I still remember when Huawei announced its first-ever laptop in 2017, and was blown away by how sleek the thing looked compared to, well, anything else on the market at the time. Its screen supported touch controls, pumped out 2K resolution, and was wrapped in tiny (for laptop) bezels.
The problem with putting out something so aesthetically ahead of its time is that there might not be much room to improve, and that’s the case with the MateBook X Pro 2021: from a distance, it looks very similar to the original groundbreaking 2017 laptop, and almost exactly the same as the 2019 and 2020 models. Other laptops, most notably Apple’s, meanwhile, have continued to chip away at bezel sizes, to the point that giant gap in superior design Huawei had in 2017 has become much smaller.
But I suppose that’s okay—the world of laptops is not like the ever-transforming world of smartphones; laptops tend to play it safe with hardware design, it’s internal updates that matter. And on this front, Huawei is doing everything other PC makers are doing and then some.
For those unfamiliar with Huawei laptops, here’s a rundown of the hardware: the MateBook X Pro 2021 features a 13.9-inch 3:2 LCD touchscreen with 3,000 x 2,000 resolution. The aluminum chassis has a matte shiny finish, and keyboard keys are evenly spaced, with over 1mm of key travel, which is good.
There’s a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader, and it’s the fastest one in a laptop: you press the button once (even when the machine is completely off) and it boots up to the homescreen ready to go without the need to scan your digits again.
I’ve had issues with Huawei’s trackpads in the past, in that I found them too finnicky and jumpy compared to the MacBook’s excellent trackpad. I’m happy to report this newest Huawei laptop has an improved trackpad—it’s more precise, provides more friction against my finger as I’m scrolling (a good thing) and has the best haptic feedback I’ve experienced yet, thanks to eight piezoelectric sensors evenly spaced underneath the trackpad. This means there are eight points that provide haptic vibration feedback if I’m clicking.
The trackpad also has an NFC sensor to connect to Huawei smartphones—I’ll get to this in the next section.
The hinge is sturdy and construction is premium—about on par with every laptop from a big name brand. When closed, its 14.6mm thickness and 2.9lbs weight make it one of the more compact laptops still. In terms of ports, you get two USB-Cs and a single USB-A. Both Type-C ports can top up the 56Wh battery.
Because the bezels around the display are so thin, the laptop has roughly the same dimensions as a 13-inch MacBook Pro despite having almost an extra inch of screen. But these thin bezels also don’t leave room for a webcam; instead that camera is hidden as part of the keyboard—between the F5 and F6 keys—and pops up with a touch.
This webcam design has been a feature of Huawei laptops since 2018, and it’s divisive. For people who rarely do video calls (like me), or people who are paranoid about their webcams being hacked by malware, the fact that the camera is blocked by default is great. But many other reviewers complain that the location of the webcam is not optimal—as it films the user at an unflattering upward-pointing angle.
Video quality from the 720p webcam is just okay, but it picks up surprisingly crisp audio thanks to its dual forward-facing mics located at the part of the chassis that faces the user.
The MateBook X Pro 2021 features the usual spec bump PCs get year-to-year: it runs on an 11th-gen Intel i7-1165G7 with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD PCIe storage. Performance-wise the machine behaves like other laptops with this chip, meaning it’s more than powerful for productivity tasks, can handle light gaming and even some video editing, but those who are hardcore gamers or professional video editors will find it lacking. But then again, those people would not be buying a thin 13-ish inch laptop for those tasks, anyway. The MateBook X Pro 2021 is designed for portable work for students and working professionals (who aren’t graphic designers or video editors) and it more than lives up to that part.
Huawei has built an effective thermal dual fan system—which Huawei dubs “sharkfin” that keeps the machine cool, and I can vouch for its performance: I watched a four-hour movie (the “Snyder Cut,” whose odd boxy aspect ratio is perfect on the 3:2 MateBook X Pro screen) with the screen on maximum brightness while also having multiple ongoing conversations in Slack and WhatsApp Web and doing the occasional Twitter surfing on Chrome, and the machine rarely got hot.
Battery life is great, too, that same four-hour movie/internet/chatting marathon only drained about 30% of juice from the battery. For other productivity tasks like my typical workday of writing articles and sending emails, the machine can easily last an eight-hour day. The included 65W charging brick also tops up the machine from 0 to 100 in just under two hours.
If you care about benchmarks, the MateBook X Pro 2021 scored around 1,400 in single-core and 4,100 multi-core in GeekBench 5. These numbers are on par with other PCs in this price/spec range, but of course, Apple’s M1 MacBooks beats it.
The Matebook X Pro runs Windows 10. It has everything a typical Windows machine offers, except Huawei adds some useful features to its laptops: Huawei Share. This uses the aforementioned NFC pad to connect a Huawei smartphone, and once synced, the user can load a mirrored version of their phone screen on the laptop screen. I find this very useful (when I’m using a Huawei phone, that is) as it allows me to answer phone-specific chat apps on the PC without needing to grab the phone. When I want to be distracted, I can also surf Instagram, which looks far nicer on the Android app than on the desktop windows version.
Huawei also includes a PC manager that allows a more simplified view of the machine’s memory usage, battery statistics, and which programs are running. These new additions bring useful touches to Windows without taking anything away, so it’s an overall win.
Priced at €1,399 in Europe (around $1,600) and around the equivalent of $1,400 in Asia, the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 is a quality premium portable laptop for the working professional. Those who are using Huawei smartphones will find even more to like, but even for non-Huawei phone users, this machine gets the job done—provided you don’t need to do a lot of video calls.