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Huawei MateBook X Pro: New screen, new speakers, no Alder Lake chips

Alun Taylor
20 Apr 2022
Price when reviewed 
1,599
(estimated) inc VAT

An outstanding new sound system and excellent 90Hz 3.1K display keep the MateBook X near the top of the class

Pros 
Superior display
Outstanding speaker system
Four USB-C ports
Cons 
11th gen Intel silicon
No memory card slot
No Thunderbolt support
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Huawei’s last update to its flagship MateBook X Pro laptop was an incremental affair, with the basic design remaining the same for the fourth year in a row. For the MateBook X Pro (2022), however, Huawei has had a radical rethink and improved its flagship in two key areas: the display and the sound system.

Neither were what I’d describe as weak points in the 2021 model so I was expecting something rather special this time around, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Check Huawei.com for availability


Huawei MateBook X Pro review: What you need to know

What hasn’t been updated is the underlying architecture of the Intel silicon. The new MateBook X Pro was released in China at the start of January 2022, so it’s running on 11th-gen rather than the shiny new 12th-gen Alder Lake chips that are arriving in retail channels as you read this.

And, once again, there’s no discrete GPU, something that still causes me to cock an eyebrow at a machine carrying the “Pro” tag. Top-spec MateBook X Pros used to come with the Nvidia MX250 GPU, but this option was dropped with the 2021 refresh.

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Price and competition

The 2022 MateBook X Pro isn’t available yet in the UK but I’d expect it to fall around the £1,599 mark (it’s currently €1,899, which is the same as last year). That’s about par for a laptop of this class.

Right now, Huawei’s MateBook 14s, in all respects the new MateBook X Pro’s little brother, is available for £999, which makes it very good value. When I reviewed it last December I called it “Huawei’s best compact laptop”, words I stand by today. The 90Hz 14.2in screen is a cracker, and you get Thunderbolt 4 on the 1TB SSD model and a Type-A USB port. Battery life isn’t great but, other than that, it’s a blinding little machine.

If what you seek is a big screen with a high refresh rate and a powerful CPU, then Honor’s new MagicBook 16 could fit the bill. For £850 you get a 16in, 144Hz display and an impressively powerful AMD Ryzen 5 chipset. Only the very mediocre battery life lets the side down: 7hrs 13mins is nothing to shout about.

Of course, the doyen of sexy light laptops is Apple’s MacBook Pro. The 14in model starts at £1,899, which is a bit rich for a machine with only a 512GB SSD and no touchscreen, but the performance from Apple’s eight-core M1 Pro processor is epic, as is the battery life. The 14.2in screen isn’t quite as sharp as the 2022 MateBook X Pro’s but the difference is small enough not to be noticeable.

Lastly, although it’s a bit bigger and heavier than the MateBook X Pro, Dell’s latest Inspiron 16 Plus is arguably more deserving of that Pro badge thanks to its Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU. As a rounded package, the £1,050 Inspiron takes some beating thanks to a fine 3k 16in display and the fact that it’s easy to upgrade. It absolutely is a cut-price mobile workstation.

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Design and build quality

With an all-aluminium construction, the new X Pro is impressively solid and slim with even the 4mm-thick lid manfully resisting my efforts to bend it out of shape. Granted it’s larger and heavier than the outgoing model (310 x 221 x 15.5mm and 1.38kg vs 304 x 217 x 14.6mm and 1.33kg), but the display is larger and it isn’t that much bigger.

The basic design hasn’t changed a huge amount, either. The circular fingerprint-power button is in the same place and the keyboard is again flanked by speaker grilles. Put the 2021 and 2022 models side by side and you’d be hard-pushed to tell which is which unless you look at the sides.

The number of ports has jumped from two USB-C and one USB-A to four USB-C, two on either side. However, while the USB-C ports on the 2021 model were Thunderbolt 4 spec, the ports on the 2022 model are plain old 5Gbits/sec specification. All four support DisplayPort video-out and PD charging, though.

The days of USB-A are clearly numbered on laptops so there’s no point in me moaning, but kudos to Huawei for putting a decent number of USB-C ports on the X Pro and placing them 8mm apart so they don’t block each other. Like an increasing number of laptops, the MateBook X Pro (2022) lacks anything in the way of a memory card slot.

READ NEXT: Our favourite external hard drives

Removing the rear panel of the new Pro looked to be a more invasive procedure than I was prepared to undertake on a press review machine (I’m assuming there are two Torx screws under the rear rubber feet, but those weren’t coming off without a struggle), but I doubt there are any more options to be found by the brave than in the 2021 machine or the MateBook 14s, which only let you swap out the SSD. And considering the MateBook X Pro (2022) has a 1TB drive with perfectly decent performance (sequential read and write speeds of 2,944MB/sec and 2,383MB/sec respectively), I can’t see many people feeling the need to swap it out.

Wireless duties are handled by the ever-reliable Intel AX201 M2 card, which supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 and, being a Huawei laptop, the SSD is divided into 119GB Windows and 814GB data partitions.

Like the Huawei MateBook E, the MateBook X Pro (2022) also comes with Huawei’s recently announced Super Device screen and content-sharing system, but since this only works with selected other Huawei phones, displays and tablets I’m not going to dwell on it.

Check the Huawei website for availability


Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

Huawei says the backlit keyboard has been improved over the old model, but the action of the 1.5mm travel keys felt much the same to me. That’s no criticism because I had no beef with the keyboard on the 2021 model. The half-height up and down arrow keys are just things you have to learn to live with if you want a compact laptop. The keen-eyed among you will have noticed that the keyboard on my review machine isn’t UK-spec, but obviously British retail machines will be when they eventually go on sale.

The 120 x 83mm touchpad now extends right to the edge of the keyboard deck to maximise surface area and has a couple of very handy bespoke features that Huawei calls Free Touch. Press the right edge of the pad and run your finger up and down and a haptic volume control comes alive, while doing the same on the top edge lets you fast forward or rewind video (or scrub the cursor back and forth through text). Repeat on the left edge and you get a haptic brightness control. I found the single- and double-knuckle knock to take a screenshot and display video features very unreliable, however.

The webcam was very disappointing when compared to the quality camera fitted to MateBook E. It’s a typical grainy 720p affair, but at least it’s above the screen rather than hidden under a fake function key like Huawei notebooks of yore. And it supports Windows Hello IR facial recognition, giving you two forms of biometric login.

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Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Display and audio

The Huawei MateBook X Pro’s LTPS touch display is larger than the 2021 model’s at 14.2in vs 13.9in and the resolution and pixel density has increased, too, now coming in at 3,120 x 2,080 and 264ppi against the old model’s 3,000 x 2,000 and 259ppi, while the screen-to-body ratio is a highly impressive 92.5%.

Continuing Huawei’s habit of offering higher refresh rates than the usual 60Hz, the new X Pro’s screen can turn over at 90Hz, making onscreen animations and transitions that bit smoother. All those specs aside, it’s a very, very good display.

I measured the maximum brightness at an impressive 595cd/m², while the P3 gamut coverage and volume came in at 92.5% and 95.7% respectively. By default the screen is set to the DCI-P3 colour space but you can switch to sRGB using Huawei’s colour Display Manager, where those figures reach 99.1% and 135.2%.

It’s a colour-accurate display, too, returning a Delta E variance of just 1.22. To round off the screen metrics, the contrast ratio is a solid 1,367:1, but the measured black luminescence was a touch on the high side at 0.44.

Quite how Huawei has squeezed six speakers into the MateBook X Pro’s slender frame is anyone’s guess but the results are beyond doubt: the sound is superb, with effortless bass and volume aplenty. The maximum peak volume I recorded from a music source was 89dB with an average of 84dB, which is an outstanding result. If playing music is something you do a lot on your laptop then this new Huawei should be top of your buying list.

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Performance and battery life

The 11th Gen Core i7-1195G7 chip inside the new MateBook is a quad-core component with a base clock speed of 2.9GHz. Combine that with 16GB of four-channel RAM and a PCI-E 4 mainboard and you get good rather than outstanding performance.

Expert Reviews’ multimedia benchmark returned a score of 148, which means you’ll have no problems with basic productivity tasks but you’ll still be well short of the sort of underlying grunt the MacBook Pro can serve up or even the cheaper AMD-powered Honor MagicBook 16. Even the MateBook 14s has it beat thanks to its Core i7-11370H chip having a higher base clock speed.

The more I ponder this, the less convinced I am that releasing a flagship laptop with an 11th gen CPU is a wise move, just as the far superior 12th gen Alder Lake chips are arriving on the scene. Perhaps Huawei would have been better served by not releasing this model in the West – after all, the previous model only landed last summer – and holding off for an Alder Lake update later on in 2022.

As you can see from the Geekbench 5 and gaming benchmarks, the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2022) performs well enough for a laptop without a standalone GPU, but is that good enough for a new machine with a premium price tag? I’m not sure it is.

Battery life has improved over last year’s model but only to the tune of two minutes at 9hrs 45mins. That’s well within any margin of error and not all that impressive considering the new model has a 60Wh capacity battery, which is 4Wh more than the outgoing model.

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Check Huawei.com for availability


Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Verdict

If this machine had a new Alder Lake chip in it, I’d probably be saying that it’s the best compact laptop you can buy at the moment. But it hasn’t. The display and sound system are genuinely superb and quite the match for anything else on sale today, but the performance is rather mediocre for a notebook in this price bracket.

I can’t shake the feeling that this anglicised version of an existing Chinese model has been rushed out to maximise Huawei’s commercial opportunities around the recent Super Device announcement at MWC 2022. I don’t blame it for that, but my advice is to wait for the next Huawei MateBook X Pro (with 12th gen Intel silicon). If that has the same display and speaker system as this model it will be a laptop I’ll crawl over broken glass to get my hands on.

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