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Huawei MateBook X Pro Review

Huawei MateBook X Pro Review
Huawei’s new MateBook X Pro builds on its predecessor – which was Huawei’s first-ever laptop – with upgrades galore including a touchscreen, better performance and a lower price.

It’s called the MateBook X Pro rather than the X2 because Huawei is pitching it against MacBook Pro and hoping that the lower price (and Windows) will tempt buyers away from Apple’s offering.


PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Huawei announced the MateBook X Pro at MWC 2018 in Barcelona but hasn't yet announced when it will go on sale, or any UK pricing. The official line is that it will be launched in Q2, but that means it could be from now until the end of May.

Suffice to say that there are three main models: two with a Core i5 and one with a Core i7. They're also better specified than the equivalent MacBook Pro:
  • i5/8GB/256GB: 1499€
  • i5/8GB/512GB: 1699€
  • i7/16GB/512GB: 1899€
Seemingly unable to help itself, Huawei has copied Apple’s colour options for the X Pro. This means you have a choice of Space Grey and Mystic Silver. Unlike the original, the X Pro doesn't come in Rose- or Prestige Gold. Also, only the the Core i7 version is available in silver, we're told.

FEATURES AND DESIGN
This is undeniably a great-looking laptop. It also feels reassuringly well built and is ever so light to carry around, possibly diminutive enough to fit into the tablet pocket of your backpack too. 

Comparisons with the MacBook Pro are inevitable as Huawei has taken much inspiration from Apple in the MateBook X Pro's design. Flip it over and you'd be hard pushed to tell which is which: even the screws are in the same positions.

If you're familiar with the old MateBook X - a laptop that wasn't widely available to buy in the UK - you probably will notice the screen has grown and the bezels shrunk.

In a chassis that’s basically the same size, Huawei has managed to fit a 13.9in panel and increased resolution to 3000x2000 pixels. It has also added a touch layer so you can use all 10 digits on it simultaneously. A sheet of Gorilla Glass covers the entire display, running right to the edges of the lid.

However, the hinge design hasn’t changed so the screen stops at around 130 degrees – it doesn’t fold flat against the desk or even underneath the keyboard for a tablet mode. That's not really a problem as such as this isn't meant to be a convertible or hybrid.

Build quality is top notch and there’s the same all-metal unibody design with diamond-cut edges and a sandblasted satin finish. Huawei’s flower logo is now on the lid alongside the company’s name and it certainly looks good even if it’ll be unfamiliar to many who see it.

You can open the screen with one finger and the base remains on the desk: the hinge's stiffness is perfect.

In a bid to trump the MacBook Pro, the new MateBook is fractionally thinner (by 0.3mm) and lighter (by 400g) than its rival.

The trackpad is bigger than before and the backlit keyboard is now spill-proof. As there’s no room for a webcam above the screen, Huawei has cleverly hidden it in the keyboard. Just press it and up it pops, ready for action. When you don’t need it, it’s hidden out of sight: handy for security, too.

Its position is far from ideal, though. As with other laptops that place the webcam below the screen, the viewing angle is less than flattering. In the MateBook X Pro’s case, the camera points at your chest rather than your face if you sit in a normal working position. So you’ll have to move back further than normal if you want your face to be in the shot on video calls.

Four mics are present and allow far-field use. That means you can stand the other side of the room and talk to your audience, or ask Cortana for assistance.

As with its predecessor, the power button has a built-in fingerprint sensor which is compatible with Windows Hello.

From a cold boot, it’ll take just 7.8 seconds until you see Windows 10’s login screen and it’s marginally quicker if the laptop’s already in hibernation mode. 
The fast start-ups aren't exaggerated: we've measured similar times in our own tests.

On the sides, ports are swapped around a little. Instead of a USB-C port on either side, you’ll now find a traditional rectangular USB port on the right. That’s useful because no-one wants to have to carry an adaptor just to plug in a flash drive.

There are two USB-C ports, but they’re now on the left. One can be used for data and charging and the other supports Thunderbolt 3 which means you can hook up an external graphics card.

We’re unconvinced many people will want to spend a lot of money on a graphics card and a special external PCIe enclosure to play games on a 14in laptop, but it’s possible nonetheless.

It's good to see a standard headphone socket, but disappointing not to find any kind of card reader.

The top-spec model which we were sent has a Core i7 processor, the 8th-gen 8550U. It also has 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD and an Nvidia MX150 graphics chip. The latter means you can have reasonable gaming performance without stumping up for an external GPU.

In the lower-spec version is an i5-8250U, 8GB of RAM and no separate GPU. That means you get essentially the same graphics power as the original MateBook X which also used the Intel chip’s built-in graphics. And it isn’t much cop for gaming.

Oddly, the hard drive on our review model is partitioned into 80GB for Windows 10 and 380GB for your files. This is far from ideal, since Windows updates and apps (which you'll install on the C: drive by default) will quickly fill it up.

Another upgrade is the audio system. There are now four separate speakers, with tweeters added alongside the stereo woofers. There’s Dolby Atmos branding again.

Sound is very good for a laptop this thin. The speakers offer a good stereo soundstage, and even good surround effects. They're reasonably loud, but sound does get a little muddy at very high volumes when there's a lot going on in the soundtrack. But at normal listening levels, it's great.

What is an LPTS screen?
Returning to the screen for a moment, Huawei has used the same LTPS technology it uses in some of its phones. It’s an LCD panel which uses a different type of silicon to regular LCD displays. Put simply, this allows higher resolutions and lower temperatures, and also happens to be cheaper to manufacture. A win-win situation, really.

In use, the screen is excellent with great detail, colours, contrast and viewing angles. The downside to a glass screen is that it's highly reflective so you might have struggle to see what you're doing if there's bright light hitting it.

If you didn’t know better, you’d assume it was an IPS screen, and with those thin bezels, it looks wonderful.

Keyboard and touchpad
The touchpad is large, like the MacBook's, and with Windows 10 you can use all sorts of gestures to navigate: two fingers to scroll up and down, three fingers to switch between apps and pinch-to-zoom. 

The keyboard is spill-proof and backlit and the keys have just the right amount of travel and resistance. The only niggle is that - like the MacBook Pro - the keyboard has a US layout that places the @ symbol on the 2 key instead of a UK keyboard which has it on the ' key.

PERFORMANCE
Performance is as good as you'd expect from a Core i7 / MX150 combo. Windows 10 Home is very responsive, largely thanks to the NVMe SSD which far exceeds the read and write speeds you get with a standard SATA-connected SSD - over 3GB/s for reading and around 1.3GB/s for writing.

However, the MateBook X Pro does get warm. Even browsing the web can cause it to heat up, and the fan kicks in more regularly that you might like. It's not an obtrusive sound, but still noticeable in a quiet room or office.

Running especially intensive apps causes internal temperatures to rise even more, with potential for some throttling of performance when things get too hot.

In fact, we've asked Huawei to investigate whether our sample is working correctly or not as we've seen variable benchmark results during our testing and we're certain the fan shouldn't run as often as it does. This is why there are currently no benchmark results in this review yet.

What we can say is that, from our wide experience of testing laptops with MX150 graphics chips, that it's not as powerful as a GTX 1050 but offers enough power for playing games at medium resolutions and graphical quality settings.

Battery life
Huawei quotes a run-time of 12 hours for playing back HD video. It also says that using the bundled USB-C charger for 30 minutes will provide around six hours of use.

The original MateBook X lasted around 10 hours in our tests: good but not outstanding. And it's the same story with the X Pro. Running a video on loop with brightness set to 120cd/m² saw the battery last a hair over 10 hours. 

In the real-world , we saw roughly 8 hours of use which isn’t wonderful, but when you consider the power on tap, it's not terrible. Plus, the power supply is small and light so you can take it with you.

Huawei has installed a power profile which it reckons makes the laptop around 15 percent more power efficient than the original, but the aggressive screen timeouts (just 15 seconds of inactivity) quickly become annoying so you'll probably want to change it to a couple of minutes at least.

The same power profile could also be responsible for the dim maximum brightness that's set by default. When you disable auto-brightness you can turn it up to much more acceptable levels.

SPECS
  • Windows 10
  • 13.9in 3000x2000 LTPS touchscreen, 260ppi
  • SKU1: 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U processor + Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • SKU2: 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8500U processor + Nvidia MX150 (2GB RAM)
  • 8/16GB RAM
  • 256/512GB SSD
  • Pop-up web cam
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5GHz 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 57.4Wh non-removable battery
  • 14.6mm at thickest point
  • 1.33kg

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