Huawei Matebook Pro X 2020 review
Quick Verdict: The Huawei Matebook Pro X boasts a stunning screen, sleek design and delightful touchpad, but a restrictive camera, limited battery life and slightly underpowered specs means it's not for everybody.
- 10-point multi-touch 3K screen
- Sleek, beautiful design
- Keyboard and touchpad create great work environment
- Webcam angle isn’t ideal
- Battery struggles to last a day
- Slightly underpowered
Forget the politics around Huawei and focus on the product. Huawei's Matebook range aims to be the Windows 10 version of the Macbook Air and in many respects it outcompetes Apple's revered device. It's similar in look, weight and feel, but steps things up in areas Apple refused to tread.
Indeed, on paper, Huawei's fleet of technology is an impressive read. The company seems to be able to cram more features into its products than its category competitors and do so at a better price. So, it seems with the 13.9" Matebook Pro X 2020, too. But does the experience match up to the expectations its feature list sets?
What about the Matebook X Pro 2021?
While some overseas markets have seen the release of a Matebook X Pro 2021 model, in Australia that has yet to surface. The good news is that the asking price for the Matebook X Pro 2020 has dropped significantly. At the time of writing, it has been slashed from an original RRP of $3,299 to $1,839.
- 3K screen with 1500:1 contrast and 450nits brightness is great
- Fingerprint scanner on/off buttons very user-friendly
- USB-A and USB-C ports
- Bit heavy when fully specced
As mentioned, the Huawei Matebook Pro X isn't short on consumer-focused features.
I will talk more about the screen when we talk design in a moment, but it's 13.9-inch, 10-point multi-touch screen is the start of the show. While the 3000 x 2000 (3K) 260ppi resolution is solid – it's not 4K, obviously – with the help of a 100% sRGB wide colour gamut and 450nits brightness, it still looks a treat. The 1500:1 contrast ratio and a 178-egree viewing angle also helps.
It certainly exceeds the MacBook Air range in specs and screen real estate, with the added touch screen benefits, too. I love the touchscreen and between it and the touchpad, makes for a product a lot easier to multitask with. Multi-touch control options, such as zooming and screen capture, work wonderfully.
The Matebook Pro X weighs in at 1.33kg at the lowest specs and is just 14.9mm thick, but it definitely feels chunkier than a MacBook Air. Especially when you begin to up the specs. I would not call it a light laptop in your hands despite the advertised weight.
It's impressive that Huawei has managed to sneak a traditional USB-A port into such a thin frame. While the two USB-C ports are indeed the future, it seems USB-A isn't going away without a fight and this port's existence adds more user-friendliness than we see in "the future or bust" approach of the MacBooks. The only other port is a headphone/microphone jack, which is commendable, but with Bluetooth support, likely to go unused by most people.
If you happen to have a recent Huawei phone, such as the P30 Pro, you can access it on your Matebook as a remote desktop. It's as easy as tapping the phone on the keypad. The handiest use of this feature is being able to transfer files to and from the phone, but you can also interact with calls, messages and social media without having to hot swap between screens. Not an essential feature, but functionally it's pretty neat. I only wish it worked with other phones, too!
I also need to drop a mention of the finger-scanner built into the power button. It makes getting in and out of the laptop a near instant and blissful experience.
- Sleek and sexy design
- Speakers smartly placed
- Pop-up camera innovative but poorly angled
- Only one colour in Australia
There's no doubt the Matebook Pro X is a sexy looking machine. It's not overly different from other portable laptops, but the cut and feel is just schmick.
Huawei has gone with what it calls a borderless design for its screen with the Matebook Pro X. There is a border, but it's certainly marginal and I do believe the claim of a 91% screen-to-body ratio across its 13.9" body. While the screen is bright enough to use in a room lit up by natural light, it's reflective service means it struggles in more direct rays
from the sun.
You do notice the added height brought about from the 3:2 screen ratio both aesthetically, and when using software such as Chrome or Word. Overseas there are two colours to choose from, but here in Australia there's just the one in Space Grey. It does look beautiful, however.
The webcam experiment
Part of the reason the screen can be so big is thanks to the pop-up camera. It's not in the frame and therefore doesn't need space to exist. Instead, a dedicated button central to the keyboard houses the camera. When you press it, the camera pops-up until you push it back down. It's joined by a microphone positioned at the front of the laptop that does a good job picking up your audio.
Huawei claims the hidden camera concept is not just about giving the screen more space, but also to ensure the camera can't be nefariously used by hackers when not at use. So you can return to working from home in the nude – hey its COVID, don't judge!
I like this innovation in principle, but you don't want to be tall. As the camera is in the keyboard, you can't change its angle like you can by moving the screen backwards or forwards. I'm 6ft 4" – so a tall dude – and in the below image you can see what was visible of me when sitting at a natural distance from the keyboard.
For the record, my head isn't cut off at the hairline in real-life.
It's a shame that there isn't software inbuilt that can be used to mechanically angle the camera slightly to accommodate ogres such as myself, or Amazonian women. And its petite size means you only get a 1MP camera with only 720p video. Workmanlike, but far from spectacular – especially when you consider the quality of the camera in Huawei's phones.
- Multiple configurations to choose from
- Keyboard and touchpad fantastic
- Struggles with high-end software and games
- battery life is poor
The Matebook Pro X 2021 model is 22% faster than its predecessor. In the up-specced machine I tested, there was an 11th Gen quad-core i7 processor at 1.8GHz, 16GB of 3733MHz RAM and 1TB NVMe PCI2 SSD. You'll also find variants with an i5 processor and/or 8GB of RAM and/or a 500GB internal SSD.
There was also an improved GeForce MX250 graphics card with 2GB of VRAM to help with content creation, sitting alongside a much better, integrated Intel Iris Xe GPU.
On paper, these read a little under-specced for 2021. You could argue the new price reflects that, but more often than I would have liked, the laptop got a bit awkward handling my requests. Mostly where pushing the graphics card. I wonder if an i9 processor with an NVMe M.2 SSD would have made things buttery smooth in operation.
Perhaps my favourite part of the Matebook Pro X 2020 experience is the interface. The touchpad, touchscreen, fingerprint scanner and keyboard all just work so effortlessly. The keyboard isn't that harsh, flat Apple style, but is higher, better spaced and more rubberised to the touch. Our finger glides over the touchpad like it's made of satin, too.
Not suitable for all use cases
Despite this, my time spent with the Huawei was a mixed bag. For the general Windows 10 activities you'll use every day it's sharp and snappy, as well as performing in near silence with only marginal heat gathering at its base. For general multimedia and light content creation it also performed well. However, if you want to multitask across Adobe programs or play even a half-decent game, it falls short.
Indeed, even on mid-range titles - like Subnautica – I experienced significant draw delay when moving through the world. You'd want to stick to older low-end gaming experiences on this device. But this is a mild criticism given that gaming isn't the laptop's intent. Multimedia, such as YouTube videos, ran fine.
More disappointing was the battery. To reach the advertised 13-hours of life must require minimal use with the lowest brightness and the worst specs to reach. In practice, I think this laptop makes the cardinal sin of maybe not getting through an eight-hour workday without needing a kick up the backside. Depending on what you do.
At least it quick charges to half battery in 30-minutes, and the charger is delightfully small – not much bigger than a phone charger. (Although frustratingly, it is designed in such a way as to unnecessarily take up two power point spaces.)
I've got to give a nod of respect to the speakers and sound output from this little laptop. It can't deliver much in the way of bass, but it does offer a good impression of surround sound – or perhaps stereo on steroids is a better phrase – and plenty of volume without losing clarity. Quad-speakers, all pointing up, can take the credit.
Should you buy the Huawei Matebook Pro X 2020?
- Buy it if you want a Macbook Air in PC form, and a fully featured little laptop for use between work and home.
- Don't buy it if you want to play games or use demanding software, or need long battery life.
There's no doubt the Huawei Matebook Pro X is a beautiful looking laptop. The great screen is joined by a lovely typing experience, wonderfully response touchpad, fantastic speakers and enough power to quickly and smartly do all your day-to-day activities.
But it under-reaches on its specs, hanging out on the lower-end of what we're seeing in 2021. I noticed it in the performance as soon as my requests got a little demanding. I'm far from impressed by the battery life in particular. And while it's certainly a portable, compact laptop, I still found it relatively heavy in the hand.
At the original asking price of $3,299 I would have balked at recommending this laptop. There are better options out there, notably the latest LG Gram. However, at the new price, it's far more compelling – especially if you also use a Huawei phone.
If you're not interested in gaming, but looking for a portable laptop to shift from work/school to home where you're never far from power, it's worth considering.