Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 (designer review)

The 2021 Huawei MateBook X Pro is now using the 11th gen Intel processors. It's a minor upgrade to the previous model but still an upgrade nevertheless.

The review unit I have here was bought secondhand because I saw a good deal and I've always wanted to see how good these Huawei MateBook laptops are. My review will be from the perspective of a visual content creator, someone who does graphic design, digital art, edits photos and videos.

Here's the specifications for the review unit

The other laptops Huawei currently has on their line up are the SGD 1598 MateBook 13 (2020), S$1098 MateBook D14 (2020), S$998 MateBook D15 (2020).

If you want to get a laptop for productivity, avoid the MateBook D14 and D15 because they are using 1080P displays with 16:9 aspect ratio. Get 16:10 or 3:2 displays if you can.

Here are the difference between the MateBook 13 (2020), MateBook X Pro (2021) and the LG Gram 16 (2021) which is my main laptop:

Model MateBook 13 (2020) MateBook X Pro (2021) LG Gram (2021)
Processor 10th gen Intel i5-10210U (quad 1.6Ghz 11th gen Intel i7-1165G7 (4x 2.8Ghz) 11th gen Intel i7-1165G7 (4x 2.8Ghz)
RAM 16GB 16GB 16GB
Storage 512 GB PCIe SSD 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD 512TB NVMe PCIe SSD
Display 13-inch IPS LCD, touchscreen 13.9-inch LTPS LCD, touchscreen 16-inch IPS LCD
Resolution 2160 x 1440, 200PPI 3000 x 2000, 260PPI 2560 x 1600, 188PPI
Aspect ratio 3:2 3:2 16:10
Brightness 300 nits 450 nits rated, 326 nits measured 300 nits measured
Colour gamut 100% sRGB 100% sRGB 100% sRGB
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce MX250 or Intel UHD Graphics 620 NVIDIA GeForce MX250 or Intel Iris Xe Graphics Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Ports 2x USB-C, 3.5mm audio 2x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, 3.5mm audio, 1x USB-A 2x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, 3.5mm audio, 2x USB-A, full-sized HDMI, microSD card slot
Battery capacity 41.7 Wh, 7 to 9 hours 56 Wh, 10.5 hours 80 Wh, 10 - 14 hours
Weight 1.3KG 1.33KG 1.19KG
Warranty 1 year 2 years 2years
Price SGD 1598 (US $1186 SGD 2398 (US $1779) SGD 2299 (US $1706)

MateBook X Pro is better than the MateBook 13 due to the better processor, larger display, additional USB-A port, higher brightness and longer battery life.

Between the three laptops listed above, I still prefer the LG Gram 16 because it has more ports, larger display and noticeably longer battery life. The larger display combine with the 2560 x 1600 resolution also means you can scale the UI to show more content while retaining a UI size that's easy to see. This is probably the biggest selling point. Downside of the 1.19kg LG Gram 16 is the build quality is not sturdy compared to the 1.33kg full metal MateBook X Pro. The LG Gram has 2 years warranty though. Sweet.

Things included


These are the items included:

  • 2m USB-C charging cable
  • 65W charger
  • Adapter with USB-C, USB-A, full-sized HDMI and VGA ports

Design


Design of the Huawei MateBook X Pro looks sleek. Build quality is excellent with its full metal body. This laptop looks and feels premium. Weight is 1.33kg.


This design reminds me of the Apple Macbook Air but there are some visual differences, such as the size of the bezels, rounded corners.


It even has the same tapered body of the Macbook Air.


The bezels are thin and uniform on the top and sides, thicker at the bottom.

The display is LTPS LCD. Advantages are colour accuracy, high resolution and low power consumption. Main downside is if the display overheats, it can wear down faster than typical IPS LCD. E.g. Think of how LCD loses brightness or turn yellow with time. But thankfully the display barely gets warm with usage.


Colours look great out of the box. I measured colour support for 100% sRGB, 71% NTSC, 77% AdobeRGB and 77% P3. This is a reasonably colour accurate display.


I measured a maximum brightness of 326 nits which is really bright. Viewing angles are great with minimal colour shift or brightness drop when viewed from extreme angles.


For some reason, many manufacturers like to enable auto-brightness by default and that's the case here with Huawei. Auto-brightness does not work perfectly on this laptop and it's annoying.

To turn off auto-brightness, from Windows Start menu, open Intel Graphics Command Center, go to System-Power-Display Power Savings and turn off Enhanced Power Savings. This is not the usual auto-brightness settings under Windows display settings.


The 3000 x 2000 resolution on a 14-inch display means the visuals are sharp with no noticeable pixelation.


The 3:2 aspect ratio is great for productivity. This aspect ratio gives you more vertical space and allows you to see more content. You can see more lines when writing, surfing webpages, coding or doing spread sheets. You see 10% more lines compared to a 16:10 display, and 20% more lines compared to a 16:9 display. You can work longer without scrolling as often.

When editing videos, you get to see more of the timeline or a larger viewer. When editing photos, you see more thumbnails.


The chiclet keyboard has good layout. A finger print sensor is built into the power button located at the top right. Finger print unlock is fast and more reliable than face unlock.

The touchpad is large with good clicking feedback, and you can even all the way at the top unlike most touchpads.


The keys have minimal key travel but still offers good feedback when typing. This is a keyboard you can speed type on.


The webcam is hidden beneath a button between F6 and F7. The location of the webcam means it's pointing up your nose during tele-conferencing.


This laptop is said to have 4 speakers. Two are downward firing and located near the corners. I've no idea where the remaining two speakers are. It may look like there are speaker grills by the side of the keyboard but I just don't heard sound coming from there. Anyway, audio quality is loud and clear without the talking-to-you-but-not-looking-at-you feeling.


There are two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports located on the left, and one USB-A on the right. I wish they could have included a SD card slot.

Performance

Everything about the laptop is fast.

The read and write speeds with the NVMe SSD are 3.4GB/s and 3GB/s respectively. Starting Windows and rebooting is fast. Loading and saving huge files is fast.

The 16GB RAM is great for multi-tasking and also makes performance feel snappy. Switching between apps is fast.

The only situation I experience lag is when a video is exporting in the background while I do other work. E.g. When scrolling webpages, the scrolling animation is more choppy. Basically, all other apps will be more choppy. It's not extreme lag though. You can still get work done.

The only benchmarks I have for you are photo and video editing benchmarks.


Here's how much time it took to export a hundred 16MP RAWs with Adobe Lightroom Classic:

Photo export time is close to the LG Gram 16 which uses the same processor. No surprises there. The surprising winner is the Apple M1 Macbook Pro which is a noticeably more affordable compared to the Huawei.


Here are timings to export a ten minute 4K video with H.265 using Adobe Premiere Pro CC:

  • ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15 UX582 (Intel Core i9-10980HK (2.4 GHz x 8) - 1 min 40s
  • Apple M1 Macbook Air - 4 min 54s
  • Apple M1 Macbook Air with FCPX - 5 min 1s
  • LG Gram 16 (2021) Intel i7-1165G7 (quad 2.8Ghz) - 6 min 11s
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) Intel i7-1165G7 (quad 2.8Ghz) - 5 min 10s

I'm surprised the video export time is actually faster than the LG Gram 16 even though both laptops are using the same processor. Anyway, export time can be fluctuate significantly depending on what you're also doing.

Video export time can increase significantly with thermal throttling. When I was charging the laptop and exporting the video, export time increased to 13 min 53s. There's obviously some serious CPU throttling happening behind the scenes.

When it comes to exporting videos, this laptop heats up fast. And due to the full metal body, the heat is conducted to the whole base of the laptop which includes the palm rest making it uncomfortably warm. In other words, you probably won't want to rest your palms on the laptop while it's exporting videos.

Charging the battery is going to make the laptop slightly warm, but if you're exporting videos at the time time, the laptop can get unbearably hot.

The LG Gram 16 may be slower to export videos, but it rarely gets hot.

Gaming

This is not a gaming laptop. The Intel Iris Xe Graphics can run some basic games but don't expect to play demanding action games such as GTA V or Red Dead Redemption.

Also, the laptop will heat up fast with gaming and draw battery much faster. You may want to connect the charger but that will make the laptop even hotter.

Battery life


I was able to get around 10 hours of battery life with normal usage at mid-high brightness. That's quite decent. Battery life of course will be affected by processor intensive tasks, e.g. video exporting.

When charging, the battery will get warm which is not unexpected, but it's warmer compared to other laptops I've used before. It's a minor annoyance to use the laptop while it's charging due to the heat. And if you're doing any sort of work that pushes the processor while you're charging, the laptop becomes even hotter.

Conclusion


The Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) is a good looking laptop with solid build quality, good keyboard and touchpad, good speakers, a beautiful display and good performance.

The main downside is the laptop can get warm easily and stay warm for a long period of time when the processor is under load. Editing 4K videos is smooth but exporting videos will really heat up the laptop. This is probably not a laptop I would recommend for any sort of video work, even for 1080P video editing.

The pricing is quite reasonable when compared to other competing 13 to 14-inch models:

  • Lenovo Thinkbook 13x (16GB 1TB) - SGD 1984
  • Dell XPS 13 (16GB 512GB) - SGD 1999
  • LG Gram 16 (16GB 512GB) - SGD 2299
  • Lenovo Thinkbook Plus 13.3" (16GB 512GB) - SGD 2332
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro (16GB 1TB) - SGD 2398
  • Apple Macbook Air (16GB 1TB) - SGD 2399 (refurbished SGD 2039)
  • Surface Laptop 4 (16GB 512GB) - SGD 2499
  • Razer Book 13.4" (16GB 1TB) - SGD 2999

My recommendation? Get the LG Gram 16 (2021) unless you really want the metal build quality.

Pros and cons at a glance:
+ Good looking design
+ Excellent build quality
+ 1.33kg weight is alright for a laptop this size
+ Bright and vibrant display
+ 100% sRGB colour support
+ Sharp display with no pixelation
+ 3:2 aspect ratio good for productivity
+ Great audio quality
+ Great keyboard
+ Great trackpad
+ Fans at high speed don't sound noisy
+ 10 hour battery life with mid-high brightness
- Laptop can get really hot when exporting videos
- Laptop is warmer than usual while charging
- 4 speakers are mentioned but only 2 are working

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