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Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Undone by its sibling

By Kenny Yeo - 28 Aug 2020

Introduction

Note: This review was first published on 28 August 2020.

The MateBook X Pro is Huawei's flagship ultraportable notebook.

Huawei’s flagship ultraportable

Confused? Seeing double? Does it look like you have seen this notebook somewhere before? You are probably thinking about the MateBook 13 that I reviewed last in June. This is the MateBook X Pro, which is similar but different in some ways. Let’s find out how they are different.


Same same but different

For a start, the MateBook X Pro is positioned as Huawei’s flagship ultraportable notebook. To fit the billing, it has a larger display, it’s better built, and it’s more powerful. It’s the MateBook 13's bigger and badder sibling.

To quickly get up to speed on the differences between the two, let’s take a look at their specifications and then I’ll walk you through some of the highlights. Thereafter, I’ll talk about some of the other things that are not apparent from the specs sheet.

Huawei MateBook X Pro vs MateBook 13
Model; MateBook X Pro MateBook 13
Display 13.9-inch, LTPS 13-inch, IPS
Display resolution 3,000 x 2,000 pixels (260 PPI) 2,160 x 1,440 pixels (200 PPI)
Processor Intel Core i7-10510U Intel Core i5-10210U
Memory 16GB 2,133MHz 16GB 2,133MHz
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce MX250 NVIDIA GeForce MX250
Storage 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD
Ports 2 x USB-C, 1 x USB-A 2 x USB-C
Dimensions 304 x 217 x 14.6mm 286 x 211 x 14.9mm
Weight 1.33kg 1.3kg

And also to be clear, I’m referring only to the configurations of the MateBook X Pro and MateBook 13 that are available locally. Configurations may differ around the world, especially in China.

The MateBook X Pro might be thin but it still has a full-size USB-A port.

Design and size – There’s no getting around it, the MateBook X Pro and MateBook 13 look almost identical. They even come in nearly identical shades of grey. Both have aluminium bodies but the MateBook X Pro features a unibody construction so there are no breaks in the chassis. The edges of the MateBook X Pro are also bevelled.

Because of its larger display, the MateBook X Pro is larger than the MateBook 13. However, because of its unibody construction, it is oh-so-slightly thinner – 14.6mm vs 14.9mm. As for weight, the MateBook X Pro comes in 1.33kg, which is a mere 30g more than the MateBook 13. Overall, though the MateBook X Pro is a tad larger, the two are very comparable in terms of size and portability.

The 3,000 x 2,000 pixels resolution display is sharp and produces vivid colours. It also gets really bright.

Display - The MateBook X Pro has a slightly larger 13.9-inch touchscreen display. But like the MateBook 13, the display has a 3:2 aspect ratio. As I said before, I would like to see more ultraportable notebooks adopt this aspect ratio because it has more vertical space which is greatly beneficial for productivity apps and web browsing (just like on the Surface Laptop 3). The resolution is greater too. It’s now 3,000 x 2,000 pixels which gives it a greater pixel density of 260 pixels per inch – 30% greater than the MateBook 13. Huawei also claims that the MateBook X Pro has a greater screen-to-body ratio of 91% against the MateBook 13’s 88%. However, it's a glossy display so reflections and glare can be problematic especially if you are using it outdoors or near windows.

Are the improvements obvious? Unless you have the two side-by-side, I think it’s hard to tell. But the important thing is that the MateBook X Pro has an excellent display. It’s razor-sharp and the colours are vibrant and punchy. It’s also one of the few notebooks that has a display that I feel gets sufficiently bright. In short, it’s easily one of the best displays in an ultraportable notebook today.

A sticker leaves no doubt as to what processor is inside.

Specs – The big difference here is obviously the processor. Though the two have quad-core processors, MateBook X Pro has a faster Core i7-10510U processor whereas the MateBook 13 relies on a slightly less powerful Core i5-10210U processor. The other difference is storage: the MateBook X Pro has a 1TB PCIe SSD, the MateBook 13 has to make do with 512GB. Both have the same 16GB of 2,133MHz LPDDR3 memory and both have discrete graphics in the form of the NVIDIA GeForce MX250 with 2GB of GDDR5 framebuffer.

On the left side of the notebook are two USB-C ports and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Ports and connectivity - Like the MateBook 13, the MateBook X Pro also has two USB-C ports but it also has a single USB-A port that supports USB 3.1 Gen 1. The USB-C ports are quite unusual because although Huawei claims it’ll support transfer rates of up to 40Gbps and can be used for charging and video – just like Thunderbolt 3 ports – it isn’t actually designated as a Thunderbolt 3 port. I tried plugging a Thunderbolt 3 external SSD in and I got no response. So even though it might have Thunderbolt 3 specs, it isn’t actually a Thunderbolt 3 port and might have problems working with Thunderbolt accessories. Even so, both USB-C ports support power charging so at least that’s a step up from the MateBook 13.

As for wireless connectivity, the MateBook X Pro supports Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0. Yup, like the MateBook 13, support for Wi-Fi 6 is curiously missing. If it’s any consolation, it employs a high-end Intel Wireless-AC 9560 card that supports Wi-Fi 5 speeds of up to 1,733Mbps. And as I mentioned before in the review of the MateBook 13, the lack of Wi-Fi 6 isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker because Wi-Fi 6 routers are still quite pricey and you need most, if not all of your devices to be Wi-Fi 6-compatible to fully maximise and enjoy the benefits of this new wireless standard.

 

Keyboard, trackpad, and Huawei Share

Don't worry, retail units here will have keyboards that come with the more familiar ANSI layout.

The keyboard here is similar to the one in the MateBook 13 with well-sized keys and nicely printed legends. However, it feels more tactile to me. Huawei also claims that the keyboard is spill-resistant – obviously I dare not test this. My only gripe is that it feels quite shallow and I would prefer a bit more key travel. One thing to note is that the review unit that I have has an ISO layout – identifiable by the inverted L-shaped return key. But rest assured that units in retail here will have the more familiar ANSI layout with a standard rectangular return key. The power button also doubles up as a fingerprint scanner for quick logins.

The webcam springs up from a key between F6 and F7. It shoots at 720p and the video quality is usable.

One unique thing about the keyboard is the hidden webcam, which hides under a key between F6 and F7. Press it and the webcam springs into place. Admittedly, this is not the most ideal position for a webcam but at least it ensures that the webcam is properly hidden when not in used and can’t be used by hackers for nefarious means. The webcam itself shoots at 720p and it’s decent enough for the occasional web conferencing and web chats. If video quality is of utmost importance to you, you'll probably need a standalone webcam.

Just like the MateBook 13, the MateBook X Pro's power button doubles up as a fingerprint scanner.

The trackpad is excellent. First of all, it’s massive for a notebook of its size. I measure it at 12cm in width and 7.7cm from top to bottom, which makes it a whopping 18% larger than the MateBook 13’s trackpad which is already one of the largest in its class. It’s also a staggering 50% larger than the trackpad of the HP Spectre x360, and 20% larger than the trackpad of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. It uses Windows Precisions drivers so it tracks fluidly and accurately.

Like the MateBook 13, the MateBook X Pro also supports Huawei Share which lets you connect your compatible Huawei phone to the notebook so that you can quickly share files, access the Message app, and run apps. In essence, it lets you use a number of critical functions of your Huawei phone on your Huawei notebook. At any rate, it’s a nice bonus feature for owners of this notebook who have compatible Huawei phones.

7.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 6
  • Mobility 8
The Good
Superb 3K display
3:2 aspect ratio
USB-C and USB-A ports
Large, fluid trackpad
Fantastic unibody aluminium build
Good battery life with hi-res display
The Bad
No support for Thunderbolt 3
No support for Wi-Fi 6
Significant performance throttling
Webcam not in the best position
The MateBook 13 exists