Huawei is entering its fourth year as a laptop manufacturer. Since you rely on x86 silicon and a GPU here and there, Huawei can do the quality of the design well above all. The company has taken the know-how developed over a decade of smartphones into something bigger, with a keyboard that runs Windows. The latest MateBook X Pro 2021 edition we’re reviewing today equips an Intel Core i7 11th Green finish that really stands out.
Huawei makes laptops? For real?
Over the years we’ve covered Huawei products, through the good and the bad, through the earliest tries and Halo devices, a key feature that’s hard to ignore is design. After a decade of using Huawei smartphones, we were introduced to the first 2-in-1 laptop products in 2017, and while they are well designed and comfortable to use, the user experience needed some improvement. But it wasn’t long before we got a Windows device that looked great with an experience for competing market veterans.
Enter the first generation MateBook 13 and it’s by far one of the best laptops I’ve used as a 6 month travel work machine to date. Unfortunately, due to some improvements that Huawei wanted to introduce (like the recessed webcam, more on that later), the company quickly replaced it with a less inspiring configuration that didn’t go down well. Huawei traditionally relies on Intel in its systems, but was one of the first to partner with AMD when the AMD Mobile Ryzen hit the market – we saw Ryzen versions of its educational model, if only for China.
Huawei’s laptop ambitions currently fall into three main categories
- Education with the MateBook D 14, MateBook D 15 and MateBook D 16
- Portable with MateBook 13, MateBook 14 and MateBook 16
- Professional with the MateBook X (13 inch) and MateBook X Pro (13.9 inch).
The last two categories target the traditional MacBook markets directly.
Today we’re testing the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 model, which features a Tiger Lake Core i7 11th processor.Usually, people associate a Pro laptop with a discrete GPU – in the 2020 model, Huawei uses a 10th processor.
Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021: hands-on
The first time you take a new laptop out of the box after detaching it from the styrofoam and removing the protective film, you are touching the chassis. For most devices, this is an everyday affair since you are handling plastic or something similarly useful. Less expensive devices have an aluminum unibody, which saves weight, or if you’re looking for something even lighter, an expensive lithium-magnesium alloy may be an option. But even with a metallic unibody design, not all are created equal, and it depends on how the chassis is treated, etched or finished and treated as part of the design. It feels very smooth on this MateBook, but if you gently move your hand over it, you get a slight vibration sensation. In my eyes, it’s great. I asked people if they felt the same way. You have no idea what I’m up to.
When opening the lid, we see a chiclet keyboard with a solid touchpad and a separate power button in the top right corner. In its MateBook designs, Huawei integrates the same high-speed Goodix fingerprint recognition sensor into the power button as in its smartphones, which has become one of the easiest to use on the market with fast response and near-perfect recognition.
The fact that this power button is a separate button completely on the keyboard should not be underestimated. I hate the power buttons on the keyboard, which are often to the right of the delete key, because they are accidentally pressed far too often. I also loathe designs with the power button on the side, because when you try to move a laptop closer to see better, that button is always pushed. Huawei has it in the right position here, and it also comes with a little click to know when to press it. You don’t have to click on it for the fingerprint sensor to work, which is a bonus.
The large touchpad is Huawei’s newest iteration, and after having had some seedy trackpads in the past, this one works well and is easy to use with good palm deflection and a light click on both left and right mouse buttons. Gestures sometimes took a few tries to activate, but no more than most other premium touchpads I’ve tested. The touchpad doesn’t feel like the chassis mentioned above, which is maybe a good thing – I also found it very easy to be precise with mouse movements with the touchpad.
The keyboard uses a slight bevel on each key to enhance the chiclet style, but the half-sized up / down arrows aren’t always fun. As with most laptops, there is a second function for the top row of the F keys, and the Huawei design allows the user to permanently toggle the Fn / Function key on or off, and choosing between the two is just a simple press . With other laptops I have noticed that sometimes it requires a change to the BIOS option so the fact that this is on the keyboard helps. Each button is also backlit in white. Perhaps the strangest difference to most laptops is where the camera sits.
Since 2018, Huawei has decided to remove the built-in webcam from the housing cover. We usually find it above the display, but that either spoils the look of the display or you get a really bad and tiny camera. Some vendors are removing it completely, but Huawei moved it to the function key row. It sits just below the key between F6 and F7, and when you click it it jumps out of its place and points at you.
This fulfills the check mark in the table to have a built-in camera. The camera isn’t great, however: the quality is still a standard 720p camera you’d find in the lid of other laptops, except that it points right at your chin. And up your nose. I don’t know about you, but having critical meetings while looking up someone’s nose isn’t the best experience. Usually, if you want to make a video call with a laptop webcam built into the display, I recommend placing the laptop on top of some books so the camera is at least at eye level instead of looking up. The Huawei solution does the opposite and makes it a bad experience for everyone involved. I would suggest looking for external cameras here.
The advantage of removing the webcam from the case, however, is that Huawei has built one of the largest displays in the 14-inch class into a 13.9-inch notebook. Huawei puts the screen-to-body ratio at 91%, and the LTPS display has a resolution of 3000 x 2000 with an aspect ratio of 3: 2, which gives 260 pixels per inch. The official specifications for the display indicate a brightness of 450 nits, with a contrast ratio of 1500: 1 with 100% sRGB color space. The display also supports 10-point multi-touch – we’ll double-check these claims in our display tests later in the review. But like many devices that look great when the screen is right on the display, it’s hard not to be amazed at how much display space there is.
For connectivity, the MateBook X Pro 2021 has a 3.5mm audio jack on the left and two USB Type-C ports (support for dual 4K60 display, 50W charging or data). On the right is a single USB 3.2 Type-A port. Inside there is a Wi-Fi 6 controller with BT5.1 support and a Huawei Share NFC module. Users with a Huawei smartphone that supports Huawei Share can wirelessly dock it to the laptop in order to share the displays with each other, use the phone as a remote control, the laptop to take and make calls, or to share pictures and videos use both ways.
|Huawei Matebook X Pro specifications|
|Cores||4C + HT||4C + HT||4C + HT||4C + HT|
|TDP||15 W||15 W||15 W||15 W|
|Base frequency||1.8 GHz||1.8 GHz||1.8 GHz||1.7 GHz|
|Turbo Freq||4.0 GHz||4.6 GHz||4.9 GHz||4.7 GHz|
|L3||8 MB||8 MB||8 MB||12 MB|
2 GB DDR5
|advertisement||13.9 inches, 3000 x 2000
100% sRGB, LTPS panel
450 nights. 1500: 1 contrast
|16GB LPDDR3||16GB LPDDR4X|
PCIe 3.0 x4
PCIe 3.0 x4
PCIe 3.0 x4
PCIe 3.0 x4
|Wireless||WLAN 5||WLAN 5||WiFi 5||WLAN 6|
|camera||Spring latch, 1MP|
|battery||57.4 Wh||57.4 Wh||56 Wh||56 Wh|
|weight||1.33 kg||1.33 kg||1.33 kg||1.33 kg|
|price||¬ $ 1800||~ $ 1810||~ $ 1900||~ $ 1500|
Our model contains the Intel Core i7-1165G7, the entry-level Core i7, but with the largest Xe graphics option paired with 16 GB LPDDR4X-4266 and a 1 TB Samsung PM981a NVMe SSD. The 56 Wh battery is designed for 10 hours of local video playback, which we tested later in the test. At 1.33 kg (2.9 lbs), the metal unibody design makes it lightweight for its 13.9-inch laptop size. In addition to the emerald green color of our device, Huawei also offers a space gray. Our device came with Windows 10 Home, but a free upgrade to Windows 11 will be provided in due course.
The other features of the notebook include a dual shark fin fan design inside the case, so that the cooling is sufficient and quiet even without a separate GPU. There’s also a quad speaker design as well as two front-facing microphones.
In the next few pages we’ll cover performance, display, battery life, charging, and other aspects of the system.