Huawei Matebook X Pro review: A few cut corners diminish this otherwise great laptop's value

Huawei's Matebook X Pro focuses on the areas you'll care about, making this thin-and-light one to consider for your next laptop purchase.

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 Don’t think of the Huawei Matebook X Pro as a “gaming” laptop, per se. But the discrete Nvidia GPU offloads enough of the graphics tests to make it a worthwhile choice for some older games, and should work well for an real-time-strategy game, too. Just don’t throw any first-person shooters at it without dialing down the graphics settings. Note that you’ll hear some fan noise during gaming sessions, though the fan isn’t loud enough to be obtrusive. We use the 3DMark Sky Diver test here, a synthetic benchmark that still gives us a good idea of how it will perform.

Though the original Microsoft Surface Book isn't directly comparable (the Book is a convertible 2-in-1 notebook, while the Matebook X Pro is more of a traditional thin-and-light), its original Sky Diver score was 6,220. Granted, many notebooks have moved on, but it’s worth pointing out that, from a graphics perspective, the Matebook X Pro offers more graphics horsepower than the original Surface Book. (As tested, the Surface Book 2 yielded a score of 19,190.)

There’s just one catch: the MX150 within the Matebook X Pro is a downclocked, low-power version. The full-power GeForce MX150, for thicker notebooks, runs at about 1.5GHz. The slower, lower-power version within the Matebook X Pro runs at a mere 937MHz, as measured by the GPU-Z utility. The problem is that neither Huawei nor Nvidia makes this explicitly clear, so it’s only revealed after further investigation.

Huawei Matebook X Pro sky diver Mark Hachman / IDG

Graphics/gaming performance is clearly one of the primary reasons to buy the Matebook X Pro, as none of the competition can hold a candle to it.

The Matebook X Pro includes the Intel Alpine Ridge LP Thunderbolt controller, allowing you to connect it with a cable to an external graphics dock or external monitor. But the Alpine Ridge controller supports just two lanes, rather than the expected four, for a total of 8 gigatransfers. Enthusiasts who care about such things should know that an eGPU won’t have as much bandwidth available as it would with other machines. 

Finally, we turn to battery life, one of our key metrics. We charge the laptop's battery to full. We also dial down the screen brightness to 250 nits, as measured by a light meter, a level which allows the screen to be viewable in dim light. Then we loop a movie over and over until the battery expires. The Matebook X Pro’s scant seven hours of battery life is pedestrian, but it will hold its own over the course of a day.

Huawei Matebook X Pro battery life Mark Hachman / IDG

At just over 7 hours of battery life, the Huawei Matebook X Pro isn’t really that competitive. But you’re also buying a laptop that errs on the side of performance, not longevity.

Conclusion

Huawei’s Matebook X Pro offers competent performance. Its true value is, really, value: For just under $1,500, Huawei offers a laptop with a 3K display, pairing it with a decent discrete graphics processor for a bit more oomph. Dell’s XPS series remains on top, however, at least from a general performance standpoint. The new Dell XPS 13 (9370) remains our Editors’ Choice within the category.

While it’s time for Huawei to abandon its experiment with keyboard-mounted webcams, there’s really nothing else to highlight as wrong with the Matebook X Pro. In fact, if you’re looking for a bargain gaming ultrabook, the Huawei Matebook X Pro fits the bill—though purists might not be happy with a slower external GPU and Thunderbolt port. In our view, Huawei cut a corner here and there, but focused its efforts on areas where consumers care the most.

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At a Glance
  • Huawei's Matebook X Pro is a very good ultraportable at an attractive price, cutting a few corners here and there but concentrating its efforts where consumers care most.

    Pros

    • Competitive price, compared to premium ultrabooks
    • Lovely 3K display that pumps out tons of light
    • Included MateDock accommodates legacy devices

    Cons

    • Power-limit throttling impedes performance
    • Battery life is just average
    • Huawei used Nvidia's lower-power MX150 discrete GPU
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