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(Pocket-lint) - We find it tricky to recommend Huawei phones these days, now they don't have Google apps. But its laptops? That's a different case altogether. 

The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 shows Huawei has become something of a laptop master builder. It looks and feels fantastic, has all the power you could expect in such a small and light shell, good speakers, and a great screen too.

It pulls off the tricky job of making a pricey style laptop seem worth the money. And while, yes, it is an awful lot of cash (there's no lower spec variant in the UK), the MateBook X Pro 2021 also has of 1TB ultra-fast SSD storage and 16GB RAM. You'll pay a similar amount for other manufacturers' nearest products, or even more in some cases.

Before buying, though, make sure you're OK with the webcam placement. It lives in the keyboard, not the screen surround, and may make marathon runners look like Gregg's steak bake addicts instead.

Design

  • Dimensions: 304 x 217 x 14.6mm / Weight: 1.33 kg
  • Aluminium alloy casing

Some laptop makers go off the boil a bit with their top-end laptops. They try out ambitious design ideas, or aim to be the slimmest, lightest or thinnest. And it doesn't always work out that well. 

Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 1

The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 is what you get when you stick pretty rigidly to the most important stuff. You see the same approach in laptops like the Apple MacBook Pro 13 and the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

This is not a hybrid, although it does have a touchscreen. Its 1.33kg weight and 14.6mm thickness are good, but nothing that stands out.  

You have to get your hands and eyes on the MateBook X Pro 2021 to truly get what it's all about. For example, you can lift the lid with a single finger, which has always been the sign of a carefully designed ultra-pricey laptop. 

The aluminium shell feels fantastic, and is all but flex-free. We're fans of the dark green shade on review too. It's bold without looking as though Huawei is as keen for your attention as a reality TV star. There's a silver/grey version if you prefer a more sober appearance too. 

If you've had a look at the 2020 version of the MateBook X Pro, you'll notice not all that much has changed for this 2021 model. It's very similar, but that just does not seem an issue when surely no normal person upgrades their laptop every year, and this design's slim screen borders make it appear up-to-date anyway. 

Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 2

The webcam is the one part we really don't like though. In order to make those slim screen surrounds happen, Huawei moved the webcam under one of the keyboard keys. You press the key and the webcam pops up. Neat as this is, it's just not a nice way to make video calls as the angle is horrible, pointing up at your chin. It is also a 720p camera with uninspiring image quality, although the same can be said of all its Windows 10 rivals we've tested recently. 

Screen

  • 13.9-inch LTPS display, 3000 x 2000 pixel resolution
  • 1500:1 contrast (1204:1 as measured)
  • 488 nits brightest (as measured)

The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021's screen is another hit - in most respects at least. 

It's a 13.9-inch panel and much sharper than the Full HD panels used in the base-level models of other pricey rivals. And wile 4K laptops like the (even pricier) HP Spectre X360 are sharper still, this Huawei gets close enough for the difference not to be immediately apparent. It makes us wonder why more companies haven't used these '3K' resolution panels. 

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Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 8

This is a glossy touchscreen, not the matte kind that helps to scatter reflections, but we find the MateBook X Pro 2021 works pretty well outdoors. Peak brightness is high and there's a reasonably effective anti-glare coating on the screen too.

Colour and contrast are what the Huawei MateBook X Pro doesn't nail quite as well as some rivals, particularly the ones with OLED screens. This isn't a true wide colour display, the kind that pumps out tones as deep as a high-end TV, despite Huawei's claims to the contrary. And the typical LCD contrast means blacks won't look inky in a dark room if the screen brightness is remotely high. 

But then Huawei doesn't pretend this is some kind of miniature TV. Its 3:2 aspect ratio is made for apps more than movies, and contrary to what you might guess the high pixel density is far more noticeable in text-filled applications than it is when playing films.

Performance

  • Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU
  • 16GB LPDDR4x (4266MHz) RAM
  • 1TB NVMe SSD

It would be a stretch to call the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 a true performance laptop. It has, like almost all its rivals, a low-voltage Intel processor designed to generate minimal heat so it can fit into these slim and light laptop shells. 

Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 6

However, Huawei doesn't mess around and - in the UK at least - only offers the best components that fit this mould. You get an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB RAM and a 1TB SSD. It's the sort of spec you see only in the very top-most slim and light laptops, often after you've applied a bunch of pricey upgrades. This is why the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 costs so much.

You get lots of storage space for apps, games and the file detritus that builds up after months and months of using a PC. Not everyone needs 16GB RAM, but it means you can treat the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 more carelessly, opening up far too many browser tabs, and it will still run well. 

You can, of course, get more powerful laptops for your money. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is barely any more but adds an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics card, which will come in handy if you want to play games, do 3D rendering, or edit videos with actual effects in them rather than just basic editing techniques. Acer's Triton 300 SE is an even more powerful gaming machine and is cheaper, but is 400g heavier and nowhere near as pretty. 

This Huawei laptop just has the Intel Xe graphics baked in as part of the Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU. Own a slim and light laptop now showing its age? You'll see a huge improvement in gaming performance with this. The introduction of the Intel Xe chipset was a big leap for Intel's integrated graphics, and lets you play a lot of games you might associate with the last console generation. We're talking about games like GTA V, Pillars of Eternity and The Witcher 3

Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 10

The MateBook X Pro 2021 makes commendably little noise when you stress the thing out with a game or a CPU-roasting application. Its dual fan system simply never makes a particularly distracting sound in our experience, and the fans seem to not kick in often with normal light work either.  

This laptop also has fairly good speakers. They are not the loudest in this class but they do have some actual bass, which is missing from most cheaper laptops, and even some at this level. This lower-frequency substance is the key to making laptop speakers that are at least somewhat satisfying for music or movies. 

Keyboard and touchpad

  • Huawei Free Touch pad
  • Full-size chiclet keyboard
  • Pop-up 720p webcam

So far the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 might seem like a laptop laser-focused on quality and the experience of using it day-to-day. For the most part, it is. However, we don't think everyone will love its keyboard. 

Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 9

It is, like the keyboards of many top-end laptops, on the shallower side. If you don't like that style, you should consider the slightly deeper Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 or something like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 - this is the gold standard for deep dish laptops keyboards, but it's also horribly expensive when you spec it up with the same RAM/SSD capacity as the Huawei has inside. 

Some laptop keyboards are so shallow it feels like you have to half-re-learn typing when you first start using them. The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 isn't like that. Typing away here is fine, but it may seem a weaker point of the laptop if you favour meaty keys with substantial travel. 

The MateBook X Pro 2021's touchpad is more notable though. It's not a mechanical pad where the actual surface dips under the pressure of your finger. Pressure sensors sit under the pad and a haptic engine generates that familiar 'click'. It's more like a MacBook pad than those of other Windows laptops. 

This also means you can customise the pressure required to fire-off a click, and the amount of feedback you'll feel. Huawei's first attempts at this style of pad were so-so, and felt too light. 

Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 4

The 2021 MateBook X Pro's pad is much better. We recommend having a tinker with the preinstalled app to max-out the click feedback, but after doing so we think it's roughly a match for some of the better premium laptop touchpads. That said, we still prefer the traditional touchpad of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4. It is also large, and topped with textured glass, avoiding the tacky finger glide feel you get with plastic. 

Battery life

  • 56Wh battery, 65W charger
  • 10-11 hour claimed battery life

The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 is not the longest-lasting laptop we've reviewed this year. But, a rare occurrence, its stamina more-or-less lines up with Huawei's own claims. It says the Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 should last between 10 and 11 hours, varying whether you stream video or do simple productivity jobs.

We found the laptop lasts almost exactly 10 hours, if you pootle about in the web browser a bit and write documents. Want a laptop that lasts a long time if you do something far more challenging? A MacBook Air or Pro is your best option as those laptops' processors use far less power under pressure. 

Pocket-lintHuawei MateBook X Pro 2021 photo 7

An AMD-based Windows 10 alternative will generally last longer too. But, at 10 hours, we're pretty happy with the Huawei's real-world stamina. The charger is much smaller than most too, shaped like a phone adapter rather than using a separate power brick and plug.  

For connections, you get two USB-C ports, one USB-A, and a headphone jack. Not a lot, but we're glad Huawei has kept the familiar full-size USB-A here as we still need to use that more often than a USB-C, despite being surrounded by new tech 24/7. 

Verdict

The Huawei MateBook X Pro 2021 is a top-quality portable laptop that has everything we look for when spending an eye-watering amount on a portable computer. 

Its battery lasts for a full day of work, assuming you don't do anything too taxing, its build quality is excellent, it's a looker (look at that green finish!), and the screen is pin-sharp too.

It's a shame there isn't a cheaper version specced lower than 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD, but Huawei does make other laptops if you want to spend less.

Other than that and the slightly shallow keyboard, the only thing we would change is the webcam. No-one like a keyboard-level webcam. And while we understand why it's there, it doesn't mean we like it. 

But, ignoring that, this is a solid and successful laptop that doesn't take its eye of quality and craftsmanship.

Also consider

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Dell XPS 13

Consider the Dell if you want a slim and stylish laptop but can't afford the Huawei. While traditionally considered part of the ultra-pricey elite, you can get this with a Core i7 CPU and 512GB SSD for a chunk of csh less. Speccing the very latest version up with Dell's brightest 4K screen and it's about the same price as the Huawei, though.

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Apple MacBook Air

Build a MacBook Air with the same amount of RAM and SSD storage and you'll end up spending about the same. But even if you don't it's a more powerful laptop and lasts longer between charges. However, it has an even shallower keyboard and you may bump into some compatibility/performance issues with apps not optimised for Apple's own M1 processors. 

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Writing by Andrew Williams. Originally published on 9 August 2021.