Huawei has made a name for itself in the smartphone space over the past few years, but the company is still pretty new to the PC space, having launched its first Windows tablet in 2016 and its first laptops in 2017.
This year Huawei is entering the premium notebook market with the MateBook X Pro, a laptop designed to compete with high-end computers like Apple’s MacBook Pro or Dell’s XPS 13, HP’s Spectre lineup, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop, and Google’s Pixelbook. And for the most part, the company has succeeded.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is a notebook with excellent performance, an attractive design, an excellent display (with slim bezels), and a good keyboard. It has some of the best speakers of any similarly-sized laptop I’ve tested (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much). Overall I’m going to be a little sad to return the notebook Huawei loaned me for this review.
But the MateBook X Pro isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. It has a 13.9 inch, 3000 x 2000 pixel display which is great for some activities, but which might be problematic for others. The laptop can get a little warm and its fan can get a little noisy at times. And with a starting price of $1200, the MateBook X Pro isn’t exactly cheap.
On the other hand, Huawei sells the laptop in two configurations: the entry-level $1200 model has an Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of PCIe NVMe storage, and Intel UHD 620 graphics.
The model Huawei sent me to review is a $1500 model with a Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics. This is the model Huawei is really promoting, and it’s easy to see why: that’s a heck of an upgrade for just $300 and it makes the high-end version very competitive with other notebooks featuring similar specs.
So if you’re in the market for a high-end laptop, the MateBook X Pro is definitely worth considering… but at the current prices, the Core i7 version with discrete graphics definitely seems to be a better deal than the Core i5 version without.
Let’s dig into the specifics.
The model featured in this review is the high-end configuration, but the entry-level has the same design, display, keyboard, battery, speakers, and other features.
- 13.9 inch, 3000 x 2000 pixel LTPS LCD touchscreen display (450 nits bright, 100% sRGB color gamut)
- Intel Core i7-8550U processor
- 16GB of DDR3-2133 memory
- 512GB of PCIe NVMe storage
- NVIDIA GeForce MX 150 discrete graphics (and Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics)
- Quad speakers with Dolby ATMOS sound
- 4-mic array with far-field voice detection
- Fingerprint sensor (in power button)
- 1 Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C port
- 1 USB 3.1 Type-C port
- 1 USB 3.1 Type-A port
- Headset jack
- 57.4 Wh battery
- 65W USB Type-C charger
- 802.11ac Wifi
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 12″ x 8.5″ x 0.6″
- 2.9 pounds
Overview and design
The Huawei MateBook X Pro has an aluminum chassis and comes in grey or silver colors and it’s covered with a fingerprint-resistant coating. It’s thin and light, but feels more solid than some other compact notebooks like the LG Gram. It’s still possible to lift the lid with one finger though. There’s no need to use two hands to open the notebook (although the down side is that the hinge isn’t rigid enough to keep the screen from wobbling if you reach up to touch it).
Open the laptop and the first thing you’ll notice are the slim bezels surrounding the 13.9 inch display. Huawei says the MateBook X Pro has a 91 percent screen-to-body ratio, which is one of the highest you’ll find on any laptop available today.
Unfortunately, like Dell, Huawei made the top bezel too small to fit a webcam. But while Dell sticks the cameras for its XPS laptops in the bottom bezel, Huawei went a different route: the company has a small bottom bezel and instead put its camera in the keyboard.
Tucked between the F6 and F7 keys there’s a camera button. Press it and the camera pops up out of the keyboard. Press it again and the camera goes away.
The solution is clever in that it allowed Huawei to reduce the size of the top bezel and to market the camera placement as a privacy feature: nobody can hack your camera and spy on you if the camera’s retracted into the keyboard. When the camera’s in use you’ll also see a little glowing light next to the lens.
And if you want a little extra privacy, there’s also a mic mute function in the F7 key which lets you disable the laptop’s microphones whether you’re using the camera or not.
But there are some down sides to this solution. The camera angle is low, so you’ll get a good view of your chest, chin, and nostrils when snapping selfies, recording videos, or making calls. And if you’re typing while using the camera, you’ll get a nice closeup of your knuckles.
The spring-loaded mechanical switch that handles the camera pop-up feature seems pretty sturdy, and even if you forget to tuck away the camera when you’re not using it, Huawei says it was designed so that you can close the lid without damaging the camera.
The camera quality is also less than stellar. It has a 1 megapixel sensor and can record video at 720p resolution. Like Dell, Huawei basically figured they couldn’t ship a high-end laptop that doesn’t have a camera at all. But they also realized that most people use their laptop cameras rarely, if ever. So they instead wanted to focus on something that you will see and use every day: the screen.
And the screen is pretty great. It’s bright, vivid, and colorful. It looks good from any viewing angle. And the slim bezels on all sides means that when you look up from the keyboard, most of what you’ll see is screen, not border.
Once upon a time most computers had displays with 4:3 aspect ratios. In recent years 16:9 screens have become the norm for laptops and for desktop monitors, presumably because that’s the cinematic ratio that TVs tend to ship in.
But a handful of companies including Microsoft and Google have moved to 3:2 displays, which are somewhere in between. In a world where most people spend a lot of time looking at web content on a PC, the move makes sense, since you’ll end up with more vertical height and less white space on the sides of a page. Meanwhile, when you’re watching videos you won’t see as much letterboxing as you would on a 4:3 display.
Personally, I can see the appeal of 3:2 displays for tablets. It makes sense for a device you hold in your hands while reading websites, eBooks, and other content in a single-column view. But I’m a multitasker, and I like wide screens because they make it easy to view two apps in equal-sized side-by-side windows.
That’s doable on this laptop, but the experience isn’t quite perfect.
With a 3000 x 2000 pixel display, text and graphics are ridiculously sharp when DPI scaling is set to 100%. Fortunately Windows 10 keeps getting better at handling displays with high pixel densities, and app makers have been getting better about it too (GIMP recently added native support for high DPI screens, much to my delight). So out of the box the scaling is set to 200 percent, which makes everything pretty easy to read for a person with average (or below average) eyesight.
Unfortunately that means you have an effective display resolution of 1500 x 1000, which means that if you want to run a web browser on one side of the screen and a word processor on the other, each will only be 750 pixels wide.
So I typically end up setting the display scaling at 175 percent (1714 x 1143) or 150 percent (2000 x 1333), although the latter option sometimes leaves me squinting at the screen.
Overall the screen is great in terms of brightness, color, and quality. I just wouldn’t mind if it were a little wider. And it is glossy, which means you’ll see a bit of glare if you use the notebook in direct sunlight. Huawei also includes support for a “Night Light” feature which reduces the blue light coming from the screen at night-time (or any time) in order to help prevent the display from affecting your sleep cycle.
The laptop has just four ports: there’s a USB Type-A port on the right side, two USB Type-C ports on the left (one of which is a Thunderbolt 3 port), and a headset jack.
That’s it. You charge the laptop by plugging the power cable into either of the USB-C ports. And if you want to connect a monitor or TV Huawei includes an adapter in the box. Plug it into either of the USB-C ports and you get HDMI and VGA ports, plus an two more USB ports (one Type-A, one Type-C).
What you don’t get is any sort of SD card reader or Ethernet jack. If you need either of those things you’ll need to bring your own USB dongle.
I do appreciate that Huawei included the one full-sized USB port. It makes it possible to plug in a mouse, gamepad, or other accessory without using an adapter. And including two Type-C ports means that it’s easy to charge the laptop with one of those ports while using the other. But an SD card reader would have been nice, and I suspect I’m not the only person who would have rather had an Ethernet jack on the adapter than a VGA port.
The MateBook X Pro has four speakers: two upward facing speakers on the left and right sides of the keyboard, and two bottom-firing speakers on either side of the notebook. Together, they give this laptop louder, cleaner sound than most 3 pound, 13 inch notebooks I’ve used.
It probably won’t replace your Hi-Fi stereo set (or a good pair of headphones), but it’s nice to know that you can watch videos or play games without needing to plug in headphones or speakers.
Above the keyboard is a power button with a built-in fingerprint sensor. It’s pretty quick and makes it easy to turn on or wake the PC and login to Windows in a snap.
The keyboard features a spill-proof design, and Huawei says the key spacing is the same as you would normally find on a 15 inch laptop. I found typing to be pretty comfortable, and I had no problems with the location of keys… although some Fn keys are unlabeled.
For example, you won’t see any PgUp, PgDn, Home or End buttons on the keyboard. But hold the Fn button and press the Up, Down, Left, or Right arrow keys and you get all of those features.
Speaking of function keys, The MateBook X Pro almost makes it too easy to toggle whether you need to hold the Fn button or not. Just press the Fn key once to switch between modes.
If the LED light on the Fn key is lit up, pressing F5 triggers an F5 action (to reload a web page in Chrome, for example), and pressing F11 = F11 (for switching to a full-screen view in Chrome, for example).
When the light is off, pressing F5 = volume down, and pressing F11 = Print Screen.
Theoretically, that flexibility is a nice thing to have. But if you’re a touch typist that’s not used to looking down at the keyboard, it can be a little tricky to remember which way the keyboard is set, so I sometimes opened a full-screen browser window when I wanted to snap a screenshot, and vice versa.
The keyboard is backlit and you can toggle the illumination by hitting the F3 key (when the Fn light is not glowing). There are just two settings for the backlight: on or off. An ambient light sensor will also detect external light sources and disable the backlight when it’s not needed.
In addition to the mic mute button (F7), there’s one other unusual key: the F10 button brings up Huawei’s PC Manager application which lets you see if driver updates are available, see a user manual, common issues, and warranty status, and look for PC hardware issues.
By the way, that’s the closest thing to bloatware you’ll find on this Microsoft Signature Edition PC unless you count Microsoft Office, which also comes pre-loaded (Huawei is running a promotion that lets customers get a 1-year subscription to Office 365 personal for free when they purchase a Matebook X Pro).
Below the keyboard is what Huawei refers to as an “oversized” touchpad. It’s certainly bigger than most laptop touchpads I’ve used, but I didn’t encounter any problems with accidental palm swipes while touching. It detected my swipes, taps, and other gestures when I wanted it to, and ignored me the rest of the time.
The bottom of the laptop features 8 hex screws which would probably require a special screwdriver to remove, four rubber feet to keep the metal bottom from touching your desk or table, and four microphones near the front of the computer where the bottom cover starts to curve upward to meet the front of the laptop.
Those quad microphones are used to pick up your voice when using Cortana or other voice-enabled applications. Huawei says the MateBook X Pro should be able to hear you from up to 4 meters (13 feet) away. In my tests, it can be a little hit or miss once you’re more than 7 or 8 feet away, but you definitely don’t need be sitting right in front of the laptop to talk to Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant.
You won’t see any vents on the bottom of the laptop, because they’re on the back… where they’re kind of hidden by the laptop’s hinge. Hot air blows out the back to help keep the computer cool.
I noticed a bit of fan noise when the computer was doing a lot of work, like editing videos. At other times it ran silently… but sometimes the fan kicked in for a few minutes at what seemed like random times when I wasn’t doing much with the notebook.
The fan is certainly not the loudest I’ve heard. I’d say this laptop has a louder fan than the LG Gram, but it’s far quieter than the Acer Aspire S13. If you’re listening to music or watching a movie, you might not even notice any noise. But in a quiet room, it’s certainly noticeable.
Unsurprisingly, given this laptop’s specs, it’s one of the fastest I’ve tested. With 16GB of RAM, the computer handles multitasking like a champ — I was regularly able to use the Chrome web browser with as many as 20 tabs at once while editing images in GIMP, viewing documents in LibreOffice, and streaming music without any slowdowns.
The system boots and resumes from sleep in seconds, and the fingerprint sensor is snappy. The speakers are loud and clear, the display is bright and vivid, and the keyboard and touchpad are comfortable and responsive.
Overall, it’s a pleasure to use this laptop (as long as you don’t need a good webcam or an Ethernet jack). But battery life does fall a little short of Huawei’s promised 12-15 hours.
I’ve been able to regularly get around 7 to 8 hours of run time on a charge while using the laptop for work, which involves the activities mentioned above. You might be able to get longer battery life if you use the notebook differently. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the cheaper model actually gets longer run time, since it lacks discrete graphics.
Acccording to Huawei, you should be able to play 1080p video for up to 12 hours or surf the web for up to 15. But for mixed (and heavy use), I wasn’t able to come close to that.
While I wouldn’t call the battery life deal-breakingly bad, I’d say the MateBook X Pro with NVIDIA graphics has about average battery life for a laptop in this category.
At under 0.6 inches thick, Huawei says the MateBook X Pro is the thinnest laptop to feature NVIDIA graphics. Unsurprisingly, the notebook notched significantly higher scores in 3DMark and other gaming benchmarks than computers with only Intel HD graphics.
It’s also one of the fastest laptops I’ve used in other tests, including PCMark and my usual audio and video transcoding tests (but for some reason it wasn’t in the top 5 for the 7-zip folder transcoding test).
The laptop’s PCIe NVMe storage is also super-fast, with sequential read speeds up to 3200 MB/s and Read speeds up to 2000 MB/s.
If Windows 10 isn’t your cup of tea, it’s relatively easy to load a different operating system onto the MateBook X Pro. Just hit the F12 button during startup to bring up a boot menu that will let you boot from a USB drive.
To test this functionality I took an Ubuntu 18.04 LTS liveUSB for a test drive. I didn’t install the operating system to local storage, so I wasn’t able to do a long-term test of battery life, sleep, or other performance issues and I didn’t spend much time trying to tweak drivers. But the out of the box experience was pretty good.
Ubuntu recognized the laptop’s WiFi, touchscreen, camera, and most of the special function keys. The mic mute button didn’t work, and neither does the wireless toggle key. But volume, brightness, and keyboard backlight buttons all work.
The GNU/Linux distribution also automatically detects the high-DPI display and automatically sets the scaling at 200 percent for comfortable viewing. You can switch to 100 percent or 300 percent scaling pretty easily from the display settings, but if you want to make any finer changes you’ll probably have to work a little harder.
You can find more details about Linux performance in our article on the topic:
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is thin and light, has an attractive design with an all metal chassis, a high-resolution display with slim bezels, and better-than average speakers.
While it’s easy to nitpick the lack of an SD card slot and dedicated video out port, the notebook does come with a dongle that makes it easy to plug in a TV or monitor and it’s nice to be able to charge the computer by plugging the AC adapter into either of the USB Type-C ports on the left side. The inclusion of a USB Type-A port also makes it easy to connect legacy devices like a mouse, gamepad, or printer.
The best thing about the model I reviewed may be its price: $1500 is more than I would typically pay for a laptop. But it’s actually a pretty good price for a machine with a Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe storage, a 3000 x 2000 pixel display, quad speakers, and a fingerprint sensor in a thin and light aluminum-clad package.
I’m less convinced that the cheaper model is worth $1200. At that price, you’re still getting a laptop with a great display, good speakers, a fingerprint sensor, quad microphones, and an unusual camera placement. But you get half the memory, half the storage, no discrete graphics, and a less powerful processor.
And of course, you don’t need to spend $1500 to get a good laptop. I’m still happily using a laptop I picked up two years ago for $699. And retailers like Amazon, the Microsoft Store, and Newegg are filled with great laptops available for $1000 or less.
But if you are considering spending $1200 on the entry-level MateBook X Pro, it’s totally worth spending a little more to get the better-specced version. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.