Huawei MateBook X Pro 2020 review
Huawei has a new high-end laptop out, the MateBook X Pro 2020. That said, its newness is all on the inside. The Chinese company has fitted its champ with the latest low-voltage Core processors from Intel, and upgraded the Nvidia graphics, and thats it. Everything else has basically stayed the same, so lets take a deep dive and see what makes the new MateBook X Pro actually new, and what doesnt. Is it worth the substantial asking price? Lets find out.
The MateBook X Pro introduces a new colorway, and switches up the internals with two processor options, both of the Intel 10th generation Core variety. These are paired with 16GB of RAM, 512GB or 1TB of PCIe NVMe storage, and an Nvidia GeForce MX250 dedicated GPU. The battery is still 56Wh, and the screen is the same excellent 3000×2000 3:2 IPS panel from before, with 100% sRGB coverage and 450 nits of brightness.
The Core i5 model, with 512GB of storage, is priced at 1,599, while the Core i7 version with 1TB of storage goes for 1,899. The rest of the specs are identical between them, and our review unit is the latter.
If you buy the Space Gray model, youll be hard pressed to tell just by looking at it that this is the 2020 incarnation. You can of course opt for the Emerald Green variation, in which case youre sure to stand out from your fellow office workers. Though with working from home becoming a big thing nowadays because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the show-off factor may be minimized somewhat. That said, were happy to see flashier hues for laptops, something thats been a staple of the smartphone world for many years now. Sure, black, gray, silver are all fine and professional-looking but stale too, unfortunately.
MateBook X Pro 2020 in Emerald Green
Anyway, our review unit is Space Gray, and it looks exactly like its predecessor. We dont mean mostly, or has the same design language, or has the same vibes here – its identical. So you get the all-metal design with glass on top of the touchscreen. The laptop feels very good in the hand, its sturdy and weve had absolutely zero creaks whatsoever.
Top, bottom, front and back while closed
Weight-wise, its somewhere in the middle of its class. Its by no means the lightest, but its not so heavy that it becomes unwieldy to carry around with you all day. The all-metal build combined with the 1.33 kg weight does lend it a feel of quality, that heft isnt so much that youd call this too much to handle. Build quality is outstanding, we have nothing to complain about there.
Maximum lid opening angle
Opening the hinge with one hand is something that is achievable, but isnt incredibly easy. Speaking of the hinge, you cant even open the lid all the way up to 180 degrees, not to mention 360. At this price point, thats quite unfortunate. The maximum give of the hinge will make for a pretty comfortable position regardless of how youre using the laptop, but its barely there, we would have appreciated more flexibility here.
The pop-up camera is housed in the function keys row, in between F6 and F7, and this is great for privacy freaks but bad for everyone who ever wants to use it. The position obviously means it will be staring up your nose at all times, so youll be that weirdo on every conference call. Of course you can alleviate this issue entirely if you use a separate webcam. We give Huawei points for thinking outside of the box here, since it had no space in the tiny display bezels to place the camera. But aside from the clear privacy benefits to this positioning, there are only downsides, and competitors like Dell have somehow figured out how to put cameras in tiny bezels anyway.
Ports, input devices
The MateBook X Pro comes with two USB-C ports on the left, with support for fast charging and DisplayPort), and a 3.5 mm combo mic/headphone hole. On the other side you only get one USB-A 3.0 port and thats it. Compromises had to be made to make the device this thin, but as you can see its way less compromised in this area than some MacBooks.
Ports (left and right sides)
The keyboard is backlit, and you can cycle through three different levels as well as an off state with the F3 key. The backlighting is adequate, but theres absolutely no customization of anything about it, so keep that in mind.
The keys dont feel like they have a ton of travel, but it is probably enough for most people, although this reviewer wouldve liked if they were easier to depress – as in, had less resistance to being pressed. Thats the other important aspect of how a keyboard feels, aside from how much travel there is. While for key travel wed rate the MateBook X Pro as good, stiffness is a bit too high, but you obviously may not care about any of this. The keyboard sound isnt as annoying as others, and its slightly quieter too, and the keyboard area doesnt flex at all, it feels very sturdy with no creaks whatsoever – which, naturally, is as it should be at this price point.
Keyboard and trackpad
The trackpad is huge, its centered (which is a big plus for us), and its simply outstanding. It feels really good to the touch, and the buttons are very clicky (though some may actually dislike this). Gestures on the trackpad work perfectly, and all of these things combined mean you may reach for a mouse much less than when using other laptops, even if you are a mouse forever kind of person, like this reviewer.
Fingerprint sensor in the power button
The fingerprint sensor is embedded into the power button, and its hit-and-miss. Wed have it recognize our print from the first try around 70% of the time, which isnt very bad, but isnt very good either. The fingerprint scanner is also your only biometric security solution to use with Windows, since theres no support for face scanning with Windows Hello. And compared to capacitive fingerprint sensors on smartphones, this one is just worse, for some reason. Its obviously not a huge issue to just touch it again when it doesnt recognize your finger from the first try, but it is one of those things that can get annoying over time. Hopefully new driver updates may fix this situation.
Display and sound
The 13.9 3:2 3000×2000 IPS touchscreen is definitely what most stands out in the MateBook X Pro. That was true for the first iteration of the series, and its still true today, with the 2020 model. The bezel-cutting trend that has been doing its thing for a long time in the smartphone world has finally made it to laptops over the past year or two, and were all for it.
The word immersive has been overused throughout the tech world, but it is actually the best way to describe this panel, and thats thanks to its tiny bezels, with an advertised 91% screen-to-body ratio, but also because its a very good display, with 100% coverage of the sRGB color space.
Our review units panel was made by JDI, and it seems to be the exact same one used in previous iterations of the MateBook X Pro – the LPM139M422A. It is a very high-quality part, this, and with good pixel density too. Because its a touchscreen its entirely covered with glass, there are no plastic bezels here sticking out, like in lower-end non-touchscreen laptops. That just adds to the premium look and feel.
The MateBook X Pro 2020s screen does get bright, up to 450 nits, which means its definitely not impossible to use outdoors on a sunny day, but that, unfortunately, is not going to be a frustration-free affair. While it is bright, its also very reflective, so you may have to fiddle with positioning so that you dont get distracted by reflections of whatever happens to be around you. We really wish Huawei wouldve made it less reflective for this years model, as that reflectiveness kind of mitigates the high brightness somewhat.
Screen reflects daylight a lot
The 3:2 aspect ratio still isnt very popular outside of a few laptop makers including Microsoft (and, obviously, Huawei). Proponents of it highlight the fact that its better suited for office work than 16:9 or 16:10, but that obviously comes at the cost of big top and bottom black bars when youre watching any kind of video content. It also makes this screen slightly narrower than a 16:9 14 panel would be, which means that if youre used to having two windows side by side when you work, that will make things ever so slightly more cramped-feeling.
Theres an ambient light sensor too, which seems to have a mind of its own. We were forced to constantly manually adjust brightness settings because the sensor seemingly could never hit the right spot. This is personal, of course, so you may not mind it, and the good news is that you can turn it off if it becomes too annoying. It is jumpy, and all over the place, in this reviewers experience, though, so while its definitely a nice thing to have, it either needs some more tuning or perhaps its placement is less than ideal and thats why its not the most reliable.
Audio quality from the laptops speakers is good, but definitely not on par with the best out there. They get loud enough for most use cases, so thats a plus compared to most laptop speakers, but you really shouldnt expect to be blown away by the sound quality. Its decent, but nothing to get overly excited about. Then again, the sufficient volume levels may be more important to most than quality.
The most awesome thing about the MateBook X Pros battery life is its charger. No, really. Its a one-and-done affair, no two separate cables flowing into an unsightly brick. In this regard its like a phone charger, and is actually about twice the size of your average phone power brick. And then it charges the laptop through USB-C, no proprietary madness here. Its a 65W unit, and it will also gladly top-up your smartphone as well. Its small size and weight make the MateBook X Pro more portable than it wouldve been with one of those huge power bricks other manufacturers are using, because the total weight (and volume occupied) goes down when youre traveling with it and the power adapter.
Now, endurance from the 56Wh battery was absolutely fine, you can easily get through a normal day of office work on this device. Since every persons exact use case is different, its hard to put an exact number on it. Well, its not as much hard, as it would be pretty useless. 8 hours of Internet browsing and office work are easily achievable, and thats the standard were holding this computer up to, because of its intended target audience. Charging times are pretty quick too, so overall battery life shouldnt be an issue at all unless youre gaming all the time – but why would you do that on a GeForce MX 250?
The fan rarely comes on at all during menial tasks, but if you push the laptop harder you will start to hear it. Thankfully, its one of the least annoying fans to hear, its not incredibly loud and its hum isnt going to destroy your eardrums. Its not silent by any stretch of the imagination, but is one of the tamer ones out there, not as much in loudness but in its audible range.
Hardware, performance, thermals
Our review unit features Intels new 10th generation i7-10510U low-voltage CPU, 16GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM, the Nvidia GeForce MX250 dedicated graphics card, and a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD. Theres also a less expensive version with Intels Core i5-10210U and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD.
The Core i7-10510U CPU in our unit is part of Intels Comet Lake family, with a TDP of 15W at 1.8GHz, but configurable down to 10W at 800MHz, a clock that the MateBook X Pro definitely uses when its idling or being presented with the least difficult of tasks. The processor has 4 cores and 8 threads, with 8MB of Intel Smart Cache. It supports DDR4 and LPDDR4, but Huawei chose to stick with LPDDR3. This part is still manufactured on a 14nm process, though Intel will gladly add a couple of + signs to that to signify that its constantly being improved. While that may be the case, AMD is using a 7nm process for its latest laptop APU designs, and Intels move to anything under 10nm is still being constantly postponed.
The GeForce MX250 discrete graphics solution is Nvidias current entry-level option for this purpose, and so you shouldnt expect miracles from it. Its just meant to provide a boost in graphics performance compared to what Intels integrated graphics wouldve been capable of.
Performance has been adequate throughout our time with the MateBook X Pro. The Core i7-10510U processor is Intels latest low-voltage champ, and needless to say, there have been no hiccups. The 16GB of RAM is ample for anyone who isnt into extreme video editing, and works well in concert with the CPU to keep things smooth at all times. Funnily enough, though, Windows still stutters for a split second in some specific scenarios – like multi-selecting a few items on the desktop, then right clicking. The menu that shows up is always ever so slightly late, no matter how much processing power you throw at it.
Our review units PCIe NVMe SSD came from Western Digital, while the Wi-Fi network card is the Intel Wireless AC 9560, which gives you 2×2 802.11ac connections for a theoretical maximum throughput of 866Mbps. In practice we saw over 600Mbps every time we tested the laptop in a position thats close to our router. That is some good performance right there, but the omission of Wi-Fi 6 (a.k.a 802.11ax) is kind of baffling in 2020.
We put the MateBook through the Furmark stress test tool, starting with an hour long 100% CPU burn test, using one thread and then all eight. In the one-thread test, the CPU boosted to a maximum of 4.4GHz, and then settled around 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz for the remainder of the time, with very short random dips to 2.1-2.4GHz. It never went under 2.1GHz. Thermally, the maximum CPU temperature was 91 degrees Celsius at the beginning, which then went down to 80+ degrees before settling for 74-82 degrees until the end.
In the eight-thread CPU stress test, we saw boost going to a maximum of 3.8GHz, and then slowly dropping to 2.5GHz and then more, in 100MHz increments, until it reached 2.1GHz and stayed there. In this test, the top temperature we saw for the CPU was 75 degrees Celsius, and it stayed between 70 and 75 throughout.
After these tests, we ran a one-hour GPU burn test, to see how well the MX250 can handle itself. It started at over 800MHz clock, then went down to 620-632MHz for around ten minutes, after which it settled for 700-800MHz until the end. The starting GPU temperature was 68 degrees Celsisus, with a max of 79, a minimum of 52, and 70+ for most of the time.
While the GPU test was running, the CPU went to a maximum temperature of 93 degrees Celsius for a split second, then settled for around 70, while CPU clock speeds understandably jumped around a lot, from the minimum of 798MHz all the way up to 4.3GHz.
So what does this all mean? While its weird that we havent seen the CPU boost to its maximum possible frequency of 4.9GHz, the laptops thermals are good, while not record-breaking in any way. That said, when you factor in the type of workload it was designed for, wed say you have nothing to be afraid of in terms of throttling and general thermal performance.
Its always refreshing to see a PC with zero bloatware preinstalled, and the MateBook X Pro 2020 is one of these rare devices. Technically it does come with one app bundled, and that is Huaweis PC Manager, but we wouldnt go so far as to call this bloatware. It handles driver updates (and does so very well) within a very easy to use interface, and it also is what you use to pair your compatible Huawei smartphone so that you can use the Huawei Share service. This works through the NFC sticker labeled Huawei Share, and you can place your Huawei or Honor handset onto it to initiate connection.
Huawei PC Manager
You can sync your messages, data, and even take calls on your laptop while your phone is connected in this way, and we find that all very handy. Of course if you have a non-Huawei or Honor Android smartphone, you can just use Microsofts equally good Your Phone solution to achieve similar goals. PC Manager also scans for hardware issues for you and suggests fixes – which are primarily about installing those driver updates we mentioned.
Other than this, you get Windows 10 Home as Microsoft intended, with no added cruft, no additional ads, none of that. Its a premium software experience for a premium laptop, as it should be.
Since the first MateBook X Pro was introduced, a lot more laptops have come out with small-ish bezels, so seeing the MateBook X Pro 2020 up close may not have as much of a wow effect from that point of view. That said, this design, while recycled, still makes the device look stunning.
The portability is also hard to overstate, given its compact footprint for an almost-14 screen, as well as its small USB-C charging brick. The new MateBook X Pro feels very good to use, performance is great for its intended target market, and build quality is high through and through.
So, in a vacuum, this would be incredibly easy to recommend for workflows that dont involve heavy video editing or gaming. But nothing actually lives in a vacuum, and neither does the MateBook X Pro 2020. Its price tag, regardless of configuration, makes it anything but affordable, so lets take a look at some possible alternatives.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is the obvious product to compare the MateBook to on the Apple side of the fence. This starts at 1,499, but for that money you get an 8th generation Core i5, just 8GB of RAM, and only 256GB of storage. To go up to a 10th generation i5, match the Matebooks RAM and storage (for its i5 model), youd need to pay 2,129 compared to 1,599 for the Huawei. That is quite a steep mark-up, and youre also losing the touchscreen in the process.
The Dell XPS 13 7390 can be had with the same i7 CPU as the Huawei, the same RAM amount, and half the storage for 1,329, which is a whopping 570 less, but that comes with Intel integrated graphics, and a Full HD non-touch display. If you go up to a 4K touchscreen, you pay 1,489, which is still significantly less than for the MateBook in its top configuration. The new, 2020 XPS 13 9300 starts at 1,659 with a 1920×1200 touchscreen, same RAM and storage as the 1,899 Huawei, but a different Core i7 branch (so its not directly comparable).
The HP Spectre x360 brings a 360-degree hinge to the table along with a touchscreen, and for the same 1,899 asking price as the top model of the MateBook, youre also getting a more powerful Core i7-9750H CPU, a much better GeForce GTX1650 GPU, but only 512GB of storage.
Note that all of these prices are from the manufacturers official stores for Germany, you may be able to find all of these products cheaper elsewhere. We brought these other laptops into the discussion to point out that the MateBook X Pro 2020 is by no means in a league of its own. In fact, there are plenty of other devices that offer slightly different packages at about the same price (or lower).
So then youd pick the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2020 over all the other options out there because it strikes the perfect balance for you. If you want one of the best screens in the Windows laptop world, which is high-res enough while not being 4K, and has a still not very common 3:2 aspect ratio, this is a winner.
The laptop will also perform very well for ultrabook types of tasks. As long as you dont throw heavy games at it or try to edit hours of 4K footage, youll be fine. Battery life is very good for most use cases, charging is fast (and the brick is small and light and can even charge your smartphone through USB-C), the software is devoid of any bloat, there are a lot of things going for the MateBook.
What is no longer as big a draw is the design. It was revolutionary, at least on the screen bezels front, back in 2018 when it first got unveiled, but now two years later this chassis could definitely use some updating. Oh, and the webcams position means youll probably need to buy an external one for any significant amount of video conferencing. Its a good package overall, the MateBook X Pro 2020, it just doesnt really have any area in which it fully stands out from the competition. That said, it is easy to recommend, so long as your use cases align with its strengths and you can stretch your budget far enough.