Technology

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Windows 10’s MacBook Pro rival

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Slim and powerful laptop with excellent keyboard and trackpad is hindered by a few small flaws

The MateBook X Pro is a good, powerful laptop held back by a few small niggles from being really great. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 2020 MateBook X Pro takes a winning design and upgrades the chips to Intel’s latest for a powerful and surprisingly good-value machine.

The new MateBook X Pro starts at £1,299, and fits a pretty large 13.9in screen in the size of a laptop body that would traditionally fit only a 13in screen.

The design is exactly the same as its 2018 predecessor down to the millimetre and gram, which is just fine, as it was an excellent machine two years ago.

The 14.6mm-thick wedge is all aluminium, weighing 1.33kg, with a block-cap Huawei logo emblazoned on the lid. The 13.9in touchscreen is super crisp and bright, filling the entire of the inside of the lid with slim bezels all the way around.

The keyboard and trackpad are excellent, apart from a small amount of play in the trackpad’s button.Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The deck of the machine has a large, smooth and accurate trackpad, which clicks towards the bottom. It works great but this one has a slight rattle in the trackpad, which was a common problem with the previous generation model. The keyboard is excellent: backlit with well-spaced, solid-feeling keys and enough travel for a satisfying typing experience.

The function row hides a one-megapixel webcam in a pop-up key between F6 and F7, which is an excellent way of hiding it away when not in use. Unfortunately, it is not the best and doesn’t provide the most flattering of angles for our new video-chat heavy environment.

The power button in the top right doubles as an excellent fingerprint scanner, which can turn on the machine and log you straight into Windows in one press. Besides the keyboard are grilles for the good and loud quad speakers.

Putting the webcam under a pop-up key was a great idea pre-pandemic but now video calling usage has exploded, having the camera that low and only one-megapixel in resolution has proven less than ideal. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Specifications

  • Screen: 13.9in LTPS 3000 x 2000 (260 ppi)
  • Processor: 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB or 1TB
  • Graphics: Intel UHD + Nvidia GeForce MX250 (2GB)
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Camera: 1MP pop-up webcam
  • Connectivity: Wifi ac, Bluetooth 5, 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, headphones
  • Dimensions: 217 x 304 x 14.6mm
  • Weight: 1.33kg

Hot hardware

The MateBook X Pro still has a single USB-A port, which makes using legacy cables and hardware possible without reaching for a USB-C adapter. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 2020 MateBook X Pro is available in two configurations, both with the latest 10-generation Intel Core processors and 16GB of RAM. The cheaper one has a Core i5 with 512GB of storage and the top model has a Core i7 and 1TB of storage – as tested here.

Both machines come with a generous amount of RAM and storage compared with chief rivals. And they also come with Nvidia’s entry-level laptop graphics card, the GeForce MX250, which is positioned somewhere between the common integrated graphics and a gaming graphics card.

Performance all round was excellent, the machine handling complex image editing jobs without issue, as you’d expect. The combination of the latest Intel chips, plus the GeForce MX250 graphics card won’t set any gaming records, handling most at low settings only, but will make it more capable for video editing and running high-powered design and art packages.

Both USB-C ports are also Thunderbolt 3 ports, and can be used to charge the laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The laptop suffers from one irritating problem: heat. When used as a laptop on battery power it is a cool and quiet machine, regardless of power settings, with the fans only audible at a low pace, even when pushed hard. But when plugged into power it’s a different animal. The machine heats up, particularly the strip between the keyboard and the screen, while the fans are loud and audible almost all the time, even at idle.

It appears Huawei has a problem with charging that generates heat unrelated to the work that the laptop is currently doing or the charge level in the batteries. The same thing has been reported by users of previous generationsof the MateBook X Pro, so it appears to be a design flaw.

The laptop’s battery life is similar to rivals with similar levels of performance, lasting a work day between charges but not much more than that. The MateBook X Pro will manage just under eight hours of general work, including using Chrome with up to 10 tabs open, various chat apps, Typora text editor, Affinity Photo, Windows Mail and a few other bits.Advertisement

The MateBook X Pro took one hour, 45 minutes to fully charge while off, and significantly longer during use, likely because the heat generated when connected to power was throttling the charging rate.

Sustainability

The MateBook X Pro is generally repairable by authorised service providers. While the RAM and graphics chips are not replaceable, the SSD storage is but it must be replaced by an authorised service provider or it may void the computer’s warranty, the company warns.

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 Home comes as standard and works great, apart from the lack of disk encryption on the MateBook X Pro. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The MateBook X Pro ships with a standard version of Windows 10 Home, and updates through Windows Update like any other similar PC. Microsoft was granted licence to work with Huawei by the US government, unlike Google with Huawei’s smartphones.

It ships with Huawei’s PC Manager software, which takes care of driver updates as well as running diagnostics on the machine’s hardware if needed.

One thing that is missing is disk encryption, which is built into Windows 10 Home but is not supported by the MateBook X Pro despite it having the prerequisite TPM security chip. Upgrading to Windows 10 Pro (£119.99) enables the full BitLocker system for encrypting your data, which given this is a portable computer that is easily stolen, is wholly recommended.

Observations

The big power button is also a fingerprint scanner that can turn on the laptop and unlock Windows in one press.Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • There are no pause or track skip media buttons in the F-keys
  • If you have a Huawei or Honor phone there is an NFC spot just below the keyboard on the MateBook X Pro that triggers Huawei Share for mirroring your phone’s screen on the laptop and transferring files, photos, the clipboard and other bits
  • The auto-brightness adjustment for the screen was consistently too dim, so I turned it off

Price

The Huawei MateBook X Pro comes in two versions: the Intel Core i5 with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage for £1,299.99 or the Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for £1,599.99.

For comparison, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 starts at an RRP of £999, Dell’s XPS 13 starts at £1,399 and the 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,299.

Verdict

The 2020 MateBook X Pro is a few refinements short of one of the very best Windows 10 laptops available.

It is light, looks good and has a great keyboard and trackpad. It has lots of power on tap with 10th-generation Intel processors and the Nvidia MX250 graphics card, plus it ships with lots of RAM and very generous storage options. It even lasts long enough to get a work day done and the screen is big, pin-sharp and all-round great.

But for every good bit there’s a small niggle. The auto-brightness control was irritatingly dim. There’s a little play in the trackpad. It doesn’t ship with full disk encryption enabled on Windows 10 Home and it gets really hot and loud when connected to power.

The MateBook X Pro is therefore a really great laptop held back from top marks by a bunch of small but irritating things that you could learn to live with. Whether you should is another matter.

Pros: great screen, slim and compact, excellent keyboard, great trackpad, USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, USB-A, fingerprint scanner, Nvidia MX250

Cons: gets hot when on power, no disk encryption out of the box, trackpad rattle, battery life not class-leading, no SD card slot, pop-up webcam has an up-nose angle

The smooth aluminium lid has a Huawei logo in the centre. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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