It may not always seem like it, but there are still quite a few different audiences for laptops.
For some, something basic to handle email and browsing is all that’s required, while others need far more firepower for intensive work.
Others still prize battery power or portability above all else. Many end up buying something that positions itself somewhere between these different poles.
But one distinct category has definitely been revived as a result of the pandemic: the large-screen laptop.
It’s not hard to figure out why. There remain tens of millions of us who, either by choice or company policy, are stuck using the kitchen table as an office desk for large chunks of the week.
As we know, laptops have mostly shrunk to 13- or 14-inch devices over the past decade, designed as on-the-fly personal work tools for planes and cafés rather than eight-hour workstations.
It leaves us feeling a curious desire for a couple of extra inches. But with no room on the table for an external monitor, the availability of a bigger laptop seems a newly reasonable prospect.
This, broadly, seems to be the market that Huawei is going after with its new 16-inch MateBook D16 laptop.
The specification on it seems tailor-made (with one possible exception) for an average office worker who leans a lot on Microsoft and the internet but doesn’t need it so much for entertainment or gaming. The base model is particularly well suited for this customer.
I found the bright and vivid 16-inch 1080p matte screen to be easily good enough for any kind of regular office work, even if it’s a bit behind the displays of premium laptops.
The fact that it’s slightly taller, at 16:10 rather than the 16:9 of its predecessor, means it’s better for getting more information in.
The keyboard is also fairly comfortable to use, with natural wrist-rests on each side of the multi-touch support trackpad.
Many will appreciate the additional number keypad to the right of the main keyboard, although I would have preferred a little more space between the two to help me find the delete button more easily.
The power under the hood is absolutely spot on for the average user: 16GB of Ram (in all models), 12th generation Intel i5 or i7 processors and 512GB of storage.
This is a sweet spot that should see any normal user through for three to five years without complaint.
It’s relatively well served with ports, featuring two USB-C ports, two USB-A, an HDMI and a 3.5mm headphone port.
Battery life on the MateBook D16 is one of the more modest ranges I’ve tested this year. You’ll get four or five hours, but not more, of guaranteed battery life with the screen on full brightness.
That’s not a problem if you’re generally using this at home. It also helps that you can use any USB-C charger with it, saving space if you do need to travel with it. (It comes with its own USB-C charger, too.)
It’s lighter (1.71kg) and thinner than most 16-inch laptops out there, which is not a bad thing.
So everything about this screams ‘good enough’ and ‘fast enough’; there’s very little here that you feel you’re unnecessarily paying extra for.
There are, however, a few things about the MateBook D16 that are less than perfect. One of the elements that keeps it affordable is the materials used in construction.
The flip side to this is that they sometimes feel a little plasticky compared with premium laptops. For most people, that won’t be a dealbreaker.
But one slight flaw was a little disappointing. The laptop’s camera has been upgraded to an ultra-wide view that can automatically ‘centre’ your face in the middle of the screen (by adjusting its ultra-wide zoom).
It’s a very nice feature that is spoiled a little by the unfortunate ‘blocky’ resolution of its stand-alone video recording and Zoom calls. It’s like being on a patchy connection from the South Pole.
If this isn’t a bug particular to the test device I received, it would be a significant disincentive to buying this that would rub out most of the benefits of the otherwise excellent webcam system.
Model: Huawei MateBook D16
Price: From £851 (amazon.co.uk)
Pros: Good price, good power specs, big, bright screen
Cons: Questionable webcam, modest battery life