Huawei has finally done it. With the MateBook X Pro company has created a laptop that’s a shameless copy of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro, but that’s easy to forgive because it’s just so damn good. It’s better than the original in numerous ways, and lags behind only when it comes to certain details.
I’ve spent roughly 10 days with the MateBook X Pro, mostly using it as my main work machine, and this is the first time in ages that I seriously considered permanently moving back into the realm of Windows laptops.
I’m not taking the easy route when comparing Huawei’s new laptop with the 13-inch MacBook Pro (which happens to be my primary work laptop). Besides the similarities in the name and the fact that Huawei itself constantly compared the two during the device’s launch in Barcelona, it’s just very obvious that Huawei had one goal in mind: Build a device that’s exactly like Apple’s pro-grade laptop, only better.
This starts with the design. The Huawei MateBook X Pro has an aluminum unibody that’s sturdy, solid and monolithic save for the ports on the sides, cooling “gills” on the bottom, and a Huawei logo on the back. My review unit was in “mystic silver” color (it also comes in “space grey”; sound familiar?) and there’s no two ways about it; it’s a dead ringer for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Unibody aluminum case, just like…nevermind.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEThere are differences, though, and surprisingly, nearly all are in favor of Huawei. The MateBook X Pro has a gorgeous, 3,000×2,000 pixel LTPS touchscreen with uncannily thin bezels on all sides, including the bottom. Thanks to this, the MateBook has a 91% screen-to-body ratio — the best ever seen on any notebook, according to Huawei — and it looks stunning. Effectively, it’s a 13.9-inch screen stuffed in a body that’s roughly the same size and weight as the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro, and just a smidgen larger and heavier than a comparably equipped Dell XPS 13 (which also has a 13.3-inch screen).
To achieve this, Huawei did a clever trick: It moved the camera into the function keys row of the keyboard (no touch bar here); it pops open on a click and shuts closed when you click it again. Unfortunately, this means that the camera will have an up-your-nose angle; not absolutely horrible but not ideal (the fact that it’s just a crappy 1-megapixel one doesn’t help either). On the flip side, if you’re concerned about privacy, this is a great solution, as you don’t need to tape the camera over; just close it when you’re not using it and you’re safe from prying eyes.
The camera has a somewhat odd angle, but I had bigger beef with the picture quality, which is mediocre.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEThe keyboard is rubbery and reasonably good with a decent amount of travel. I had no problems getting used to it, and I like the fact that it’s fully backlit.
On the left side, you’ll find two USB-C ports, one of which is Thunderbolt 3 compatible, as well as a headphone jack. On the right, you will find a single USB-A port. This is not a bad choice of ports, but another USB-A port or at least a memory card slot would make it amazing.
Two USB-C ports on one side (only one is Thunderbolt 3-compatible), and a single USB-A port on the other.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEOverall, when it comes to the design and usability, Huawei wins big overall but falters on some details. For example, the USB-C ports on the left side are poorly aligned and the trackpad isn’t as precise as I’d like. None of these issues are deal breakers, but they do add up.
Very, very big screen
And there’s that screen. It’s not the best screen I’ve seen on a laptop; for example, the MacBook Pro’s screen is a bit brighter, has more natural colors, and isn’t nearly as glossy. Also, I had to turn off automatic brightness control on the Huawei as it was just too quirky for my liking.
Huawei MateBook X Pro’s bezels make the 13-inch MacBook Pro (2017) look obsolete.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEBut Huawei’s laptop definitely has the most attractive screen seen on a laptop, thanks to those crazy-tiny bezels. There’s no ugly chin like you’d see on a Dell XPS 13, either — the bottom bezel is as thin as possible.
A screen that nice begs to be touched, and you can actually do it. I’m not a huge fan of touchscreens on laptops as they get dirty fast (Huawei says the MateBook’s screen is fingerprint-repellent), but the option is there.
The 3,000×2,000 resolution is probably too big for this screen size, but extremely high resolutions on portable devices are the fashion these days, and I doubt many will complain.
All in all, unless you work outdoors a lot and cannot stand glossy screens, the MateBook X Pro will not disappoint you.
Tons of power and solid battery life
Inside, the Matebook X Pro is an absolute powerhouse. I tested the most powerful variant, with an 8th gen Intel Core i7-855U processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, Intel’s UHD 620 graphics chip paired with dedicated, Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics, and a 57.4Wh battery.
There’s also a fingerprint scanner (seamlessly built into the power button), and some nifty details, such as a power adapter that’s pretty compact; roughly double the size of the ones you get with smartphones.
The fingerprint sensor is blazing fast.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEIt can be tough for a laptop processor to power such a huge screen resolution, but I’ve had no issues with the MateBook X Pro. In my work, which mostly consists of having tons of Chrome tabs open, it performed admirably.
As for battery life, I couldn’t get nowhere near the advertised 12 hours; the battery was good for half of that number most of the time. For comparison, note that my 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro nearly never lasts me more than 4 hours. Note that the MateBook X Pro comes with Huawei’s proprietary power-saving software which probably helped in this department.
Uncanny sound and other little things
The sound of the MateBook X Pro deserves a special mention, as it left me speechless. Thanks to some Dolby Atmos magic, it expands the sound stage far wider than the laptop’s actual speakers (all four of them); so much that I involuntarily twisted my neck, looking for speakers that weren’t there. It’s a trick, and after a while you get used to it, but it is impressive, especially in songs with a lot of separate, trebly sounds (like a funky rhythm guita). Play it to someone and they’ll ask you where you hid the rest of the speakers. Past this, the MateBook X Pro’s sound is far from perfect; it’s got that tinny thinness you’ll hear on most laptops of this size, and bass is definitely very limited. But it’s still far better than the sound on the MacBook Pro.
This is the “mystic silver” color; the Huawei MateBook X Pro also comes in “space grey.”Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEThen there are all the other little details that you wouldn’t expect from a company like Huawei, who doesn’t exactly have a long track record when it comes to building laptops. The keyboard is backlit and spill-proof. The laptop has four built-in microphones. The fingerprint sensor is very fast; Huawei says it only takes 1.9 seconds to log into the system from sleep state, and while I don’t think it’s quite that fast, it’s definitely not too far from that number. A lot of thought has been put into this device.
Possibly the best laptop out there
The Huawei MateBook X Pro is not perfect, but it trumps the competition in most areas. It has that innovative camera placement, fast fingerprint sensor and an extremely thin-bezelled screen, which places it ahead of competition. The specs are top notch, the design is beautiful (if derivative), the battery life is great and the sound is impressive (though not in all areas).
Drawbacks include a relatively small number of ports, odd angle of the camera and overly glossy screen (though some users might like it). And when I compare those to what this device has to offer, I’d be more than prepared to live with them.
All of this would be meaningless if the MateBook X Pro cost a fortune, but it doesn’t. The top model (the one I’ve tested) costs €1,899 ($2,336). That’s significantly less than the typical European price of a top-specced 13-inch MacBook Pro, which has a weaker processor and graphics and less RAM memory. A comparatively equipped Dell XPS 13 costs a hundred or two bucks less, depending on the market.
If that’s too much, though, there’s also a variant of the MateBook X Pro with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, and MX 150 graphics for €1,699 ($2,090), or an even cheaper one without the discrete graphics and with only 256 GB of storage for €1,499 ($1,844).
Huawei MateBook X Pro
Huge screen with tiny bezels • Top-notch specs • Camera never needs to be taped over • Impressive sound
Screen too glossy • Camera has an odd angle • Another USB-A port or a memory card slot would be great
The Bottom Line
It’s a blatant copy of the MacBook Pro, but it’s also better in almost every single way. If you’re looking for a Windows laptop, the Huawei MateBook X Pro is a great choice.