Matebook X Pro hands-on: Huawei’s new Windows laptop looks excellent

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Huawei is a company you don’t traditionally associate with computers, but the company’s Matebook range has served as road opener in this regard. At MWC 2018 today, Huawei unveiled its latest, the Matebook X Pro, which it hopes will set the standard for portable small laptops.

The Matebook X Pro is a slim Windows 10-powered laptop that offers a 14-inch display in a smaller 12-inch notebook body. The Matebook X Pro measures just 14.6 mm in thickness and weighs about 2.93 lbs. The aluminum alloy body, with its sandblasted finish, makes for a comfortable in-hand experience.

The Matebook X Pro boasts impressively small bezels and a screen-to-body ratio of 91 percent — one of the highest on a mobile PC. The display measures 13.9-inches with 3K resolution (3000×2000 pixels). Unlike the original Matebook X, the Pro comes with a full 10-point touch screen which adds to the ways you can interact with it, although the trackpad is still my preferred input method.

> Read our Huawei Matebook X review

The display boasts a max brightness of 450-nits, meaning it can be used outdoors with relative ease. In our brief testing, we had no issues with sunlight legibility, even in direct sunlight. There’s also an anti-fingerprint coating which should help reduce fingerprint marks when using the touchscreen. The eye comfort mode also makes its way over from Huawei smartphones and automatically adjusts the temperature of the display to reduce glare and blue light in darker conditions.

The super small bezels is one of the standout features on the Matebook X Pro and Huawei looks set to regain its title of the narrowest bezel on a computer from 2016. Yet, going for a small bezel and smaller body often means making cuts elsewhere — the keyboard for example — which can impact on the overall experience.

Despite a 12-inch body, the Matebook X Pro features a full-size keyboard that is a joy to use. Other computers in this size come with reduced-size keyboards which impact on the experience. I often struggle to acclimate to the keyboard when using a new computer, but as soon as I started using the Matebook X Pro, the keyboard felt familiar and effortless to use. Within minutes, I was typing away with no reduction in speed or efficiency compared to my 15-inch Macbook Pro.

The full-size chicklet back-lit keyboard will appeal to many people who want something portable but still have the familiarity of the keyboard on a bigger laptop. The backlight only turns on when it’s dark outside to reduce battery consumption, but you can also override this. Beneath the keyboard you’ll find an extra-large precision touchpad which works as well as any other Windows laptop, but wasn’t particularly memorable.

The keyboard is also where you’ll find one of the more bizarre innovations on the Matebook X Pro – the camera. Huawei’s research suggests that less than 3 percent of people use the camera on their laptops and the majority of people cover their camera, due to security worries. Instead of putting the camera in the bezel on the display as most laptops do, Huawei chose to build it into a spring-loaded key on the keyboard, between the F6 and F7 keys. Essentially, the camera is only enabled when you physically press the key to pop it up.

The camera itself offers a wide field of view which is great for video calls, but we found the positioning to be a little awkward. Other than the traditional place atop the display, there’s no other comfortable place to put a camera on a laptop, so this isn’t overly surprising.

Last year, the Matebook X was the first PC to support the Dolby Atmos audio standard, and this year, Huawei has continued in this vein. The Matebook X Pro supports the second generation of Dolby Atmos Surround Sound and features a quad speaker with split frequencies, allowing the laptop to take full advantage of Dolby’s next generation audio. Dolby Atmos offers special awareness for sound, allowing you to have a truly immersive audio experience. Based on our brief time with it, the Matebook X Pro seems to deliver on this promise.

The Matebook X Pro also features four microphones for far-field technology, which allows you to enable Cortana at up to 6 meters (19.5 feet) away. Considering that the average floor is 10 feet, you can theoretically talk to Cortana from two floors away, although we’re not quite sure why you’d want to do that given, well, you won’t be able to hear its response!

The Matebook X Pro comes in three different options but all of them feature the full Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, rather than the mobile variants used in other computers. There are two RAM options – 8GB or 16GB – as well as two storage options – 256GB and 512GB.

The Matebook X Pro is also the thinnest 14-inch PC with a discrete graphics card. Huawei has worked closely with NVIDIA to develop a slim graphics card. Each variant of the Matebook X Pro comes with the NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. For those who need something more substantial, there’s two USB-C ports – both can charge the device – and the one that supports Thunderbolt 3 allows you to connect an external graphics card.

The entire experience is powered by the largest battery capacity in any device of this size. The Matebook X Pro features a 57.4 Wh battery which is slated to deliver 15 hours of web browsing, 14 hours of office tasks, or 12 hours of 1080p video playback on a single charge. Huawei says it is still working with Microsoft to optimize the battery life, so the actual battery performance could turn out even better.

Rather than a traditional bulky laptop charger, the Matebook X Pro uses a single 65-watt USB-C charger that can also be used to charge your tablet or phone. When charging the Matebook X Pro, a 30-minute charge offers around six hours of usage, while a full charge takes approximately 2-3 hours. To charge your phone or tablet, the charger automatically adjusts the voltage but offers quick charging speeds. The premise behind the redesigned charger is that you only need one charger for all of your electronics and with more devices moving towards the USB-C standard, this definitely appears to be the case.

The Matebook X Pro will be available in the coming months, but exact pricing and availability are yet to be confirmed. However, Huawei did confirm Microsoft will be offering the Matebook X Pro in all of its stores. Furthermore, the U.S. version of the Matebook X Pro will run Windows 10 Home Signature Edition, with Microsoft controlling all the software, and the device will have Windows Defender preloaded. After the recent security concerns around Huawei in the U.S. market, this is a smart move and should hopefully allay some concerns. The Matebook X Pro also comes bundled with Office 365 for one year, as well as the Matedock 2.0 that launched last year.

For me, the Matebook X Pro is an interesting device because of its great keyboard, fantastic size, and  battery life. What do you think? Would you buy one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!