How do you make a laptop to rival the all-conquering MacBook Pro (insert year here)? Well, Huawei was on probably onto something by giving its own contender both a design and name so similar to Apple’s flagship laptop that if you squint your eyes (and ears) a bit, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re one and the same.
They’re not of course, and in our glowing review of the debut MateBook X Pro we argued that it actually one-ups the established lappy in a number of departments.
The 2019 refresh, then, only strengthens Huawei’s case as a genuine Windows-based alternative, right? It certainly looks that way.
Design: If it ain’t broke
Cosmetically, there is next to nothing to separate the new MateBook X Pro from its predecessor. It’s still 13.9in and crafted from premium aluminum, weighing in, as before, at 1.33kg. It feels great in the hand.
The bezel that runs along the top and sides of the display is barely there, leaving you with a 91% screen-to-body ratio. It really is a lovely thing to behold.
Huawei continues to opt for a spill-proof, backlit Chiclet keyboard, which a lot of people are going to prefer to the butterfly switches Apple seems intent on sticking with. Also still great is the whopping great trackpad underneath, which gives you plenty of room for swiping.
The webcam remains hidden in the top row of keys so it only need pop up when you need it, which as far as we’re concerned is what every laptop manufacturer should now be doing. The power button is once again a one-touch fingerprint sensor, and when pressed it’ll boot the device in a matter of seconds.
It’s not entirely impossible to play spot the difference between the MateBook X Pro old and new, however. On close inspection you’ll notice that the newer model has an additional (and sadly irremovable) sticker in the lower right corner. More on that in a bit.
Happily, the Thunderbolt 3 port has been upgraded this time round, and you get two USB-A ports, two USB-C, and the holy headphone jack.
Screen and sound:
The similarities don’t end with design. 2019’s MateBook X Pro still has a 3K LCD touchscreen panel that supports 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and maxes out at 450 nits of brightness. The 3:2 aspect ratio feels spacious regardless of what you’re doing.
It’s very difficult to get a comprehensive idea of how impressive the display is when you’re just flicking through menus, but colours and viewings angles are great.
The quad Dolby Atmos speakers that impressed up last year are also back, which means you won't always have to turn to headphones.
The touchscreen now supports a number of gestures designed to make everyday computing easier. For example, swiping three fingers down on the display takes a screenshot. It’s undoubtedly nifty, but more useful than a PrtScn button? We’re not so sure.
If you hadn’t already guessed, this year’s MateBook X Pro’s substantial upgrades are under the hood, especially if you for the top of the line 512GB version with 16GB of RAM.
The slightly 8th Gen Intel Core Whiskey Lake processor is apparently 10% faster, and you can now opt for NVIDIA's new MX250 GPU, which will give Huawei’s latest a shot in the arm for gaming and video editing.
The MateBook X Pro supports Huawei’s OneHop functionality, which allows you to speedily transfer photos, videos and documents between your laptop and EMUI 9.1-supported smartphone with a single tap on the sticker.
You can record the screen by shaking and tapping, or copy something on your phone and paste it on the laptop. From the demonstration we saw it works pretty seamlessly. Something about Handoff….
Huawei MateBook X Pro initial verdict
Having already nailed the MateBook X Pro’s unashamedly MacBook Pro fanboy look the first time, it’s no surprise to see Huawei focus on the internals for the follow-up.
Better processor, better graphics and a better Thunderbolt 3 port are the takeaways. Throw in party tricks like OneHop and touchscreen gestures (the latter being something Mac users are almost certainly never going to get), and this year’s iteration is shaping up to be just as Tim Cook-worrying as its forerunner.