Thin, fanless design with attractive aluminum build. Core i5 and i7 processor options. Sharp 2K display with ultra-slim bezels. Dolby Atmos-powered sound system. Fingerprint sensor.
Only including USB-C ports is inconvenient. No touch screen option.
- Bottom Line
The MateBook X is a promising super-thin laptop with a smart metal design. Port limitations aside, its array of other features and nice display add up to an appealing ultraportable option.
Huawei is taking a design-centric approach to its newest hardware, going for a unified slim look to help its machines stand out. The flagship for this initiative is the MateBook X ultraportable, an incredibly thin, fanless 13-inch notebook with both style and computing power. It will be released this summer, and we had a chance to get some hands-on time at a press event in New York.
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The much-vaunted slenderness is no exaggeration: The MateBook X is just 0.5 inches thick and measures 11.25 inches wide and 8.3 inches deep. Huawei claims that makes it the world's thinnest 13-inch laptop with no fans, and with a weight of just 2.31 pounds, portability is definitely a strong suit. Achieving this size doesn't make it feel hollow or cheap, though—the construction quality feels solid, made entirely of machined aluminum rather than a chintzy plastic or alloy. The unit we checked out was gold (Prestige Gold, to be exact), but it will also come in Space Gray in the U.S.
Its 2K resolution (2,160 by 1,440) display is similarly good quality, with a bright and sharp picture. Super-thin bezels (just 4.4mm) really maximize screen space, which is key in Huawei fitting a 13-inch display into the small chassis. In-Plane Switching technology in the panel allows for wider viewing angles, and glare wasn't too bad, even outdoors where we took the laptop for photos. There is no touch option, a concession Huawei made to achieve the form factor, since that would require a bit more thickness. So if touch is an absolute must, you'll have to look elsewhere.
The lean body means you'll have to sacrifice some connectivity, though, as it only includes USB-C ports (one on the left for data transfer and charging, and one on the right for data transfer and dock connection). Including USB-C has advantages, but we've dinged other laptops for only having USB-C in the past, like the 2016 Apple MacBook, as the inconvenience of not being able to use normal USB peripherals (without an adapter) can't be ignored. However, Huawei is at least including a USB-C-to-USB cable in the box to make connecting to drives, mice, and other peripherals less of a headache. Also in the box is the MateBook Dock 2, which has USB, USB-C, and HDMI connections, and can connect to the laptop through the USB-C port on the right side.
Under the hood, you can get the MateBook X with either a Core i5-7200U or a Core i7-7500U processor, 4GB or 8GB of memory, and 256GB or 512GB of SSD storage. Its battery is rated for up to 10 hours of HD video playback, but we'll have to wait until we get a unit into the labs to test that claim, as well as its overall speed.
Outside of those core features, the MateBook X has some useful extras including Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11ac dual-band wireless, a front-facing 1MP camera, a smart power adapter, a fingerprint sensor, and Dolby Atmos sound. The smart power adapter adjusts voltage depending on your power source for more efficient charging, and includes fast charge to get some quick juice if you don't have time to fully top off. The fingerprint sensor is built into the power button and uses the technology found in Huawei's better-known smartphones. It works with Windows Hello to instantly sign you in to Windows 10 with your fingerprint.
We got a quick demo of Dolby Atmos, which uses hardware and software together to provide a better sound system than you'll typically find on a notebook of this size. The MateBook X is the first laptop to use this technology with speakers co-designed by Dolby, and it definitely produced richer and deeper sound than we've come to expect from a small notebook. In full testing we'll want to run some longer audio and video clips, and sit a bit further away to see how it sounds.
We'll have to put the MateBook X through its paces once a review unit arrives, but we're impressed with what we've seen so far. On paper the specs and feature set are solid, and we're impressed with the design, but further hands-on time will tell us the full story. Pricing information is coming soon—which is key for us to more directly compare the competition. Check back for a full review soon, complete with benchmark tests and more analysis of real-world use.
Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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