Huawei MateBook X Pro Hands-On: More Than a MacBook Pro Clone

BARCELONA – Huawei hasn’t been in the business of building PCs for very long, but the ones it has made have been pretty special. The fanless MateBook X, a super-thin, super-light ultraportable with more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s iconic MacBook, struck a fantastic balance between top-notch build quality, gorgeous design and surprising power.

Now, the Chinese tech giant, more well known for its smartphones, has returned with an even more compelling proposition for more demanding users.

Announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today (Feb. 25) and heading to the U.S. during the second quarter of 2018, the 14-inch MateBook X Pro takes the formula Huawei struck with its previous laptop and improves upon it with a stunning full-view display, 8th-gen Intel Core power and a quartet of speakers powered by Dolby Atmos surround sound. But there’s even more to the MateBook X Pro under the surface – particularly between the F6 and F7 keys.

You won’t find much bezel on Huawei’s latest machine, and because of that, the designers had to find a different spot for the camera. Thankfully, they didn’t go the Dell XPS 13 route and stash it on the lower right corner, nor did they center it where the logo normally appears on the bottom edge. Instead, it lives in a false button, right in the middle of the top row of function keys. Press it, and the camera pops out with a satisfying click.

There are pros and cons to this approach, in terms of usability. The benefit is that you can angle the screen independently of the camera, so a better view of your screen doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up live-streaming the ceiling to friends and colleagues. However, the downside, inevitably, is that there isn’t any adjustability in the camera’s orientation. And that means you’ll have to physically move to suit the camera, rather than the other way around.

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There is one other critical positive, though, and it has to do with privacy. Huawei has noticed how many PC users prefer to cover up the camera when they don’t need it, to combat hacking or surreptitious recording against their wishes. But the MateBook X Pro’s webcam will almost always be shut, and that means it’ll be unavailable to those who might take advantage of it.

While you might not notice the camera the very first time you look at the MateBook X Pro, you’ll definitely notice the screen. It’s a 3K, 14-inch LTPS panel with an aspect ratio of 3:2, just like Microsoft’s Surface Book and Surface Laptop. And despite the fact that this screen is technically an inch bigger than the 13-inch MacBook Pro, because the bezels are so tiny, the whole body carves a very similar footprint to Apple’s workhorse. That translates to a screen-to-body ratio of 91 percent, compared to just 82 percent on the MacBook Pro.

Even better, it’s a touch screen. And Huawei is particularly proud of the panel’s peak brightness of 450 nits, which is right in the same ballpark as Apple’s high-end laptop.

Beyond the display, the MateBook X Pro features those aforementioned quad speakers, as well as the same amount of microphones and a responsive fingerprint sensor that can unlock the computer in less than two seconds. In its top-line configuration, it comes with a 8th-generation Intel Core i7, a 512 GB solid state drive and 16 GB of RAM.

Along the left side, you’ll find a headphone jack beside a pair of USB Type-C ports, though only one of them is equipped with Thunderbolt 3. On the opposite edge, thank goodness, is a USB 3.0 port – something becoming increasingly less common in laptops this thin and light.

Huawei is planning three different configurations. The entry-level 1,499 version will feature a Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The 1,699 version bumps the processor to a Core i7 and doubles the storage to 512GB while retaining 8GB of RAM. You'll pay 1,899 (or the whatever the U.S.-adjusted price is) for the high-end model with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

Will the MateBook Pro X rank alongside our favorite ultrabooks when it arrives later this spring? We’ll find out soon with a full review; for now, though, it certainly looks the part.

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