Long-term test Huawei Matebook X Pro
Huawei’s latest laptop has the sleek design, zippy brainpower and dazzling screen to challenge Apple’s finest… Tom Morgan spends a fortnight enjoying its company
What a display from this skinny laptop!
Imagine competing for gold at the Commonwealth Games, but it’s only 12 months since you first picked up a javelin. That’s essentially what Huawei is doing with the Matebook X Pro.
Last year’s Matebook X was the first time the company had ever attempted to make a laptop, and its performance came impressively close to the 12in Macbook. Now, though, its successor is comfortably ready to take on the might of Apple’s Macbook Pro.
This sleek machine borrows more design inspiration from the latest phones than from other laptops, with a near-bezel-free screen, fingerprint-sensing power button and incredibly compact dimensions. Then it goes one better with dedicated graphics, and more raw power than you’ll get from Apple’s elder statesman. Prices start at a competitive £1499, though the UK price for our top-spec review model wasn’t confirmed as Stuff went to press.
At 1.33kg this Huawei is light enough to slip in a bag and forget it’s there – and measuring just 14.6mm at its thickest point, it’s barely any bulkier than an issue of the world’s greatest gadget magazine. Once you open it up, though, it feels bigger than it really is. That’s because the touchscreen display cuts really close to the edges for a 91% screen-to-body ratio.
The only way to make the screen so big was to move the webcam: it’s cleverly tucked away beneath a button on the keyboard. This might not create the most flattering angle for video calls, but it’s good news for anyone who worries about hackers gaining access for spying purposes.
The all-aluminium build, large touchpad and black keyboard flanked by speaker grilles all look familiar, but it’s nice to see Huawei hasn’t completely followed the Macbook Pro formula: in addition to USB-C and Thunderbolt ports plus a 3.5mm jack socket, you get regular USB. An SD card slot would have been a nice addition, though.
I could get used to this screen. The Matebook X Pro is no bigger than the average 13in laptop, but those tiny bezels have helped Huawei squeeze in a 13.9in panel. The 3:2 aspect ratio feels expansive, and with an impressive 3000x2000 resolution I’ve no trouble working on two things side by side.
There’s real depth to images, the colours are vibrant, and viewing angles are exceptional – which is great if you’ve got friends gathered round to look at holiday photos, but not so good if you’re reading secret government plans on the bus.
I’ve no complaints about typing on this comfortable keyboard – and it’s backlit, which is very handy for working in the dark. Huawei also calls it ‘spill-proof’ – not that I’ve chucked coffee over it to check.
That webcam is hidden among the function keys, and pops up and down with a satisfying spring. The nostril-centric angle isn’t ideal, but that’s really not a major issue.
For such a skinny machine, the Matebook X Pro isn’t short of speed: this version is packing an 8th-gen Intel i7 CPU, along with 16GB of RAM and a speedy 512GB NVME SSD. The i7-8550u hasn’t struggled with anything, keeping the CPU at its boosted 2GHZ speeds in apps like Photoshop and Premiere Pro.
Gaming is also on the cards, as this is one of the thinnest laptops around to have a dedicated graphics card. If you’re reasonable with the settings it’s possible to play even new titles: Fortnite copes well at 1500x1000 with a mix of low and medium detail.
Battery life was one of the original Matebook’s weak points, but the Pro copes quite well away from the mains. On average I’ve managed eight hours between top-ups, which is average for the class. Try more intensive stuff and you’ll be out of juice far sooner, though.
The Matebook X Pro feels like the Windows-powered Apple alternative a lot of people have been waiting for. It has a sharper screen and skinnier bezels than the Macbook Pro, plus superior GPU performance. Some Windows rivals might cost less, but they can’t match this Huawei for graphics.
This is one of the thinnest laptops to have a dedicated graphics card, and it’s possible to play even new games like Fortnite