I still remember when Huawei announced its very first laptop back in 2017 and was blown away by how stylish it was compared to anything on the market at the time. Its screen supported touch controls, boosted 2K resolution, and was wrapped in tiny (laptop) bezels.
The problem with setting up something so aesthetically ahead of its time is that there might not be much room for improvement, and that is the case with the MateBook X Pro 2021: from a distance it looks a lot like the original revolutionary laptop from 2017, and almost exactly the same as the 2019 and 2020 models. Other laptops, especially those from Apple, have continued to deteriorate to bezel sizes, to the point that the giant gap in the top design that Huawei had in 2017 has become much smaller.
But I guess that’s okay – the world of laptops isn’t like the ever-changing world of smartphones; laptops tend to play it safe with hardware design, it’s the internal updates that count. And on that front, Huawei is doing everything other PC makers do and more.
For those unfamiliar with Huawei laptops, here’s a hardware rundown: The MateBook X Pro 2021 has a 13.9-inch 3: 2 LCD touchscreen with 3000 x 2000 resolution. The aluminum chassis has a glossy matte finish and the keyboard keys are evenly spaced, with over 1mm of key stroke, which is good.
There is a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader, and it’s the fastest in a laptop: you press the button once (even when the machine is completely turned off) and it boots to Home screen ready to go without needing to scan your digits again.
I’ve had issues with Huawei’s trackpads in the past, in that I found them to be too finnicky and nervous compared to the MacBook’s excellent trackpad. I’m happy to report that this latest Huawei laptop has an improved trackpad – it’s more precise, offers more friction against my finger when I’m scrolling (a good thing), and has the best haptic feedback I’ve ever had, thanks to eight piezoelectric sensors evenly spaced under the trackpad. This means that there are eight points that provide haptic vibration feedback if I click.
The trackpad also has an NFC sensor for connecting to Huawei smartphones – I’ll get to that in the next section.
The hinge is sturdy and the build is top notch, roughly on par with any laptop from a major brand. When closed, its 14.6mm thickness and 2.9lb weight make it one of the most compact laptops yet. In terms of ports, you get two USB-C and one USB-A. The two Type-C ports can charge the 56 Wh battery.
Because the bezels around the screen are so thin, the laptop has roughly the same dimensions as a 13-inch MacBook Pro, despite almost an extra inch of screen. But those slim bezels don’t leave room for a webcam either; instead, that camera is hidden under the keyboard frame – between the F5 and F6 keys – and pops up with just a tap.
This webcam design has been a feature of Huawei laptops since 2018, and it divides. For people who rarely make video calls (like me), or people paranoid about their webcam being hacked by malware, the fact that the camera is blocked by default is great. But many other reviewers complain that the webcam’s location isn’t optimal, as it films the user at an unflattering upward pointing angle.
The 720p webcam’s video quality is decent, but it picks up surprisingly crisp audio thanks to its two front-facing mics located in the part of the chassis facing the user.
The MateBook X Pro 2021 has the usual features of bump PCs year after year: it runs on an 11th gen Intel i7-1165G7 with 16GB RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD storage. In terms of performance, the machine behaves like other laptops with this chip, which means it is more than powerful for productivity tasks, can handle light games and even video editing, but the ones that are Hardcore gamers or professional video editors will find this lacking. But then again, these people wouldn’t buy a thin 13-inch laptop for these tasks, anyway. The MateBook X Pro 2021 is designed for the portable work of students and professionals (who aren’t graphic designers or video editors) and it lives up to that part.
Huawei has built an efficient dual thermal fan system – what Huawei calls “sharkfin” that keeps the machine cool, and I can guarantee its performance: I watched a four hour movie (the “Snyder Cut”, whose report square look looks perfect on the 3: 2 MateBook X Pro display) with the screen on full brightness while having multiple conversations going on in Slack and WhatsApp Web and occasionally surfing Twitter on Chrome, and the machine was heating up rarely.
Battery life is also great, that same four hour marathon of movies / internet / chats only drained about 30% of the battery juice. For other productivity tasks like my typical workday writing articles and sending emails, the machine can easily last eight hours a day. The included 65W charging brick also takes the machine from 0 to 100 in just under two hours.
If you care about benchmarks, the MateBook X Pro 2021 scored around 1400 single-core and 4100 multi-core in GeekBench 5. Those numbers are on par with other PCs in this price / spec range, but of course the Apple’s MacBooks M1 beat this.
The Matebook X Pro runs Windows 10. It has everything a typical Windows machine offers, except that Huawei adds useful features to its laptops: Huawei Share. This uses the aforementioned NFC pad to connect a Huawei smartphone, and once synchronized, the user can load a mirrored version of their phone’s screen onto the laptop screen. I find this very useful (when using a Huawei phone i.e.) as it allows me to respond to phone-specific chat apps on the PC without having to grab the phone. When I want to be distracted I can also surf Instagram which is much nicer on the Android app than on the Windows desktop version.
Huawei also includes a PC manager that allows a more streamlined view of machine memory usage, battery statistics, and running programs. These new additions bring useful touches to Windows without taking anything away, so it’s an overall victory.
Priced at € 1,399 in Europe (around $ 1,600) and roughly the equivalent of $ 1,400 in Asia, the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 is a premium portable laptop for professionals. Those who use Huawei smartphones will find it even more to like, but even for non-Huawei phone users, this machine gets the job done, provided you don’t need to make a lot of video calls.