The next iteration in Huawei’s range of premium laptops, the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) is more of a slight improvement on what came before it, as opposed to a major refresh of the system.
Since it was first released in 2017, Huawei’s MateBook X series has gone from strength to strength, cementing itself a laptop to compete with the likes of the Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) or the HP Spectre x360 14, both of which are top entries in T3’s guide to the best laptops you can buy.
In last year’s review, the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020) was said to “succeed in all the key areas where you want a Windows laptop to succeed”. But a few niggles like its expensive price point, lack of a 4K display and strange webcam placement are just a few of the reasons why it didn’t quite match up to the top dogs of the industry despite coming close. We'd have liked to have seen Huawei improve on those issues this year, but unfortunately, all of those issues still remain. So that begs the question, what has Huawei changed?
In this Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) review, I’ll give you the full low-down on what’s been improved on, and what hasn’t.
Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) review: price
In the UK, you'll be able to pick up the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) with 16GB RAM and 1TB storage for £1,599.99. It'll be available from the Huawei Store on the 5th May 2021, pre-orders start from the 21st of April 2021.
We're still waiting to hear when the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) will be available in Australia.
Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) review: screen and design
Just like its predecessor, the first thing you will notice taking the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) out of the box, is how stunning it looks. Absolutely oozing with style, it comes in a Space Grey and Emerald Green. The sample I saw was the Green colourway, which is paired with the 13.9 inch 3K (3000 x 2000) touchscreen LTPS display, and super slim bezels - it really is a sight to behold. They’ve not made many changes to the look and feel of the laptop, understandably so, because they’d already nailed it in previous generations.
Huawei has continued to stay away from going with 4K resolution, but all-in-all this screen is an absolute beauty anyway. Thanks to the 1,500:1 contrast ratio and sRGB 100% colour gamut, colours are vivid and bright, while details look impeccably sharp so it was fantastic to watch TV and movies on. It’s got the same 3:2 Ultra FullView display as last year, so not the best for watching widescreen content, but for working on or browsing the web it means you can see a lot more of the page at once. With a glossy finish to the display, it won’t be for everyone though. I took it outside to the garden, and the sun’s reflection on it was so bad that I couldn’t see a thing, quickly giving up and going back inside. That could be a major annoyance if you’re something who wants to work on the go.
When it comes to the design, the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) is slim and light, weighing 1.33kg and measuring 14.6 x 304 x 217mm. The aluminium chassis by no means feels flimsy, the build quality seems as premium as the price tag. One issue with the casing was that it's quite prone to fingerprints and other unsightly marks.
The low-profile keyboard was fast to type on, in fact, I found the short tactile keys pretty satisfying overall but that will really come down to personal preference. There’s a new and improved touchpad in the same bluey-green colour as the laptop, it's large, responsive and was easy to glide across the screen. I did think the left and right clicks felt a little stiff though. A great feature of the touchpad is the built-in NFC, allowing you to seamlessly connect your Huawei smartphone to the laptop.
The power button doubles up as a fast-working and reliable fingerprint sensor. There weren't really any instances where I had to readjust my finger and try again, even from switched off it registered my finger turning the laptop on. There's also a 3.5mm audio port, one USB-A port and two USB-C ports, both of which can be used to plug the laptop into power.
Unfortunately, Huawei hasn’t done anything to fix the unflattering webcam placement which looks up at you from below the chin. Cleverly though, the webcam blends into the keyboard, popping up when you press it. If you are someone who worries about the privacy of your laptop's webcam then you'll definitely feel at ease with it tucked away. The 720P HD camera was of decent quality, however, you can get better webcams so if you spend a lot of time on virtual video calls, that may be a dealbreaker.
Using it for video calls may not be ideal, but when it comes to voice calls, the microphones pick up crisp audio and do a good job to cancel out surrounding noise. You’ll also find four speakers placed on either side of the keyboard that fire upwards - they're placed perfectly and do a great job to give you rich, warm audio that doesn't sound out of place watching movies or listening to music.
Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) review: performance and features
Under the hood, the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) has a high-end 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. If you love the idea of this laptop, but shiver at the price, it’ll also be available with options for the 11th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, as well as with smaller 512GB storage capabilities.
One area that has been improved on in the 2021 iteration of the Huawei MateBook X Pro is the GPU. This time around, Huawei has opted for a more powerful GPU, the integrated Intel Iris Xe, making this much more capable when it comes to gaming than the 2020 version of the laptop. On 3D Mark's TimeSpy graphics test, it scored 1,611 which is hardly a bad result for a laptop that isn't built for gaming, it will certainly cope well with low-intensity 2D gameplay.
For general productivity like working, word processing and web browsing, this is a superb piece of kit. It’ll easily satisfy even very heavy workloads. On Geekbench 5, it scored 5,123 in multi-core and 1,556 in single-core. That’s a fair amount less powerful than the MacBook Air (M1 2020) for instance but is pretty comparable to similarly priced laptops like the LG Gram 17 review (2021) or the Dell XPS 13 (9310). When it was hard at work, the laptop did heat up a little and the fans did get slightly louder, I wouldn’t say this was in a concerning way though.
Huawei claims the MateBook X Pro (2021) will last about 10 hours of video playback. To test this out, I downloaded and played a TV show for an hour on maximum performance. The battery dropped by 20% in that time which would mean from a full charge it would have lasted about 5 hours. In terms of productivity, although making it through much of the day, it didn’t quite last me a full day’s work either. Not quite living up to Huawei’s claims when it comes to battery life, it also wasn't as long-lasting as the 2020 version of the laptop. Having said that, you’ll certainly get much more from it with the brightness and performance turned down. To counteract the slightly disappointing battery life, this laptop does have fast charging. You’ll get 4 hours of battery in only 30 minutes on charge. Plus, the charger itself is tiny (only a bit bigger than most smartphone chargers) so won’t be a pain to carry around with you.
Running on Windows 10 ensures the fast, smooth experience that Windows users are familiar with, the only differences are the Huawei PC Manager, Huawei Freetouch app to control the touchscreen sensitivity and the Huawei Share apps. If you’ve bought into the Huawei ecosystem including a Huawei phone, you’ll be able to make use of Huawei Share which makes transferring files between devices a breeze, as well as gives you the ability to manage your phone through the laptop using multi-screen collaboration.
Naturally, the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) packs in the most up to date Wifi 6 and Bluetooth 5, so you’ll be able to make the most of the fastest internet possible as well as a super stable connection between your devices.
Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 review: verdict
Once again, Huawei has delivered a stylish, slick computer that ticks almost every box you could need for a day-to-day laptop. Battery life may be a little subpar and performance isn’t quite top-tier, but despite that, it will cope well with heavy workloads, small amounts of content creation as well as light gaming. Not only is the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 ultra-portable, but it’s also great to type on if low-profile keyboards are your preference, and the touchpad is large, smooth and easy to use.
Granted, it is expensive at £1,300, so you’ll need to think carefully about what you need a laptop for before buying. If you’re big into gaming, you may want to look elsewhere, T3’s guide to the best gaming laptops can help you there. Or, if you need it for your studies, this could be a good option but not if you’re on a budget, in which case, look at the best student laptops or the best laptops under £500.
If you want a slightly less expensive device, yet love the striking look of this laptop, consider the previous generations like the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020) or the Huawei MateBook X Pro review (2019) both of which performed well at the time we reviewed them and will be available at cheaper prices now.
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