Laptops

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: The MacBook of Windows

2018’s surprise hit

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As a long-time Windows user, I have to admit, I’ve always dreamed of having a Windows version of Apple’s MacBook. The Pro model in particular is an awesome fusion of sturdy hardware and precise software. Dell’s XPS line was often the best Windows had to offer, but they never quite hit every checkbox.

Surprise, surprise: Huawei came up with the closest thing to the MacBook of Windows yet. Yes, Huawei makes laptops; they don’t just specialize in smartphones and sick burns.

It’s called the MateBook X Pro, and it’s the successor to 2017’s MateBook X, which didn’t experience much fanfare outside of China. There was also a regular MateBook in 2016, but it was more of a Surface Pro competitor than a full-fledged notebook.

The MateBook X Pro has been available in select regions for a while now, garnering positive reviews and calls from fans to bring it to their shores. But why is it so coveted? Let me give you the reasons why, as well as some deeper-rooted cons.

Nothing beats its display

There’s so much to love about the MateBook X Pro, but I’m gonna go with the display as its best feature. The 13.9-inch 3K (3000 x 2000 pixels) touchscreen is enough to wow anyone who sees it. Even better: It’s got the highest screen-to-body ratio of any laptop today at 91 percent.

This is as bezel-less as it gets, and there’s no notch to interfere with the sleek design. Where does the webcam go then? Well…

Huawei picked the most unusual webcam location

If you’ve watched our hands-on video, you’d already know what to expect. The webcam pops up with the press of a button between the F6 and F7 keys. It’s innovative and totally bonkers. Check it out:

But as cool as it is — and trust me, I’ve wowed lots of people with this — I still would’ve preferred a top-mounted placement. I’d add a couple of millimeters on the top bezel to house a proper camera.

A login method I can get behind

Perhaps the biggest reason why I’m not a fan of the pop-up camera is that I can’t log in with my face the moment the laptop enters the lockscreen. It’s something I’ve enjoyed on every Windows Hello-enabled notebook I’ve used up until now, mainly those from ASUS and Lenovo.

To remedy that, Huawei integrated a fast fingerprint reader into the power button. If you leave your finger on the button a second longer when turning on the PC, it’ll bring you straight to the desktop — such a time-saver!

Keyboard and trackpad are top-notch

As someone who needs to write and edit articles on a daily basis, I consider the reliability of the keyboard and trackpad as priorities in a computer. Fortunately for me, this MateBook ticks both boxes with flying colors.

While not MacBook Pro levels of quality, the keyboard has just the right amount of travel and it’s so well-spaced — plus, there’s backlighting for when I work in the dark. The trackpad is massive for Windows laptop standards, and its use of Microsoft’s precision touchpad drivers means gesture control and navigation are easy peasy.

Speaker you wouldn’t expect from an Ultrabook

One of the first things normally given up when going for a slim form factor is the speaker setup. That’s not the case with the MateBook X Pro, which has some of the loudest units I’ve ever heard on an Ultrabook.

There are four in total, all Dolby Atmos-certified, making them loud and crisp. Combined with the immersive display, I’ve turned this into my go-to binge-watching machine.

No port problems here

A gripe of mine with newer laptops is the over-reliance on USB-C as the one, true port. Although I agree it’s the present and future of wired connectivity, I still want my USB-A on board.

That’s exactly the case with this notebook: It has two USB-C ports — one that allows charging and the other with Thunderbolt 3 support for plugging in an external GPU or monitor — and a full-sized USB-A for old flash drives and printers. It’s the best of both worlds, and there’s even a 3.5mm audio port so you won’t have to rely on the older Bluetooth 4.1 standard this MateBook uses for wireless headphones.

Performance is a strong point

At this point, there has to be some compromise, right? If you’re thinking that’s on the raw performance, you’d be absolutely wrong. My unit comes with Intel’s 8th-gen Core i7-8550U chipset, 16GB of memory, 512GB of SSD storage, and lo and behold, an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics chip.

It’s amazing how Huawei was able to cram all this power into the 1.33kg, 14.6mm-slim chassis. Admittedly, it does get quick hot under heavy load from games such as Fortnite and Overwatch, but not enough for me to turn the machine off. For everything else, such as photo and video editing, this configuration blazes through apps.

And battery life is surprisingly great

Again, Huawei somehow managed to avoid any glaring weakness in its best laptop to date. Yes, the MateBook X Pro has a 57.4Wh battery which I’m happy to report is designed to last.

If I avoid the overheating mentioned earlier while off the plug, I can get over seven hours of straight usage. It helps that this notebook charges quickly with its compact 65W adapter, which can also be used to top up my smartphones, so I need to bring only one charger on trips.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Since I began using the MateBook X Pro, I’ve found it tough finding faults, in the same way most Mac users feel about their laptops. There are minor hiccups here and there, but nothing deal breaking enough to avoid a purchase.

On that note, actually buying one may be the biggest hurdle. Even though it’s becoming increasingly easier to find through online retailers in different regions, it’s still nowhere near as easy to purchase as an Acer, HP, or even a MacBook.

It’s a shame, since more support for this product would mean a successor, though I think Huawei will produce one either way. Besides a specs bump and improved location for the webcam, I have nothing else on my wish list for next year’s MateBook X Pro Max Plus — or whatever it’s gonna be called.

CES 2020

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 screams premium

Simple, clean, and light

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Despite Apple’s dig at Chromebooks, it appears to be going strong with yet another addition to the portfolio — the ASUS Chromebook Flip C436.

Simple, clean, and light

ASUS is calling this the thinnest and lightest 14-inch Chromebook. It’s only 13.7mm thick and weighs just 1.1kg.

Complementing the slim form factor are two unique finishes: An iridescent Aerogel White which changes color depending on your viewing angle, and a more subtle Transparent Silver.

The sexy look extends to the display which has an 85 percent screen-to-body ratio.

Unexpected power

One would think something this slim form-factor will hold it back from going all out in performance. Fortunately for us, that’s not the case.

Here’s a specs and ports dump: Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6. Two USB-C ports, microSD card slot up to 2TB.

Whether you’re typing in laptop mode or writing on it in tablet mode, this will help you get your work done. Yes, write on tablet mode. This Chromebook supports any USI-compatible stylus.

The ASUS Chromebook Flip’s 42W all-day battery promises to delivery up to 12 hours of battery life.

Not just for work

When you’re done with the day’s work, you can flip it to tent mode for a Netflix session. The display along with the Harman Kardon-certified speaker setup should produce audio perfect as you unwind for the day.

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 starts US$ 999 will be available at around the first and/or second quarter of 2020.

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CES 2020

The Lenovo Ducati 5 is a racing inspired laptop

It even gets an exhaust note on startup!

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Lenovo has been partnering with Ducati on the racetrack for a couple of years now, and today, the company announced the Lenovo Ducati 5, a new Windows 10 laptop that was designed in collaboration between the two companies.

The racing stripe and additional design features come together well, and the fresh 10th-gen processor from Intel should keep it running quickly. The BIOS chime is meant to match the sound of Moto GP riders, and it comes in a Ducati gift box that has matching colors. It also comes with a sleeve that has a Ducati shield.

Apart from the Ducati branding, Ducati 5 is a standard mid-range laptop. It comes equipped with a 10th gen Intel Ice Lake Core i5-1035G1, Intel integrated graphics, 8 GB of RAM, a 14-inch display, and up to a 1 TB PCIe SSD.

Unsurprisingly given the size, there’s no discrete graphics on board, just the integrated graphics of the chip. This is not meant for serious video work or gaming.

Port selection is fairly good, offering users two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, one USB Type-C port, HDMI, an SD card reader, and a 3.5 mm audio jack.

The Lenovo Ducati 5 starts at EUR 900 and will be available in April 2020. Lenovo does not list a U.S. pricing. With a production run of just 12,000 units, the Ducati 5 is clearly a niche product.

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CES 2020

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold: Not just a computer

Best foldable so far?

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Last year in the midst of a foldable smartphone war, Lenovo showed us that a computer with a foldable display was also possible.

At that time it didn’t come with a name. Or specs. Or a launch date or a price. But all of that changes here at CES 2020.

What makes the Thinkpad X1 Fold so special? If you saw our preview video you would know, but if you didn’t don’t worry, we got you covered.

It’s not just a computer, its many things.

It’s a huge 13.3 tablet with an OLED display that folds close just like this. When shut, it looks just like a notebook complete with its built in leather folio cover.

You can also hold it like a book and and enjoy an e-book the way you would regular books. Use it with a pen, and it’s a notebook!

You can fold it horizontally too and the bottom half turns into a virtual keyboard. Or, and we weren’t allowed to tell you before, use a real keyboard.

When the X1 Fold is closed it fits snuggly in the middle of the display, so you can easily take it anywhere with you. Flick open the kickstand to use the tablet as a monitor and control everything with the physical keyboard.

You could also fold it horizontally and prop the keyboard on one half of the display and use it like you would any laptop. Key travel feels good and satisfying. It connects wirelessly and automatically. And it charges while tucked in the middle of the display.

The keyboard and pen are bundled and come free.

But Lenovo will also sell a stand for propping it up when you want to connect it to an external monitor. Yes you can do that do.

Another thing we weren’t allowed to show you before is its hinge mechanism. The secret sauce that allows it to fold and unfold like this.

It’s worth pointing out. While the durability of flexible displays is still questioned, Lenovo is willing to risk the name ThinkPad — a brand that’s synonymous with durability and performance.

Now that the design is final. We can also now share button and port placements: Two USB-C ports. One on the bottom, the other is on the right along with SIM card slot, volume button, and the power button.

At launch Lenovo will first be offering a model with a full version of Windows 10 Pro. A version with the upcoming Windows 10X is eventually coming.

Because many of you will ask. Here is the spec sheet: You get the latest Intel processors, up to 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

While the future of computing is still being debated. A versatile device like the ThinkPad X1 Fold is exciting and makes sense. It’s an idea we can get behind. And it’s one of GadgetMatch’s Best of CES 2020 Awardees!

The question now is people will go out and buy it. Would you?

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