The New King of Lightweight Laptops?
Huawei MateBook X Pro Review: The MacBook’s Most Worthy Competitor Yet
When Huawei announced the MateBook X Pro laptop a few months ago at Mobile World Congress 2018, it did so to a significant amount of buzz. Aesthetically, the laptop is an unashamed MacBook copy, with a few tweaks here and there to avoid any IP infringements. As a power user of a MacBook Pro, I was curious to see if the MateBook X Pro could stand up to daily use as my work machine. I replaced my MacBook Pro with the MateBook X Pro as my main computer for work. In short, color me impressed.|
The Good: The Huawei MateBook X Pro, smartly, overcomes one of the biggest hurdles in getting MacBook users to jump ship outside of software — aesthetics. By using a silhouette that MacBook users are more than familiar with (down to even the two color options which are Apple shades of gray and silver), it softens the blow of adjusting to a new software ecosystem. The MateBook X Pro runs the latest version of Windows 10 Signature Edition, and overall I found the laptop to be more than capable of running a plethora of CPU-hungry apps like Chrome, Spotify and Slack. It also features an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card, and while I didn’t use the PC for gaming, other reviewers have noted that it does an admirable job.
If you’ve yet to abandon the USB-A protocol, you’ll find solace in the MateBook X Pro’s one USB-A port on the right side of the PC. One the left side, are two USB-C ports (one of which is Thunderbolt 3 compatible) and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Effectively, that makes the MateBook X Pro almost 100-percent usable dongle-less (save for things like HDMI and SD), which is more than can be said for the latest generations of MacBook.
Who It’s For: If you’re a power user that likes the idea of a MacBook, but would rather save around $1,000 to put towards other endeavors, you can’t go wrong with the MateBook X Pro. Likewise, if you’re a diehard PC user that is tired of using the Dell XPS series, you’ll likely enjoy this Huawei laptop as well.
Watch Out For: Becuase of the graphics card included is the new machine, Huawei was unable to keep the MateBook X Pro fan-less. I didn’t find that to be too much of an issue, and the fan was never too loud. In testing, there were times that the MateBook’s speed was noticeably slower than the MacBook, but it was never to the point that I felt bogged or slowed down when working. The trackpad isn’t quite as flawless as the MacBook’s trackpad. The touchscreen is a cool feature, but I found that I didn’t use it all that much.
It’s worth noting that the US Government has warned against buying Huawei devices. There is a lot of speculation that the company’s devices could be used with malicious intentions. In February, FBI Director stated: “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.” In early May, the Pentagon banned Huawei and ZTE phones from being sold on US Military bases. As far as consumers are concerned however, this is all speculation, and Huawei makes excellent hardware. Weigh the speculation as you will.
Alternatives: The Dell XPS 13 ($1,000+) is worthy alternative if you simply want a laptop that works. If you want something a touch more powerful with more of a gaming focus, take a look at the Razer Blade 15 ($1,900+). And if you want something that’s as pretty as the Huawei, but brings some innovation a la touchbar, check out the new Asus Zenbook Pro 15 ($2,300+) with the new touchpad that replaces the standard trackpad.
Review: It seems impossible these days to speak authoritatively about any piece of touchscreen tech without mentioning how large or small the bezels are, so I’m going to get that out of the way up front. Shrinking and minimizing bezels has become such an obsession in the tech world that it’s become a major selling point for loads of tech products. The MateBook X Pro is the latest to lean on its tiny bezels, which are the smallest of any 13-inch laptop on the market. In fact, the bezels are so small that the MateBook X Pro offers a staggering 91-percent screen to body ratio. Because of this, Huawei is actually able to squeeze what is effectively a 14-inch screen into the chassis of a standard 13-inch laptop.
But beyond the bezel-shrinking innovation, Huawei also managed to squeeze in a few more tricks. For starters (pardon the pun), the MateBook X Pro goes from off to logged-in and surfing the web in as little as 7.8 seconds. It’s remarkably fast, and in practice feels like you’re simply waking the PC from sleep.
But perhaps the most innovative feature on the MateBook X Pro (and another tweak that allows those bezels to be so small) is the placement of the webcam. In research, Huawei realized that many people were placing a sticker or some sort of cover over their webcams, often placed at the top of the screen. It’s a less than elegant solution, and Huawei figured that they could do better. The result is a pop-up webcam hidden in the function keys of the keyboard. Simply press the button and the webcam pops up when you need it.
Though I personally am not one to often use the external speakers on a laptop setup, the MateBook X Pro’s speakers are worthy of mention. The laptop uses quad speakers and a split frequency set-up to create what Huawei calls “an immersive 3D sound experience.” Basically, all you need to know is that they sound significantly better than 90% of what you’d find on comparable laptops. If speaker quality is a factor you’re scrutinizing in a laptop, you’ll be satisfied by the Huawei.
Verdict: If there was ever a laptop to make me jump ship from my MacBook, this is it. It’s well-designed, fast, thoughtful and innovative. It comes with top-end hardware, including an NVIDIA graphics card, and manages to do so at an incredibly competitive and approachable price point. If you can look past the speculation surrounding Huawei and the US government, the MateBook X Pro is one of the best laptops you can buy.
What Others Are Saying:
• “Simply put, if you are looking to purchase a new laptop for productivity or entertainment, the MateBook X Pro should be at the very top of your list.” — Dan Seifert, The Verge
• “We could not have seen this coming, but there is a new best laptop in town: the Huawei MateBook X Pro. We’ve been so taken aback by this sleeper hit laptop, that it now sits amongst the highest-ranking in our top buying guides.” — Joe Osborne, Tech Radar
• “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.” — Matt Smith, Digital Trends
CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.0GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics (2GB GDDR5)
RAM: 16GB LPDDR3 (2,133 MHz)
Screen: 13.9-inch 3K (3,000 x 2,000) LED with touch panel
Storage: 512GB SSD (NVMe PCIe)
Ports: Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, USB-C 3.1, USB 3.0, 3.5mm audio jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2 x 2 MIMO) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: 720p webcam with far field microphones
Weight: 1.33kg (2.93 lbs)
Size: 11.97 x 8.54 x 0.57 inches
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