At the announcement of its second laptop, the MateBook X Pro, Huawei was in a bullish mood. Buoyed by the success of its debut laptop, the MateBook X, it is pitching its second laptop to directly compete with both Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro range of laptops.
You’ve got to admire Huawei’s ambition, and some may dismiss Huawei’s goals of going against just an established and successful rival, the fact that were were pretty impressed with its debut laptop means we shouldn’t be so hasty to dismiss this new attempt.
While we haven’t had a chance to fully test out the MateBook X Pro, we have got some hands-on time to get a feel for the device and, so far, we like what we’ve seen.
Price and availability
Huawei has revealed the MateBook X Pro will start at €1499 (about $1850, £1300, AU$2350) for the lowest spec version while the price will rise to €1899 (about $2350 £1670, AU$3000) for the highest spec.
The exact release date for the MateBook X Pro is also unclear as the company has only shared the date of Q2 so far. In fact, the UK and Australia weren't mentioned in the first wave of markets during the Huawei press conference.
The original MateBook X started at €1,399 (about $1,570, £1,210, AU$2,090), so we were right to expect the price to be higher due to the improved components.
Those components, specifically in the US, start with an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor paired with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). From there, you will be able to upgrade to a Core i5 with Nvidia’s MX150 graphics chip, and finally up to a Core i7 system with those dedicated graphics.
Elsewhere in the world, RAM configurations will start at 4GB, while the screen size and resolution will remain the same throughout. Also, all MateBook X Pro configurations come with the cleanest Windows 10 install possible: Signature Edition.
However, again, we were told at the launch of the MateBook X Pro was that Huawei was looking at being ‘disruptive’ when it comes to price. Is it considering an eye-catching price much lower than what we’re expecting? It would certainly help differentiate the MateBook X Pro against Apple’s MacBook and Microsoft 13.5-inch Surface Book 2.
The design of the MateBook X Pro continues the premium feel of its predecessor, and features a metal unibody design with diamond-cut edges and a sandblast finish. This results in a laptop that certainly looks luxe – and feels that way as well.
When closed, the MateBook X Pro is just 4.9mm (0.19 inches) at its thinnest end, and 14.6mm (0.57 inches) at its thickest, and weighs just 1.33kg (2.93 pounds), which – as Huawei is keen to point out – is lighter than the MacBook Air (which is 1.35kg).
These dimensions lead to a laptop that is slim and light enough to comfortably carry around. It comes in two colors, Space Gray and Mystic Silver, and both look very nice up close. (Note that, in the US, the Mystic Silver option only comes in the highest configuration.)
There’s a full size keyboard that’s backlit and spill-proof, and the 13.9-inch IPS (in-plane switching) screen now has impressively thin bezels surrounding it, keeping the overall size of the laptop down to just around 12 inches wide. Huawei claims that the MateBook X Pro is the world’s first ‘FullView’ notebook, with a 91% screen to body ratio.
In comparison, the original MateBook had a ratio of 84%. We’re big fans of screens with small bezels, and by giving over so much space to its display, the MateBook X Pro is certainly eye catching.
In fact, the bezels are so small that Huawei came up with a unique placement for the MateBook X Pro’s webcam: it’s actually in the keyboard beneath a key with a camera icon on it. Pressing the key depresses a latch that lets the 720p camera appear. This doesn’t really solve the whole ‘ChinCam’ problem we’ve seen on laptops like Dell XPS 13, but at least it’s a more elegant and clever solution than those.
Now, speaking of that display, it’s now a touchscreen, with Gorilla Glass protection to keep it from getting scratched. It also has a 3K (3,000 x 2,000) resolution, which leads to a 260 PPI (pixels per inch) pixel density. So, the display is nice and sharp, though you may notice that the screen is more ‘square’ than other laptops.
This is because it features a 3:2 aspect ratio, like the MateBook X, rather than the more common ratio of 16:9. So, you’ll get more vertical space than other laptops, which can help with productivity, though watching media on it will result in black bars at the top and bottom for widescreen videos.
No matter what you use it for, the screen certainly looks sharp and vibrant, with a 450 nit brightness and 1,500:1 contrast ratio.
On the bottom half of the laptop, beneath the deep-and-punchy keyboard, is the large trackpad – which Huawei says is the largest one found on a 14-inch laptop. We want to spend more time with the MateBook X Pro to find out if the size of the trackpad is a help or a hindrance. Being a Microsoft Precision trackpad, we’re confident that it will mitigate mistaken presses well.
On either side of the keyboard are two top-firing, stereo speakers (for a total of four) that support Dolby Atmos, and it shows. A demonstration of the audio performance at 80% volume was loud and impressively nuanced. We could actually hear the sound travel across the four distinct audio channels.
Above the keyboard is the power button, which – like the MateBook X – has a built in fingerprint scanner. This is a great idea, as it means you can turn on the laptop, and sign in to it, with just a single touch, and Huawei told us that from cold startup to logging in to Windows 10, it takes just 7.8 seconds – and just 6.6 seconds from hibernation.
This is thanks to the fingerprint sensor being a hardware-level part, meaning it’s controlled directly by the processor, not by Windows 10 – of course, it still works with Windows Hello. It’s little touches like this that will help Huawei’s laptops standout from the competition.
We didn’t get long enough of a time with the MateBook X Pro to fully put it through its paces, but it did feel nice and quick when using Windows 10.
Considering the specifications, this shouldn’t be too surprising, with an Intel 8th-gen Core i7 8550U processor, which is 40% faster than the 7th-gen CPU in the MateBook X. Huawei is keen to point out its use of a U series CPU, rather than an M series, which is more often found in laptops of this size.
This is thanks to the power management features Huawei has included, with learnings from its smartphone division helping to keep battery life up, while remaining thin and light.
As for the battery, the MateBook X Pro offers all-day battery life with 57.4Wh worth of juice, and it uses intelligent algorithms for power efficiency – improved by 15%, Huawei promises.
It is also one of the thinnest laptops to feature a discrete GPU – the aforementioned Nvidia GeForce MX150 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Also, via Thunderbolt 3, you can add an external graphics card, up to a GTX 1080, making it a capable gaming machine as well.
Plus, in the US, the laptop comes with Huawei’s MateDock 2.0, which feeds HDMI, VGA, USB 3.0 and a USB-C passthrough via its Thunderbolt 3. Rounding out the port selection is another USB-C 3.1 port and the return of a USB 3.0 port, for the traditionalists out there.
All in all, we anticipate the MateBook X Pro to be a solid performer with even some slight gaming chops, but certainly enough graphical oomph to edit images and video at high resolutions.
Consider us impressed by Huawei’s second-ever, honest-to-goodness laptop. With the MateBook X Pro, Huawei appears to have crafted a machine tailor-made to compete not only with the luxe laptops, but those that are often marketed toward creative professionals.
Of course, we’ll have to wait and see just how performant this laptop can be in a full review, and its price will determine quite a bit regarding its place in the laptop pantheon. That said, it’s clear just how deeply serious Huawei is about making a name for itself in the mobile computing game, and we’re excited by the prospect.
MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar’s world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.