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Huawei MateBook X Pro (2019) Review

Using NFC for contactless payments and the like is normal these days, but why add it to a laptop? You might be surprised to find out in our Huawei MateBook X Pro (2019) review.

Should I Buy The Huawei MateBook X Pro (2019)?

The MateBook X Pro for 2019 might look the same as its predecessor but there are a number of upgrades here including better performance and battery life.

There are also some new software features all made possible thanks to a handy NFC tag. The X Pro is almost perfect.


Price When Reviewed
  • Price TBC
As per last year, Huawei has announced a new new laptop at MWC. In fact there are three and we’ve been testing the new MateBook X Pro 2019 since the show and here’s our full review.

You might know Huawei for its smartphones like the Mate 20 Pro, but the Chinese firm also makes excellent laptops. They rival the likes of the Dell XPS 13 and Apple MacBook Pro and the MateBook line-up for 2019 has something for everyone.

The X Pro is the top-spec model aiming to be the best ultraportable laptop around. It might not look any different but NFC is one of the very interesting additions here.

Price & Release Date
The MateBook X Pro will start at 1599 Euro for a model with a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. We need to wait for UK and US prices, but that's a fair jump from last year's MateBook X Pro, which cost £1,299 or $1,199 for the base price. 

It then jumps to 1999 Euro for an i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

Huawei told us at MWC the MateBook X Pro for 2019 will be available 'by April' and we're still waiting for UK and US prices.

Design & Build: If It 'aint Broke?
It’s not a huge surprise to see that the X Pro is still the same in design and build when compared to its predecessor. The laptop was already pretty stunning.

So it’s still got an impressive 91 percent screen-to-body ratio and comes in at 14.6mm thin and 1.33kg.

As per last year, Huawei doesn’t bother putting the webcam in the bezels around the screen. Instead, it’s got its own key on the keyboard and pops up only when you need it. It’s a neat solution but doesn’t provide a very good angle for video calls at all.

Nevertheless, this is a gorgeous looking laptop with a sandblasted finish and diamond cut edges. It features things like a fingerprint scanner embedded in the power button.

You can open the lid with one hand nice and easy, so our only minor quibble is that the metal is a tad sharp where there's a notch below the trackpad.

Even the colour options are the same with Space Grey and Mystic Silver to choose from. If you can tell which one is the new model then congrats, because you must have x-ray vision to see the components inside.

Keyboard & Trackpad
As per last year, the keyboard is a decent size, has a two-stage backlight and is also spill resistant. There's just enough travel here to provide a nice typing experience. There's a flat clicky feel which might not be to everyone's taste but you should get used to it.

The keyboard is level with the surrounding metal which is nice and a top row of keys gives you quick access to a wide range of settings and features including Huawei's own PC Manager which we'll talk about later. As mentioned, the webcam hides in its own pop-out key.
A minor complaint, which is very common, is the way the up and down arrows are half size to fit them into the space of one key. We also found ourselves hitting the key above enter by mistake a fair bit.

The trackpad is large and has a smooth surface making it a joy to use. It's responsive and you can use various gesture to interact with Windows. Our only complaint here is a small amount of vertical play which means the surface is a tiny bit wobbly.

Screen
There are plenty of specs that remain from last year including 13.9in LTPS screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 3000x2000 resolution. The 91% screen-to-body ratio is excellent and the display is still touch sensitive.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this is an IPS screen but it's actually an LPTS display which is an LCD panel with type of silicon. Long story short, it means you can get higher resolutions and lower temperatures at a cheaper too.

Overall, this is an excellent display with the kind of detail, colours, contrast and viewing angles you'd expect from a high-end laptop. Really the only downside is the reflective glass.

Specs & Performance
With no change on the physical side of things and even the same display, it’s clear that this is a hardware refresh for the X Pro in other areas.

For starters, the are new processors starting with a Core i5-8265U which come with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620. However, you can also get a Core i7-8565U which is backed up by an Nvidia MX250 discrete graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM.

Huawei says the laptop is 10 percent faster than its predecessor and 40 percent faster than a 7th-gen chip. It also promises 3.5x time the graphics performance from the MX250 vs integrated graphics. There’s 8- or 16GB of RAM and between 128GB and 1TB of storage.

The two models confirmed at the Huawei MWC press conference are below. We'll have to wait and see what configurations end up at retailers.
  • Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage, MX 250, touch screen
  • Core i7, 16GB, RAM, 1TB storage, MX 250, touch screen
Our model on test is the latter of the two above and performance is excellent. For starters it boots up in just 5-7 seconds typically and it cleverly scans your finger when you push the button so there's no need to waste time touching it again.

In benchmarks, we saw an improvement bigger than Huawei's 10 percent claim. As you can see below, there's a 25% gain in Geekbench 4 and over 30% in PCMark 10. Against rivals, the key difference is that MX250 GPU allowing for more demanding tasks like video editing and even some gaming.

Another improvement we've noticed is the cooling system. The previous model got a bit hot from just web browsing but the 2019 model does a better job of keeping things cool thanks to shark fin fans 2.0 which are 20% more efficient. It's not perfect but there's a noticeable difference.

Battery Life
With a 57.4Wh battery, Huawei promises up to 13 hours of video playback. Usually we find that our benchmark (looping a 720p video at 120cd/m2) produces a lower result to the quoted figure but this is a rare occasion where we saw even better performance.

The X Pro for 2019 lasted a more than sold 14 hours and nine minutes. That's an excellent result which beats many rivals and adds four hours to last year's X Pro.

In real world usage it depends what power mode you put the laptop in. At the best performance end we got between four and five hours usage doing fairly basic things with 30 percent battery remaining. In battery saver mode, the X Pro will go a lot longer. 

Even if you do find the laptop draining due to more demanding work, you can top the battery up quickly with the 65W USB-C charger. We found it got to 39 percent (starting at 0) with a 30 minute charge.

The bottom line is this is an excellent laptop for battery life considering the quad-core processor when it's normal to expect performance but not longevity.

Connectivity And Audio
The X Pro for 2019 has Bluetooth 5.0 so you get two times the speed and four times the range. Thunderbolt 3 has also been improved so now offers double the speed at 40Gbps should you need to transfer a lot a data.

Probably the best thing here is old tech, which isn't something we're used to saying. However, having a USB-A port is still extremely useful and very uncommon on laptops now. No dongle, no faff. 

There’s also quad microphones, quad speakers with Dolby Atmos. The audio quality is astonishingly good, easily one of the best sounding laptops we've ever tested. There are still physical limitations so the bass is lacking a bit but in general it almost sounds like you've connected the X Pro to a Bluetooth speaker rather than using it's own drivers. 

While it's common to push a laptop speakers to maximum, sound effective here between 50- and 70%. using the Dolby software you can switch between various modes, tweaking each one with different equaliser presets or go ahead and create your own profiles.

It's brilliant.

Software: Special Share Service
We wouldn't normally do a software section for a laptop since Windows is just Windows these days. However, Huawei adds some interesting features that are worth talking about.

For starters there's Huawei's PC Manager software which can do some useful things like take a cropped screen shot, do screen recording as well as more basic tools like a calculator and notepad. You wouldn't know it but you can also do take a screen shot with a three-finger gesture on the touchscreen.

You'll also see a phone option where you can manage the connection to your smartphone which is the coolest thing here.

The big new feature here is Huawei Share 3.0. Using an NFC sticker (above) on the laptop, you can setup a Wi-Fi connection between the laptop and your phone (or tablet), if it’s Huawei or Honor running EMUI 9.0 or MagicUI 2.0 anyway.

You can take advantage of OneHop to transfer things like photos and videos from your phone to the X Pro and you can do other neat tricks like have a shared clipboard. You can also shake your phone to record what’s happening on the laptop’s display.

It’s pretty easy to get to grips with for things like sharing photos (with handy text extraction) but we've struggled to get the shared clipboard and screen recording to work using an Honor View 20. Oddly the user guide video on the X Pro doesn't mention these features.

Note that this feature won’t be available in the US since the phones aren’t available there.

Verdict
We already loved the X Pro and Huawei has done a decent job of improving it. It's the kind of situation where existing owners might not be compelled to upgrade but that aside, this is one of the best laptops you can buy in 2019.

Sticking with the same design is excusable considering the upgrades on offer here. Processing and graphics performance are both more than even Huawei's claims and the same is true of battery life.

You get a great screen, above average audio, a USB-A port, a fingerprint scanner, largely useful software additions to Windows 10 and more. This is very much luxury laptop and one we can barely fault. 

We only have small niggles here and there. The main issue here is whether you can afford one.

Specs
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 13.9in 3000x2000 LTPS touchscreen, 260ppi
  • Intel Core i5-8265U processor + Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Intel Core i7-8565U processor + Nvidia MX250 (2GB RAM)
  • 8/16GB RAM
  • 256/512GB/1TB SSD
  • Pop-up 1Mp web cam
  • USB-A 3.0
  • USB-C x2 (1x Thunderbolt 3)
  • Headphone jack
  • Fingerprint Power Button 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5GHz 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Quad speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Quad microphones
  • 57.4Wh non-removable battery
  • 304x217x14.6mm
  • 1.33kg
  • Mystic Silver or Space Gray



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