Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020) review: An excellent ultraportable, with a couple of flaws

huawei-matebook-x-pro-2020-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Solid industrial design
  • Excellent minimal-bezel screen
  • Good keyboard
  • All-day battery life with fast charging
  • Up to 1TB of storage

Cons

  • Poor webcam location
  • Under-performing light sensor
  • Moderate audio quality

Huawei may be best known as a smartphone maker and vendor of networking equipment, but it also makes laptops, and we've looked at several in the past. Earlier this year I reviewed the 15.6-inch MateBook D 15 (2020), and now we have the 13.9-inch MateBook X Pro (2020), an update to the 2018 model. It's a premium laptop that marries quality design and top-end specifications, including a choice of two 10th-generation Intel Core processors. A Core i5 model will cost you £1,399.99 (inc. VAT; £1,166.66 ex. VAT), while a Core i7 variant sells for £1699.99 (inc. VAT; £1,416.66 ex. VAT). The MateBook X Pro (2020) is on sale in Europe and the Asia Pacific region, but is not officially available in the US.

Huawei's industrial design is generally exemplary, and there's a pleasing minimalism on view here. The Space Gray chassis of my review sample would look fine in the office, and there are two other chassis colours (neither available in the UK at the time of writing): the brighter Mystic Silver would sit well in the office, while Emerald Green might turn heads.

huawei-matebook-x-pro-2020-main.jpg

The 2020 MateBook X Pro runs on 10th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, with 16GB or RAM and 512GB or 1TB of SSD storage. The i5 model uses integrated graphics, while the i7 variant has a discrete Nvidia GPU.

Images: Huawei

The MateBook X Pro's all-metal chassis makes this a solid device. My usual test of bowing the lid section in my hands met with some success, but I'd certainly trust the build enough to go without a protective sleeve when carrying the laptop. On the other hand, a sleeve would offer protection against scratches.

Incredibly narrow bezels -- Huawei talks of a 'borderless experience' -- set the 13.9-inch screen in a chassis that's just 304mm wide and 217mm tall. It's impressively thin too -- 14.6mm at the back, tapering to a narrower front edge. The weight is 1.33kg, which is heavier than some ultraportables, but perfectly manageable. An obvious comparison is the Dell XPS 13 2020, which weighs in at 1.2kg, albeit with a slightly smaller (13.4 inch) screen.

huawei-matebook-x-pro-2020-usb-c.jpg

There are two USB-C ports on the left side, and a USB 3.0 port plus a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right side.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

Huawei provides a pretty minimal set of on-board ports and connectors. There's a single USB-3.0 port on the right edge, while the left edge houses a 3.5mm headset jack and two USB-C ports with support for data, charging and DisplayPort. One of these USB-C ports is used for charging. 

Huawei provided its Mate Dock 2 with my review unit. This connects via USB-C and provides HDMI, VGA, USB-C and USB 3.0 ports. It's a shame Huawei doesn't provide this as standard, although buyers at the time of writing do get a free MediaPad T5 with the laptop.

Top ZDNET Reviews

There's no room on the narrow top bezel for a webcam so, just as in the 2018 MateBook X Pro, the camera sits under a pop-up key between Fn6 and Fn7. The same camera arrangement was used in the MateBook D15 (2020) I reviewed in February.

huawei-matebook-x-pro-2020-camera.jpg

The pop-up keyboard-embedded webcam is clever, but the camera angle is unfortunate for video calls.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The camera position creates the most awkward viewing angle for video calls that I have come across: I really don't want to have video calls with such an up-the-nose angle. And as video calls are now very much a mainstay of working life for many of us, it's a much more significant drawback than it was back in February. 

Huawei uses a vertical strip a little over a centimetre wide on each side of the keyboard for the speaker grilles. Although there are four speakers -- two treble, two bass -- the sound quality isn't great. It's a bit on the tinny side, and while plenty of volume is available, there's no real benefit in cranking it up for movie listening or business presentations. Voice quality is clear, though.

huawei-matebook-x-pro-2020-keyboard.jpg

The MateBook X Pro's keyboard is well designed, with a responsive but quiet action, and the large touchpad is equally impressive.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

Despite the vertical speaker grilles, the backlit keyboard is large and its keys are well spaced. There's a nice bouncy action, but very little noise. The Fn keys are relatively large too, while the left and right cursor keys are full-sized and the up/down ones half height. It's a neat and tidy arrangement that's ideal for fast touch-typists. The touchpad is a delight to use: it's very large, and feels great under the fingers.  

The power button, sitting proud in the top right corner of the keyboard, incorporates a fingerprint sensor for secure login. This is potentially very handy as there's no Windows Hello facial recognition here.

The 13.9-inch screen is, with one exception, superb. The 3,000-by-2,000 pixel LTPS panel delivers stunning-quality graphics, and the narrow bezels facilitate a (claimed) screen-to-body ratio of 91%. Watching video is a treat, although there is some letterboxing thanks to the 3:2 aspect ratio. Viewing angles are good, and the screen is touch responsive.

My one grumble is with the light sensor which automatically adjusts brightness. It just doesn't take brightness high enough, so that every time I moved location I had to do a manual adjustment -- not least to counteract the reflectivity that distracted from both work and leisure uses. Perhaps that's an attempt by Huawei to conserve battery life, but it makes the sensor somewhat redundant. Brightness can be manually cranked up to 450 nits, which is enough for outdoor viewing in many situations.

SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks (TechRepublic Premium)

Huawei may have missed a trick by not making the MateBook X Pro 2020 a 360-degree convertible, as orientations like tent mode often allow full advantage to be taken of high-quality screens for media playback.

Users of some recent Huawei smartphones will be able to take advantage of Huawei Share, which allows files to be exchanged between devices using the MateBook X Pro's NFC connectivity.

There are two versions of the MateBook X Pro (2020) available at the time of writing. The £1,699.99 (inc. VAT) unit comes with a 10th-generation Core i7-10510U processor, discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. This is the unit I was sent to review. The entry-level £1,399.99 (inc. VAT) model has a 10th-generation Core i5-10210U processor, integrated Intel UHD Graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

High-resolution screens can shorten battery life, but Huawei quotes up to 13 hours of local video playback for the MateBook X Pro (2020). If your workload is anything like mine you may well get a day's usage out of the 56Whr battery. Typical working days of writing into web apps, browsing the web and streaming some video and music saw the battery drop from full to around 66% in 3.5 hours with the screen set on its default brightness. In everyday use I would set it a couple of notches higher, with a concomitant reduction in battery life, but would still expect to get through a day's work between charges.

Conclusions

huawei-matebook-x-pro-2020-verdict.jpg

Image: Huawei

For the most part, Huawei's MateBook X Pro (2020) is a high-quality laptop. But this makes its failings all the more notable, and two that really irk are the webcam positioning (much more of an issue today than it was at the beginning of the year) and the under-performing light sensor for the screen. We found the quad-speaker audio subsystem slightly disappointing, too.   

These drawbacks are a shame, because in all other respects this is a very impressive device. Let's hope Huawei finds a fix for these issues before producing the next version of its flagship ultraportable.

RECENT AND RELATED CONTENT

Huawei MateBook D 15 (2020) review: Stylish and solid, but battery life disappoints

Huawei MateBook 13 review: Gorgeous touchscreen laptop takes on Apple's MacBook Air at $400 less

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Minimal bezels, touchscreen, and excellent sound with secure camera placement

Huawei revenue slightly improves for first quarter of 2020

Best laptops with the longest battery life in 2020: Dell, Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and more

Read more reviews

Specifications

System
Notebook Type 2-in-1

Top ZDNET Reviews