Last year's Matebook X pushed Huawei further into the PC market than it ever had been before. While it had a design that allowed it to masquerade as a trendy ultrabook, it demanded quite a few compromises from users. Its sub-par battery life and too-little memory, among other shortcomings, made the Matebook X less attractive than its shiny exterior suggested.
Huawei zeroed-in on the shortcomings of the Matebook X with its successor: the new Matebook X Pro. On paper, the new laptop appears leaps and bounds better than the original: an 8th-gen CPU, a 3K touchscreen, an estimated 15-hour battery life, and even a discrete graphics card.
But beefing up the Matebook X Pro forced Huawei to make a few sacrifices. Thankfully, those sacrifices do not overshadow the well-executed improvements that make this device a more capable laptop than the original.
Look and feel
A lot of MacBook influence remains in the Matebook X Pro's design, but Huawei seems more comfortable putting its own spin on the second generation of its flagship ultrabook. The Matebook X Pro feels bigger than Huawei's original laptop thanks to subtle changes the company made to its chassis design, screen, and internals. Measuring 14.6mm thick at its widest point and weighing 2.8 pounds, the new laptop takes up more space than its predecessor. While most OEMs live and die by the "thin and light" doctrine, Huawei sacrificed millimeters and ounces to make space for a more powerful CPU, two graphics cards, and a more versatile array of ports.
|SPECS AT A GLANCE: Matebook X Pro (as reviewed)|
|SCREEN||13.9-inch 3000×2000, 260 ppi, IPS, 3:2 touchscreen|
|OS||Windows 10 Home Signature|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-8550U|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 620 + 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU|
|STORAGE||512GB PCIe SSD|
|NETWORKING||802.11ac 2.4/5 GHz 2×2 MIMO, dual-band Wi-Fi|
|PORTS||One USB Type-A port, one USB Type-C port, one Thunderbolt 3 port, one headphone jack|
|SIZE||11.9×8.5×0.5 inches (304×217×14.6mm)|
|STARTING PRICE||Still unknown|
|OTHER PERKS||recessed webcam, power button with integrated fingerprint sensor (Windows Hello-ready), Dolby Atmos sound system, included MateDock 2.0|
Nevertheless, Huawei describes the Matebook X Pro's design as "pure and invisible," and I'd say there's a solid argument for the former rather than the latter. The laptop's purity comes from its unobscured lid and chassis, with the lid only bearing Huawei's company logo and the all-metal chassis scathed only by the diamond-cut edges tracing the outline of the machine. Even the area around the keyboard is clean, stamped only by slim speaker grilles hugging the left and right sides of the keyboard and the combination fingerprint reader and power button at the top-right corner.
The mammoth touchscreen on the Matebook X Pro adds to the purity of its design—while it's a 13-inch notebook, the 13.9-inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio makes it feel like a larger device. A mere 4.4mm of bezel surrounds a 3000×2000-pixel panel, giving the device a 91-percent screen-to-body ratio. Even after seeing the Matebook X Pro at a briefing over a month ago, my first reaction upon opening our review unit for the first time was, "Wow, that's a big display."
The quality of the touchscreen combined with the nearly nonexistent bezels and its aspect ratio made the Matebook X Pro a solid device to use as my regular work laptop. Huawei also added an eye-comfort mode that filters out excessive blue light to make it easier to use for long periods of time, something I greatly appreciate as someone who spends far too much time staring at various sizes and types of screens.
Quad speakers with Dolby Atmos support and quad far-field mics live inside the Matebook X Pro, upping the sound and voice-recognition quality of the previous notebook. Huawei also improved nearly every spec from the Matebook X—the new laptop can have either a Core i5-8250U CPU or Core i7-8550U CPU; Intel UHD Graphics 620 and an optional 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU; either 8GB or 16GB of RAM; and either a 256GB or 512GB PCIe SSD.
I'm most happy to see the solitary 4GB RAM option disappear, as it wasn't equipped to support the inevitable demands put on the original Matebook X. It certainly wouldn't have been enough memory to handle the workloads possible with the Matebook X Pro's internals.
While the connectivity environment on the Matebook X Pro remains minimalist, Huawei did make a couple of welcome changes: on the right side is one USB Type-A port, an option that was lacking in the original Matebook X and contributes to the new laptop's increased thickness; and on the left side lies a headphone jack, one USB Type-C port, and one Thunderbolt 3 port. Both Type-C ports support data transfer, charging, and docking with the MateDock 2.0, which comes with every US model and has another USB Type-A port, USB Type-C port, an HDMI port, and a VGA port for extra connectivity.
Some users may miss the design of the original Matebook X, but Huawei's compromises only make the new Matebook X Pro better. Its design remains thin and light, even if it's not as wispy as it used to be, and it's still slim and chic with a solid construction that's unmarred by unnecessary design features. Most importantly, Huawei upgraded the specs to be what users expect out of a flagship ultrabook, and those new internals can only benefit the Matebook X Pro when compared to devices like the new XPS 13 laptop and the HP Spectre 13.
Keyboard, trackpad, and webcam
The Matebook X Pro's keyboard remains more like Apple's MacBook than any other part of the notebook. The full-sized, chiclet keyboard was perfectly fine for me to use to type articles regularly, and the key travel is actually more comfortable than that on my MacBook Pro. The Precision trackpad is also quite comfortable and is neither too big nor too small. Some laptops and convertibles haven't embraced the crazy-large trackpad trend yet—while the Matebook X Pro's trackpad isn't as big as that on the MacBook Pro, it's bigger and much easier to use than that of Samsung's Notebook 9 Pen, for example.
The keyboard doesn't offer any surprise key placements, but it does include one surprise key: the camera button that hides the recessed webcam underneath it. Huawei shrank the top bezel above the display thanks to this new webcam placement, prioritizing screen real estate over video chatting and other webcam uses. The company also claims this gives users more privacy since the webcam is, by default, not watching you, and it'll never come up automatically.
There's also a small light next to the camera that turns on when the camera is active. The webcam activates immediately—regardless of whether the camera pops up—when you open the default Windows Camera app. If it's still inside the chassis, you'll only see a black, grainy feed in the Camera app. But the camera doesn't activate if you simply press the camera button to pop the lens up. While there's always the chance that hackers could see through the camera lens when the light is off, the light is still a good indicator to let you know when the camera is actively being used by a Windows app or program.
The webcam hardware seems reliable. It takes a firm press of the camera button to force the webcam upward and an equally forceful press to push it back down into its home. Since the camera key moves further down into the chassis than other keys, you must press it down more than other keys in order to bring the webcam up. That means it'll be difficult to accidentally trigger the webcam, but that also means you have to be deliberate when you close the webcam, too. Closing the lid of the Matebook X Pro pushes the camera key down but not forcefully enough to keep it locked into the chassis when you lift the lid again.
But similarly to the bottom-bezel placement of the webcam on the Dell XPS 13, the Matebook X Pro's webcam placement gives you the ultra-unflattering up-nose angle. It's certainly not the best for video chatting, and for some, that's a good enough reason for nixing the camera entirely.
However, it's unlikely that we'll see ultrabooks abandon the webcam any time soon, even those that opt to put their webcams in inconvenient places. There are plenty of business users who need webcams for conference calls, so devices like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon will likely have webcams for the foreseeable future. I prefer Lenovo's answer to webcam privacy as well—the camera shutter—since it allows you to block the camera while keeping it in the best place for civilized video chatting.
The camera key only allows a basic webcam to sit under the chassis, so the Matebook X Pro doesn't come with an IR camera. The camera key would have had to be much larger to accommodate a webcam and IR camera setup, and it's somewhat unnecessary since Huawei included the fingerprint reader on the device's power button. Some may be deterred by the lack of IR camera because it really is the easiest way to log in using Windows Hello. Fingerprint readers sign you in quite quickly, but you don't even have to move your hand to log in using facial recognition, and it's a shame that users can't do that on the Matebook X Pro.