Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) review: Another minor refresh has this former leader falling behind the competition

The MateBook X Pro for 2021 is a well-built Ultrabook with an outstanding display, but a few things continue to hold it back.

Huawei Matebook X Pro 2021 Review
(Image: © Windows Central)

We last saw the Huawei MateBook X Pro in 2019, when Executive Editor Daniel Rubino gave it a glowing five-star review. Though we skipped the 2020 model, Huawei hasn't stopped and now offers a 2021 version that I have in for testing. It's sporting new 11th Gen Intel Core hardware with Iris Xe integrated graphics, faster ports, Wi-Fi 6, updated cooling system, and more. I've been using it regularly to see where it excels and where it falls short.

Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021): Price, availability, and specs

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Huawei supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the MateBook X Pro for 2021. It has inside an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor (CPU), though you can also get a Core i5-1135G7 model. The CPU is accompanied by 16GB of soldered RAM (8GB is also available) and a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive (SSD). Storage is also available in 512GB from the factory; it can be upgraded after purchase. The aluminum chassis comes in both Emerald Green and Space Grey colors.

The MateBook X Pro is primarily available in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. On Amazon UK, the 2021 flagship starts at about £1,300.

You can find some models on eBay starting around $1,790, and you might one day find models available on third-party U.S. retailers like Amazon. The 2018 version of the MateBook X Pro is still listed there starting at $889.

Following are the exact specs found in my review unit.

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OSWindows 10 Home
Processor11th Gen Intel
Core i7-1165G7
4 cores, 8 threads
Up to 4.70GHz
RAM16GB DDR4-3733MHz
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe
Storage1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display13.9 inches
3:2 aspect ratio
Touch, IPS
450 nits, glossy
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 4
USB-A 3.2
3.5mm audio
AudioQuad speakers
Dual microphones
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.1
CameraFront-facing 720p
Keyboard pop-up
SecurityFingerprint reader
Dimensions11.97 x 8.54 x 0.57 inches
(304mm x 217mm x 14.6mm)
Weight2.93 pounds (1.33kg)
ColorEmerald Green

Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021): What I like

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The overall design of the 2021 MateBook X Pro isn't much different from the 2019 version we last reviewed. It's an aluminum build that's quite thin at just 0.57 inches (14.6mm), made to look even slimmer thanks to tapered bottom edges. It's a striking exterior look that rivals that of the XPS 13 9310. The metal frame has it pegged at about 2.93 pounds (1.33kg); you can slide this PC into a backpack or messenger and forget it's there. The Emerald Green finish is quite snazzy; it's also available in Space Grey.

The best Ultrabooks have all generally seen a decline in port variety as they've slimmed down. Nothing different here with the MateBook X Pro; it's still sporting dual USB-C, 3.5mm audio, and USB-A 3.2. At least both USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 4, which is as good as it gets right now in terms of speed and versatility. The only thing lacking here that I'd like to see is a microSD card reader.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The laptop's 3:2 touch display is still the laptop's most prominent feature. It has hardly any bezel at all, hitting a 91% screen-to-body ratio. There's just enough room below for the chin to show off the Huawei text logo, but that's it. It has a boosted 3000x2000 resolution that's incredibly crisp, as well as 467 nits peak brightness as tested. This helps reduce glare on the glossy finish.

Measuring color accuracy with a SpyderX Pro colorimeter, I got back 97% sRGB, 75% AdobeRGB, and 74% DCI-P3. These results could be a bit better, but it's really hard to complain about this display. It's a pleasure to see each time I open the laptop's lid.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Quad speakers make up the MateBook X Pro's audio system, though it seems that Dolby Atmos tuning has gone by the wayside. Still, sound from the two top-firing speakers that flank the keyboard and two down-firing speakers near the bottom front of the PC is clear and loud. It's some of the best audio I've heard from a laptop this size.

The MateBook X Pro's audio is still some of the best available in an Ultrabook this size.

The keyboard is mostly comfortable, and using it for all-day typing didn't pose any major problems. Keys are pleasantly firm and have about 1.2mm of travel. There's a backlight to help with working in low-light conditions. My two complaints here are a lack of navigation keys (PgUp, PgDn, Home, End) and a half-size Shift key on the left side. As someone who ignores the right Shift key, it took some getting used to. A fingerprint reader is built into the power button just above the keyboard. It works as it should with Windows Hello for quick and convenient logins.

Wi-Fi 6 is now included for faster, more reliable wireless internet, and Bluetooth 5.1 is there for wireless accessories. Huawei Share, which was introduced in the 2019 model, is still around. If you have a Huawei phone, you can quickly and easily connect it to the laptop via NFC and Wi-Fi. Once connected, you can drag and drop files between devices, you can answer voice and video calls on your laptop, you can record your PC's screen on your phone, you can open and edit phone files on your PC, and more. The drawback is that it only works with Huawei hardware.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The discrete NVIDIA MX GPU is now gone as a configurable option. The laptop relies instead on Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, which is generally a faster solution than the MX250 discrete GPU we saw in the 2019 MateBook X Pro. My model's Core i7-1165G7 CPU isn't as zippy as I was expecting with all cores engaged in Geekbench 5, though single-core performance is excellent. Rendering in Cinebench didn't produce particularly impressive results, and anyone who wants the best performance possible will want to be wary.

I certainly didn't notice any slowdowns while using the PC for heavy web browsing, spreadsheets, Photoshop, word processing, email, and streaming. It gets a bit hot on the bottom, but the aluminum dispels heat well. And despite how thin the laptop is, the dual-fan cooling setup didn't run noticeably loud at any time.

Check out how the MateBook X Pro (2021) compares to a bunch of other laptops we've recently tested.

The M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD is very fast, and you have the option to upgrade after purchase. Unfortunately, RAM is soldered. Be sure to get exactly what you need from the factory. Battery life is pegged at about eight hours real-world time, which is decent for something with a "3K2K" display resolution. To compare, the HP Spectre x360 14 with OLED 3K2K display lasted about seven hours real-world time.

Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021): What I don't like

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The MateBook X Pro is tough to dislike. It has an impeccable build, it has an attractive display, and many of its smaller features (like speakers) are top notch. However, some of the same issues we experienced with previous MateBook X Pro models are still evident today. And with the best Windows laptops all improving a lot over the last couple of years, it makes Huawei's flagship a harder sell.

The webcam is still housed beneath a pop-up key in the keyboard. While this does provide some privacy, the angle at which it records is unpleasant. The camera offers clear picture quality, but no one wants to see up your nose. This design choice needs to be reworked for the next generation. I also hope to see the half-size Shift key on the left side get a rework.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The touchpad is plenty big, and it still uses Precision drivers. However, instead of moving parts and a physical click, it relies on haptics to provide feedback. This is something Apple has been doing forever, and it's only now starting to come to Windows laptops. You can "click" anywhere — even in the top corners — and have it register. My complaint here is that the feedback is quite minor, and I often found myself misclicking and dragging files around accidentally. It's no doubt something I'd have to get used to over time, and I suspect many people will be in the same situation.

Availability in the U.S. and Canada is the final drawback to the MateBook X Pro. If you're currently looking to buy in these regions, you'll have to turn to eBay where prices are above list. I don't know what the future holds in terms of availability, but as it stands now you'll have a hard time getting your hands on one for a reasonable price.

Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021): Competition

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The MateBook X Pro sits in a 14-inch class that's seen some exciting recent releases. The HP ENVY 14 is a top contender, receiving near-perfect marks in our review. Its 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs are joined by an NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q discrete GPU for excellent performance, and it has a ton of ports. It's not as compact as the X Pro, but it's still a beautiful machine. Battery life is excellent, the camera is where it should be, and the keyboard and touchpad are great. Prices start at about $950 and there are plenty of configuration options available.

The XPG Xenia 14 is another PC I recently reviewed. It's the way to go if you want an extremely light Ultrabook with a ton of features. It has a 14-inch display with 16:10 aspect ratio, enormous touchpad and comfortable keyboard, upgradeable RAM and PCIe 4.0 SSD, and an IR camera above the display. Prices start at about $1,100 for a Core i5-1135G7 model.

If you're looking for a convertible PC, the HP Spectre x360 14 should be near the top of your list. You get a 13.5-inch touch display with up to a 3000x2000 resolution and OLED panel, awesome speakers, strong performance and decent battery life, and a comfy keyboard and touchpad. It's our pick for the best Windows laptop right now. Prices start at $1,200 and there are tons of configuration options available.

Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021): Should you buy it?

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Who it's for

  • Those who are invested in the Huawei mobile ecosystem
  • Those who want a high-res touch display with 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Those who want a thin and light Ultrabook with premium design

Who it isn't for

  • Those who prefer a more natural camera angle
  • Those who don't want to pay more than list price (in U.S. and Canada)
  • Those who want the best performance possible

Whereas the MateBook X Pro was ahead of a lot of laptops in 2019 (the last time we reviewed it), it's now fallen back to the middle of the pack. The next refresh needs to make some big changes to keep the flagship from going stale. The pop-up camera no longer makes any sense (if it ever did), the poor availability in certain regions only frustrates those who want to invest in the Huawei ecosystem, and the touchpad and keyboard still need some tweaking to get things just right. Performance is also not where I was expecting it to be, and those who need the most power possible will no doubt want to look elsewhere.

The positive aspects from previous generations are still present. The high-res touch display is still exceptional, and its 3:2 aspect ratio continues to please. The overall chassis design is flawless, and I love the Emerald Green color. There's no bloatware installed, and the Huawei Share app is undoubtedly handy if you're into Huawei's phones. You get loud, clear audio, decent camera quality, and modern ports.

If you're in the regions where the MateBook X Pro is widely available (Europe, Asia, and Latin America), it's no doubt still an attractive laptop. At least unless you're still working with a model from the last couple of years. My recommendation is to wait and see what Huawei does for the next generation before considering an upgrade. If you're walking into the MateBook X Pro lineup completely fresh, be sure to have a long look at the competition from other brands before making a final decision.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.