June 2, 2023

We try out Huawei’s first Ultrabook, the MateBook X

Of the three new products Huawei launched today, the MateBook X is the most exciting. It takes the popular formula of a thin and light laptop and adds some great features, resulting in a relatively unique device in a market that’s become a little stagnant.

The design is super-attractive. The ‘diamond-cut’ edges are sharp and stylish, and all three colours in which the laptop is available look nice. In particular, the pink is quite startling, but it’s the gold model that’s likely to sell the most units. There’s also a grey version of the MateBook X for those who long for a more understated look.

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The MateBook X reminds me a lot of the Asus ZenBook 3, with its large keys and edge-to-edge keyboard. But the overall shape of the device is slightly more square as a result of its boxy 2160 x 1440-pixel aspect ratio and larger, 13-inch screen. It feels roomy enough though: During my few minutes with the device, I found keyboard feedback to be satisfactory. This can sometimes be an area of compromise on ultra-thin laptops, so it’s a relief that it wasn’t noticeable here.

The touchpad is similarly good, and it’s Microsoft Precision-certified so will support all of Windows 10’s most advanced gestures out of the box.

Like the MacBook Pro Touch Bar models, there’s a fingerprint scanner on the power button. This is a neat addition, and it will be interesting to see how it works in practice. In my opinion, Huawei makes the best fingerprint scanners in the industry, so I have high hopes for a quick and seamless log-in experience.

The screen is a 13-inch IPS panel. The is a slightly odd aspect ratio means that squeezing a couple of windows side-by-side for multi-tasking might not be quite as easy as it is on conventional Full HD machines, but that’s where the negatives end.

Overall, the panel is excellent. Its thin bezel draws your eyes into the screen, and the panel can display 100% of the sRGB colour gamut for bright and punchy colours. Huawei rates the screen at offering 350 nits of brightness, and the glossy panel is protected by Gorilla Glass 3.

Performance comes from either an Intel Core i5-7200U or a Core i7-7500U. Both these chips have two cores – but what’s interesting is that Huawei has opted to go for a fanless design. This is a departure from the likes of the Asus ZenBook 3 and is more similar to the Acer Switch series of devices. The tech that keeps the processor cool is impressive and involves the use of ‘state-changing’ liquid gel segments inside the laptop. When they heat up, they melt, distributing the heat they’ve absorbed later on when things have cooled down a little.

What’s unknown is how long the processor can clock to their respective maximum speeds. It will undoubtedly be less than on a laptop with a fan, so big tasks, such as batch-rendering photos or opening dozens of browser tabs, could have a significant impact on performance. For lighter tasks, however, the MateBook X feels very zippy. The processor is backed up by a 256 or 512GB PCI-E SSD and either 4 or 8GB of LPDDR3 memory.

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Huawei rates offline video playback battery life at 10 hours, which is fine, but this probably doesn’t reflect true everyday usage accurately. I’d imagine between seven and eight hours in real-world use, but I’ll have to wait and see.

Wired connectivity comes from a pair of USB Type-C connectors. The left-side port supports charging from the dinky power adapter as well as data, while the right side just supports data. If you want more ports, you’ll need to buy a dongle or a dock. Depending on your retailer and region, you might get a Huawei MateDock 2 in the box.

Huawei has paid special attention to audio on this device. While the 3.5mm audio jack and Realtek audio chip might not sound special, it’s the work that audio firm Dolby has done that’s impressive. The two speakers are loud and manage some really impressive stereo separation based on the samples I experienced, and there even seems to be a little software-enhanced bass. Whether they stands up to long-term scrutiny remains to be seen – but it sounds promising nevertheless.

First Impressions

The MateBook X starts at €1399, which will probably equate to about £1200 inc VAT. That puts it at a higher price than the base model ZenBook 3, but with all the perks of a seemingly higher-spec screen, better speakers and fanless design. My full review will come soon.