Huawei is huge. It’s larger by revenue than Dell or HP, the giants of computing in North America, and employs more people than both those competitors. You likely didn’t know that, of course. Gaining traction in the U.S. and Canada for further growth hasn’t been easy. Just look at the company’s cancelled smartphone partnership with AT&T.
It’s not giving up, though, and it’s not restricting itself to any one category of device. Even laptops – hardly a growth market – aren’t immune to Huawei’s assault. That’s good news if you like a value. Last year’s Huawei MateBook X was a runner-up in our best products of the year awards, thanks to its attractive design, excellent display, and modest price.
Nice as it was, the MateBook X wasn’t a svelte machine of modest performance intent. Enter the MateBook X Pro. Revealed at Mobile World Congress, the Pro model pairs an 8th-gen Intel Core processor with Nvidia MX 150 graphics and a larger 13.9-inch screen, yet it weighs less than three pounds. Let’s see if it follows in its little brother’s footsteps.
The safe approach
Like the MateBook X, the Pro version takes inspiration from Apple’s MacBook line. Yes, yes, we know. There’s only so many ways to design a silver rectangle. Still, Dell and even Asus have recently shown that changes in texture or color can go a long way. And we must point out that the position of the Pro’s speaker grills, as well as its underside vents, are extremely reminiscent of Apple’s MacBook Pro 13.
Here’s what strange – Huawei does it better. Sure, the MateBook X Pro doesn’t possess the impressively solid feel of a MacBook Pro, and its shade of silver isn’t quite as attractive. What the Huawei does have over the Mac, though, is a larger display with thinner bezels, a more attractive keyboard, and an on-board USB-A port, as well as two USB-C ports, one of which supports Thunderbolt 3. Apple is the pioneer, but the pioneering approach doesn’t always translate to a device that’s better for day-to-day use.
The MateBook X Pro takes inspiration from Apple’s MacBook Pro, but Huawei does it better.
The Huawei compares less favorably to its PC peers. Dell, HP, and Lenovo have all gone their own way, giving each brand a look that’s recognizably unique. Dell’s XPS uses carbon fiber weave, HP is all-in on angular chrome, and Lenovo has the Yoga line. Huawei has no particular trait that makes the MateBook X Pro stand out as a cutting-edge, premium machine.
Size and weight also come within usual expectations. The system is 0.57 inches thick and weighs a hair under three pounds. Such figures put it right in line with Apple’s MacBook Pro. It’s definitely larger than Dell’s XPS 13 or HP’s Spectre 13, but remember – Huawei’s packing a larger 13.9-inch screen. In the end, we doubt anyone will take offense to the MateBook X Pro’s profile.
Indeed, nothing about the Huawei offends. Everything, even the fingerprint reader (which also serves as the power button) works exactly as it should.
A strange camera in a solid keyboard
Well, actually, there’s one exception. The webcam is in the keyboard.
In the keyboard? Yes. In the keyboard. Nestled between the F6 and F7 keys is an extra key labeled with a camera icon. Press it, and the integrated webcam flips up. This is Huawei’s way of dealing with the fact that the display bezels are too thin to fit a camera.
While the unusual location serves as a privacy screen (since there’s no way the camera would be active with you knowing), it’s otherwise a bad idea. The camera angle isn’t flattering and typing while conferencing gives everyone else on the call a close-up of your knuckles. We wouldn’t want to use the webcam for an interview or business meeting, which detracts from the laptop’s “Pro” billing.
Thankfully, the keyboard earns far higher praise. There’s plenty of key travel, which means that despite a vague bottoming action, touch-typing at speed is a breeze.
The webcam is in the keyboard. Seriously.
It’s a big improvement over the MacBook Pro 13 or even HP Spectre 13, though a notch below favorites like the Lenovo Yoga 920. A keyboard backlight is standard and works well despite minor light leakage around most keys, particularly the function row.
We also liked the touchpad. It’s nearly as large as that on the Apple MacBook Pro 13, which means it’s larger than the Yoga 920’s, or that on the Asus Zenbook 3 Deluxe. Windows Precision Touchpad gestures are fully supported, and the smooth surface makes activating them easy. Clicky left and right mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad surface. They’re a bit vague, but they function smoothly and aren’t difficult to find.
Proof 3:2 is back in style
The MateBook Pro X has several notable – or strange – traits, but the display is certainly a highlight. It’s a 13.9-inch screen, which isn’t unusual, but it offers 3,000 × 2,000 resolution in a 3:2 aspect ratio, which means the display is closer to square than most. That means you can view more of a web page or document at once than you’d normally expect, though the trade-off is larger bars when watching a movie.
Does this sound familiar? If so, that’s because we said much the same about Microsoft’s Surface Book 2. It has a 13.5-inch display with 3,000 × 2,000 resolution. The display on the Surface Book 2 is among the best we’ve ever tested – does the Huawei measure up?
Our tests proved what our eyes saw — the Huawei MateBook X gives the Surface Book 2 13-inch a run for its money. Its contrast ratio of 1,240:1 isn’t quite as high – though still excellent for a laptop – but the Huawei is only a step behind in color gamut and wins out in color accuracy. These strong results also put the Huawei one step ahead of Dell’s new XPS 13, Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and HP’s Spectre 13. Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 remains the head of this class overall, but even it barely loses to the Huawei in contrast.
The Huawei has one more trick: the brightest display we’ve ever witnessed in a Windows machine. Its retina-scorching brilliance overpowers ambient glare in nearly any situation. We often used it at 30 or 40 percent of its maximum because anything more was uncomfortable, but it’s good to know the backlight can ramp up when you need it.
While the display entices you, the speakers hold up their end of the experience, delivering robust sound that’s surprisingly good at providing low-end bass for a machine of this size. External speakers will prove superior, of course, but the MateBook X won’t disappoint when you fire up a movie or game.
Processor and Storage Performance
Our MateBook X Pro review unit came with an Intel Core i7-8550U processor and 16GB of memory. That’s powerful hardware worthy of the “Pro” designation, and it pushes the Huawei’s thermal design to its limit.
In Geekbench 4 the Huawei MateBook X Pro scored 4,354 in the single-core test and 13,384 in the multi-core test. These scores are roughly equal to some competitors, like the Asus Zenbook 3 Deluxe, but come behind others, such as the Lenovo Yoga 920. The Huawei’s performance in that benchmark is mediocre at best.
Handbrake told a similar tale. The MateBook X Pro needed exactly five minutes to transcode our 4K test trailer from h.264 to h.265. That’s not bad, but it’s not great. The Asus Zenbook Flip 14, which had the same processor, required a minute less to handle the same task.
We saw better results from the hard drive, a 512GB solid state model produced by Lite On. It reached sequential read speeds of over two gigabytes per second, and write speeds of about 1.5Gbps. Those figures mean the drive should feel quick to even the most demanding users.
Good for gaming, within limits
Huawei has wisely paired its Intel Core processor with Nvidia’s MX150 graphics, a competent entry-level graphics chip that’s becoming common even in systems as light as the MateBook X Pro. It’s not meant for serious gaming, but it does a reasonable job in a pinch.
There’s good and bad to report here. The good? Opting for an MX150 makes the MateBook X Pro a moderately capable gaming PC. It’s not great, but it can run games like Civilization VI and Battlefield 1 at 1080p resolution and medium detail. This is much more than can be said for Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Dell’s XPS 13, HP’s Spectre 13, and other laptops that stick with Intel UHD 620 graphics.
The bad? Huawei’s take on the MX150 is a step behind competitors with the same hardware. We noticed it most in Civilization VI. There, the MateBook X Pro hit an average of 25 frames per second. That’s noticeably behind the Asus Zenbook Flip 14, which managed 33 FPS.
We also ran into resolution issues with the 3,000 × 2,000 panel. Not all games play well with its unusual shape. 1080p resolution actually doesn’t fit the display properly because it’s a different aspect ratio than the screen, so you’ll need to leap up to 1,920 × 1,280. That increases pixel count by about 18 percent, however, so real-world performance may prove even worse than our standardized test figures suggest. This is less of a problem with a Surface Book 2, as it has performance to spare, but the MateBook X Pro barely skates by.
A modest battery with immodest results
Though it has a (nearly) 14-inch display, the MateBook X Pro’s bezels are small enough to place that screen in a chassis no larger than an Apple MacBook Pro 13 or HP Spectre 13. It’s an impressive feat that pays off in a sleek, packable size. The laptop also weighs a hair less than three pounds, a figure that’s a bit behind the Spectre 13 but does beat the MacBook Pro 13 and Lenovo’s Yoga 920.
Slimming down the laptop has forced Huawei to stick with a modest 57 watt-hour battery. That’s not bad, but it’s far from the largest – Lenovo’s Yoga 920 has a 70 watt-hour charge. The result is endurance that’s competitive but not class-leading.
Huawei’s MateBook Pro X did best in our web browsing loop, where it lasted about nine and a half hours. That’s better than the Lenovo Yoga 920 or Asus Zenbook 3 Deluxe, though behind the Microsoft Surface Book 2 13-inch. We also saw over 10 hours of life from our 1080p video loop. That’s almost identical to the Apple MacBook Pro 13, but well behind the Lenovo Yoga 920 we tested, which had a 1080p display.
A few laptops last longer away from a socket, but the Huawei MateBook X Pro makes a good showing. This laptop should last through an eight-hour work day with a little fuel still in the tank.
The MateBook X Pro is a great laptop with a bad webcam. You’ll have to decide if that problem invalidates the system’s other perks.
You can pick up the Huawei Matebook Pro X starting at $1,200. That’ll snag you a Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 256GB solid state drive — but you don’t receive the Nvidia graphics chip. That’s part of the $1,500 upgrade, which also has the Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid state drive. Given all you receive for $300, the upgrade is worthwhile if you can swing it.
Is there a better alternative?
Lenovo’s Yoga 920 and Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 13-inch are strong competitors. Both offer excellent performance and great battery life. They’re 2-in-1s instead of clamshells — an increasingly popular style of laptop — yet you pay no significant penalty for their added versatility.
Asus’ ZenBook 13 UX331UN is a budget-minded pick that actually gives up almost no performance edge to the Huawei. That’s impressive, because the ZenBook 13 is a $1,000 machine. It doesn’t match the Huawei in display quality or overall design, however.
The MateBook X Pro does outpace the MacBook Pro 13, beating it in overall performance, keyboard quality, and essentially tying it in display quality, while also stuffing a larger 14-inch panel in the same size of chassis.
How long will it last?
The Huawei MateBook Pro X offers the usual one-year warranty. Its hardware is up to date and its construction seems durable. We think it could last five years, or more, if treated well.
Should you buy it?
No. The Huawei MateBook X Pro has an excellent display, a large and responsive touchpad is strong, and its overall performance is strong. Its webcam is almost useless, however, and its MX150 graphics chip doesn’t keep up with others boasting the same hardware.
05/21/2018: This review was updated with official U.S. pricing.