YOU COULD be forgiven for thinking that Huawei would be reluctant to show its hand in the potentially hostile environment of CES in Las Vegas.
But despite a warning that there would be nobody available to discuss "those allegations", the Chinese tech giant still decided put in an appearance with two product launches.
The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite was introduced to the US market, a 10.1in tablet that's already available in the UK, offering a slightly paired down version of the MediaPad M5 Pro launched at MWC last year, but still offering support for the Huawei M-Pen stylus, this time included in the box.
But the more interesting arrival is a new MateBook laptop - interesting because last year's MateBook X Pro was regarded as one of the best laptops of 2018 with its MacBook good looks and innovative sunken camera.
The MateBook 13 snuggles just below the flagship MateBook X, but above more basic entries to the canon, offering several of the premium features from the flagship at a more modest price point. Here are our first impressions.
Once again, the Huawei MateBook 13 has an Apple-esque aluminium unibody design, in either grey or silver depending on the spec. There's no sunken camera this time, but rather a subtle 1MP lens on the bezel which still leaves an 88 per cent screen ratio. The screen is 2160x1440 with a 3:2 ratio, which offers crisp clear visuals with 100 per cent sRGB colour gamut.
Compare, if you will with the MateBook X Pro and most recent 13in MacBook Air and you'll see that it nestles just between them.
One feature we're delighted to see ported is the combined power button with fingerprint reader. The fingerprint reader has its own chip onboard meaning that Windows, and therefore any intruders poking around on it, can access data pertaining to your digits.
There are two options - an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8265U with UHD 620 graphics onboard, and a 256GB PCIe SSD is the entry-level option. Or if you prefer there's the daddy - an i7-8565U bolstered with 2GB of dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics and a 512GB SSD.
There are no USB-A ports, but instead, there's a USB-C on each side, one for power and one that houses the bundled MateDock 2, offering a range of extra interfaces. Obviously, you can also attach your own USB-C devices instead, or if you just want to use it for an external monitor, there's DisplayPort support.
We can't help feeling that the power-only port is a bit of a wasted opportunity, but we'll grumble quietly because the decision to limit the number of ports has made a ridiculously thin laptop. The only other input is a 3.5mm headphone jack (yeah, really!) which supplies Dolby Atmos, though sans the mixing options.
As you'd expect there's 802.11ac wifi with 2x2 MIMO antennas and Bluetooth 5.0 for connectivity, and the 41.7Wh battery can keep playing full FHD for a consecutive 10 hours in testing (slightly less for the more powerful NVIDIA version).
We already love the PC Manager suite that Huawei uses on its machines that regularly checks component health and can silently install the latest drivers, or list them for manual install later. Now there's a monitor manager too, a customised Eye Comfort mode, integrated Microsoft Translator and most notably a year of Office 365 on board, which is a nice touch.
As mentioned there's a MateDock 2 bundled, as well as a 65w power adapter that uses USB-PD properly, meaning that you can also charge lower powered devices like phones without them getting flambeed.
Although the MateBook 13 will doubtless shift some units, thanks to its slightly more diminutive frame and more modest price tag, there are compromises.
The main one being that one of the two USB-C ports is one of those irritating "not what you think it is" offerings that make the USB-C standard so messy and confusing. There's also no support for Thunderbolt, so eGPUs are out of the question.
That said, the gorgeous keyboard and wide mousepad make this another iteration that's a joy to type on. It's a shame that again the screen isn't compatible with the M-Pen, or indeed any active stylus.
On the whole, it's a lovely machine, though we'd be tempted to get an entry level MateBook X Pro instead. The price difference (it's $999 for the Core i5 model, $1,299 for the Core i7) isn't enough to really justify those niggling little compromises. But if you're on a budget, or need that extra few millimetres all round, this is still better than most of the laptops in its class. μ