Huawei MateBook X Laptop Review
Heads up Apple lovers—this new laptop could be better than the MacBook
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Whether it's a poor screen, a jumpy clickwheel, or a flabby battery, many first-generation devices ship with a flaw or two. However, Huawei's first ultrabook—the MateBook X—is the exception to that rule. This machine puts the "p" in premium.
You might mistake it for a MacBook at first glance: the brushed aluminum body and lightweight design are a page out of Apple's design playbook. Not only does the MateBook boast twice the ports of Apple's latest, it's a slimmer laptop overall. Watch your back, Apple. Huawei's in town.
That said, the MateBook is still an ultrabook, meaning its port selection is still not terribly robust. Likewise, a fanless design makes the MateBook silent, but like Apple's latest it can get quite hot during high-performance activities like gaming—it's really better for more casual use.
The MateBook also costs $100 more than the MacBook. Given Apple's track record in the ultraportable market, most people would probably prefer its services for the same money. At the end of the day, though, the MateBook is still a solid Windows-based alternative to the MacBook.
About the Huawei Matebook X
Huawei isn't the first name that comes to mind when you're shopping around for laptops. Better known for its stylish smartphones, the MateBook is the Chinese manufacturer's first attempt at a premium laptop. Well, Huawei certainly made its mark, as the X rivals most ultraportables in its class.
The MateBook comes in two configurations. The first (MSRP $1,099.99) has an Intel Core i5-6300U processor, a 13-inch 2160 x 1440 IPS display, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB SSD. The less expensive variant is available in space grey, similar to the MacBook's classic color.
The high-end configuration (MSRP $1,299.99) has a bigger hard drive and a faster processor. This one is available in gold (it's stunning). Huawei supplied us with the high-end model, which has the following specs and accessories:
- 13-inch 2160 x 1440-pixel IPS nontouch display
- Intel Core i5-7200U processor
- 8GB RAM
- Intel HD Graphics 620
- 512 GB SSD
- MateDock v2.0
- 2 USB-Type C ports
What We Like
This ridiculously lightweight, elegant look is on point
The MateBook, with its ultra-thin profile and sturdy aluminum build, looks almost identical to the Apple MacBook. Coincidence? I think not! After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. Our test unit, prestige gold in color, definitely turned heads. Though it takes some cues from Apple's minimalistic design, it's far from a carbon copy.
The MateBook has a bigger display than the MacBook. I have to say, Huawei really knows how to maximize screen space. The 4.4 mm bezels surrounding the 13-inch screen are very skinny, so the display really sucks you in. I enjoyed watching gameplay footage on it the most. The X is also thinner than the MacBook, but surprisingly robust.
Overall, the X is a well-constructed machine. I can lift up the lid using one hand, and there's not much twist in the chassis. When I pressed down on the keyboard with both hands, I heard zero creaking. It not only looks like a high-end laptop, it feels like one too.
The chiclet-style keyboard is a dream to type on
The full-sized keyboard takes up most of the space on the computer. It's almost as wide as a desktop keyboard, actually. It's compact, for sure, but it doesn't feel cramped. Even though it takes some getting used to, the keyboard is comfortable to type on for long periods of time. If you're a little clumsy like me, the keyboard is also splash-resistant, just don't go pouring a whole can of soda on it.
The fingerprint scanner doubles as the power button, making it easier to log in
The fingerprint scanner is built into the power button, which is super convenient and pretty innovative on Huawei's part. It feels really natural to use, as it works with a light touch. This is a useful feature if you're looking to protect sensitive information or if you don't want to manually enter a password every day. The setup is easy and doesn't take a lot of time, either.
The battery life is pretty good for an ultraportable
When we put the MateBook through our primary battery test, which cycles through a bunch of power-hungry tasks, it lost its steam in four hours. That's about average for an ultraportable. However, during the second battery test, which continuously browses the web, the X fizzled out in seven hours. That's a better result, for sure. It may not last you a full work day, but seven hours is a solid chunk of time.
What We Didn't Like
It skimps out on connectivity
The MateBook's lack of ports is disappointing. The thin profile is great for someone who travels a bunch, but a lean body usually means limited connectivity options. As you might expect, this machine only has a couple of input ports.
Huawei outfitted the high-end machine with two USB-Type C ports. The port on the left side accepts power and data transfer, while the other just accepts data transfer. The MateBook has twice as many ports as the Apple MacBook, which is a plus, but it still feels a bit limiting. Luckily, Huawei planned ahead.
The MateBook comes with a MateDock 2, a dongle that offers additional connectivity. So, you're not actually missing out on much. The external device includes the following ports: HDMI, USB-Type C, and VGA. This is good if you want to hook up to an external monitor or mouse.
The bottom of the machine gets hot when running at full power
The MateBook was cool to the touch when browsing the web or editing images, but heated up when I played a puzzle game on Steam. I suspect it has something to do with the fanless design. Though the Intel Core i5-7200U processor is surrounded by material that cools the laptop down, the base still got hot under a heavy load.
A fanless laptop is great if you're looking for a silent machine, which the MateBook is, but it's not a gaming computer, so graphically-intensive tasks will probably overwhelm it. This machine is specifically designed for casual-use, like browsing the web or watching Netflix. It's a solid machine for work and entertainment, but you need to be realistic with your expectations.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, especially if you're looking for an alternative to the Apple MacBook
If you love Apple's signature design, but prefer Windows 10 over macOS, the MateBook is the right choice. The lean body makes it the perfect travel companion, and it's powerful enough to handle most of your computing needs. For a first attempt, Huawei really knocked it out of the park. The premium machine is not without its flaws, though.
The ultra-thin design means less room for ports. Though it has twice the ports as the latest MacBook, and Huawei includes a MateDock dongle for additional connectivity, it's still an ultrabook, so connectivity is limited. The base of the MateBook also gets hot under a heavy load, so may want to avoid running high-performance activities.
The MateBook is on the expensive end, too, but that's not out of the ordinary with ultrabooks. If you're working with a flexible budget, I'd spring for the high-end configuration. The faster processor really makes a difference and the gold case is drop-dead gorgeous. Though Apple has a longer track record with ultraportable products, you're still going to get everything you need from Huawei's premium machine.