The great ultraportable notebook shootout (2021 edition)

By Kenny Yeo - 14 Nov 2021

Huawei MateBook 14 AMD

Huawei MateBook 14 AMD

The Huawei MateBook 14 AMD's display is the only one to have a 3:2 aspect ratio.

After the MateBook 13 and MateBook X Pro, Huawei is back with another ultraportable notebook. This is the MateBook 14 AMD.

Physically, the MateBook 14 AMD is really just the MateBook 13 with a slightly larger display. The two share the same design and aluminium construction. Build quality is very good and feels much better than its S$1,298 price tag would suggest.

Build quality is impressive at this price point. The notebook feels super solid.

Its sole shortcoming would be its weight. At 1.49kg, this is easily the heaviest notebook here. That’s over 50% heavier than some of its competitors. The notebook with magnesium alloy bodies like the ZenBook 14 Ultralight and Lenovo Slim 7i Carbon all weigh under a kilogram and feel so much lighter in the hands. There is, fortunately, an upside to this: the MateBook 14 AMD feels very solidly put together.

Apart from its AMD processor (more on that later), the other standout feature of the MateBook 14 AMD is its display. It’s a 14-inch display (not a touchscreen) but it has a resolution of 2,160 x 1,440 pixels which means a 3:2 aspect ratio. It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but in practice, the 3:2 aspect ratio gives you more vertical real estate and lets you see more of your documents, emails and spreadsheets than your typical 16:9 or 16:10 displays. Sharpness is excellent and so are the colours. Though it has a glossy finish that's quite prone to glare and reflections, it’s still easily one of the better displays in this shootout.

The display is highlight mainly because of its 3:2 aspect ratio. The extra vertical space is is great for productivity apps.

The MateBook 14 AMD is also the only notebook on this list with an AMD processor. Here are the specs:

  • 14-inch 2,160 x 1,440 pixels display
  • AMD Ryzen 5 4600H
  • 16GB memory
  • 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD
  • AMD Radeon Vega 6 integrated graphics

Admittedly, the MateBook 14 AMD isn’t powered by AMD’s newest Ryzen 5000 series processor and it’s has a mid-range Ryzen 5 processor rather than a more powerful Ryzen 7 processor. However, the MateBook 14 AMD is the most affordable notebook by a long stretch at just S$1,298.

There's only one USB-C port. Some sort of a dock or adapter is necessary if you want to use USB-C accessories with the notebook.

What else do you give up for the price? One shortcoming of this notebook is its ports. There are no Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports. This means no support for external GPUs or fast Thunderbolt external drives or docks. Instead, you get a single USB-C port that supports USB 3.2 Gen 2, two USB-A USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, and a full-size HDMI port. The USB-C port needs to fulfil charging duties so some sort of a dongle or hub is going to be required if you plan on using USB-C accessories with the notebook. The other major drawback is that it doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6 (only Wi-Fi 5).

The trackpad is large and the keyboard is decent to type on.

The trackpad is the largest in its class. I measured it and found it to be at least 10% larger than any of its rivals. The keyboard has a conventional layout and could do with more positive feedback but otherwise feels quite nice to type on. The power button doubles up as a fingerprint scanner for quick logins. The 720p webcam is interestingly integrated into the function row and can be hidden whenever it’s not required. It sounds cool and it’s fun to play with for the first couple of times, but it does also mean less flattering angles, which is now a valid concern given the rise in video-based meetings. The picture quality is also nothing to write home about.

The webcam is hidden underneath one of the keys in the function row.

On paper, the MateBook 14 AMD is irrefutably the most value for money option in this shootout. We’ll have to put it through our tests to see if it delivers, but right now it is looking very promising.

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