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Apple MacBook Air (2018) vs. Huawei MateBook 13

Apple MacBook or Huawei MateBook? This one's a close race, folks

Macbook Air (2018) Review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

If you’re looking to buy a slim, light, and premium laptop in 2019, you might consider the Huawei MateBook 13, or the 2018 Apple MacBook Air. Since the Huawei MateBook 13 was recently announced at CES 2019, you might be wondering how it stacks up against the latest MacBook Air.

Be it the differences in the operating system, processor, display, or performance, there is a lot to think about when considering both devices. Yet only one laptop can come away the victor.

Design

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Huawei MateBook 13 and the MacBook Air are similar, but with subtle differences. Both devices are sporting aluminum finishes that are thin and light, but Apple’s MacBook Air comes in Space Gray, gold, and silver. The MateBook 13 only comes in Mystic Silver (with integrated graphics) and Space Gray (with dedicated graphics).

Huawei’s MateBook 13 is slimmer than the MacBook Air, coming in with a width of 11.26 inches, and a thickness of 0.59 inches. That is just slightly smaller than the MacBook Air, which comes in with a width of 11.97 inches, and a thickness of 0.61 inches. Apparently Apple put that extra thickness to good use, because the MacBook Air feels more rigid than the MateBook 13, which has some flex in the lid and the center of the hinge.

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The keyboards are different between the two devices. Huawei’s MateBook 13 comes with an edge-to-edge keyboard with a total of travel of 1.2mm, but Apple’s MacBook Air sports the third generation butterfly keyboard from the most recent 2018 MacBook Pro. Some may like the Matebook 13 for its better travel space between keys, as we’ve found that the MacBook Air 2018 is a bit too shallow when typing.

Finally, both the MacBook Air and the MateBook 13 are sporting fingerprint readers. Apple includes a TouchID sensor on the top right corner of the keyboard deck, and Huawei includes a sensor on the power button. Both make for quick and accurate logins, without the need to fiddle with passwords, but Apple’s is the more reliable and responsive overall.

Performance

Macbook Air (2018) Review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Asides from the fact that the MacBook Air runs on macOS, and the MateBook 13 Windows 10, there are other important performance and pricing differences between the two. Though all variants come with 8GB RAM, Huawei has two models of the Matebook 13. The first is a Mystic Silver option with the 8th generation Intel Core i5-8265U processor, and a 256GB NVMe PCIe SSD. The other Space Gray model comes with the 8th generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor and Nvidia GeForce MX 150 graphics on board. Pricing on Space Gray model is at $999, whereas the Mystic Silver model is $1,300. These processors are Intel’s latest quad-core Whiskey Lake CPUs, which are optimized for better performance.

The base model of the MacBook Air starts at $1,200 and comes with the 8th generation 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Y-series processor. This doesn’t pack as much power as what is seen with the Huawei MateBook 13, and we found that it was a bit sluggish for more demanding tasks like watching videos on a secondary 4K monitor. Also, Apple’s MacBook Air doesn’t come with an option for dedicated graphics like the MateBook 13.

When comparing the performance of these two thin and light laptops, the MateBook 13’s significantly more powerful CPU and optional discrete GPU are major difference-makers. In our benchmarks, the Huawei was significantly faster in every test we threw at each machine.

Both devices pack impressive displays, though the MateBook 13 edges out Apple in the overall screen to body ratio and its support for touch. Huawei’s Matebook 13 touchscreen packs a resolution of 2,160 x 1,440 or 200 pixels per inch, and the MacBook Air packs a resolution of 2,560 × 1,600 for 227 pixels per inch. Obviously, the MacBook Air is sporting more pixels, but Huawei’s screen on the Matebook 13 is in the 3:2 aspect ratio that’s great for productivity work. That gives it an 88 percent screen to body ratio (vs 82 percent and 16:10 on the MacBook Air) and more room for you to multitask.

According to our colorimeter, Huawei screen was slightly less bright at 234 nits than than the 291 that we experienced on the MacBook Air. In addition, while the MacBook Air had a wider color gamut and more accurate colors, it exhibited less than half the contrast of the MateBook 13.

Portability

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Coming down to portability, there is a small difference between MateBook and MacBook Air. As mentioned earlier, both are thin and light, but the MateBook 13 is a bit heavier. It comes in at 2.82 pounds on the unit with integrated graphics, and 2.86 pounds on the unit with the discrete GPU. That’s a bit more than the MacBook Air, which comes in at 2.75 pounds.

Elsewhere, with ports and connectivity, the two laptops are on similar footing. You’ll find the MacBook Air comes with two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, and the MateBook 13 has two USB-C ports. Dongles will be needed in both cases, but unlike Apple, Huawei includes a dongle in the box, expanding connectivity to VGA, HDMI, and traditional USB-A.

The MacBook Air also manages significantly better battery life than Huawei’s laptop. In our testing on the 2018 MacBook Air, we got to around eight hours in web browsing, and 10 hours in video playback. The MateBook 13, though, at least with the MX150 installed only managed about six hours of web browsing and six and a half hours of video watching. Chances are that you’ll get better results if you skip the discrete GPU, though the MacBook Air is still the more portable of the two.

The MacBook Air takes the win by a hair

This one’s close. On one hand, the MateBook 13 is a more powerful device and comes in at cheaper starting price of $1,000. That has its own sense of appeal. However, the MacBook Air is the overall better device. It’s not for those who need a workhorse, but it’s longer battery life, better build quality, Thunderbolt 3 support, and better touchpad make for a better overall laptop experience.

It’s close, but most people will be happier with the MacBook Air.

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