Huawei MateBook X Pro review: China’s MacBook Pro
Huawei might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of laptops. In fact, most of you probably can’t even pronounce it correctly. It’s “hwah-way,” by the way.
But it turns out this Chinese smartphone maker is more than capable of producing a laptop to rival the best on the market, even if it does look like Huawei lifted its design from Apple’s (AAPL) MacBook.
Dubbed the MateBook X Pro, this machine is so powerful and, at $1,199 compared to $1,499 for a similarly-equipped MacBook Pro, so relatively inexpensive that it feels like it shouldn’t exist at all. It’s got some problems, namely a goofy webcam hidden below the keyboard that’s difficult to use. Oh, and Huawei’s new reputation as a national security threat is sure to turn off some shoppers. But for the money, this laptop is one of the best you can buy.
An aluminum beauty
The MateBook X Pro is a stunning machine. Built using an aluminum chassis that prevents it from flexing or creaking, the X Pro is available in both silver and space grey. For my money, the latter is the one to go with.
Sporting a slim design, the X Pro packs a 13.9-inch display, which puts it in between Apple’s MacBook Pro 13-inch and MacBook Pro 15-inch. Still, Huawei’s X Pro is as wide and a hair thinner than the MacBook Pro 13-inch. And while it feels a bit heavy, the X Pro is actually lighter than the Pro 13-inch.
The X Pro looks just about as close to a MacBook as possible. Two details give away the fact that this isn’t a Mac: the Huawei logo on the laptop’s lid and the ridiculously thin display bezel. This thing is virtually all glass.
That screen, though
The MateBook’s screen is more than just its thin bezel, though. The touch screen panel, yes it’s touch and still thin, offers a resolution of 3,000 x 2,000 pixels. That’s sharper than the MacBook Pro 13-inch’s and 15-inch’s screens. Dell’s incredible XPS 13, however, offers a sharper 13-inch panel with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, though you need to pay $400 to upgrade to that display.
Colors on the MateBook X Pro look spectacular. Even the Windows 10 screensavers looked fantastic. I spent several hours poring over trailers from E3 2018, which I swear was definitely for research, and not just because I wanted to watch game video game trailers while at work, and they looked brilliant.
The camera is where?
We all know someone who covers their webcam with either a small Post-it note or piece of tape out of fear that someone will hack their computer and watch them read their emails and eat their sad packed lunch hunched over their desks. No? Just me?
Anyway, Huawei has decided that slapping a Post-it on your sleek new laptop is probably the last thing you want to do. It also didn’t have any space for a webcam on the MateBook X Pro’s super-thin bezels.
Rather than putting the camera directly below the display like Dell does on its XPS 13, Huawei has hidden it under a special button in the keyboard’s F6 and F7 keys. Pressing down on the button flips it up so you can begin chatting.
It’s a novel idea that certainly eliminates any need for a Post-it to cover the camera, but it also means that whoever you’re chatting with will get a good look up your nose much like the XPS 13. And God help you if you have to type something while using the webcam, because your friend will just get a close-up look at your fingernails. I sincerely hope you get a manicure before using this webcam.
Performance to spare
What makes the MateBook X Pro such a standout machine is the incredible amount of power it’s packing at such a low price. The base model comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and integrated Intel graphics for $1,199. It also features two USB C ports, one of which supports Thunderbolt 3 so you can use it to connect an external full-size graphics card.
Don’t expect to be able to play AAA PC games on the MateBook at high settings, though. Even “Overwatch,” which is pretty forgiving when it comes to performance requirements, is sluggish when set to its max settings.
Apple’s MacBook Pro 13-inch starts at $1,299 and has a 128GB drive.
The top-of-the-line X Pro comes with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce MX150 and 512GB of storage. That’s a pretty beefy machine. A similarly outfitted MacBook Pro 13-inch without Touch Bar, which doesn’t have an Nvidia chip, comes in at $2,199.
Even Microsoft’s 13.5-inch Surface Book 2, which offers similar specs to the MateBook, comes in at $1,349.
Importantly, the MateBook X Pro offers plenty of battery life. I used the notebook throughout my workday while browsing the web and typing this very review and didn’t have to plug it in until the end of the day.
Wait, is it that Huawei?
Finally, it’s worth addressing the elephant in the room that is Huawei’s current reputation in the U.S. Yes, the company’s smartphones and telecommunications equipment are currently being treated as a security threat by the U.S. Government. The fear is that because Huawei is a Chinese company, the Chinese government could order it to create a backdoor program that would allow it to spy on U.S. citizens, more specifically U.S. government and military personnel.
Nothing has come of those allegations as of yet, but it’s been enough to spook major U.S. carriers into not carrying the company’s devices. To address that, Huawei has loaded the MateBook X Pro with Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows 10 Signature Edition.
In a statement a Huawei spokesperson said Signature restricts us from loading any software or apps. “This is an additional cost to the company but it demonstrates our commitment to privacy and security,” the company said in a statement.
What’s more, the laptop’s fingerprint reader, which is located on the power button, stores fingerprint data locally, rather than in the cloud.
If that’s not enough to make you feel safe in using the MateBook X Pro, then it’s not for you.
Should you get it?
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is an exceptional laptop at a price that easily outclasses its competitors. It offers excellent performance, a long-lasting battery and a vibrant display — making the MateBook one of the best notebooks on the market. Its one downfall is its ridiculous webcam placement. But if you’re able to look past that, and the company’s own PR issues, the MateBook is the machine for you.
By Daniel Howley