Hi-Tech: Huawei MateBook X ultra-portable notebook review

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Huawei MateBook X

It probably hasn’t escaped the astute observers among you that while smartphones seem to be getting ever larger, notebooks have been trying to do the opposite. When your phone can do nearly anything these days, who wants to drag around a big heavy lump of largely unnecessary computing power? The MateBook X is Huawei’s attempt to strike the perfect balance between power and portability.

So let’s start off with the bits that matter the most: the MateBook X weighs in at a mere 1 kilogram and slightly smaller than a piece of A4 sized paper. Yet it comes with a hefty 3:2 aspect ratio display which still measures 13 inches across thanks to super slim bezels. It’s also super sharp with a native 3000x2000 pixel resolution (quite a bit more than you get in the MacBook alternative) and covers 100% of the RGB spectrum. That last part is gibberish, I know, but the bottom line is that it offers great colour accuracy.

Which matters for example when you’re dealing with images that you actually want to publish.

The MateBook X is also super thin at only 13.6 millimeters. Basically it’s about the size and weight of a decent glossy magazine.

Huawei MateBook X

The MateBook X impresses as soon as you hold it for the first time. Its body is made from what feels like a premium type of aluminium, with no detectable flex and a very nice texture to touch. When you open it up, the 3:2 aspect ratio of the screen is immediately obvious. It’s got a lot more vertical size than most notebook screens, which is incredibly useful when you’re doing productivity tasks on it. Everything from browsing web pages to word processing is primarily a vertical affair, so a super widescreen aspect ratio wouldn’t do you any good for nearly anything except watching a movie.

The maximum brightness is also pretty damn bright, which is priceless for when you want to use it outside in the sunshine. Wouldn’t be the first time that I brought a laptop onto a beach.

It’s also got a touchscreen, but I never found those all that useful on notebooks as you get frustrated looking at the greasy fingerprints you leave behind.

Huawei MateBook X

If there is a downside to the minimalist styling, it’s that (as with Apple) the physical ports on the device have been reduced to the absolute minimum. In this case, there’s only two USB type C connectors and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a dongle included however which provides you with HDMI, VGA and regular USB connections plus another USB-C. I mean, it’s fine.

You can’t make a super-thin notebook if you want to have big fat connectors on it. That’s just logic. It still packs a decent 42 Watt-hour battery, which can be charged very quickly with the included 65W charger, though you won’t need to do that too often because I found the battery life to be absolutely stellar.

So despite the small drawbacks inherent to a super thin design, it’s still a rather convenient device.

Huawei MateBook X
Huawei MateBook X

One of the most important parts of a laptop is of course the keyboard. Now, you may think this is a rather obvious statement, but I’ve often been amazed at how badly some notebook manufacturers can get this wrong. There’s really no need to re-invent the wheel with over-engineered key mechanisms or silly touchbars. Huawei has done a good job here, not exactly fitting the most awesome keyboard ever invented, but it does the job well and I managed a pretty good typing speed.

There’s a large and very accurate trackpad too, with hardly any space going to waste between it and the space bar.

The most extravagant design decision is probably the pop-out webcam which resides in between the F6 and F7 keys. The advantages are that it doesn’t take up any space above the screen, and that it cannot possibly spy on you while it is retracted. As a downside, the lower location than usual means that it’s looking somewhat upwards towards your face when you use it.

Huawei MateBook X

The heart of the MateBook X is a 10th Generation Intel Core i5 processor which can boost up to 4.2 GHz with a base clock of 1.6 GHz for its 4 physical (and 8 logical) CPU cores. Again, none of this really means all that much, but basically this is about the most powerful processor you can put into a notebook of this size without any kind of fan. It will handle most common workloads with ease, but of course it’s not meant for heavy video editing or anything like that.

Because the CPU is passively cooled by the metal chassis itself, there are no moving parts at all inside the MateBook X.

Which is obviously a big plus for long term reliability. There’s 16 Gigabytes of RAM onboard, and a 512 Gigabyte solid state hard drive. The operating system, naturally, is Microsoft Windows 10.

So some pretty big numbers, although I wish that they hadn’t needlessly split the single physical 512 GB hard drive into two logical drives. The way they’ve set it up out of the box, most of the space available is on a second D: “Data” drive for which I don’t really see a reason although many notebook manufacturers have similar formatting habits. In my experience, the habits of actual users often involve stuffing most of their files in folders on the Desktop, or the My Documents folder. Which are all on the C: drive. So by formatting the drive this way you’re banking heavily on your users to be tech savvy enough to put their large files in the appropriate place. Or maybe they’ll be really savvy and delete the D: drive altogether to add this free space back where to where you’re most likely to need it.

Huawei MateBook X

Fortunately, Huawei has not cluttered the device with too much pre-installed software from the factory. When you first get to the desktop, there’s really nothing there in terms of icons except for the user guide and a “PC manager” app which has a useful after-sales services tab where you can contact a service center, check the warranty status and use the send-in service.

Having never tried a Huawei device of any kind before, I was more than a little impressed with the overall quality and refinement as well the lack of any obvious weak points.

There’s a lot of processing power available in a very slim package, and it easily beats its most obvious rival (the MacBook Air) on headline specifications. Though, obviously, the main reason for choosing one over the other will probably be whichever operating system you prefer. And when the only reason I can think of not buying the MateBook X is that you may want to be in a different software ecosystem altogether, the conclusion can only be that Huawei has done a rather brilliant job here. Good things certainly do come in small packages.

28 декабря 2020
Jan Coomans для раздела Механизмы