Huawei is a company typically associated with phones. That changed with the MateBook X Pro which made some noise in an otherwise crowded PC market. Webcam tucked away in the keyboard, the laptop was something we’ve never quite seen before. But Huawei isn’t done just yet.
The MateBook X Pro is back in 2019, with new Intel Whiskey Lake processors on the inside, a familiar 3:2 aspect ratio display and premium unibody design. Alongside a brand-new, never-before-seen MX250 graphics card, the MateBook X Pro now has what it takes to be the better version of itself. We spent some hands-on time with the unit ahead of Mobile World Congress to see all that’s new with Huawei’s flagship PC.
Same, spacious, bright display for the web
16:9 is the most standard aspect ratio on laptops, but that has changed in recent years. The MacBook Pro comes with a 16:10 scaled aspect ratio display and the Surface Book 2 uses the 3:2 size for even more screen real estate. The MateBook X Pro takes on with the trend.
Though not new from the previous model, it is something that we really enjoyed with the MateBook X Pro. Opening multiple instances of Microsoft Edge on the MateBook X Pro provided a complete view of the web. Combined with a 3,000 × 2,000 resolution 13.9-inch display, text on web pages were complete, clean, and crisp, extending all the way to the bottom of the display.
Brightness is stunning and can get up to 450 nits, according to Huawei. We didn’t even need to turn it below 20 percent during our web browsing time. It’s the same panel as last year’s, and that’s a great thing as its screen was one of its strengths. For example, it had an impressively high 1,240:1 contrast ratio, coming close even to the MacBook Pro, a leader in that area.
Huawei is also quoting a 91 percent screen to body ratio, which means that the bezels are incredibly thin. When opening both a web browser and some of the stock Windows 10 apps, it made the display feel bigger than its size. Exact measurements aren’t available, but visually, it’s on par with what Dell has done on the XPS 13.
Simply swipe down from three fingers from the top of the screen to capture your screen.
The screen also supports touch, which is something that has yet to come to the MacBook Pro lineup. It is held up firmly by the hinge, and doesn’t wobble too much during scrolling. There’s even a neat little feature in this year’s model to record screenshots. Simply swipe down with three fingers from the top of the screen to capture, edit and record what’s on your display. We tried out the feature multiple times and it picked up our gestures each time with no lag.
This all crosses in with Huawei Share 3.0, which makes your Android phone best buddies with the laptop. Though we couldn’t try it out on our hands-on unit, we were able to see a demo in action. It looked to be seamless experience, but we were told the feature only works with Huawei phones. A one tap to the MateBook X Pro transfers photos between the MateBook and the phone, and a shake of the phone will tap and record the notebook screen. There’s also clipboard sharing. It works with NFC and seems like the MacOS and iOS synergies you can get with the MacBook or iPhone. The feature won’t be on models sold in the U.S.
Sleek, unibody design
Taking inspiration from the Apple MacBook lineup, the MateBook X Pro features a premium unibody design. It comes in two colors, both in Space Gray and Mystic Silver. Huawei did not opt for a third gold color, but the options here are both nice. The “Space Gray” colorway matches Apple’s offering in name, just like with the MateBook 13, but it’s a bit darker than the MacBooks. The overall material is also cool to the touch and felt very smooth when curving the side of our hands. Huawei even changed the branding on the lid, so it now shows the company’s name, rather than a logo.
Where the MateBook X Pro parts from the MacBook Pro is with the keyboard and touchpad. Compared to the MateBook 13, its keycaps jut out more from the chassis, with a nice slick feeling on the top that makes speed typing easy. We opened Microsoft Sticky notes to test this, and the 1.2 mm of travel space between keys meant we experienced very little typos. Our fingers easily moved quickly with each touch of the key, without a harsh bottoming out action.
Taking inspiration from the MacBook, the Matebook X Pro features a premium unibody design.
The trackpad offers a similar experience and is plenty spacious. It’s significantly larger than what you get on other Windows laptops, measuring out around the same size as the touchpad on the MacBook. The clicks provide a solid feedback, too. We must also mention the integrated fingerprint reader above the keyboard in the power button, which allows for quick and seamless logins with Windows Hello.
Fortunately, even with a sleek unibody design, Huawei did not have to compromise on ports. The MateBook X Pro comes equipped with two USB-C ports, and a USB-A 2.0 port. There’s even Thunderbolt 3 support so you can connect a 4K monitor, as well as an external GPU. It’s also nice to see USB-A included though, as it means you won’t need to fully embrace the dongle lifestyle.
Say hello to a new graphics card
Another big claim from Huawei with the MateBook X Pro is the performance difference with a switch to Whiskey Lake Processors. We’ve seen these in quite the number of laptops so far, including the Dell XPS 13, which experienced a roughly 8 percent jump in Geekbench 4 scoring when compared to the last generation Intel chipset. If that carries over, this supposedly would make the MateBook X Pro a bit faster than last year’s model with the Intel Core i7-8550U chipset.
While more testing is needed, we’re expecting some positive results from the newer Intel Core i7-8565U CPU. In our hands-on time we taxed our sample unit with 20 tabs in Microsoft Edge, and it worked through with no lag. YouTube, and other media-heavy websites also loaded up quickly.
But Huawei has a trick up its sleeve. The company pulled a surprise and upgraded the GPU to the Nvidia MX250 with 2GB of VRAM, a change from last year’s MX150. We’ve haven’t yet seen this new GPU in any other laptop, and we couldn’t test it out in a game during our hands-on time. Huawei claims it can be “3.5 times better” than integrated graphics, and around 5 or 10 percent faster than the MX150.
Still, the MX150 is known to perform modestly in games. When we tried it out on the MateBook 13, it manages to edge out into the 60 frames per second in Fortnite. Any improvements would be appreciated and help consider the MateBook X Pro as an alternative to gaming laptops with beefier graphics cards like the GTX 1050.
Alongside the shift to Whiskey Lake, Huawei is also changing up the connectivity on board the MateBook X Pro. Compared to the MacBook Pro’s rated speeds of 867 MB/S, Huawei claims that the its Wi-Fi can get to a 1,733 MB/S peak rate. It was hard for us to judge this in our hands-on time, but it holds promise in a world where we are always connected to the internet.
Lastly, we can’t talk about the MateBook X Pro without addressing the webcam. It’s the same as last generation, still living under a key in the function row. The way it pops out is certainly novel and a help for privacy, but it isn’t exactly high quality when compared to the webcams on most laptops The camera angle flattering and provides an awkward look at your fingers when typing. It’s even worse than the nose-cam that used to be used on the old XPS 13 laptops.
Huawei did not share pricing on the MateBook X Pro but is targeting a May release for the US version of the laptop. Last year’s version is priced at $1,200 at the Microsoft Store, so we’d expect the 2019 model to launch at a similar price.