avatarby David ImelJuly 11, 20170 comments
8.4

A lightweight productivity beast

Huawei has made an incredibly impressive first attempt into the traditional ultrabook market. Though they have experience making 2-in-1's, the company has produced what feels like an incredibly refined version of a first generation laptop.

Positives

Bright and color accurate screen
Solid aluminum chassis
Fantastic typing experience
Incredible integrated speakers
Wonderful touch-pad
Accurate fingerprint reader
Minimal bezels

Negatives

Middle-of-the-road battery life
Only 1 USB Type-C Data Port
Cheap feeling dongle
Gets hot under load

Huawei has been making huge strides in the computing industry over the last couple of years, hitting the consumer market hard with the introduction of the Nexus 6P back in 2015. Since then, it’s been slowly creeping into US consumer awareness, and has started producing both smartwatches as well as 2-in-1 ultrabooks. Now, the company is looking to compete in the ultra-slim notebook market, and has built something which it thinks is ready to take on the 12 inch Macbook, the Huawei Matebook X.

This is the company’s first true laptop, with all of its past computers being 2-in-1 tablet designs. Though it lacks a touchscreen and is limited to just 2 USB-C ports, the Huawei Matebook X makes up for it with its ultra slim and portable design which should make any style-obsessive user swoon.

So can the company break past their tradition of producing tablet-style 2-in-1’s and move into the more traditional ultrabook market? It’s time to find out.

Design

The Huawei Matebook X has a design language which takes a number of cues from the 12″ Macbook. With a sturdy aluminum shell sizing up to 12.5mm and weighing in at 1.05kg, this laptop is as portable as it is functional, and features a beautiful 2k 2160 x 1440 display and bezels of only 4.4mm on each side. There is essentially no wasted space on this laptop, and everything from the screen to the keyboard is nearly edge-to-edge.

The footprint of the laptop is extremely minimal, with a diagonal distance of just 13 inches on the body. The Matebook X is made to go anywhere you do, and should fit easily into just about any backpack or laptop case you want to toss it in. The aluminum finish traverses nearly every inch of the notebook, from the top of the shell to the keyboard and palm rests. This gives the unit an extremely premium feel, especially with 2 of the 3 color options coming in with gold accents.

There is a speaker grill sitting right above the keyboard which features Dolby Atmos sound, and a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader for biometric sign in capabilities. This is an incredibly welcome addition, as you merely need to keep your finger on the button for an extra couple of seconds in order to sign in to Windows biometrically. The company brought this over from their mobile handsets, and we’re extremely glad to see some sort of extra security keeping your data safe.

Save the palm rests, very little of this laptop’s space is actually wasted. You can see how hard Huawei worked to make this thing as compact as possible, while still retaining the ability to get work done. There is a very minimal thickness increase as you move along the side of the device, but it is so minimal that you will only notice it if you go looking for it. This is to accommodate for the ports near the top of the device while allowing for a very minimal keyboard tilt.

The Matebook X uses a completely fanless design, meaning it makes effectively no noise, but also makes it quite susceptible to heat. There are four rubber pads and three screws mounted to the bottom of the unit, but overall it looks quite sleek. With nothing but a subtle shiny Huawei logo sitting in the top shell, this laptop looks very elegant and boasts simplicity over gaudiness.

Ports and Features

The left side of the device features a USB Type-C port for power input with a 3.5mm headphone jack resting right below it, and the right side of the notebook has another USB Type-C port for data only. This is a strange move for Huawei, since in theory the USB Type-C standard is able to house Thunderbolt 3 to transfer both power and data through the port. Forcing the user to use the leftmost port for power instead of either seems like a strange and limiting move, as the side you want to plug your laptop into can change dramatically depending on the situation.

Fortunately for consumers, the Matebook X comes with, you guessed it, a dongle. This dongle is called the MateDock 2.0, and expands your right-end USB Type-C port into another USB Type-C port, a full-sized USB Type-A port, full size HDMI, and VGA. In this way, you’re able to plug in an exterior display as well as transfer data, which is useful since the laptop itself does not have many of these capabilities.

I’m a bit confused about the evolution of the Huawei MateDock. This 2.0 “evolution” technically has less ports versus last year’s model, is more awkwardly shaped, and is made of plastic instead of metal like the initial release. One large benefit is the fact that this dongle comes with your Matebook instead of being an optional accessory, but we would have preferred to at least see an extra USB Type-A port like was present in the last iteration of this dongle.

Keyboard

I was originally a bit worried about the feel of this keyboard, as the overall thinness of the notebook would normally make for a sub-optimal experience. However, Huawei has managed to pack in a full-fledged board with 1.2mm of key travel. Combined with the tough metal keys, this results in an extremely positive typing experience. There is also next to no keyboard flex since it is embedded right into the aluminum chassis itself, giving the keys an extremely premium feel.

The keyboard has 2 different lighting settings available to the user, which can be either minimally or brightly lit. The laptop will adjust the light option automatically based on the available light in the room, but you can always force it to use one of the 3 modes if you choose to do so.

The keys on this laptop are splash resistant too, so you should be safe just in case you happen to spill some water or other liquid on it. Though you shouldn’t go around dunking this thing in a tub, you should be protected against more minimal accidents.

Touchpad

The touchpad of the device is quite a bit wider than it is tall, and has a very slick and soft finish that makes it a joy to use. There are right and left click buttons built right into the touch-pad with no visible separation, and there is nice feedback on the unit when compressed. The touch-pad is recessed into the device ever so slightly, but it is hardly noticeable in use. I do enjoy this feature however, as it separates the wrist rest from the area which you would actually be touching quite well.

The Matebook X uses Microsoft’s precision touch drivers which work very nicely and support multi-touch gestures. Tracking is great and feels smooth, and I actually enjoy using this touch-pad much more than something like the Dell XPS 15. While some might be wishing for a taller track-pad, the sensitivity is quite high and it only takes one fluid swipe to get from one end of the screen to the other.

Display

The Huawei Matebook X uses a 2k 2160×1440 IPS display with Gorilla glass, and it is absolutely stunning. The display covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut, making it a great option for someone who wants to do some professional color editing on the go. Adding to this, it can also get quite bright, with a peak brightness of 350 nits and a contrast ratio of 1000:1. If you were looking for a laptop with a bright, color accurate screen, this one fits the bill quite nicely.

The device also uses an aspect ratio of 3:2, which is quite a bit taller than the average laptop’s ratio of 16:9. This is nicer for content like websites, and gives a certain aesthetic feel usually only available on tablets. However, most video content is produced for 16:9 displays, so you are going to get some letterboxing on the top and bottom of the screen when watching most videos in full screen. This is barely noticeable however, and the benefits unlocked from a taller screen far outweigh the cons in my opinion.

Speakers

Huawei has partnered with Dolby Audio to produce what I think are some of the best sounding laptop speakers on the market. Even turned up to full blast, the audio experience on the Matebook X delivers clean crisp audio with extremely minimal distortion. Huawei has made a big deal about the speakers in this unit, and now I can see why. This is the first time Dolby has designed custom speakers for a PC, and it is evident that it was important to them that they get it right.

Huawei says that the Dolby Atmos software is able to analyze the incoming audio signal in real time in order to adjust for a better listening experience. This aids in creating a sound signature that is crisp and clean with wonderful bass response and extremely clear dialogue.

Atmos was originally developed for the cinema in order to create a 3D-like audio experience, but the company has finally opted to bring it to notebooks in order to help make the laptop media experience better. While I wouldn’t say the sound feels like it is coming from all around me like Huawei and Dolby are claiming, the experience is certainly much more rich and full than something from a competing laptop. This absolutely blows something like the Dell XPS out of the water in terms of sound quality, and you’ll never want to go back to other laptop speakers again.

There are two motors in each speaker placed within the grill above the keyboard which fire upwards to produce sound. This is a much better implementation than a bottom-firing option as it minimizes distortion, but I do love something like the Surface Book which fires sound directly into your face. Overall though, the audio experience makes me feel as though I don’t need external speakers, and I’m often finding myself wish I could use the laptop’s speakers instead of noise-canceling headphones in the workplace.

Performance

Our Matebook X sports a 7th generation Intel Core i7 7500U dual-core processor running at 2.7GHz with a 2.9GHz boost, 8GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. This is quite a nice set of specs for a laptop of this footprint, which absolutely blows similarly targeted laptops such as the Macbook out of the water. Priced at 1699 €, this notebook comes out to just about the same price as the top model Macbook as well, and it’s base clock is just about twice as fast. The boost clock does come in lower however, so Apple likely clocked their notebook lower in order to preserve battery life.

The Intel HD 620 iGPU isn’t exactly going to be pushing high frame rates in games, but it gets the job done in terms of displaying content and encoding video. When doing basic photo editing we found it to do just fine, but video editing makes it fall a bit short. If you’re simply surfing the web and doing light tasks on this thing, it will be a great option, though you’ll need to be wary of those Chrome tabs and streaming video in the background. While writing this review I had E3 2017 streaming on YouTube, and it caused some pretty major lag. This was while connected to an external display however, and most users will likely be using the laptop on the laptop display itself. That being said, it would be nice to get some smoother computing, so we would have liked to see a higher boost clock than is offered by this laptop.

Heat/Noise

The Matebook X can get quite hot. When I went to install Chrome on the notebook the CPU kicked it up a notch, and the bottom of the device got quite toasty. You’re going to want to use this in a cool or room-temperature area, since there are no fans present in the device. Using this thing on your lap may also get a bit uncomfortable when doing heavier tasks, so you may want to stick to a desk for most tasks. That being said, the heat is more targeted towards the top of the unit’s keyboard, so it’s not generally too uncomfortable to use on the daily.

The Matebook X makes essentially no noise since it is a fan-less design. This is awesome, since it means you will always be able to hear what you need to from the speakers, and you’re never going to be annoying the people around you. While other laptops can get quite loud while under load, the Matebook chugs along silently. This is especially useful for working in public places like coffee shops, where others might be bothered by extra noise. With such silent computation abilities, it’s hard not to love this little laptop.

Battery Life

Battery life is an area which the Matebook X saw very mixed results. Though the company says the laptop can get 10 hours of video playback with 1080p video, our testing indicated 3 hours and 35 minutes of general use using 3DMark’s Home battery test. This test continuously ran a number of tasks that you would do while using your device at home, including writing, photo editing, video chat, casual gaming, and web browsing. We ran the benchmark with the brightness set to 50% just as the company did in their video playback testing, though continuously playing back video may be much more efficient than running a bunch of other services. However, this test included heavier tasks such as light gaming, which is going to significantly decrease battery life on the device.

After using the laptop normally without any gaming included, we saw about 7 hours, so it was likely the gaming and video chat simulation that drained the battery in these tests. That isn’t to say these circumstances wouldn’t come about in day-to-day use, but it is a bit of a stretch to say you are going to do all of these actions in a single charge. My real-world tests included a lot of writing and a bit of YouTube streaming, and we saw much better results in that use case.

The Matebook X uses a 41.4Wh battery, and it charges very quickly. After I ran the battery test that drained this thing dry, I was able to charge it back up to 100% in about 2.5 hours, all while using it with an external display. If you’re someone who needs to be able to juice up your laptop on the fly for a bit of quick use, this laptop will do great.

Price & Specifications

Price
UK
1399 €1599 €1699 €
Touchscreen:NoNoNo
Processor:Intel Core i5-7200UIntel Core i5-7200UIntel Core i7-7500U
OS:Windows 10 HomeWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 Home
Memory:8GB DDR38GB DDR38GB DDR3
Storage:256GB SSD512GB SSD512GB SSD
Graphics:Intel HD 620Intel HD 620Intel HD 620
Display:3:2 13" 2k
(2160x1440)
3:2 13" 2k
(2160x1440)
3:2 13" 2k
(2160x1440)
Battery Life:41.4Wh - Up to 10 hours of video playback41.4Wh - Up to 10 hours of video playback41.4Wh - Up to 10 hours of video playback

Gallery

Final Verdict

I was immensely surprised at how much I came to adore the Huawei Matebook X. Though it’s not going to be doing any heavy gaming, its compact size, great keyboard, fantastic screen, and amazing speakers left me wanting to leave my XPS 15 at home most of the time. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have some serious caveats though. The body gets quite hot when under load, and performance can lag a bit if you aren’t great with your RAM management and want to stream video at the same time as doing work. The Intel 620 graphics work fine for general use but won’t get you very far if you want to do anything past productivity. Overall though, it is a great option for those who want a compact option on the go, and it will be more than enough to blast through your daily web surfing and writing activities.

What do you think about the Matebook X? For a first attempt at a full-fledged ultrabook, we think Huawei did a pretty amazing job. Though pricing has only been announced for Europe, we still don’t know when this thing is actually set to hit the market. For those who have been searching for a solid alternative to the Macbook, look no further.