for example to navigate back and forth in the browser or to switch desktops.
Speaking of Windows 11, a few words about the software: it is gratifyingly bloatware-free and apart from the usual Windows 11 bloat there is only the PC Manager from HUAWEI, no other software. Also no scareware in the form of any antivirus solution. But what HUAWEI has done as always: The system SSD has been partitioned into Windows system and data. More annoying than useful, but fortunately eliminated in a few simple steps.
Where we are on the subject – briefly to the SSD. It goes by the handy name “ymss1cb08b11mc” and doesn’t return any results in Google, except for a Czech-language test of the Matebook 16s. After all, the SSD with the Silicon Motion SM2262 relies on a well-known controller, which, however, is already a good 4 years old.
There is also 8GB of Nanya DRAM and memory modules without further identification. In any case, the label does not return any results on Google. Overall performance is solid and what I would have expected. Since no PCIe 4.0 interface is used, the transfer rates are limited to PCIe 3.0.
The PC Manager then offers some nice features. What is new in the Matebook 16s is the “Smart Conference” solution, which is intended to improve the increasing number of video meetings. There are a whole range of features underneath, such as Smart Tracking, which automatically follows you when you move. When presenting in front of the whiteboard, the camera automatically keeps you in focus and in the picture. The image is also manipulated via AI in such a way that it always looks as if you are looking directly into the camera. Normally you always look down a bit for the other person because you want to look them in the (virtual) eyes. But via AI you always look directly into the camera, which should be more pleasant for the other person. Virtual backgrounds are also directly integrated, regardless of which conference solution you use.
Overall it worked pretty well and the demo itself was impressive. The webcam itself is then less impressive. The quality is okay and in good light it delivers a satisfactory picture, but nothing more. It has significantly less noise than its predecessors in the keyboard and the resolution has increased to 1080p, so the picture is sharper overall – when the lighting conditions allow it. With decreasing light, the image becomes increasingly muddy and sometimes very noisy. She also dislikes side and back light and the exposure metering is not always perfect, so that the face was partly burned out, while the background seemed properly lit.
Although the speakers lack the “HUAWEI AUDIO” label, they are still convincing in terms of sound. Speech is clear and easy to understand in videos and films, and the maximum volume is easily enough to act as the only loudspeaker in the office, for example. Music is also pretty good but of course has limitations.
Lows are a little thin, but at least not muddy. So don’t expect too much bass. Mids and highs are loud and clear. If you sit in front of it, a stereo effect sets in, instruments are differentiated and the sound is generally balanced. At maximum volume, however, highs can overdrive and become uncomfortable as a result. So far, however, the maximum has never had to be used. Not even when I only used the speakers of the Matebook 16s when writing this text.
On to the most exciting part: the performance. According to HUAWEI, the Matebook 16s is the first notebook with Intel EVO certification and a Core i9-12900H CPU. That means it meets the Intel EVO program’s performance, noise emissions, and battery life claims despite using one of the most powerful CPUs on the market.
HUAWEI relies on a large dual-fan cooling system to keep the Core i9 in check. As with the last models, there is a “Balanced” mode and a “Performance” mode via the HUAWEI PC Manager. The balanced mode then ensures the necessary runtime and smooth running even under high load. In the tests, it was noticeable that the boost is only called up for a very short time before the processor falls back to the standard clock. As a result, the cooling system cannot yet fully convince in the first synthetic benchmarks. Compared to other systems, it lags behind to maintain low noise emissions.
Gaming isn’t the primary purpose, but of course I tested a few basic games anyway, since the current iGPUs can now offer fairly solid performance. Simple esports titles like CS:GO unsurprisingly run smoothly in 1080p. With over 70FPS on average you can easily get by. Slightly more demanding titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider still run smoothly in 1080p with minimum details or in 720p with medium details. So it’s enough for the “gaming emergency” on the go. This runs through the other games as well. 1080p in the lowest details usually runs acceptable, if not particularly well. AMD’s Fidelity FX can often still support this and raise the FPS into playable areas without losing too many details.
This is also noticeable in productive benchmarks. It’s slower than comparable devices in both Photoshop and Davinci Resolve. The comparison should always be treated with a little caution, since we have not had a 1:1 comparable device in the test so far. Nevertheless, notebooks with an Intel Core i7-12700H sometimes show better results, although they should be slower on paper. Even HUAWEI’s in-house competition in the form of the Matebook D16 is measurably faster in some areas. At least the “old” Matebook 16 based on AMD can leave it behind.
Performance mode should remove these limitations. This makes it louder and should also be able to keep the boost clock longer. At least that’s the theory. In practice, HUAWEI raises the PL2 limit to 115W in this mode, but the maximum boost duration on PL2 remains at 28 seconds. The PL2 Boost is therefore even almost 200MHz higher, but drops again all the faster and the PL1 clock is then even below the clock in standard mode.
A look at Cinebench R23 also shows quite sobering results: The start is identical and then it drops to below 12000 points – even less than in “Balanced” mode. At least there was a slight boost in Cinebench R20 and productivity tools like Photoshop and Davinci Resolve, and everything stayed the same when it came to gaming.
The PL1 and PL2 can also be adjusted a little via Intel’s XTU, but that doesn’t have much of an effect. An extended boost is also overwritten by the factory setting and it is clocked down much earlier. Even more would be possible on the temperature side and the fans also sound at least in such a way that there are still reserves here too. Unfortunately, the system does not offer usable fan information.
All in all, the performance is quite good, but too low for a Core i9-12900H. A comparison with the Core i7-12700H model would be interesting here. Other notebooks in our comparison can sometimes leave the Matebook 16s far behind. Even models with a Core i7-1280P perform faster in some cases. There should be more in there.