Huawei’s MateBook series of laptops offer a thin, light and highly polished computing experience, and the 13.9-inch X Pro model is the leader of the pack. It’s a sleek and premium Windows laptop with the price to match, but offers an excellent screen, solid build quality and high performance components. It comes with a super-high resolution touchscreen, Intel 10th generation processor, with extra graphics support via an NVIDIA card, fingerprint security, USB Type-C ports and an adapter to support extra connections. If a slim, light and high-powered Windows laptop is your thing, and you’re willing to pay for it, the MateBook X Pro is a worthy contender.
The MateBook X Pro takes aim at Apple's MacBook Air, and you'll see many similarities in design, even to the "Space Grey" colour, though the MateBook has two distinct differences: a touchscreen and Windows as the default OS. We went hands-on with the MateBook X Pro 2020 model courtesy of Huawei.
This year's flagship MateBook X Pro is visually similar to last year's model. The slimline metal uni-body casing is 14.6mm thick, and feels reassuringly solid and high quality. The weight is just over 1.3kg , so it's no burden to carry.
The lid opens up smoothly one-handed to reveal a 13.9-inch high-resolution screen surrounded by a super-thin bezel with gleaming "diamond cut" chamfered edges around the screen.
The hidden pop-up webcam is good for privacy but doesn't offer a flattering viewing angle.
The thin bezel leaves no room for a webcam in the customary position at the top of the screen, so it's cunningly hidden under a pop-up button in the top row of the keyboard, indicated by a camera icon.
That's a bonus from a privacy standpoint, as nobody can activate the camera without you deliberately pressing the spring-loaded mechanical switch. The downside to this positioning, however, is that the camera's point of view is upward, as you face the screen. It's not the most flattering angle and unlike a screen-mounted camera, the angle can't be adjusted. It's also just 1MP (megapixel) resolution and we found the image quality not as good as we'd like for a premium laptop.
The screen is the star of the show. The high contrast (1500:1) touchscreen has a native 3000 x 2000-pixel resolution with 3:2 ratio that gives it a bit more height than most typical laptops, which is appreciated when looking at web pages, documents and spreadsheets. It also supports 16:9 if you prefer.
There is an ambient light sensor to adjust the screen brightness. Huawei claims brightness of 450 nits, but set at full brightness we found it measured even higher, producing the second-highest reading we've seen: 482 nits, just slightly under the previous MateBook X Pro we tested, at 494 nits.
The screen is the star of the show for the Huawei Matebook X Pro, boasting a native 3000 x 2000-pixel resolution with 3:2 ratio, giving it a bit more height than most typical laptops.
The full-sized backlit keyboard feels very solid and comfortable to type on, with 2mm spacing between keys and good contrast on the lettering. The touchpad is large and we had no issues with navigation. It's smooth and responsive and supports all common Windows 10 gestures, though some might have to be enabled (double-tap and drag had to be enabled).
Of course, you can also use the touchscreen for tasks such as selecting and scrolling, but you can't use the laptop as a tablet, as it's a traditional clamshell body type, not a 2-in-1 convertible.
Notably located above the keyboard is the independent power button (no more accidental presses while trying to delete) which also houses a fingerprint reader, that gives you a time-saving, one-touch boot-up and sign-on.
The touchpad is large and responsive, while the power button above the keyboard at the top-right corner includes a fingerprint reader for one-touch boot-up and log in.
There's a traditional Type-A (rectangular) USB 3.0 port, along with two USB Type-C ports on the side that allow the supplied hub to be attached, providing HDMI output, VGA output, USB 3.0, and power.
The USB Type-C port next to the 3.5mm headphone jack is a USB 3.2 Gen-1 – 5Gbps (gigabits per second), while the second Type-C port is a Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps), supporting charging, data transfer and DisplayPort for connecting an external monitor.
Wireless networking is via Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), rather than the newer Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) which is starting to appear on some latest models, but we found it performed very well. There's also NFC support for connection with Huawei phones and Bluetooth 5.
Connect a Huawei smartphone via NFC for wire-free file and photo transfers
If you have a Huawei smartphone, you will love the Multi-screen Collaboration feature, which gives you cable-free transfers of photos, videos and documents. You can also record your laptop screen directly to the phone.
To transfer data or screen record, you need a Huawei phone with the EMUI 9.1 version of Huawei's operating system or the Magic UI 2.1 version; you can control the phone screen from the laptop on a Huawei phone with EMUI 10.0. It uses NFC to connect with the phone.
We tried it out with a P40 Huawei supplied for this purpose. You connect the smartphone to the laptop through the pre-installed PC Manager software. To view the phone screen on the laptop, unlock the phone and tap the NFC area. You can control the phone through the laptop either with the touchpad or touchscreen.
You can also record the laptop's screen onto the phone (up to 60 seconds) by simply shaking the phone and tapping NFC. Once connected, you can also share a clipboard between devices, such as copying text from the notes app on the phone and pasting directly on to the laptop.
Multi-screen Collaboration uses NFC to connect the MateBook to a Huawei smartphone for seamless file and photo sharing.
The MateBook X Pro is, as you would expect, a good performer thanks to a 10th generation Intel Core i7-10510U, (1.8GHz) processor, backed by graphics powered by a NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics card with 2GB (gigabytes) of DDDR5 memory. Huawei says it's 3.5 times better than the usual integrated graphics and we found it more than adequate for general computing and even some gaming, though it's by no means a "gaming laptop".
Huawei says it's improved the cooling system's airflow by 20% and we found it quiet in operation, with no fan noise in our test while watching YouTube continuously and only some low noise during full processor load, with very little warmth build-up underneath the base. This is a laptop you can use on your lap for long periods in comfort. Audio is taken care of by quad digital microphones and quad speakers which are fine for personal listening.
Next to the 3.5mm headphone jack is a USB 3.2 Gen-1 (5Gbps), with a Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) port for charging, fast data transfer and external monitor connection.
The storage is a partitioned 1TB (terabyte) SSD (solid-state drive). The system partition is only 80GB, which means you might need to watch you don't run out of room installing apps on it, especially as updates accumulate for the operating system (which will need to be cleared from the temp directories to keep space free).
However the storage is very fast indeed, with read speeds averaging 3439MBps (megabytes per second) and write speeds of 2789MBps, which is right up there with some of the fastest storage we've tested and helps make the MateBook X Pro highly responsive overall.
Huawei's claimed battery life is up to 13 hours, and we found it lasted a very creditable seven hours in our heavy usage test, so you can expect a very full day of normal use before needing the supplied 65W Type-C portable power adapter.
We found it charged pretty fast, going from empty to 80% full in just under 1.5 hours. Pushing it to 100% charged took an extra hour.
The right side includes a traditional USB 3.0 (Type-A) port.
The 2020 version of the MateBook X Pro is better than last year's model, simply through the upgraded components such as faster processors, but is otherwise much the same, which is simply more of a good thing. This year's model has similar ease of use, with slightly better performance and battery life.
What we liked in particular was the inclusion of a spacious 1TB SSD, the excellent screen, the sturdy and stylish build, and the overall performance. What's not to like: the webcam's keyboard positioning and so-so quality; the way the SSD is partitioned; the lack of microSD card slot; and no Wi-Fi 6. But in the overall package they are relatively minor niggles.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.