Compared is a series focused on showcasing products that operate in the same space as Apple hardware. These may include laptops, phones, tablets, smart watches, etc.
I recently got my hands on Huawei’s just-launched MateBook X Pro laptop. It’s a Windows-powered machine in an ultrabook form factor with a stunning 13.9-inch 3:2 minimal-bezel display. At first glance, it looks very much inspired by the MacBook, almost like a mix between the 12-inch MacBook and the MacBook Pro.
How does Huawei’s flagship compare to the MacBook Pro? Watch our hands-on video for the details.
The most notable part of Huawei MateBook X Pro is its glossy 13.9-inch 450 nit 3:2 display (3000 x 2000, 260 PPI), which provides a 91% screen-to-body ratio. This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen thin bezels on a Windows laptop, but the look never fails to impress, especially when you’re used to the MacBook Pro’s substantial bezels.
The MateBook X Pro also enjoys better off-axis viewing angles than the MacBook Pro, and its 450 nits of brightness places it within striking distance of Apple’s machine. Huawei’s colors are a tad more saturated, which some people may prefer.
Let’s just be honest; the MateBook X Pro’s display makes the MacBook Pro seem dated, but the good news is that Apple seemingly realizes that minimal bezels are the future (just look at the iPhone X). I think it would be a mistake for Apple to release a major MacBook Pro redesign without some serious bezel reduction.
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The MateBook X Pro also features a touch screen, and I know that a lot of Apple fans will disagree with me on this, but I like the idea in general. We’re so used to touch screens by now that not having touch feels somewhat backwards, and for users who are only familiar with touch-enabled devices, kind of broken.
If Apple did end up doing a touch-enabled Mac, I feel like it would pay extra attention to things like screen wobble when touching the display. The MateBook X Pro doesn’t have terrible screen wobble, but it’s noticeable.
How does Huawei pull off the minimal bezel design while still accommodating a front-facing camera for video calls? They could have gone the route that other PC laptop makers have gone, and placed the camera at the bottom of the bezel, aka “chin cam”, or it could make a splash by doing something different. Huawei chose the latter option, and hid the camera under a retractable key.
I think we’ll eventually get to the point where having a camera pointing at you constantly is going to seem “weird”, but I’m not sure if Huawei’s implementation is very practical. I think the decision to hide the camera is great for privacy, but the placement is less-than-ideal.
Going along with the display, the chassis of the MateBook X Pro looks more modern than the MacBook Pro. Huawei even uses polished chamfered edges on its laptop, a design feature that Apple has used for its iPhones and iPads, but never for its Mac lineup. The result is a modern looking MateBook X Pro, that “blings” for the lack of a better word, when the light hits it at certain angles. The downside of the chamfered edge design is that it doesn’t look nearly as clean with the lid closed.
The overall build quality of the MateBook X Pro is impressive. PC manufacturers have indeed come a long way over the past few years, and it’s blatantly obvious. The unibody teardrop tapered design of the MateBook X Pro looks great, and I actually prefer its take on space gray (yes, Huawei shamelessly calls it that) over Apple’s take on the color.
I’m fairly ignorant about the ins and outs of the refining process that goes into producing aluminum products, but it’s clear that Apple is really good at it. Although I’m incapable of intelligently explaining why, the MacBook Pro’s aluminum feels better to the touch and feels more dense and less “hollow” than the material on Huawei’s machine. I also noticed that the MacBook Pro’s anodized aluminum does a much better job of rejecting fingerprints when compared to the MateBook X Pro.
The MateBook X Pro keyboard feels more substantial to type on, with more key travel. When comparing the two laptops, I preferred typing on the MateBook X Pro.
Everyone knows that the MacBook Pro’s keyboard is extremely polarizing, and it would be all too easy to pile on to the growing amount of complaints that we see on a daily basis. Besides, I’ve already lamented about Apple’s keyboard woes on a previous episode of Back to the Mac.
That said, I love the MacBook Pro’s individually backlit keys. Each LED is situated in a way so as to not have the backlight bleed through underneath each key. It’s a small detail, but one that makes the MacBook Pro appear more premium than the MateBook X Pro. I don’t use enough PCs to know if any other manufacturers employ this backlighting technique, but they definitely should.
Every PC laptop trackpad that I’ve tried has always felt inferior to Apple’s trackpads, and the MateBook X Pro does nothing to change this. It’s not that Huawei’s trackpad is bad, but it doesn’t feel as responsive as the MacBook Pro’s. Apple is just really good at making trackpads — after all, this is the same company that makes a huge wireless standalone solid state trackpad with Force Touch.
The migration to the Force Touch trackpads a few years back has further separated PC trackpads from Apple’s offerings in my eyes. For example, there are “dead zones” near the top of the MateBook X Pro trackpad, while you can click anywhere on the MacBook’s trackpad and it responds in uniform.
Huawei’s MateBook X Pro includes a Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint sensor built into the power button. The fingerprint sensor is fast and responsive, unlocking the Windows lock screen in less than a second.
The base model 13-inch MacBook Pro lacks a fingerprint sensor, which is unfortunate given how useful it is. To get a fingerprint sensor in a MacBook Pro, you have to step up to more expensive Touch Bar-enabled models. I’ve minced no words on how I feel about the Touch Bar, so I won’t regurgitate that all here, but just know that I don’t find it to be all that useful. The fact that you have to look down in order to use it kills the idea for me. Hopefully Face ID will replace the need for a fingerprint sensor in future consumer-grade MacBooks.
The MateBook X Pro ships with a quad speaker setup featuring two top-firing tweeters and two bottom-firing woofers. The speakers sound decent, but I feel like the MacBook Pro offers cleaner, crisper sound on the high-end. Obviously in such a diminutive laptop form factor, low-end frequency is basically non-existent.
Huawei offers different configurations for the MateBook X Pro. The configuration that I’m using is the top of the line $1499.99 version, which includes a Core i7 quad-core processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, and a discrete GPU. Here is a full rundown of the machine’s specifications:
- Aluminum unibody design
- Space gray color
- Weight: 2.93 lbs
- Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.54 x 0.57 in
- 13.9-inch display with 91% screen to body ratio
- Aspect ratio: 3:2
- Brightness: 450 nit
- Resolution: 3000 x 2000 (260 PPI)
- 1500:1 contrast ratio
- 10-point touch screen
- 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8550U quad-core CPU 1.80 GHz up to 4.00 GHz
- NVIDIA GeForce MX150 Graphics with 2GB GDDR5
- 16GB LPDDR3 2133 MHz RAM
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
- 512GB SSD
- USB-A port
- USB-C port
- Thunderbolt 3 port
- 3.5mm headphone port
- 57.4 Wh battery with up to 12 hours of video playback
- Quad speaker split frequency setup
- Quad microphones
- Chiclet style keyboard with 1.2mm keyboard travel
- Recessed 1MP camera in keyboard
- Fingerprint sensor in power button
- 65W power adapter + USB-C cable
- USB-C dongle with USB-A, VGA, HDMI, and pass through charging
- Price: $1499.99
The Huawei MateBook X Pro that I’m testing features a 8th-gen Intel Core i7 (i7-8550U) quad-core CPU with a base clock speed of 1.80 GHz that can turbo up to 4.0 GHz. Keep in mind that this is a 13-inch laptop, and Apple’s current-gen 13-inch MacBook Pro’s are only available with 7th-gen Intel i7 dual-core processors at the moment.
Both machines sport a 15W TDP, which means more aggressive throttling, but the MateBook X Pro is definitely the more agile machine of the two, and base models also come equipped with quad-core i5 processors. Even if you were willing to pay to upgrade your 13-inch MacBook Pro’s CPU, the most you can get is a dual-core 7th gen i7 processor.
To test CPU performance, I ran a couple of synthetic benchmarks: CineBench R15 and GeekBench 4. Unsurprisingly, the MateBook X Pro bested the MacBook Pro in both CPU tests. However, when the MateBook X Pro isn’t connected to power, the CPU performance is throttled down significantly. If you want the best performance out of Huawei’s machine, you’re going to want to keep it connected to power. The MacBook Pro performed just the same whether connected to power or while running on battery.
Another big differentiator between the MacBook Pro and the MateBook X Pro involves graphics. The 13-inch MateBook X Pro comes with a discrete NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU, as well as internal Intel UHD 620 graphics. The GeForce MX150 isn’t going to blow you away with its performance, but it’s adequate enough to play games at a decent frame rate and gives you built-in CUDA acceleration for apps in Adobe’s CC Suite. The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, lacks a discrete GPU option for the 13-inch model.
I fired up Rocket League on the MateBook X Pro with default settings, and was able to enjoy gameplay at a silky smooth 60 fps. Trying to do the same thing on the MacBook Pro yielded frame rates closer to 30 fps, and even that was erratic and choppy.
The MateBook X Pro comes with two USB-C ports, and one of them is Thunderbolt 3-enabled for attaching things like eGPUs. I tested the machine with the Razer Core X eGPU mated with an AMD Radeon RX Vega 64.
No surprises here, but Windows has much better graphics performance in games and synthetic benchmarks when compared to macOS. Games and benchmarks using the same settings that I used with my eGPU-assisted 13-inch MacBook Pro routinely performed better on Huawei’s machine. Some of that has to do with the 8th-gen quad-core processor, but I’ve witnessed better performance when using Windows Boot Camp on the Mac as well.
Sadly, the MateBook X Pro lacks a SD Card reader, which would have definitely earned it some extra points in my eyes, but it does come with a 3.5mm headphone connection and a USB-A port on the right side of the machine. Huawei includes a 65W power brick and USB-C charging cable inside the box, which is similar to what you’ll find bundled with the MacBook Pro.
In recognition that #donglelife is a thing, Huawei supplies its Core i7 users with a USB-C dongle in the box for connecting to USB-A, VGA, HDMI, along with pass through charging. The inclusion of VGA, useful for projector presentations, shows that Huawei thinks that a lot of business users will be snatching these machines up.
The MateBook X Pro’s flash storage speed bests the MacBook Pro on a single read/write test, with read speeds that usually beat the MacBook Pro over a sustained period of time. However, sustained write speeds of the MateBook X Pro’s flash storage doesn’t hold up as well, consistently performing below the MacBook Pro.
Huawei advertises up to 12 hours of battery life with certain testing restrictions, but I established my own tests to compare these two machines as fairly as I could given the limited time available.
All tests featured the following parameters:
- Battery charged to 100%
- Brightness set to 50%
- Volume set to 0%
- Keyboard backlight set to 0%
- All apps, except necessary apps, closed
- Only default apps used for testing (i.e. Edge browser for Windows and Safari for Mac)
- Only the latest public operating systems (i.e macOS High Sierra 10.13.5 and Windows 10)
The first test was an offline video playback test. I used the same 4K video on both machines, and looped it continuously until each machine died. As you can see, both machines performed well, with each registering over 10 hours of offline video playback. The MacBook Pro (barely) came out on top)
For the second test, I streamed our iPhone and iPad YouTube playlist, featuring nearly 200 videos, over Wi-Fi. Both machines died before making it to the end of the playlist, but the results were still pretty good. In the online video test, the MateBook X Pro performed better, garnering nearly 10 hours of online video playback vs the MacBook Pro’s 9.
Battery life will obviously be worse for both machines under load, and much depends on the types of apps being used, how long they’re used, etc. In other words, battery tests are largely subjective, but under strict rules both machines do well.
Obviously one computer primarily runs macOS, while the other runs Windows. Despite iOS being Apple’s primary focus, I still think macOS is far superior to Windows in both basic functionality, utilities, and apps. There is a level of polish found on macOS that you just don’t get on Windows machines, though admittedly, Microsoft has done a much better job in the last few years.
Still, I can understand why a large swath of the population prefers Windows, especially those that are into gaming. Games have traditionally performed better on Windows-based machines, partly because developers directly target the platform’s technologies.
But the bottom line is that the MateBook X Pro runs Windows. If that’s okay with you, then you’ll have a great time with this machine, but if you’re a fan of macOS, it’s highly unlikely that you’d be willing to compromise on such a key area, regardless of how impressive the hardware is.
The MateBook X Pro makes the MacBook Pro look very outdated from a design perspective, and its performance to price ratio does likewise. PC makers have come a long way over the last few years, and products like the MateBook X Pro make that an undeniable truth.
There was a time when some people thought the MacBook Pro was the best laptop for Windows (via Boot Camp), but that’s certainly no longer the case; this is compounded by the fact that Apple isn’t putting as much effort into Boot Camp as of late.
Yet, the MateBook X Pro, like any other PC laptop is only as good as your desire to run Windows. If you hate Windows, then even the most beautifully designed forward-thinking laptop is still hindered by its OS of choice.
But not everyone needs or even wants macOS, and for those people, the MateBook X Pro is a seriously compelling laptop. Here’s hoping that Apple is taking notes about where laptop design is heading and slims the thick bezels, fixes the keyboard, ditches unnecessary add-ons like the TouchBar, and focuses on creating a top-performing, and good-looking new portable.
If you’re interested in the MateBook X Pro, you can find it at the Microsoft Store. It’s largely on backorder at other retailers. What do you think about Huawei’s laptop?