A short time ago, Huawei made a remarkable entry into the PC clamshell laptop business, and at MWC 2018, Huawei is announcing the MateBook X Pro, a 14-inch laptop designed to compete with the best in the high-end ultra-thin market.
Update: We have published the in-depth Huawei Matebook X Review.
The MateBook X Pro has an aerospace-grade aluminum chassis that is 14.6mm (0.56-inch) thin and weighs 2.93 lbs. The CNC “diamond cuts” on the laptop are very precise and make the edges of the laptop look softer and more comfortable to the hands.
I like the build-quality of the laptop. It feels extremely solid and has a premium feel worthy of the best PC out there. The aesthetics can be debated because the competition with HP, Lenovo, and Dell is very stiff, but it is ultimately a matter of personal preference, so I’ll let you decide.
The keyboard felt nice when I looked at it shortly, but only a longer test would give me a real “feel” for it. The trackpad is huge and should be very comfortable if you use a lot of gestures. Huawei says that many creatives use pinch and zoom extensively, and that is why the trackpad was made to be as comfortable as possible.
The most remarkable feature is the display with thin bezels all around that yield a 91% display to body ratio, with the closest competitor at around 82%, according to Huawei. The market has already shown that the public wants thinner bezels, so Huawei is happy to answer that call. This is made possible with only one caveat: the webcam is not located at the top of the screen, in what many people say is the optimum location for webcams.
In fact, Huawei’s webcam isn’t even on/in the display. Instead, it is hidden in one of the function keys and pops in and out a the press of a button (the camera is turned OFF when hidden, including audio). Huawei understands that there are pro and cons to this design – namely that people don’t like seeing their nostrils on a video call. That said, Huawei also believes that it is a price worth paying for to obtain the industrial design gains the MateBook X Pro has.
According to Huawei’s market research, many people don’t use their webcam often (only 10% do, according to their research), or at all, and some professionals even need to put tape on them to avoid industrial espionage. The company thinks that a significant portion of the user base will be Okay with the webcam positioning if that means having a better display experience. Only time will tell if this is true.
With a 3000×2000 resolution at 260 PPI, the Matebook Pro can cater to a demand for more vertical space. Having more vertical screen space (for productivity) is not addressed by many 16:9 laptops on the market. The display can reach 450 NITs of brightness and covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut, which is a good standard benchmark for color reproduction.
Under the hood, the Huawei Matebook is powered by an Intel Core i7-8500 processor (there’s also an i5-8250U version), up to 16GB of RAM and up to 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage (~3000MB/sec). Fore graphics-intensive applications, there’s a discrete GPU (GeForce MX150+2GB of VRAM), and the system has Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for super-fast external storage of 4K displays.
The Intel Gen 8 processors should help a lot with Creative apps since most of them can take advantage of the recent 2X increase in CPU cores. The external GPU can also provide a significant boost to these applications, in addition to making the laptop more gaming-friendly.
Many high-end laptops have a very decent two speaker solution. Some even have them directed upwards, directly at the user. However, Huawei has a quad-speaker setup, including two directed upwards – the best positioning for speakers since the energy does not need to “bounce” of a table, or hard surface.
Some of the speakers are dedicated to low frequencies, while others to higher frequencies. As a result, the overall sound restitution should cover a wider range than competing products with a more traditional setup.
Additionally, Huawei has licensed the Dolby Atmos surround sound rendering engine. Atmos is becoming increasingly popular and is being selected by more and more OEMs to process their sounds. If you had to compare Dolby 5.1 to Atmos in graphics terms, 5.1 would be 2D Sprites like Mario, while Atmos is 3D-rendering.
The 57 Wh (Watt-hours) battery capacity is very decent, but other 14: models can pack even more capacity. The computer can obtain a fast charge from 0-80%, thanks to a 65W charger (many laptops have a 45W power supply).
In general, we recommend using the battery capacity, the processor TDP (thermal design point) and the screen resolution as a proxy combo for battery life. However, Huawei says that it can play ~12 hours of local video (1080p) and it’s a loose guide that should be taking into account. Keep in mind that this is using mild brightness settings.
Huawei says that it takes 3hrs to obtain a full charge, but we would be more interested in how long it takes to get from 0-80%, which is typically where the fast-charge happens. We’ll just have to test it for ourselves. The important thing to note is that the Huawei charger is closer to a phone charger than one of those bulky laptop ones. Dell is the other OEM going in that general direction, and there’s hope to have a better user experience on that front.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is an excellent concept, and we can tell that it has is designed with great care. The Matebook X Pro is aimed at the Creative type and productivity-oriented users. If you just need something sleek to browse the web or do emails/FB at the cafe, there are many options to choose from. However, the 3:2 ratio and the discrete GPU can make a huge difference for someone working in graphic design, video production or media.
The final and most important element is the price. When available, we can start estimating the value proposition of this laptop that could very well disrupt the existing balance between HP, Dell and Lenovo.
Update: Prices for the Huawei MateBook X Pro start at €1499 and it will be available in North America, China, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East in spring 2018.