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Huawei MateBook X Pro 2020 review: Feels like Déjà vu

I’m a big fan of Huawei’s laptops. From their more budget-friendly options like the Huawei D14 and D15, to the more premium MateBook 13 and MateBook X Pro, the company has released some great hardware to signal its intentions to be a serious player in the laptop market. The new Huawei Matebook X Pro 2020, now available in Malaysia, builds upon the considerable strengths of the first MateBook X Pro (first launched in 2018). 

Updated internals and much of the same key features of the first iteration mean that Huawei’s “new” flagship laptop isn’t exactly groundbreaking in nature. But still, if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it, right? Instead, you work out the kinks and focus on perfecting the product for the masses. We’re still seeing a superb 3K touch display, the same premium-feeling build and construction, and fast USB-PD charging. 

But there’s something else to keep in mind. The new MateBook X Pro is priced in Malaysia at RM7,999: a whole RM1,000 more than the 2018 iteration, although you now get a 1TB SSD over the 512GB of the previous iteration. Still, this is a fairly significant increase in price, and it arguably dilutes the whole bang-for-your-premium-buck offering that Huawei’s first MateBook X Pro offered in 2018. 

So, before you decide to go for the MateBook X Pro 2020 as your portable workhorse PC, let’s talk about the value proposition that Huawei’s latest flagship laptop brings to the table first.

What’s new in 2020?

The new MateBook X Pro is only available in a single variant for the Malaysian market. This means that you’re paying RM7,999 for the top, top model in the series, which features a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10510U processor along with 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM. 

Storage is generous enough and certainly up to par with market standards, via the included 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD. Huawei hasn’t confirmed if storage is soldered on or if you can swap it out for another M.2 SSD, but several users on Reddit have experimented with upgrading SSDs for the 2018 MateBook X Pro. That said, proceed at your own risk: Huawei warns that removing the SSD by yourself may result in your warranty being void.

Additionally, we’re also seeing Nvidia’s new MX250 GPU replace the MX150 from the older MateBook, and the same USB-PD compliant fast-charging speed of 65W.

In fact, most of the upgrades to the MateBook X Pro are merely incremental ones, to help keep the laptop up to date with renewed competition from the likes of Apple and Dell. But despite the increased price tag, this Huawei laptop still holds its own in 2020.

Design: More of the same—the good and the bad

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Just like the name of the laptop, the Huawei MateBook X Pro looks alot like it was “inspired” by Apple’s MacBook series. I’m not too bothered, though—it looks great to me. The look and design of the 2020 edition of the MateBook X Pro is practically identical to the 2018 version, so you get the same aluminium alloy material, the same large trackpad, and yes, the same recessed webcam. 

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Speaking of which, I will say that I’m not a fan of the return of this particular “feature”. The unflattering video call angles outweigh the privacy benefits of the recessed webcam to me, and a practical option would be to have a slide-over flap/cover for that peace of mind. Suffice to say, I did not enable video for any virtual meetings when using the MateBook X Pro. 

Plus, this design choice also means that there is no Windows Hello facial recognition on the Matebook X Pro. Which is rather disappointing, although the fingerprint scanner works well enough.

The rest of the laptop’s design speaks for itself. The curved edges on the top and bottom of the body feel great in hand, and Huawei has clearly put a lot of emphasis on creating a product that looks and feels premium.

At just 1.33kg with dimensions of 304mm x 14.6mm x 217mm, it’s also just the right size for most messenger bags, and it’s definitely light enough to be a portable daily driver.

Display: More of the same—it’s all good

Huawei has gone with the same, 3K display for the 2020 MateBook X Pro, which holds its own against rivals in the same class. For some comparison, the 13” MacBook Pro 2020’s display only has a resolution of 2560×1600 pixels, a figure that is dwarfed by the MateBook’s 3000×2000 pixel display. Again, this is an identical display to the 2018 version, so you’re looking at the same figures. 

And that’s a 13.9” LTPS LCD touch screen display with a contrast ratio of 1500:1 and a max brightness of 450 nits. I tend to work in my balcony if I’m at home, and viewability of the MateBook’s display wasn’t an issue. Viewing angles are solid, not spectacular, and the display put out some vibrant colours (unless you have Windows’ Night Light on).

I will say, however, that the touch display isn’t something that I used frequently. I just don’t think that Windows 10 is optimised for touch devices yet, and right now, it feels like a gimmick that’s just nice to have. Still, I’ve met users (including colleagues here at SoyaCincau) who enjoy the use of touchscreens, while others have talked about the added functionality that a stylus can bring in classroom situations.

But the best bit about the MateBook X Pro’s display isn’t even something as glamorous as its high resolution or touch display. Unlike many other laptops in the market today, Huawei has gone with a 3:2 aspect ratio for the display on the MateBook X Pro. This basically means that the display is a lot taller compared to 16:10 (or 16:9) screens, which are more commonly seen on laptops of this size. 

Still, I suppose some users will still prefer a wider aspect ratio, especially those who regularly use their laptops to watch movies and Netflix. But with a 3:2 display, you get a little more vertical screen real estate when browsing through web pages, emails, or even when you’re reading long-form content online—just like this article.

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And with all of that taken into consideration, I’d have to say that this is one of the best displays I’ve seen on a laptop of this size.

Performance: Up to 2020 standards for most users

With all of that in mind, Huawei’s flagship MateBook is clearly targeted towards users who want to have a powerful, versatile laptop that’s still small enough to take everywhere with you. Thanks to the 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10510U under the hood and the 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM (no LPDDR4 here, unfortunately), using the MateBook X Pro as a daily driver felt buttery smooth.

I must caveat this by saying that my daily use of the device usually revolved around having multiple (14 at the time of writing) tabs open, Spotify running in the background, as well as some light photo editing in Photoshop. I also did a bit of gaming, and you shouldn’t run into too many issues if all you’re looking to play are eSports titles like Dota 2—however, don’t expect the MX250 to be able to handle any 2020 AAA titles to any satisfactory degree.

I also ran the MateBook X Pro through some widely-used benchmarks, which you can see below:

However, real-world experiences are always the best way to gauge performance, and the MateBook X Pro doesn’t let me down in that regard. On Dota 2, I didn’t experience any notable framerate drops throughout any games, and the laptop ran Dota 2 at a respectable 110 fps on average with the resolution set at Full HD.

Something that you do need to consider, however, is the heat management of Huawei’s laptop. 

Basically, upper half of the keyboard starts to feel very hot whenever you run processor-heavy tasks (gaming, video editing), despite CPU core temperatures remaining at around 78°C during an hour-long session of Dota 2. While I already expected this based on the size of the MateBook X Pro (and my experiences with other MateBook laptops), I was still surprised at how uncomfortable the heat was—to the point that I resorted to using an external keyboard and mouse.

This issue with heat dissipation has been a complaint for the MateBook X Pro in the past; apparently, it had something to do with fast-charging the laptop while running heavy tasks. However, it’s worth noting that I didn’t really experience any thermal throttling either.

Still, I was hoping for Huawei to rectify for the 2020 edition of their flagship laptop, but it appears that nothing has really changed here.

If you run it on battery power, however, the laptop seemingly doesn’t feel as hot to the touch. Like many other laptops running new i7 chips, the MateBook X Pro doesn’t boast the best battery life imaginable. On a regular day—multiple Chrome tabs open, Photoshop, Slack, a few video calls—I managed to get about 6–7 hours of non-stop usage out of the MateBook X Pro on “Better Performance” mode.

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Meanwhile, a single charge lasted me 8 hours with continuous 1080p video playback, which is significantly less than Huawei’s promised 13 hours, although that estimate is for local video playback. Overall, you should be able to get in a day’s worth of work within a single charge on the MateBook X Pro, although light users may be able to squeeze a little more out of it.

And just like the previous iteration of the MateBook X Pro, there are two USB-C ports (only one supporting Thunderbolt 3), as well as a single USB-A 3.0 port (which I loved) along with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a fingerprint scanner.

Verdict: Almost the perfect 2020 laptop experience

Finally, the big question: is the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2020 worth the admittedly pricey RM7,999? Personally, I’ve enjoyed my time with Huawei’s flagship laptop, and it’s a great combination of power, portability and design for somebody who works on the go regularly (like me). The variant available in Malaysia has a discrete GPU, so you can even slip in some light gaming while you’re at it. 

However, my biggest gripe with the MateBook X Pro is the same gripe that I had with the 2018 version: the heat. Perhaps the poor heat dissipation is caused by the slim profile of the MateBook X Pro, or as some suggest, its fast-charging capabilities. And while the laptop didn’t actually overheat and crash, the keyboard gets way too hot for comfortable use. 

When it’s cool enough to use, the backlit keyboard is excellent to use with just enough travel to provide a nice, clicky tactile response, and the large trackpad is good (but not excellent, like the keyboard) for basic navigation, with support for Precision drivers and Windows 10 gestures. Still, I’d use a mouse if I were you. 

Besides that, the MateBook X Pro pretty much ticks all of the boxes for me. A superb display, great performance for its size, and a decent enough battery life. If you have a compatible Huawei smartphone, you can also take advantage of some handy ecosystem features like Huawei Share, multi-screen collaboration, and OneHop. 

And while I’m as disappointed as anyone that Huawei hiked up the price of the MateBook X Pro 2020 (RM7,999 vs RM6,999) compared to the 2018 version, it still represents a lot of value for the user who wants a portable everyday workhorse that can do a little of everything—plus, you get double the storage.

Set against some of the competition in the class, a similarly-specced Dell XPS 13 (9300) will cost you RM8,198.99, while the Asus ExpertBook B9 is also pricier at RM8,299. Conversely, there are more affordable laptop models out there with similar internals, too—but there are certain compromises you might have to make with those.

Think of it this way: would you get a 2020 MacBook Pro 13 with a 10th Gen Intel Core i5, integrated graphics, half the storage, and an inferior display for the exact same price? 

Photography by Zachary Yoong with the Sony A7 III.