Why the MateBook X Pro Beats the MacBook Pro (by a Lot)

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It looks like Apple's got a copycat on its back, but the Huawei MateBook X Pro is more than an imitator. Not only is the MateBook X Pro's screen just as bright and colorful as the MacBook Pro's, but its more-modern CPU and reliable battery life make it a serious threat to Apple's notebook.

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But while each of these machines comes in a sleek silver or Space Gray shell, their keyboards and ports go a long way to set them apart. While the MacBook Pro's Butterfly switches have led to controversy and a repair program, the MateBook X Pro's completely average keyboard is practically a winner by default.

Onto the face-off!

  Huawei MateBook X Pro Apple MacBook Pro
Starting Price $1,199 $1,299
CPU 8th Gen Intel Core i5, i7 7th Gen Intel Core i5, i7
GPU Nvidia GeForce MX150 (2GB), Intel UHD 620 (Integrated) Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 (Integrated)
Display 13.9 inches (3000 x 2000) 13.3 inches (2560 x 1600)
SSD Storage 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Memory (RAM) 8GB, 16GB 8GB, 16GB
Ports 1 USB Type-C, 1 Thunderbolt 3, 1 USB 3.0, fingerprint reader, headphone jack 2 to 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, headphone jack, optional Touch ID fingerprint reader, optional Touch Bar
Battery Life 9:23 8:40
Size 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight 2.9 pounds 2.9 pounds

Design: Originator vs. imitator

When I told a friend that the MateBook X Pro wasn't a MacBook Pro, she didn't believe me at first. Yes, not only do the two share similar names, but their looks are also nearly identical.

matebook-desk

The MateBook X Pro and MacBook Pro are also both made of aluminum, and they come in the same two colors: Space Gray and silver. Huawei's Space Gray, though, is a shade darker.

The biggest visible difference between the two comes in the bezel of their displays. The MateBook X Pro is nearly all screen, with 0.2-inch bezels, thinner than the 0.4- to 0.5-inch bezel that frames the MacBook Pro's panel.

macbook-pro

This superthin bezel is possible because the MateBook X Pro hides its webcam underneath a false F7 key, which you click to open. Unfortunately, this placement results in very unflattering angles during video calls.

Take a ruler to the two machines' chassis, though, and you'll find nearly identical measurements. The MateBook X Pro comes in at 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches, a tenth of an inch wider than the MacBook Pro's 12 x 8.4 x 0.6-inch body. Both machines weigh a svelte 2.9 pounds.

Apple deserves all the credit for originating the design that Huawei is copying. Still, the MateBook X Pro's nearly bezel-free display is impressive, and the hidden webcam is pretty damn clever.

Winner: Draw

Ports: Variety wins

The MateBook X Pro and MacBook Pro both have multiple reversible USB Type-C ports that you'll use for charging the laptops, which don't have power-adapter ports. The MateBook X Pro always offers two (one is Thunderbolt 3, the other is not), while the entry-level MacBook Pro comes with dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, and you can get four of these ports in the $1,799 model, which features the Touch Bar.

matebook_pro_leftThat may sound like the MacBook Pro is set up for a victory, as all those Thunderbolt 3 ports offer a ton of speed, but the MateBook X Pro's USB 3.0 port is extremely important for those of us who don't want to carry a dongle everywhere we go.

Even better, Huawei throws in a free adapter, which can expand the MateBook's Thunderbolt 3 port to a USB-A port, a USB-C port, an HDMI port and a VGA port.

matebook_pro_right

The MateBook Pro's next victory comes from its Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint sensor, which lives inside the notebook's power button. Sure, you could get a Touch ID sensor for the same tasks on a MacBook Pro, but (again) those come only with the $1,799 and up, Touch Bar-equipped models.

And what of the Touch Bar, the OLED, touch-sensitive strip of a screen that Apple announced in 2016? It's been over a year since that feature came out, and nobody's found a truly impressive and important way to use the small screen.

Winner: MateBook X Pro

Display: Size matters

The MacBook Pro and MateBook X Pro both feature bright, vivid displays, but which is best?

matebook_pro_screen

As a colleague and I watched the 4K film Tears of Steel on each laptop, we noticed that solid blacks looked inkier on the MateBook X Pro and that it rendered holographic battlebots in more-saturated oranges and blues. The MacBook Pro did a better job rendering skin tones in natural hues. Both displays showed exceptional detail in hovering battleships, so you could see the moving parts of small turrets.

macbook-pro-open_3270411523893823

By the numbers, the MacBook Pro and MateBook X Pro are nearly identical. Both emit up to 458 nits of brightness, and our colorimeter gave these systems nearly identical ratings. The MacBook Pro produced 123 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, and the MateBook X Pro provided 124 percent.

The MacBook Pro's 16:9 display ratio is arguably better for watching movies, as that format ensures that you won't see letterboxing black bars above and below films. Still, the MateBook X Pro's 3:2 ratio is better for just about every other use. The focus on height over width means you can see more of an article without scrolling, and video editors get more space for the interface menus surrounding their content.

But one key facet breaks this screen stalemate. MateBook X Pro's 13.9-inch display isn't just bigger than the MacBook Pro's 13.3-inch screen; its 10-finger touch capabilities mean it's also more versatile. Apple's staying away from touch screens in its MacBook Pros, save for that OLED sliver called the Touch Bar.

Winner: Matebook X Pro

Audio: Apple fights back

The MacBook Pro and MateBook X Pro both do a solid job at kicking out the jams. The MacBook Pro, though, handled complex music better, which I noticed when listening to the Persona 5 song "Last Surprise" on both systems. The MacBook Pro provided fuller bass, clearer drum cymbals and more separation between instruments.

If you prefer simpler music, you may like the Matebook X Pro. The acoustic guitars on The Mountain Goats' soft ballad "Song for Sasha Banks" sounded a notch better on the Huawei laptop. We didn't hear much improvement when fiddling with the included Dolby Atmos sound utility. The MacBook Pro doesn't include any sound-fiddling apps, and it doesn't need any.

Winner: MacBook Pro

Keyboard and Touchpad: Have keys, will travel

The MateBook X Pro's keyboard — simply because it's a decent keyboard — is a major reason why I prefer Huawei's laptop. I recently wrote a 3,500-word essay effortlessly on the MateBook X Pro, though writing two paragraphs of text on the MacBook Pro left me with discomfort in my fingers, which were begging me to stop. My colleague Caitlin McGarry, a senior writer at our sister site Tom's Guide, says I just type too hard and that she's not having any issues with modern MacBook keyboards.

macbook-pro-touch

I'd be more willing to believe that I'm just typing wrong, but there's an elephant in this room: the butterfly switches in Apple's keys. A mere speck of dust, some say, is the difference between the space bar working and failing, turning it into an impediment to productivity. This led to multiple class-action lawsuits (1, 2) claiming that Apple was aware of these issues when it released these keyboards. It also pressured the company to acknowledge the "sticky" key issues and offer a free repair program, as well as refund customers who had paid for previous keyboard repairs.

Personally, I've always found the modern MacBook Pro keyboards to be too shallow. If you're used to keys with lots of travel that require a decent amount of force to actuate (at least 60 grams), which I am, you'll be put off by typing on the MacBook Pro, whose keys have 0.7 mm of travel and require 74 grams of force to actuate. The MateBook X Pro's keys have more vertical travel (1.1 millimeters), and their 69 grams of force to actuate isn't too low.

matebook_pro_keyboard

The MateBook X Pro's 4.7 x 3.0-inch touchpad isn't as large as the MacBook Pro's 5.3 x 3.3-inch touchpad, but the Huawei tool wins points for actually clicking down. The MacBook Pro uses haptic Force Touch technology to provide feedback that makes you think it's moving when it's not. That might sound cool, but it means you have to learn a new way to perform drag-and-drop gestures, which can be annoying.

Winner: MateBook X Pro

Performance: Not even close

Apple's pattern of making you wait an extra year for its MacBooks to get the latest Intel processors hampers the Mac-maker in this face-to-face competition. The MateBook X Pro (Intel Core i7-8550U CPU with 16GB of RAM) rocks a modern 8th Gen CPU, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro (Intel Core i5-7267U with 8GB of RAM) is stuck in yesteryear.

huawei-matebook-x-pro

The result for the Huawei is more speed, for nimble, seamless multitasking. After splitting my screen between a 1080p YouTube video and 12 Chrome tabs (including ones for Giphy, the Google doc for this review and Slack), I saw not a stutter nor a pause when scrolling through pages or opening new tabs.

The MateBook X Pro earned a solid 12,913 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, destroying the 9,213 from the MacBook Pro. Apple catches up in raw hard-drive speed, with the 512GB SSD in the MacBook Pro duplicating 4.97GB of files in 7 seconds, for a rate of 727 MBps. That blasts past the 282.7-MBps speed from the MateBook X Pro.

If you want to game, your choice is incredibly clear. The $1,499 MateBook X Pro comes with an Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU (with 2GB of memory), which ran the Dirt 3 racing game (set to medium graphics at 1080p) at a supersmooth 117 frames per second (fps). That's faster than the 65-fps category average and 41-fps rate from the MacBook Pro (Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650).

Winner: MateBook X Pro

Battery Life

While neither of these machines makes it over 10 hours on a single charge, one of them does last longer than the other. The MateBook X Pro outlasted the MacBook Pro on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing on 100 nits of screen brightness.

The MateBook lasted 9 hours and 23 minutes, while the MacBook made it 8 hours and 40 minutes. That 40-minute advantage isn't a huge endurance gap, but it's certainly welcome.

Winner: MateBook X Pro

Value

While Apple is charging high prices (as is tradition), Huawei's giving us deals on storage.

The entry-level MateBook X Pro costs $1,199 and gives you an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, while the entry-level MacBook Pro is $100 more ($1,299), gives you last year's 7th Generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage, which is half as much as you get with the Huawei machine.

The other MateBook X Pro configuration costs $1,499 and features an 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. To get a MacBook Pro with those specs, you'll spend at least $2,199 for a non-Touch Bar model

For a MacBook model with a fingerprint reader, like what you get on the MateBook X Pro, you would need to spend $2,499 on a Touch Bar-equipped model. However,you'd get a 7th Gen CPU and only the Integrated Iris Plus graphics, and not the discrete Nvidia Nvidia MX150 GPU in the Huawei.

Winner: MateBook X Pro

Scorecard

  Huawei MateBook X Pro Apple MacBook Pro
Design X X
Ports X  
Display X  
Audio   X
Keyboard/Touchpad X  
Performance X  
Battery Life X  
Value X  
Total 7 2

Bottom Line

There you have it, folks. The MateBook X Pro is the winner, and it wasn't pretty. Sure, the MacBook Pro's battery life isn't *that* much shorter, and the Apple machines' displays have the same brightness and color-gamut ratings, but that's not enough. The MateBook X Pro's port selection and better keyboard make the difference between a productive day and a frustrating one.

Going beyond that, Huawei's giving you more for less, including more storage, a touch-screen display, a fingerprint reader that isn't optional and a discrete graphics card. Sure, the MacBook Pro's design clearly influenced the MateBook X Pro’s, but that's worth only so much.

Ultimately, the MacBook Pro is best for you if you need macOS. But in all other ways, the MateBook X Pro is superior. Admittedly, the MateBook X Pro came out in April, and Apple released this MacBook Pro last year. Hopefully, Apple will change things up a lot to catch up in 2018.

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on