Editor's Note (May 2, 2019): Huawei's refreshed the MateBook X Pro for 2019.
Chinese tech giant Huawei is not known for making laptops, but its 14-inch MateBook X Pro (tested at $1,499; starting at $1,199) could change all that. Not only does it pack a gorgeous, high-res display and speedy performance, its battery lasts all day. And while its name and design beg for comparisons to Apple's MacBook Pro, the MateBook X Pro's keyboard is far more comfortable. At launch, the only things standing between you and its glory were its high price and severely limited availability, and those problems are (mostly) worries of the past. All things considered, the MateBook X Pro is worthy of its place on our Best College Laptops and Best Touch Screen Laptops pages.
Huawei MateBook X Pro: Cost and Availability
The Core i7 model of the MateBook X Pro we tested (which packs an Nvidia MX150 GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD) is now available for $1,499, having formerly been limited to international pricing of 1,899 euros, which converted to about $2,350. The entry-level Core i5/8GB/256GB model, which doesn't have a discrete graphics card, costs $1,199, or 1,499 euros (about $1,855).
Unfortunately, it's already "temporarily out of stock" on Amazon, mere moments after it launched. Hopefully it comes back in stock soon.
The aluminum Huawei MateBook X Pro reminds me a lot of Apple's MacBooks, and that's a good thing. Not only is it a slim, silver wedge (also made in Space Gray), it's easy to open its lid with a single hand, a hallmark of Apple's notebooks. It also sports a shiny beveled edge around its keyboard deck, which the MacBooks do not.
I still prefer the Apple's designs in two slight ways: the Huawei logo -- which looks like you chopped an Apple into a bunch of wedges -- isn't as elegant. Also, the MateBook X Pro's lid and edges are flatter, lacking the tapered curves of the MacBook Air.
The 14-inch MateBook X Pro weighs 2.9 pounds and measures 0.6 inches thick, making it similar in size and heft to the 3-pound, 0.6-inch thick Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Touch Bar). The Dell XPS 13 (2.65 pounds, 0.5 inches) is lighter, while the HP Spectre 13 (2.4 pounds, 0.4 inches) is both thinner and lighter.
On the left side, you'll find the MateBook X Pro's Thunderbolt 3 port, USB Type C port and headphone jack. Its boxy, USB 3.0 Type-A port sits on the right side.
The combination of the reversible Type-C ports and the traditional Type-A port is a blessing, as the XPS 13, MacBook Pro and Spectre 13 only have Type-C ports, forcing you to remember to carry an adapter with you in case you need one.
MORE: USB Type-C FAQ
The MateBook X Pro's fingerprint reader, which it uses for Windows Hello sign-in, is sneakily located in its power button, and speedily logs you in. The XPS 13 and MacBook Pro also use their power buttons as fingerprint readers, while the Spectre 13 doesn't have one.
The vibrant 3000 x 2000-pixel display on the Huawei MateBook X Pro provided plenty of detail and brightness. Watching a trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story, I appreciated the vibrant green laser blasts, the eye-popping red of Emilia Clarke's cape and the warm glow of a fire reflecting upon Alden Ehrenreich and Woody Harrelson. I also noticed crisp details in the mask of a raider and a leather holster.
The MateBook X Pro's screen produces 124 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which exceeds the 113 percent premium laptop average. The MacBook Pro earned a similar 123 percent and the Spectre 13 measured a lower 111 percent, while the XPS 13's 1080p screen (117 percent) and its 4K screen (130 percent) straddled the MateBook X Pro's rates.
The MateBook X Pro's display emits up to 458 nits, making it one of the brightest laptops to ever cross my desk, and its powerful enough for colors to stay strong at 80 degrees to the left and right. The category average is a dimmer 300 nits, while the MacBook Pro is tied at 458 nits. The XPS 13's 4K screen is a slightly dimmer 415 nits, while its 1080-pixel screen is even less bright, at 372 nits. The Spectre 13 measures a dim 247 nits.
The MateBook X Pro's 14-inch touch screen responded to my touch accurately as I navigated the desktop. It also speedily registered edge-swipes for navigating Windows 10.
Keyboard & Touchpad
As I wrote this review, I noticed how comfortable it is to type on the Huawei Matebook X Pro. Taking the 10fastfingers typing test, I hit a rate of 78 words per minute, coming close to my 80 words per minute average. This rate of success is pleasantly surprising, considering the keys measure a shallow 1.1 millimeters of vertical travel (we look for at least 1.5mm); the 69 grams of force required to actuate each key makes up for that.
The comfortable typing experience is another major leg up that the MateBook X Pro has on the MacBook Pro, which uses butterfly-mechanism switches for its incredibly shallow keys. Not only has that keyboard been a pain to type on, but some have found the reliability issues with the MacBook Pro's keys. Neither the XPS 13 nor the Spectre 13 have annoying keyboard issues.
The MateBook X Pro's 4.7 x 3.0-inch touchpad accurately tracked my input as I clicked around Chrome and Windows 10. It also smoothly responded to two-finger window scrolling and three-finger gestures for window management.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro pumps out a lot of sweet sound, enough to fill a medium-size conference room. Listening to TV On The Radio's "Young Liars," I was happy to hear accurate vocals, crisp, jangly drum cymbals and solid thumping bass.
The included Dolby Atmos Sound System utility can be ignored. Its default Music setting provides a solid balance for all kinds of media, including interviews, trailers and your favorite tunes. The Games preset will muddy instrumentals, while the Movie setting overemphasizes them, as if to provide more gravitas to a score.
The Intel Core i7-8550U CPU and 16GB of RAM in the Huawei MateBook X Pro provides tons of speed for nimble, seamless multitasking. After splitting my screen between a 1080p YouTube video and 12 Chrome tabs (including Giphy, the Google Doc for this review and Slack), I saw not a stutter or 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, crushing the 9,930 premium notebook average. That's close to the 13,090 from the Spectre 13 (1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U with 8GB of RAM), higher than the 9,213 from the 13-inch MacBook Pro (Intel Core i5-7267U with 8GB of RAM), and lower than the 14,180 from the XPS 13 (Core i7-8550U with 8GB of RAM).
The 512 NVMe PCIe SSD in the MateBook X Pro copied 4.97GB of multimedia files in 18 seconds, for a rate of 282.7 MBps. That's faster than the 279.3 MBps category average, but slower than the 508 MBps SSD in the XPS 13, the 727 MBps NVMe SSD in the MacBook Pro 13-inch and the 339.3 MBps M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD in the Spectre 13.
The MateBook X Pro finished our Excel VLOOKUP test (matching 65,000 names to their corresponding addresses) in 1 minute and 49 seconds. That's longer than the 1:41 category average and the 1:08 time from the XPS 13.
The MateBook X Pro needed 27 minutes and 18 seconds to finish our video transcoding test in Handbrake, which downscales a 4K video to 1080p. The XPS 13 finished it in 16:00.
The Nvidia MX150 graphics card (with 2GB of memory) earned a 116,359 on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. That score not only wallops the 82,931 category average, but beats the 85,616 from the XPS 13 (integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620) and the 75,114 from the Spectre 13 (integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620).
The MateBook X Pro also ran the Dirt 3 racing game (set to mediumgraphics at 1080p) at a super-smooth 117 frames per second (fps). That's faster than the 65 fps category average, the 41 fps rate from the MacBook Pro (Intel Iris Plus 650) and the 57 fps rate from the Spectre 13.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro provides close to all-day battery power. The system lasted an impressive 9 hours and 55 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits). This runtime is over an hour longer than the 8:53 category average and obliterates the Spectre 13 (5:16), and it's in between the times from the 1080p XPS 13 (11:59) and the 4K XPS 13 (8:23).
I hope you like the look of your knuckles and torso. Because the Huawei MateBook X Pro's 0.9-megapixel webcam is hidden inside the button between its F6 and F7 keys, it shoots at an angle that focuses on your fingers, and not your face. While this is a boon for security-minded users, the system's microphone is still usable when the webcam is tucked away, so you're not completely safe from the chance of being spied on.
I was able to fix this (slightly) by elevating the laptop to a spot on my standing desk, but at that distance, its keyboard became difficult to type on. Regarding photo quality, though, there's nothing to complain or boast about. The graininess of the image was to be expected -- most integrated webcams are not good -- nearby lights look blown out (again, nothing new), but the tone of my skin comes through rather accurately.
If you use your laptop in your lap, we hope you like a little warmth. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the Huawei MateBook X Pro, its underside measured 103 degrees Fahrenheit and its keyboard measured 101 degrees, temperatures that broke our 95-degree comfort threshold, though its touchpad stayed a cool 88 degrees.
Neither the XPS 13 nor the MacBook Pro got that warm, but the underside of the Spectre 13 hit a hot 109 degrees.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro features a pretty normal set of pre-loaded applications, with one exception. On the up side, the PC Manager utility provides ways to check your system's health, review your warranty status and ask for help. However, while I'm used to seeing fistfuls of free-to-play games (Bubble Witch 3 Saga, March of Empires) in the Start menu, this machine does not need App Explorer, an app store that's wholly useless when the Windows Store is already there.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is a speedy machine with a gorgeous display, comfortable keyboard and solid battery life. We would easily recommend this over the 13-inch MacBook Pro, if it were easier to buy this machine in the U.S. And while the MateBook X Pro's high import price was once a dealbreaker, that's no longer the case.
The $1,399 Core i7, 1080p XPS 13, which gives you more than 2 hours of extra battery life and even faster performance, but you're trading away the brightness and sharpness of the MateBook X Pro's display. The $1,999 13-inch MacBook Pro costs more money, but its keyboard isn't as comfortable and it has an outdated 7th Gen Intel CPU.
But with the MateBook X Pro's new U.S. availability, and lower prices, it's not only the laptop I wish Apple would make, but it also might be my next laptop.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag