The Huawei MateBook D15 (2021) is an excellent notebook
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The The Huawei MateBook D15 (2021) is an excellent notebook
Huawei’s latest MateBook D15 doesn’t try to rewrite the rulebook, it just offers competence and value in a compact package
Benefits Good value for money Sturdy aluminum alloy chassis Slim and light for a 15.6 inch laptop
Cons Screen issues No keyboard backlight Clumsily placed webcam
In this era of ultrabooks, ultraportables, 2-in-1 convertibles, hybrid gaming notebooks and tablets masquerading as laptops, is there much to be said for a traditional bog standard? laptop?
There is indeed a gap in the market for something with a 15.6-inch screen that doesn’t weigh a ton, has enough power to perform everyday tasks at a reasonable speed, but doesn’t have nice pants. features like a 360-degree hinge. Crucially, it should also have a price tag that won’t make you wince when you tap ‘Buy’ button.
Huawei MateBook D15 review: What you need to know The good news is that Huawei’s 2021 MateBook D15 seemingly meets these strict requirements. It’s a simple no-nonsense laptop with decent size, decent build quality, decent spec and decent design, and it’s all yours for a decent price. Did I mention it’s generally pretty decent?
Don’t think that decency is another word for boring. Quite the contrary: the 2020 model of the D15 has long been a favorite here at Expert Reviews, and it’s in our best laptops list for quite some time.
Huawei MateBook D15 review: price and competition There is only one version of the new MateBook D15 on sale in the UK and it costs £750. For that money you get an 11th gen Core i5 processor, a 512GB SSD, 8GB RAM and a Full HD IPS display. At the time of writing, Huawei is also bundling a free Bluetooth mouse worth £40 and a Sound X speaker worth £150, which is pretty generous.
The most obvious competition comes from last year’s D15. The Core i3 version with a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM is now available for £499, while the AMD Ryzen 5 3500U-powered version is an even better value at £449.
If you fancy a 2-in-1 15.6 inch laptop with a touchscreen then the foldable Inspiron 15 from Dell can be chosen up for £729. It runs on the same processor as the new D15, although you only get a 256GB SSD. If you want a 512GB drive then you should opt for the i7/16GB model which costs £909.
Meanwhile, HP is currently offering its 15.6-inch Pavilion notebook with a Ryzen 5 4500U processor, 8 GB RAM and a 512 GB SSD for just £650. You get a touchscreen for that, but it’s heavier than the MateBook and has a lower capacity battery.
Acer’s entry-level i5-powered Aspire 5 is best ignored, despite its tempting £699 price tag, as it only has a 1366 x 768 resolution display. The Ryzen 7 model has a Full HD display and a 1TB SSD, but costs £799. At 1.8kg, it’s even heavier than the HP Pavilion, so if size and weight are your main concerns rather than screen size , then the excellent 14-inch Acer Swift 5 is worth checking out as an alternative.
Huawei MateBook D15 review: Design and build quality Physically, the 2021 D15 is a dead letter for the 2020 model. I’m not sure if this is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or laziness in Huawei’s design department, so let’s be generous and assume the former. The laptop’s dimensions and weight – 358 x 230 x 17 mm and 1.56 kg – are extremely portable, and the impressive, rigid ‘Space Gray’ aluminum alloy chassis is just as opulent.
That means the D15 is just as solid, smart, compact and lightweight today as it was a year ago. Huawei’s concerns about weight and portability have also extended to the 65W power supply, with a 160g slim affair with a retractable third prong.
The keyboard does its job well enough: it’s spacious and quiet, although the action feels a bit dead and provides little feedback. There’s no backlighting though, which is a bit stingy for the price, but the 120 x 73mm Precision trackpad has no quirky tendencies and the click action on every corner is satisfyingly positive.
Another damp note is that, as is typical of Huawei’s notebooks, the webcam has a pop-upup affair hidden under a false key between F6 and F7. It’s a silly design whose sole merit is to give other people an unobstructed view up both nostrils during Zoom chats. More thoughtfully placed is the combined power button and fingerprint scanner, which is well separated from the actual keyboard.
The array of ports hasn’t changed as of 2020 either, so you get three Type-A USB ports – two 2.0 spec and one 3.2 Gen 1 – and one Type-C 3.1 port, which doubles as a charging port. Video output is handled by an HDMI 2.1 port and there is also a 3.5mm audio jack. One thing to note, however, is that the Type-C port does not offer DisplayPort or Thunderbolt video output.
The Intel AX201 Wi-Fi module supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 and there’s an NFC chip to keep Huawei’s handy Share phonepairing system, although unfortunately it only works with Huawei’s own Android/EMUI 11 devices. That’s a shame because you use it to connect directly to you phone and mirroring its display on your Windows desktop is very useful. If Huawei opened this up for all android phones – assuming this is technically possible – would definitely boost it laptop sale.
Another piece of custom Huawei software is the PC Manager. This can be used to keep all your drivers up so far and to put the D15 in a special Performance mode, which makes the cooling fans run faster and the processor harder.
The bottom of the D15 can be easily removed after unscrewing the ten Torx T5 screws holding it in place, with the option to replace the SSD (the RAM slots and Wi-Fi card are not accessible). Strangely, though, while there’s room for a 2.5-inch HDD, there’s no way to connect the drive’s SATA cable to the motherboard. If you want to change the operating system instead of the hardware, you’re in luck; starting Ubuntu 20.04 from a USB stick didn’t reveal any problem, so replacing Windows should be very easy.
Wrap up The Huawei MateBook D15 (2021) is an excellent notebook
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