Skip to main content

Huawei MateBook X review: An impressively thin laptop with outstanding audio

Huawei is a relatively new name to the Windows 10 world, but the company made some waves last year with its positively received MateBook tablet 2-in-1. For 2017, that device has been rebranded as MateBook E, but it is the new MateBook X that is turning heads.

The MateBook X is Huawei's first attempt at a premium Ultrabook, and for the most part, the company succeeded. Not only the is MateBook X a well-rounded PC, it pushes boundaries to reach current design limits.

Does a fanless 2.3-pound (1.05 kg) laptop that is only 12.5mm thin bring anything new to the Windows 10 world? You bet. It's not for everyone, but this staggeringly small laptop has a target audience that will appreciate it.

About this review

Huawei supplied a loaner MateBook X. The unit tested features a Core i5-7200U processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage retailing for $1,099 and "titanium gray" in color. The Core i7 model is available with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage for $1,299 and is available in "prestige gold."

QUALITY HARDWARE

Huawei MateBook X technical specifications

Despite lacking any processor cooling fan or visible vents, the MateBook X utilizes a typical dual-core Core i5 or i7 seventh-generation Intel "Kaby Lake" processor. Those processors are what Microsoft uses on the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop – they are not Y-series (Core M) but regular laptop CPUs, which is notable.

Huawei MateBook X

CategorySpecification
Display13-inch IPS, Corning Gorilla Glass, non-touch
sRGB 100-percent color gamut
350 nits
Display resolution2160 x 1440 pixels at 200 pixels per inch (PPI)
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
SoftwareWindows 10 Pro 64-bit
ProcessorSeventh-gen Intel Core i5-7200U
Seventh-gen Intel Core i7-7500U
Storage256GB or 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
Memory4GB or 8GB RAM
1,866Mhz LPDDR3
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
Windows HelloTwo-in-one power button with touch fingerprint sensor
Front camera1.0MP camera
SpeakersStereo speakers with Dolby Atmos Sound System
PortsTwo USB-C ports (one on the left supporting data transfer, and charging and one on the right supporting data transfer and that connects to MateDock 2)
3.5mm stereo headset jack
NetworkIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5GHz 2x2 MIMO
Bluetooth Wireless 4.1 technology
Battery life10 hours of use
Weight1.05 kg (2.31 lbs)
Dimensions12.5 mm x 286 mm x 211 mm
ColorsTitanium gray, prestige gold, and rose gold (China only)

Looking at the MateBook X, nothing stands out as missing. There is no touch screen, negating any pen support, but apparently Huawei is targeting the business exec who just wants a thin, light laptop that doesn't cut corners.

Whether it is the Intel AC-8275 Wi-Fi chip, the Precision touchpad, the 3:2 aspect ratio, or those Dolby-tuned upward firing speakers, the MateBook X uses only premium, brand-name, and quality parts.

PUSHING LIMITS

Huawei MateBook X design

The heart of the MateBook X is its design. It feels like Huawei married the design principles behind the Apple MacBook and HP Spectre, adding a twist.

The MateBook X is just a smidge larger than a typical magazine. It's ridiculously thin and light and feels more like a tablet when closed than a laptop.

All the bells and whistles are here. The CNC-machined unibody metal design for the chassis with diamond-cut edges gives the MateBook X a refined and elegant look. The metal can pick up fingerprints and is easy to chip if dropped, but that's the tradeoff for premium materials versus plastic.

Weighing in at 2.3 pounds (1.05 kg) the MateBook X is very light but also dense feeling. There is no space in such a small chassis, and while it won't weigh you down when carrying it in a bag, it feels heavier than it is due to it being so compact.

There is not much twist in the chassis, but you can hear what is some minor creaking if you try to bend the laptop. It's nothing to worry about, but that's what separates Huawei's improved manufacturing from the historically-perfected lines of Apple.

Because there is no touch screen, the display is thin enough to allow it to be opened one-handed. Once open, you are greeted with a very minimal design of the display, keyboard, and trackpad.

That display sports 4.4mm bezel for the screen, giving the MateBook X an insane 88-percent screen-to-body ratio, besting everything in this class.

The only thing marring the clean and elegant look of the MateBook X's interior is the mandatory Intel sticker.

Finally, the bottom of the MateBook X is clean with only some FCC information and four rubber feet. Since there is no fan in this laptop, there are no intake vents making the overall design very uniform.

SATISFYING SCREEN

Huawei MateBook X display

Huawei made all the right choices with the MateBook X.

For example, the display is 3:2 aspect ratio with 2160 x 1440 resolution nearing 200 PPI. Ever since Microsoft pioneered the 3:2 aspect with its Surface line, I have seen more consumers wanting that style over the traditional – and wider – 16:9. Huawei using it tells me the company is tune with where the consumer market is going.

Those bezels are insanely thin.

While not a touch screen, the 13-inch display is fantastic. There is a 100-percent sRGB rating for color accuracy, edge-to-edge Corning Gorilla Glass for protection, and a decent 350 nits of brightness. That brightness is OK but will struggle outdoors. While glossy, the screen leans towards not being excessively shiny.

Huawei also notes that the display features its "eye comfort technology that filters excessive blue light and alleviates eye fatigue." That may sound gimmicky, but I can say that it eases teh strain on my eyes.

The MateBook X's display is excellent. Its sharp colors are accurate, I didn't notice ghosting or light bleed, and it ranks amongst the best I have used.

FULL SIZE

MateBook X keyboard

Despite the excessively small chassis, Huawei put a full-size keyboard into the MateBook X. The keys are chicklet style like the Surface Pro 4's keyboard, and the overall design is reminiscent of HP's Spectre line of laptops.

Key travel is minimal at 1.2mm, which is on the low end for Ultrabooks, which typically aim for 1.3mm and peak around 1.5mm. While I would prefer 1.3mm, I can't say typing is bad on the MateBook X. The keys are spaced well enough apart and go edge to edge on the chassis, with very distinct key markings.

The MateBook X's keyboard has a very good backlight.

There is a function row with display brightness controls, keyboard backlight, volume controls, Wi-Fi toggle, MateBook Manager, and print screen. In another smart choice, Huawei lets you choose if the function keys respond to the F-key or control screen brightness.

The two-stage backlight also gets the job done and looks great in low-light situations. A sensor turns on the backlighting automatically, but users can manually turn it off with the dedicated function key.

The key response is decent, but the return curve could be slightly better. Huawei did not mess with a standard keyboard layout, either. There are no oddities with Shift, Enter, Delete, or Backspace that will cause confusion.

I value typing for long durations, and the MateBook X is an above average experience. Oh, I should also mention this keyboard is splash resistant meaning you can knock your glass of water on to this laptop and not worry. Very cool stuff!

PRECISE TOUCH

MateBook X trackpad

The MateBook X features a sufficient if not typical trackpad size. It's smooth glass and has a decent click to it. There is a bit of a rattle when lightly tapping the trackpad that I could live without. It is very slightly recessed with diamond-cut edges that serve as tactile boundary guides.

Huawei used Microsoft's Precision drivers in the MateBook X giving a highly accurate and smooth experience. Users also get the full cadre of Windows 10 gestures.

Besides the slight rattle in the trackpad when tapping, it's an above average experience.

DOLBY ATMOS

Huawei MateBook X speakers are astonishing

Huawei is making a big deal about its partnership with Dolby. Both companies worked together on the MateBook X's hardware (speakers) and software as this laptop is the first to feature Dolby's Atmos dynamic surround-sound system. Most companies just add in the software, but giving Dolby access to fine-tune and help design the actual speakers makes a substantial difference.

The MateBook X features two top-firing speakers located between the keyboard and display (I assume this also serves as passive venting for the CPU). The location is ideal as the sound is not muffled, and in effect, it bounces off the display at the user.

Two Dolby Atmost speakers hide behind this grill, and they're exceptionally powerful.

The sound itself reminds me very much of the iPhone 7 Plus's speakers, which have a slight mechanical tuning to them. With the Dolby Atmos software, the system can dynamically adjust sound curves based on the content that is currently playing, or users can override the setting and even customize it to their liking.

What is impressive – besides the clarity – is the volume. It can be very loud – louder than I would ever want to use it - and yet there is zero distortion. Voices are clear and distinct, which is ideal for movies and TV, and surround sound when using headphones is outstanding.

These are the best speakers on any laptop I have tried.

CLEVER, CLEVER

MateBook X fingerprint reader

At the top-right corner of the MateBook X's keyboard deck sits a round power button. That button also acts as a fingerprint reader that lets users log into Windows 10 without typing in a password via Windows Hello.

Taking it a step further, however, Huawei did some intelligent tinkering with that fingerprint reader. Typically, when the MateBook X (or any PC) is in hibernate mode or is being turned on via a "cold start" the user presses the power button, waits for the OS to boot, and then pushes the fingerprint reader to log into the system. Huawei cut out that last step. When a user powers on the MateBook X, it holds that fingerprint scan until it gets to the Windows login screen and logs the user in.

The combo power button and fingerprint reader is a delight.

Eliminating one step in the power-on and login process may seem trivial, but when you do it multiple times a day, it's a pleasant surprise. It shows that Huawei is thinking about how to do simple, shrewd tricks that enhance the user experience. They succeed here, and it tells me Huawei gets its user base.

That fingerprint reader is also speedy and accurate.

Powerful Core i5 with no fan

MateBook X benchmarks

Huawei is rightly boasting that the MateBook X - both in Core i5 and Core i7 models - lacks a fan or any vent except for the speaker grill on the top keyboard deck. Our review unit uses the Core i5, and it's a good CPU, but there will be limits to it as well.

CPU

Huawei uses the same seventh-generation Intel "Kaby Lake" Core i5 processor in the MateBook X as Microsoft uses in the Surface Laptop Core i5. With a turbo boost to 3.1 GHz, it falls below the i5-7300U CPU found in the fanless Surface Pro (2017), which peaks at 3.5GHz.

Geekbench 4.0 benchmarks (higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
MateBook Xi5-7200U3,7867,570
Surface Laptop i7i7-7660U4,7149,535
Surface Pro 2017i7-7660U4,5139,346
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Exti7-7500U4,3168,320
Surface Pro 2017i5-7300U4,3028,482
Lenovo X1 Carboni5-7300U4,1398,311
Dell XPS 13 (9360)i7-6560U4,1207,829
HP Spectre 13i7-7500U4,1007,469
Surface Booki7-6600U3,9777,486
Surface Laptopi5-7200U3,7257,523
Surface Pro 4i5-6300U3,3196,950

With a base frequency of 2.6GHz, the i5-7200U is an excellent processor, but the lack of vents and a fan results in more extreme power-state throttling to keep the MateBook X's chassis from getting too hot. In comparison, the MateBook X with Core i5 is similar to the Surface Laptop with Core i5 and ahead of the Core i4 Surface Pro 4.

GPU

The MateBoox X with Core i5 uses the standard Intel HD 620 for graphics. The Core i7 version also uses the same display adapter instead of Iris Plus 640.

Geekbench 4.0 OpenCL (higher is better)

DeviceGPUCompute score
Huawei MateBook XHD62018,927
Surface BookGTX 965M64,108
Surface Laptop i7Iris 64031,010
Surface Pro 2017Iris 64030,678
Surface Pro 2017HD62020,688
Surface Laptop i5HD62019,256
Surface BookHD52018,197
Surface Pro 4HD52017,395

There are no surprises with the Intel HD 620 in the MateBook X. The display adapter falls slightly behind the Core i5 Surface Laptop and Core i5 Surface Pro.

SSD

Huawei uses a better than average SSD in the MateBook X. The Samsung PM971 (MZ2LZ256) is a very new SSD that priortizes reduced power consumption while still delivering admirable read and write speeds.

CrystalDiskMark (higher is better)

DeviceReadWrite
Huawei MateBook X889 MB/s872 MB/s
Lenovo X1 Carbon1,518 MB/s1,188 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 Ext1,365 MB/s1,213 MB/s
Surface Pro 20171,284 MB/s963 MB/s
HP EliteBook x360 G21,129 MB/s916 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (9360)1,287 MB/s794 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 151,128 MB/s862 MB/s
Surface Book1,018 MB/s967 MB/s
Surface Laptop423 MB/s237 MB/s

While not the fastest SSD, the Samsung PM971 is an excellent solution for the MateBook X. To make an analogy, it is as if Huawei took the Surface Pro's storage solution and put it into the MateBook X, something Microsoft did not do for its Surface Laptop.

PCMark

Looking at PCMark Home Conventional – which is an overall performance test - the MateBook X falls between the HP EliteBook x360 G2 and HP Spectre x360 15 and ahead of the Surface Laptop with the same CPU and GPU.

PCMark (Home Conventional 3.0)

DeviceScoreComparison
Huawei MateBook X2,726Better than 46 percent of all results
Surface Pro 20173,055Better than 57 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 52853,079Better than 57 percent of all results
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext2,998Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo X1 Carbon Core i52,965Better than 57 percent of all results
HP EliteBook x360 G22,916Better than 52 percent of all results
HP Spectre x360 152,472Better than 41 percent of all results
Surface Laptop Core i52,494Better than 40 percent of all results

The MateBook X may be performing better due to the better SSD compared to the Surface Laptop, but it's not entirely clear either.

The Huawei MateBook X with Core i5 is a solid processor for 2017, but it falls behind laptops with similar configurations. The fact that it is fan-less is impressive, but there is a slight reduction in performance because of it. While such a reduction is likely unnoticeable for light computing tasks, it won't be a gaming or media editing powerhouse.

SACRIFICES WERE MADE

MateBook X battery life is just OK

Will you be shocked if I told you that a laptop that shares the size dimensions of a magazine and that weighs only 1.05kg but uses a full laptop processor falls behind on battery life? Probably not.

That's not to say the MateBook X has terrible power longevity. In my regular usage with the Core i5 model, I easily got between six and seven hours out of the MateBook X. That falls behind more recent laptops that are heavier and bulkier, but it's not a deal-killer either.

The 41.4 WHr battery helps keep the MateBook X from dying too soon, and the compact USB Type-C charger is easy to carry around.

To add some data to the mix, we used PCMark's battery test. The PCMark Home Battery Accelerated test uses the CPU and GPU together in a looping cadre of tasks like photo editing, video calls, and web browsing until the computer hits around 20 percent remaining battery.

PCMark 8 Home Battery Accelerated (H = hours, M = minutes)

PCCPUResultsBattery consumption
MateBook Xi53H 50M81 percent
Surface Laptopi75H 15 M81 percent
Surface Proi55H 6M81 percent
Surface Laptopi55H 1M81 percent
Surface Proi74H 0M81 percent

The MateBook X nearly matches the Core i7 Surface Pro, which has a slightly larger battery and smaller display. Battery run-down tests are far from typical usage, but it is clear Huawei sacrificed battery life with being super thin and light. That tradeoff is not worth it for all people, but for some users it's fine.

Not much here

MateBook X I/O ports

Like many modern PCs that are going thin and light the MateBook X eschews input and output (I/O) port selection in favor of keeping things minimal.

There are just two USB Type-C ports – one on the left of the device, one on the right – that give users the ability to plug in peripherals. Further complicating things, only one of those ports – the right one – is used for data and display output, while the left is for charging and data only.

Neither support Thunderbolt 3 for 40Gbps data transfer.