Announced back in May, Huawei's new MateBook X laptop contains some serious features. For one thing, the fanless design allows it to be less than half an inch thick, and it weighs just over one kilogram, making it super-portable. But the device doesn't sacrifice performance in the name of portability, still using Intel's U-series processor instead of the lower-end Y-series.
It's also the first 13-inch laptop to include Dolby Atmos audio, and the first to feature 4.4mm bezels. Still, there's no touchscreen, and it's a standard laptop form factor. Read on to find out if it's worth it.
First of all, you might notice that I received this device to review over a month and a half ago. The reason that I'm only writing the review now is that the device that you see above isn't actually one that's for sale in the United States. For one thing, the Rose Gold color option is exclusive to China.
Moreover, that laptop had 4GB of RAM, and both of the variants that are currently sold have 8GB RAM. It wouldn't have been fair to review that one, so I asked Huawei to send me a unit that's similar to one that you might actually end up buying.
You can see from the video that it comes with the new MateDock, which has some changes from last year's model. While you get one less USB Type-A port, the good news is that it's not an accessory that's sold separately anymore.
|CPU||Intel Core i5-7200U or i7-7500U|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 620|
|Display||13 inches, 2160x1440, 350 nits|
|Features||Bluetooth 4.1, Dolby Atmos|
|Colors||Space Grey, Prestige Gold|
Note that these specs reflect the models that are available in the US. In China, there are models offered with 4GB RAM and in Rose Gold.
To be more specific, there are two models: one with a Core i5, 256GB SSD, and the Space Grey color; and the other with a Core i7, 512GB, and Prestige Gold. At this point, it's certainly worth noting that the $200 jump in price is very low compared to other PCs, considering the upgrade in CPU and storage. I was sent the former.
It's also worth mentioning though, that when you're upgrading to the i7, you're not upgrading to the best Core i7 available. With something like the i7-7560U or i7-7660U chips, the GPU would be bumped up to the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, and you'd see a significant increase in performance. I'm not complaining though, because $1,299 for a Core i7 and a 512GB SSD is still a great deal.
Make no mistake; the headlining features of the MateBook X are the fanless design, the narrow bezels, and the Dolby Atmos audio, but none of those are my favorite. My favorite feature of this laptop is the fingerprint reader that's used for Windows Hello.
Normally, this is where I say that I prefer facial recognition in a laptop over fingerprint scanning, as it's more natural. Not in this case though, as the power button doubles as the sensor, rather than having a dedicated button.
But to make it even better, the fingerprint reader works when you power on the device. In other words, once Windows is booted, you won't have to put your finger on the sensor again. It's just going to automatically log you in.
And of course, it's also fast and accurate. Huawei makes wonderful fingerprint scanners, as anyone with a P10 or Mate 9 can attest to.
In short, it's an excellent fingerprint scanner, and it's very well-implemented.
I do love this laptop. It's super-thin, at less than half an inch, and it's really light at about 2.3 pounds. But here's the kicker: unlike some other devices that are this portable, like Apple's MacBook, it uses Intel's U-series processors, rather than the rebranded Core m-series chips, which are now known as the Core i Y-series. And if you're not familiar, U-series processors are what you'll find in any premium 13-inch laptop or convertible.
But the MateBook X has a fanless design, and Huawei says that it's the first 13-inch laptop to offer a U-series chip without a fan. Microsoft's new Surface Pro doesn't have a fan in the Core i5 model (it is also U-series, and to be fair, it's a different form factor), but the MateBook is still fanless with an i7.
Aside from how astonishingly thin and light it is, there are a few other things to note. For one thing, remember that this is a non-touch laptop. That means that unlike convertibles, you can't fold the screen back on a 360-degree hinge.
As far as ports go, there are two USB Type-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack. Unfortunately, neither of these USB ports are Thunderbolt 3, and only one of them can be used to power the device. Oddly enough, if you use the power port for the MateDock, it will tell you to use the other one if you're going to be connecting to a display.
Above the keyboard is the speaker grille, and the power button/fingerprint sensor. The front-facing camera is placed above the display, or exactly where you'd expect it to be in a device of this form factor.
Personally, I do love how thin and light this laptop is, and it actually feels worth it that the user is forced to sacrifice access to USB Type-A ports, although you do get one with the MateDock.
The 13-inch 1440p display is gorgeous, just as you'd expect it to be. It promises 350 nits of brightness, sRGB 100% color gamut, and 1000:1 contrast. It also has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is the same as Microsoft's Surface lineup.
The thing that really makes it beautiful is the narrow bezels, which come in at 4.4mm on each side. Huawei says that they're the narrowest bezels on a 13-inch laptop, and I can't really disagree.
The only real downside to the display is that there's no touchscreen, and of course, no pen support. I'm not a big user of the touchscreen, so I don't really miss it, but it's really weird to try and use it and it's not there. It does take a little bit of getting used to, but if you don't use a touchscreen for anything important, you won't miss it over time.
Also, in using the MateBook X, I did remember a big benefit to not having a touchscreen: I don't have to clean the screen as much. There are no fingerprints, and I don't miss them.
With the pros and cons, I think it would be nice if the touchscreen was there, but I certainly wouldn't want to add any thickness or weight to the device, so take it for what it is.
Dolby Atmos audio
Huawei says that the MateBook X is the first 13-inch laptop to use Dolby Atmos, and it really sounds phenomenal. As far as audio quality and volume goes, this is the best laptop that I've ever used in my life.
This is the part where I kind of wish that it was a convertible though. The device sounds great when watching movies or listening to music, but I don't really watch movies or TV shows on a laptop. I will, however, watch them on a tablet, or a laptop that can be converted into a tablet. Frankly, I'd just like to see this feature on tablets and convertibles. I do enjoy listening to music while working though, and boy does it sound great.
The laptop comes with the Dolby Atmos Sound System app, which "identifies content and performs automatic adjustments to deliver the best sound". You can also manually set it to Movie, Music, Game, Voice, or a custom setting.
Good news, everyone! Despite the fact that the PC itself only has USB Type-C ports, it comes bundled with a dongle for expansion. This adds one USB Type-A, one HDMI, and one VGA port, and it has its own Type-C port.
Unfortunately, one USB Type-A port doesn't seem to be enough. For me personally, that always has a mouse plugged into it, so in the rare event that I need to plug in something else, like a USB drive, I can't.
This issue probably wouldn't bug me so much if the original MateDock didn't have two Type-A ports. In fact, the new model also ditches the port for a wired network connection. I'd go so far as to say that if you've got the extra money lying around, see if you can grab the original MateDock, or a third-party dock.
The MateDock 2.0 does what it's meant to though, and it's nice that it comes bundled with the laptop. If you want more, there are plenty of other accessories that you can purchase.
As with all PC reviews that I write, I've been typing the entire article on the device. After all, I type for a living, so this is the real test. I haven't had any issues with it, and I find it to be very comfortable to type on.
The keys travel 1.22mm, which is shallower than last year's MateBook Portfolio Keyboard. Still, it's an enjoyable experience, even if it's not what you're used to.
Also, I want to note that the keys are, for the most part, accurate. For some reason, I'll often find that keyboards on laptops can either be too sensitive - typing characters twice when I meant to type them once - or not sensitive enough - occasionally missing a character. If anything, the MateBook X leans on the sensitive side, but not to the point where it's caused an issue.
The battery life is about what you'd expect from a PC of this form factor. It's really thin and light, which also means that it doesn't have a large battery. From my usage, I find that it gets a solid six hours - which isn't great for a mobile PC, but I think it's pretty good for something that's so portable.
Note that my usage includes Skype, Google Chrome (multiple tabs open), some Netflix (UWP app), some Hulu (UWP app), Groove, Amazon Music, and some minor Photoshop editing. Depending on what you use the MateBook X for, I've found that you can get over eight hours on it, but apps like Chrome are notorious battery hogs.
The big question for Huawei's MateBook X is its performance. Being really portable and having great features isn't enough if you can't get your work done.
As I mentioned earlier, the model that I've been using is with a Core i5 processor, and it seems to be on par with other Core i5 U-series machines. I haven't had any performance issues that I'd want to point out, although it's still not up to where Core i7 machines that I've reviewed are.
I used PCMark 8 for benchmarks, and ran three different tests. The first is Home, which is meant to simulate the kind of tasks that you'd perform in a home office.
Keep in mind that saying that it's better than 27% of all results is comparing it with other devices that have better specs. Again, if you're looking for more, the Core i7 model is just $200 more, but I'll once again point out that in real life, I've not had any issues at all.
The next test is called Creative, which as you can probably guess, simulates things like photo and video editing.
Finally, the last test is Work, which simulates productivity-related tasks.
As you can see, the scores are pretty good across the Creative and Work tests.
Frankly, I love the Huawei MateBook X. It's a wonderful mixture of portability, productivity, and entertainment. I'm the type of guy that has to throw a laptop in a bag and carry it around in a backpack for hours in New York City, and it's just so comfortable to carry this one around. In fact, I sometimes find myself double-checking to make sure that it's there, as it's so light.
And that's a key feature for a laptop. If you don't need to carry it around, you'd just buy a desktop.
I always feel like Huawei puts a lot of thought and consideration into its products, and that really shows on the MateBook X. This PC is the only 13-inch laptop that has a U-series processor and a fanless design, even in the Core i7 model.
But portability isn't all that there is to the MateBook X, as it's a beautiful device with a stunning edge-to-edge 1440p display. If you like to listen to music while you're working, great. The Dolby Atmos speakers sound amazing.
Unless you really need a touchscreen, a convertible form factor, or an abundance of USB Type-A ports, the MateBook X is definitely a buy. I'd recommend going for the Core i7 model, as you get double the SSD storage, and it's only an additional $200.