September 27, 2023


Unlimited Technology

Excellent Trackpad And Keyboard, Plus Webcam Is Fixed

I still remember my first time seeing Huawei’s first MateBook X Pro. It was 2018, I was at a media event in Berlin, and Huawei execs were proud to show off the company’s new laptop, particularly what they thought was an innovative, ingenious idea: the webcam, instead of located above the screen, was hidden inside the keyboard, only popping up into view when need.

Sure, this meant the webcam operated from an unusually low, upward-pointing angle, but this was pre-pandemic, work-from-home times, and most people seemed okay with sacrificing webcam framing for the benefits of slimmer bezels and peace of mind of not needing to put a piece of tape over their webcam due to privacy concerns.

Times have changed—the pandemic has made a lot of us work from home, moved our work meetings to video calls. Suddenly, the little-used laptop webcam became a daily work necessity. And the awkward angle of the MateBook X Pro webcam began to grate on reviewers (for the record: not me, as I was never that bothered by its location). The same gushy praises heaped at the webcam design in 2018 became criticism in 2020 and 2021.

Huawei has listened to the critics, because the newest 2021 update to the MateBook X Pro moves the webcam back to the top bezel. And with some nifty hardware engineering, the top bezel is still really thin.

The rest of the hardware will feel familiar to those who’ve seen previous MateBook X Pros. You get a really well-built aluminum unibody casing, an excellent full-sized keyboard with noticeably more key travel than a MacBook keyboard, and perhaps the best trackpad in Windows—a generously-sized pad with precise haptics, more gesture shortcuts than even Windows intended, and also doubles as an NFC pad for syncing Huawei smartphones to the laptop.

You do lose the trusty USB-A port from years past, instead you gain two more USB-C ports—this will be considered annoying to more casual users but great news for power users.

The overall machine is lightweight, at just 3 pounds, with a maximum thickness of 15.5mm (0.6-inches). It’s a lighter, thinner carry compared to even my partner’s 13-inch MacBook.

And this is despite Huawei’s laptop packing a larger screen—a gorgeous 14.2-inch LCD touchscreen with 90Hz refresh rate—the latter two features help it stand out from the pack of laptops on the market. Having a touchscreen can make interacting with the UI a bit more direct (you can scribble your digital signature with a finger, for example), and 90Hz refresh rate brings noticeable smoother animations than 60Hz screens. While the display is “just” LCD (OLED is superior), it gets plenty bright (up to 600 nits) and vibrant, even for outdoor use.

There is one area of letdown—the laptop is still running on Intel’s 11th-gen core i7 instead of the 12th gen chip that’s new for 2022. Still, this is the Intel Core i7 1195G7 instead of the 1165G7 processor in last year’s MateBook X Pro, so you are still getting a performance boost.

While this processor—with 16GB of RAM—is perfectly fine for productivity tasks and light creative tasks, the lack of a dedicated GPU keeps it from being a true creative users’ dream computer. You can edit videos on this, you just will have to put up with choppy timelines and long rendering times.

Still, with the excellent keyboard and trackpad, the MateBook X Pro has become my favorite on-the-go writing machine at coffee shops.

It works well as a multi-media machine, too, thanks to the beautiful screen and a six-speaker setup that pumps out top notch sound. I will say that Apple’s high-end 16-inch MacBooks still have better speakers, but the MateBook X Pro can be a close second.

The MateBook X Pro runs Windows 11, but there are some Huawei software additions, including “Super Device,” which helps the laptop connect seamlessly with other Huawei devices.

Huawei has also built gestures into the trackpad that I find very useful. For example, I can swipe up and down the edges of the trackpad to adjust either screen brightness or volume. Sliding horizontally on the top edge will scrub through videos (fast forward or rewind).

Despite the laptop’s thin build, Huawei managed to cram a 60Wh battery inside, which is good for about 8 to 9 hours of use. Charging can be done with the included 90W charging brick which is significantly smaller than a typical laptop plug from Dell or Apple. Huawei’s charger looks like it could be a smartphone charger.

In all, the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2022 is a highly polished laptop, but it’s a bit pricey at 1,899 euros ($2,096). While the MateBook X Pro has one of the best screens in the laptop space—and arguably the best keyboard and trackpad outside of Apple’s machines—it’s running on last year’s Intel processors and lacks a standalone GPU.

Still, for those who are using other Huawei products such as smartphones or tablets, this laptop brings enhanced connectivity that no other PC maker is doing right now. And if you know you just need a machine for word processing and viewing content, you can’t get better than this keyboard and screen. And you can even do video calls with the webcam at the right position, too.

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