Huawei refreshes the Matebook X Pro and adds a larger Matebook 14

The Whiskey Lake CPU and Thunderbolt I/O updates are great, but the discrete GPU appears to be step down.

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Huawei’s Matebook 13 marked Huawei’s entrance into the Whiskey Lake generation of Intel’s Core chips, and Huawei’s refreshed Matebook X Pro (2019) and new Matebook 14 follow suit. Announced Monday at Mobile World Congress, Huawei’s also boasting tighter integration with its smartphones, using a “OneHop” wireless connection to transfer content back and forth.

In general, though, both devices are essentially spec bumps over their predecessors. The Matebook X Pro’s additions include Thunderbolt 3.0 capabilities, a downgraded Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU, and Whiskey Lake. The Matebook 14, meanwhile, looks a lot like the Matebook 13 that came before it, though obviously with a larger display. The 13.9-inch Matebook X Pro (2019) takes the similarity even further: Huawei executives said that the hardware chassis remains essentially unchanged from the prior generation.

That’s somewhat disappointing from an innovation standpoint, as it feels like the Matebook X Pro (2019) simply fixes some of the shortcomings of its predecessor. On the other hand, both the existing Matebook X Pro (2018) and Matebook 13 represent terrific value for the money, and hopefully nothing’s changed in that regard.

We’re told an official ship date will be released sometime after MWC, though May sounds most likely. We don’t know the prices of the new models, but the earlier Matebook X Pro cost $1,499 for the Core i7 model we reviewed, and $1,199 for the Core i5 version.

The “OneHop” conveniences somewhat tweak Windows’ own, such as the ability to transfer content wirelessly between phones and the PC using the existing Your Phone app. But in what we saw, Huawei’s gone the extra mile to add niceties that Windows has yet to provide. 

Huawei Matebook 14 Matebook X Pro (2019) Dan Masaoka / IDG

Without the difference in colors, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the two Matebooks apart.

Huawei Matebook X Pro (2019)

We toted along our Matebook X Pro (2018) and Matebook 13 eval units to compare with the new Matebook 14 and Matebook X Pro (2019) models shown at our briefing. We needn’t have bothered—aesthetically, there’s only one real change: the elimination of the “flower” logo embossed on the back of the laptop in favor of a more straightforward aesthetic.

Huawei Matebook X Pro (2019) Dan Masaoka / IDG

A large, comfortable keyboard has been a staple of the Matebook line.

Both generations of the Matebook X Pro (and both the Matebook 13 and 14) appear nearly identical, with lithium metal unibodies, diamond-cut edges, and sandblast finished. Key features like the fingerprint reader embedded in the power button persist in the new generation. We’re told the Matebook X Pro (2019)'s dimensions are exactly the same as those of the earlier Matebook X Pro (2018)

Huawei Matebook X Pro (2019) Dan Masaoka / IDG

The Matebok X Pro (2019) boasts two USB-C ports, but only one is Thunderbolt-enabled.

From a performance standpoint, the upgraded Whiskey Lake processor should improve performance by about 10 percent over the previous 8th-gen Core-based (Kaby Lake R) Matebook X Pro. The new Whiskey Lake platform also supports 2x2 802.11ac, with transfer rates up to 1,733Mbps at 5GHz. Inside the Matebook X Pro (as well as the Matebook 14) is Huawei’s Shark Fin 2.0 cooling system, which we found to be quite effective in cooling the Matebook 13 we reviewed.

Huawei Matebook X Pro (2019) Dan Masaoka / IDG

Tolerating the pop-up camera is one of the prices you’ll pay for both new Matebooks.

There’s one apparent catch: Though the GeForce MX250 graphics option sports a higher model number than the MX150 it replaces, it’s a slower part. The MX250 includes a smaller number of texture management units (24 versus 32), and also runs at 937MHz vs. 1,227MHz for the MX150. 

Footprint was one of the watchwords of the Matebook 13, as Huawei used techniques like a full, spacious keyboard (with 1.2mm of key travel) and a high screen-to-body ratio to give the appearance of a larger notebook within a compact form factor. Here, too, Huawei’s FullView display uses a 91 percent screen-to-body ratio, pushing the screen bezels to slivers. This leaves no room for a user-facing camera in the traditional bezel position, so it pops out from the keyboard, as before. Four speakers should push out a hefty volume of audio, powered by Dolby Atmos technology.  

Huawei Matebook X Pro (2019) Dan Masaoka / IDG

Historically, Huawei’s embedded fingerprint sensor (hidden within the power button) has remained accurate over repeated use.

Matebook X Pro (2019) basic specs:

  • Processor: (1.6GHz) Intel Core i5-8265U; 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U (Whiskey Lake)
  • Memory: 8GB-16GB 2,133MHz LPDDR3
  • Display: 13.9-inch LTPS technology (3000x2000)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620 (Integrated) + Nvidia GeForce MX250 w/2GB GDDR5 (MX250 not offered on Core i5 model)
  • Storage: 256GB-512GB PCIe-NVMe SSD (512GB as tested)
  • Camera: 1MP front
  • Wireless: 802.11ac (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 4.1
  • Ports: One USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C (power delivery, data transfer); one USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (Thunderbolt 3, power delivery, data transfer); one USB 3.0 Type-A; headphone jack. MateDock 2 includes USB-A port, USB-C port, VGA and HDMI
  • Battery: 57.4Wh
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.54 x 0.57 inches (14.6mm)
  • Weight: 2.93 pounds
  • Colors: Space Grey, Mystic Silver

We were told that the Matebook X Pro would offer a 1TB SSD option, though that wasn’t available on the spec sheet Huawei provided. We’ll have to see if that option becomes available.

Matebook 14

Both the Matebook 14 and the Matebook 13 that preceded it are considered a step down from the flagship Matebook X Pro, though the differences aren't that profound. On paper, you might be tempted to choose the Matebook 13 over the Matebook 14. The processor is the same, but the Matebook 13's GPU appears to be slightly better, and you may prefer the its pair of USB-C ports over the mix of USB-C and USB-A on the Matebook 14. 

Huawei Matebook 14 Dan Masaoka / IDG

Huawei’s Matebook 14, in the new Rose Gold color.

Huawei’s Matebook 14 offers a screen-to-body ratio of 90 percent, with a 14-inch screen that offers the same resolution as the Matebook 13's: 2160x1440. As you might expect, the light output’s a bit lower, or about 300 nits. (We consider 250 nits the minimum comfortable brightness for everyday use.)

Like the Matebook X Pro (but not the Matebook 13) the user-facing camera pops up from the keyboard. Two speakers (rather than the Matebook X Pro's four) are powered by Dolby Atmos audio processing technology.

Huawei offers both a Core i5 and a Core i7 Whiskey Lake processor from which to choose, as well as an option to use either the integrated GPU or the Nvidia GeForce MX250. Again, note that the MX250 is actually a less powerful GPU than the MX150, though the name would imply otherwise.

Huawei Matebook 14 Dan Masaoka / IDG

With a pair of USB-C ports, a USB 3.0 (Type A) port, and HDMI, you shoudn’t need an external docking station.

Unfortunately, we don’t have an official ship date or price for the Huawei Matebook 14. There’s an additional color option not available on the Matebook X Pro, however: rose gold.

  • Processor:  1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8265U; 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U (Whiskey Lake)
  • Memory: 8GB-16GB 2,133MHz LPDDR3
  • Display: 14-inch IPS technology (2160x1440)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620 (integrated) + Nvidia GeForce MX250 w/2GB GDDR5 (MX250 not offered on Core i5 model)
  • Storage: 256GB-512GB PCIe-NVMe SSD (512GB as tested)
  • Camera: Front: 1MP
  • Wireless: 802.11ac (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 4.1
  • Ports: One USB-C (data, charging); one USB-A 3.0 port; one USB-A 2.0 port; one HDMI
  • Battery: 57.4Wh
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 12.1 x 8.8 x0.62 inches (14.6mm)
  • Weight: 3.28 pounds
  • Colors: Space Grey, Mystic Silver, Rose Gold

Connecting the phone to the PC with OneHop

A new feature for the Huawei Matebook lineup is OneHop, a way of transferring content quickly between the Matebooks and other Huawei phones. (The apps are specific to the two Huawei platforms, Huawei executives said.)

Huawei Matebook X Pro (2019) Dan Masaoka / IDG

To begin the OneHop pairing process, you’l;l need to touch your Huawei phone to the NFC sticker on the Matebook.

Huawei also added a three-finger swipe gesture to the two Matebooks, allowing you to capture a screenshot by swiping down the screen. Doing so allows you then to highlight an area of the screen and save the contents. Huawei says it can also parse any text you may have captured.

That image (or images) can then be sent to a Huawei phone via OneHop, which uses an NFC sticker to facilitiate a Wi-Fi Direct connection between the two devices. Any images can be sent bi-directionally. Shaking the phone during a streaming video or Skype call can capture a few seconds to share. Finally, users can also share anything captured on the clipboard.

Unfortunately, Huawei’s been at the center of international concerns over how closely it holds your data. The U.S. government has repeatedly warned other governments not to use Huawei devices and telecommunications equipment. In January the U.S. Department of Justice charged the company with fraud and theft of trade secrets, including Huawei Device USA. (During our briefing, the company declined to comment on any of these issues.)

Huawei’s legal standing certainly isn’t as stable as its competition's. But the two new Matebooks look to be on much more solid ground. We hope to review both devices over the coming months.

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