Think computers and Huawei probably doesn’t traditionally spring to mind. Despite this, the company’s Matebook line has begun to carve out a niche for itself. The first Matebook tried unsuccessfully to compete with Microsoft’s Surface Pro range, and last year’s Matebook X had better success in personal computing.
This year, the Matebook X Pro sets its sights firmly on the 12 to 14-inch laptop market. On paper, it certainly has a lot to offer, but does it deliver? I’ve been looking for a new portable computer for work trips and trade shows, and the Matebook X Pro appears to have the ingredients for success. Having used it for the past two weeks in Barcelona for a trade show and in the U.K. on my way back home to San Francisco, let’s dig in.
The 13.9-inch 3K display on this laptop is fantastic. With a top brightness of 450 nits, it’s easy to use in bright daylight, which is better than many laptops I’ve used. What makes the overall experience so enjoyable is the Matebook X Pro’s size, which is an almost identical size to the 12-inch Apple Macbook. Putting a display this size in a body this small meant Huawei has gone for super small bezels around the display, achieving at 91 percent screen-to-body ratio. this is all-screen, all the time!
The biggest change with the small bezel is the camera’s position. It’s not at the bottom of the display like on the Dell XPS 13, or up top like most laptops. Instead, Huawei decided to put it somewhere unique — in a spring-loaded pop-up key between F6 and F7 on the keyboard. The jury is out on whether that’s a good spot — it depends how often you plan to use it. I used it rather infrequently, as I prefer the mobility of doing video calls on a phone. You might find having to constantly press the key to open the camera annoying. The camera itself offers nothing noteworthy. It has a wide angle, but the quality leaves something to be desired. If you really want high-quality video, we recommend a dedicated webcam.
One good thing about putting the camera on the keyboard is it’s apparently better for security. Instead of putting a piece of tape or otherwise covering your camera, the camera is disabled, or at least covered, unless you pop it up. We ran a Skype video test when the camera was recessed in the keyboard and it just showed a black screen. When you pop the camera up, it shows the view. Either way, if you have concerns about privacy and cover your webcam so no-one can watch without your permission, this is a handy fix.
The keyboard is possibly my favorite feature on the Matebook X Pro. In a word, it’s stunning. The biggest issue I’ve had with smaller laptops like the 12-inch MacBook is the size of the keyboard. It’s usually just too small to be useful. The Matebook X Pro has a full-size keyboard with chicklet keys that offer a decent amount of feedback, but the size is the real joy here.
From the moment I started using it, I fell in love with the keyboard. Unlike my trusty MacBook Pro 15, this doesn’t feel too big or too small, instead, it’s an absolute joy to type on. Normally there’s a bit of a learning curve with new keyboards but I’ve taken to this keyboard like a moth to a flame. The only thing missing for me is the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys, although that’s a small sacrifice. The smart backlighting works well enough, but I found myself just manually adjusting the backlight depending on the time of day.
Beneath the keyboard is an extra-large trackpad that borders on being too big, but not to the point of detracting from the experience. For travel, I’ve found that my 15-inch MacBook Pro touchpad is just too large, and my palm often accidentally brushes across it. On the Matebook X Pro this is much less of a concern and apart from the occasional accidental touch, I had no issues. Unfortunately, the trackpad – while being one of the best I’ve used on a Windows device – is a little too sensitive and not quite as smooth as the one on my MacBook Pro, although there are settings to help you customize the experience, including sensitivity.
This review unit is the top-spec model, powered by an Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM and 512G of solid state storage. There’s also 2GB of dedicated graphics memory, and Huawei has worked with NVIDIA to create the custom, super-thin MX150 graphics card for this machine. It’s rare to see dedicated graphics on a laptop this size and it helps with the overall performance. There were no glitches, quirks, or random restarts. The Matebook X Pro is one of the smoothest Windows machines I’ve ever used.
For gamers, it should run a few games with no issues but anything more intense is likely to be a no-go. For photographers and videographers, it can handle Photoshop and Lightroom with ease, but likely not video editing, though I haven’t been able to test it. If you like the Matebook X Pro but need more graphics, you can connect an external graphics card to one of two Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB-C ports, which are also capable of charging the machine. There’s also a headphone jack and a regular USB port. If you need more ports, you can always plug in the included Matedock 2.0, which gives you an HDMI port, USB-C port for pass through, VGA port, and an additional USB port.
Just above the keyboard is the power button, which also houses the fingerprint sensor and it’s the same excellent sensor found in Huawei’s smartphone range. This sensor is lightning fast and your fingerprint data is stored in a secure area on the Intel chipset, rather than in the cloud. As a testament to just how fast this laptop is, Huawei says it takes just 6.9 seconds to fully boot up when hibernating and 7.8 seconds when completely powered off. From my experience you often won’t even see the login screen, as the fingerprint sensor boots you straight to your desktop.
On either side of the keyboard, as well as along the bottom, are four speakers. The speakers are special, as they’re very loud for a laptop this size and support the second generation of Dolby Atmos Surround Sound. This offers a cinematic experience with sound all around you, like what you experience at your local movie theatre. Indeed, watching Stranger Things on Netflix — which is mastered for Dolby Atmos — is an absolute joy on the Matebook X Pro. There’s also four mics which means you can talk to Cortana from nearly 20 feet away. Talking to Cortana worked well in my experience, at least from a few feet away.
There’s a lot to like about the Matebook X Pro but there’s one topic we haven’t covered yet: battery. For me, battery life is arguably the most important feature on the laptop I use when travelling. The Matebook X Pro certainly delivers. The 57.4-watt battery is 17 percent larger than the 13-inch MacBook Pro and it mostly delivers on Huawei’s claims of between 12 and 15 hours battery life. In my experience, you can expect between 9 and 12 hours of battery life, depending upon what you are doing. At full brightness this will drop by one or two hours. Either way, the battery life is an absolute joy and much better than any other laptop — Windows or otherwise — I’ve used.
I particularly like the charger. At 65 watts, it’s powerful enough to charge the laptop to full inside 3 hours but is much more compact than the brick-like chargers used by Dell, Apple, and other laptop makers. The charger is particularly good as it’s USB-C and therefore also offers QuickCharge to charge your phone, tablet, or other USB-C device. Huawei says the charger allows you to only take one charger on a trip for all your devices, and while it won’t always be practical, I can see myself just that on short trips. As any seasoned traveler knows, the lighter the better. This charger helps with that!
The Matebook X Pro is running on the Signature Edition of Windows 10 Home, which means Huawei has ceded all control of the software to Microsoft, who’ll be providing all the updates and security. This means there’s no bloatware or Huawei logos anywhere on the software, and no add-ons. It comes with fast updates, as well as Microsoft’s Windows Defender security app. This makes for a very smooth experience and the addition of Office 365 for one year (in the U.S.) sweetens the deal.
Overall, the Matebook X Pro is an excellent laptop and sets a benchmark for portable laptops in 2018. The trackpad could be smaller, and the camera is in an odd position, but these are small gripes with an otherwise fantastic experience. A someone who’s been looking for a new travel laptop, the Matebook X Pro ticks every box for me.
The design is great. It is thin and super comfortable to carry under your arm. The big concern for me is whether the Matebook X Pro will get any accessory support. There’s millions of accessories available for the various MacBooks and while you can use any USB-C accessory, you might struggle to find a case for it. I wish Huawei had included one in the box.
This is my new laptop for travel, but what do you think? Would you use the Matebook X Pro? Shout out with your thoughts down below!
If you have any questions that haven’t been answered, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!