Huawei MateBook X Review: Makes My MacBook Air Look Clunky And Slow – Forbes

The Huawei MateBook X next to the MacBook Air.

Ben Sin

The Huawei MateBook X (left) next to the MacBook Air.

Huawei isn’t shy about what it has in mind with its first ever laptop, the MateBook X. The Chinese tech company is already the world’s third largest phonemaker — behind Samsung and Apple — and has in the past couple of years released smartwatches and 2-in-1 tablets. It is also a telecommunications giant, providing networking services to 170 countries around the world, and is one of the world leaders in 5G development. The laptop, then, was about the only thing missing in Huawei’s portfolio to cover every asset of our digital lives. This isn’t my assumption — Huawei’s consumer business group CEO Richard Yu said exactly that during the MateBook X’s launch in Berlin.

After a week of using it as my work device, I am completely sold. The MateBook X is an excellent device that is so light, thin and fast, it made jumping back to my MacBook Air and Dell XPS difficult. The latter, in particular, was arguably the best laptop of 2016 (and 2015) and still awesome, but I prefer the MateBook X’s 3:2 aspect ratio — which gives me more vertical screen real estate than the XPS’s 16:9 ratio — and far superior speakers. As for the MacBook Air? That was once the epitome of ultra-portable laptop, but not only did it get thrown under the bus by Apple’s own (redundant as heck) line of MacBooks, it is completely outclassed here by the MateBook X. I’ll explain more later; first let’s talk specs.

The MateBook X is an all aluminum 13-inch Windows 10 laptop with dimensions that’s barely larger than a piece of A4 paper, weighs 2.2 pounds and measures only 12.5mm thick when closed. It’s powered by the newest generation Intel iCore chips (i5 or i7), has 8GB of RAM with either 256 or 512GB of SSD storage. The 13-inch display has a really sharp 2k resolution and slim bezels.

The MateBook X.

Ben Sin

The MateBook X.

The device is the most portable laptop I've ever used.

Ben Sin

The device is the most portable laptop I’ve ever used.

The MateBook X (bottom) is only 12.5mm thick, making it thinner than both the MacBook Air and the Dell XPS 13.

Ben Sin

The MateBook X (bottom) is only 12.5mm thick, making it thinner than both the MacBook Air and the Dell XPS 13.

The device is extremely well-built, as anyone who’s used Huawei’s recent phones would expect. The hinge is sturdy and shows no sign of wobble, the keyboard is a joy to type on, despite the less than usual key travel (1mm, as opposed to 1.5mm). I’m able to hit my usual 90+ words per minute typing mark on this like I would on a proper keyboard. The keyboard includes useful shortcut keys for volume control and screen brightness, though I wish it included video playback controls. Also, there’s a dedicated button to turning on/off the WiFi, which is weird. A couple of times I’d accidentally hit the button and accidentally cut connectivity.

The trackpad, measuring about 4 by 2.5-inches, is also superb. What I love best about it is that it foregoes those stupid Windows edge swipe gestures (like swiping on the right side in to bring open the Action Center). Those gestures are very prone to accidental triggers, and drove me insane on other Chinese devices such as the Chuwi LapBook or Teclast TPower 16. The far less annoying Windows trackpad shortcut gestures like pinch-to-zoom and three finger swiping are still here.

Okay, so far I’ve talked about the MateBook X’s wonderful keyboard and build quality, while those are very important, they’re traits that can be found on other laptops. Let’s talk about the two features that make the MateBook X stand out from the rest of the pack. The first is the fingerprint reader that’s implanted into the power button. If you’ve used Huawei phones before you know Huawei fingerprint readers are the best in the business — the reader on my Mate 9 Pro is faster and more accurate than any other fingerprint reader on any other phone I’ve used. On the MateBook X, the reader works as you press the power button. So whether you’re booting up the laptop from shut-down or sleeping state, one press is all you need to get all the way to the Windows desktop.

The other standout feature are the speakers, which Huawei co-engineered with Dolby. This is the world’s first laptop to run Dolby’s Atmos sound system, and the sound quality is immediately noticeable. Audio comes out fuller, louder, with far less distortion than almost any laptop I’ve ever tried. I shot an audio test video below pitting the MateBook X against my Dell XPS 13, and the MateBook X wins hands down.

The bar for laptop speakers (especially thin laptops) aren’t exactly high, but Huawei more than jumps over the competition with a new standard for laptop audio quality. This is the first laptop I can stand watching movies as is, without plugging in an external speaker or headphones. And it’s worth noting that I’m a film snob who also review films for a living — I have high standards for watching films.

The fingerprint reader/power button.

Ben Sin

The fingerprint reader/power button.

The MateBook X (left) with the Dell XPS 13.

Ben Sin

The MateBook X (left) with the Dell XPS 13.

Next page: video review, battery life, performance…

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