The Ultralight laptop market is a crowded but also highly lucrative segment that usually makes the headlines because these laptops end up being popular productivity workhorses if you can afford them. The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021, with Intel 11th generation CPU, has advantages that competitors should not underestimate.
The review unit we’re testing is a MateBook X Pro with an Intel Core i7-1165G7, a high-powered model. The configuration options are minimal since you can only choose 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD PCIe storage.
In some ways, it completely removes the hassle of figuring out which configuration is best, but on the other hand, it may bother high-end users who want 1TB of storage or even 32GB of RAM. I’ll let you decide, but in my opinion, 16GB + 512GB is a sweet spot for capacity and price.
MateBook X Pro Design
Maximum display recline
When the original Huawei MateBook X Pro came out in 2018, it was an impressive design ahead of its time. A few years later, the design foundation has not changed, and it’s been mostly about cramming more computing power into the same space.
The unibody CNC-aluminum chassis volume, thinness (14.6mm), and weight (1330g) are the same, and the ports are in identical places but with internal upgrades. If anything, the chassis’ green color is the only visible exterior change, and it is a beautiful one.
The “emerald green” color is fantastic, but if you want to keep a low-key appearance in the boardroom, there’s also a “space gray” variant. I have not conducted any scratch tests, but if the surface is anything like the previous version, I expect the skin to hold well to scratches and minor blemishes.
The chassis is highly rigid, and there is no flex when the laptop is closed. The display’s back cover is the only place where there is flex and will bend a bit if you press firmly on the logo area. Given how thin it is, it is not surprising.
To the upper-right of the keyboard is the Power button, which also doubles as a fingerprint reader. With it, you can use a complex password for higher protection without having to type it every time you log. It’s super-fast, and although Huawei introduced a “phone-style” fingerprint+Power button years ago, many OEMs are catching up just now.
Keyboard and trackpad
The MateBook X Pro 2021 has a comfortable chiclet keyboard with a 2-levels backlight. The travel is shallow and seems to be slightly shorter than 1mm, but that’s enough to be comfortable and provides good feedback.
That’s the norm for these skinny laptops. Space is just too scarce to afford longer key-travel. It’s a tradeoff for heavy typers, but I don’t expect people to be surprised by the keyboard.
The trackpad is larger than many Windows 14” laptops, and you can comfortably perform the most complex gestures supported by Windows. I’m not 100% sure if the trackpad surface is Glass or Mylar, but it feels very smooth.
There’s an NFC sensor underneath the chassis that serves as a sharing link with a Huawei phone to the right side of the trackpad if you have one. It’s a feature called Huawei OneHop, and pairs a Huawei phone to the laptop, making it easier to file-share or remote-control the phone from the PC.
OneHop is a very convenient Huawei laptop feature when using mobile-first apps, especially chat apps, so you do not have to unlock your mobile all the time. Some competitors have similar features, like Samsung with DEX, which works with all PCs (+ select Samsung phones).
The port situation has evolved a bit, and it seems that both USB-C ports now support Thunderbolt 3 and Power Delivery (PD). At least one can be used for reverse-charging your phone, even as the computer is OFF.
Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) is today’s connectivity of choice because it is the most universal: Power, Display, high-speed Storage, and even external GPUs could go through that port, thanks to the 40Gbps bandwidth.
For most people, a TB3 Docking station is a frequent home companion for a laptop, along with fast external storage.
The full-size USB port to the right is a USB 3.2 Gen1, the latest evolution of that connector. Of course, there is the classic 3.5mm audio headphone connector to the left.
The webcam is still hidden between the F6 and F7 function keys and will pop up when needed. It can capture 720p photos and videos and is comparable in quality to what you can find on the high-end laptop market. The quality is quite far from a selfie camera on a Huawei phone – that’s true for all laptops we looked at.
The camera’s location is excellent for privacy since you know precisely when it is ON or OFF (I think that there is no power at all when it is closed). However, the downside is the focus on your nostrils during video calls.
Technically, there are camera modules small enough to accommodate the MateBook X Pro top bezel, and we can only hope that in-screen punch-hole webcams will make their way to computers at some point.
The quad-speaker, the upward-firing sound system, produces a great-quality sound that’s near-perfect for watching movies and conference calls.
The original MateBook X Pro was once the best-sounding laptop we tested, but Lenovo’s soundbar design has taken that spot with a sound that has more ‘body’ and better spatialization, although in a larger form-factor.
It’s challenging to imagine larger speakers anywhere in this chassis, and I highly recommend turning the Nahimic sound processing ON as it helps make the spatialization noticeably better (search for the pre-installed nahimic app). It seems OFF by default.
MateBook X Pro Display
The 13.9-inch (3000×2000) display with a glossy finish is a favorite feature because of the 3:2 aspect ratio and the thin bezels. Many people prefer 3:2 over 16:9 because there’s more vertical space, leading to higher productivity in many apps.
When watching (16:9) movies, some space is lost at the top and bottom, but that’s a sacrifice that many people, including me, are willing to make. I spend much more time working than watching movies on these ultralight laptops.
The brightness specifications are 450 NITs, but we measured it at 550 NITs using a standard light meter. The display quality is generally remarkably high with an excellent color gamut (measured at 97% sRGB) and a very good contrast ratio.
MateBook X Pro Speed
Thanks to the 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7, the MateBook X Pro 2021 scores very well in CPU benchmarks such as Geekbench, both in single and multi-core tests. That said, it is not that far off from the 10th gen Core i7-1065G7 we previously tested.
If you have CPU-heavy workloads, there are bigger, more power-hungry laptops that have better absolute performance. However, if you look at the “CPU performance per Lbs” it is clear that the MateBook X Pro maximizes what’s possible within a small chassis.
From a graphics performance standpoint, the Intel integrated GPU is very decent and manages to be ~50% faster than the original MateBook X Pro (GeForce MX150) in “gaming” tests like 3DMark TimeSpy. This Core i7-1165G7 also surpasses last year’s Core i7-1065G7 graphics performance by the same margins.
And that is why this laptop shows great “graphics performance per Lbs” among thin and light laptops, especially those using the 10th gen Intel graphics. As you can see, larger laptops like the Yoga i9 15” or dedicated gaming laptops like the MSI Stealth 15M will feature higher gaming speed because of their discrete GPUs and bigger chassis.
This laptop can play games in medium settings, but the heat will build up relatively quickly, which is quite normal for this form factor.
The SSD performance is outstanding, with 3488 MB/s in sequential reads, 3000MB for writes, so you should not feel any disk I/O limitations while using it.
MateBook X Pro Battery life
The 56Wh battery capacity is in line with other 14-inch laptops and represents a good tradeoff between capacity and weight.
With the battery settings to “Best battery” and the display at 110 NITs of brightness, we ran an office productivity test for a continuous 10 hours and 7 minutes, which is great, although not exceptional.
The charging speed is curiously not as high as the original MateBook X Pro. But one hour of charge should get you from 0% to 80%, which is quite acceptable. Huawei’s 65W charger is very small and it is very appreciable for travelers.
The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 continues its predecessors’ legacy by bringing the latest computing performance in early 2021 to consumers and packing an incredible performance for its size.
It also shows how forward-looking the original chassis design was because it remains one of the best ultra-compact 14” (13.9) laptop designs on the market.
However, there is more competition than ever in the ultralight segment, and the MateBook X Pro 2021 faces ferocious competitors with the classic Dell XPS 13 (+Gen11 CPU ), M1 Mac laptops, and Lenovo X1 Carbon just to cite a few we are very familiar with.
Sold for about ~$1865 in the UK, it is comparable to a Dell XPS 13 or a MacBook Pro with a similar configuration.
This laptop has a definitive edge if you already own a Huawei smartphone as the Laptop/Phone integration is exceptionally convenient and well beyond today’s Windows/Android integration.