Over the years I have enjoyed these ultrabooks that can run silently for everyday use, streaming video, editing text and even browsing. However, very little can, and most of them are in fact fanless and passively cooled implementations.
However, passive cooling of today’s hardware platforms for mid-size ultra-portable notebooks with a compact design is much more difficult than it seems, and the vast majority of available fanless notebooks therefore run on less powerful hardware, which is more or less noticeable in everyday use, as well as limited capacity at prolonged workloads.
With this in mind, write in Mathbook X 2020. Earlier this year, Huawei announced an update of the MateBook X-series before the end of 2020, a 13-inch ultraportable with passive cooling based on the Intel Core U hardware platform. The Comet Lake platform is the 10. This is the second generation, so it’s not the latest available at the moment, but it still looks promising for a high-end ultrabook, especially since the MateBook X also offers a 3:2-3K touchscreen, good inputs, uncompromising build quality and a weight of only about 1 kilogram.
Curiously, I asked Huawei for a loan test to experience for myself the Holy Grail that nobody has succeeded yet: a real Core U Windows laptop without a fan. However, based on my previous experience with similar products, I was skeptical about the performance and longevity of the battery, especially since the equipment should only work with a 42-watt/hour battery with a 3K panel.
After using the MateBook X in recent weeks, it turned out that I was right to be skeptical, as you’ll see in the article below, but at the same time, it also proved that the MateBook X is quite unique in today’s Windows in the ultrabook market and an option that some of you might consider. Make sure you understand the considerations.
|Huawei MateBook X model end of 2020|
|Screen||13 inch, 3000 x 2000 pixels, 3:2 aspect ratio, IPS, touch, glossy, JDI panel RWLPM130M364C|
|Processor||Intel Comet Lake Core i5-10210U, 4C/8T|
|Memory||16 GB LPDDR3x 2133 MHz two-channel (soldered)|
|Storage||512 GB M.2 NVMe SSD (Samsung PM981 MZVLB512HBJQ-00000)|
|Link||Wireless connection 6 Gig+ (Intel AX201) 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2x USB-C gen2 (with data, DP and charging), Microphone/headset, HDMI/USB-A/VGA with adapter included|
|Battery||USB-C Charger 42W, 100W|
|Size||284 mm or 11.18 inches (W) x 207 mm or 8.15 inches (D) x 13.6 mm or 0.53 inches (H)|
|Weight||Charger and 1 kg + 2 kg cable, EU version|
|Besides..,||Backlit keyboard, HD webcam, four speakers on the bottom, finger sensor in the on/off button|
At the moment Huawei only offers the MateBook X series in this single configuration.
Design and first look
It could be one of the best ultrabooks of this generation. It’s all metal, with a solid single-celled construction, but with that soft, friendly finish and blunt interior edges, so it’s not as aggressive as MacBooks.
The lighter color also hides stains and fingerprints better, and I don’t think scratches come out that easily. Our sample is a few months old and shows no signs of wear, although it was tested by other researchers before it was sent to me, and was therefore not as damaged as I would have thought in my own unit.
Moreover, the MateBook X is thin, light and very portable, weighing less than a kilo and about half an inch thick. It’s not the thinnest or lightest Ultrabook, but in general it’s a well-balanced portable package, especially considering that it houses a 3:2 touchscreen. Huawei made the glasses shine all around, but that meant the camera was still difficult to penetrate, and I would have liked to have accepted a thicker forehead with a well-placed camera.
It’s worth checking out, here’s the MateBook X next to the Apple MacBook Pro 13 and the mid-size Asus ZenBook UX325 ultrabook.
I have a little problem with this phone. This includes the limited viewing angle of the screen, which is only about 140 degrees to the rear. A 180 degree display would be very useful for this type of ultrabook, which may not be used as often on a desk as on the road, in tight conditions or lying on the couch. And even when placed on a table, the small rubber feet that slide off the bottom offer very little traction.
Other than that, there’s nothing to complain about. I like the shape factor, the overall quality of the construction and the feeling it gives in daily use. I also like the full keyboard and the spacious glass keyboard, as well as the separate on/off button without the annoying lights, which also serves as a finger sensor.
When it comes to I/O, there are only two USB-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack on this laptop, so you’ll have to rely on adapters. Huawei has a USB-A, HDMI, VGA and another USB-C port as standard. None of the USB-C ports here support Thunderbolt, but all supported data, charging and video, so you can easily connect a charger or external monitor on either side if needed.
Keyboard and touchpad
The entries on this thing are impressive and much better than I expected from such a thin and compact laptop.
Huawei has opted for a full-size keyboard with no compromises, and although these are short-stroke and limited-stroke keys, the responses are consistent and clicks are audible once you get used to them. I see myself typing on this phone every day, okay.
The bean counter in me will mention that it is a bit noisy, especially the big hits like Space, Backspace and Enter. I don’t think that would cause complaints in the library or in a quiet environment, but it could be a bit more discreet.
In addition, the lighting system is quite weak even at the highest settings, but I appreciate the light coming from under the keys, the overall uniformity of brightness and the fact that Huawei CapsLock and NumLock have physical indicators. Unfortunately, they still haven’t done anything about the time-out delay, which lasts about 15 seconds, and the fact that you can’t reactivate it by sliding your fingers over the click pad, but only by pressing a button. In this price range: Wrong.
Speaking of Clickpad: The MateBook X has a large glass surface with precision drivers that physically sink with regular taps. Some articles have called a kind of forced click technology, like on MacBooks, but it’s more like a standard control panel that responds very quickly to physical clicks on the surface. He also does a good job with the blows, the claps and the gestures, so I can hardly complain here.
Well, except for one thing. You may have noticed that the shape is a bit odd, because the click pad reaches to the front lip. It can be annoying if, like me, you often use your laptop while lying on the couch or in bed with the computer on your hips. In this case, the click path may register occasional clicks. This hardly ever happens, but you have to think about it when you use your laptop this way.
Regarding biometrics, the MateBook X is not equipped with an infrared camera, but you do have a nice finger sensor built into the on/off buttons that works well with Hello, with only sporadic reading errors.
As mentioned before, the MateBook X will be equipped with a 3:2 touch screen with a 3K IPS panel by the end of 2020. It is a solid choice for daily use and performance, thanks to the higher form factor and the overall good quality of the panel itself.
It doesn’t come close to what Huawei offers on the X Pro, but it’s perfect for everyday use, with solid contrast and viewing angles, brightness up to 400 nits and subtle colours at about 70% AdobeRGB.
This is what we got in our tests with the X-Rite i1 Display Pro Matrix:
- Panel HardwareID : JDI RWLPM130M364C ;
- Coverage: 94.5% sRGB, 65.8% AdobeRGB, 68.0% DCI P3 ;
- Measured range: 2.31 ;
- Maximum luminance in the center of the screen: 397,40 cd/m2 at power ;
- Minimum brightness in the center of the screen: 9.57 cd/m2 at power ;
- Contrast at maximum brightness : 1579:1 ;
- White dot: 6300 K ;
- Black at maximum brightness: 0.25 cd/m2 ;
- PWM: No (for further investigation).
Flickering is not a problem here, and it doesn’t glow at the edges, although it’s a quick trick on modern laptops and something you should pay close attention to. If present, the light bleeding becomes even more noticeable on a 3:2 screen when watching movies, because the format leaves black bars at the top and bottom of the video. Fortunately, it was not a problem for our device.
Finally, it should be noted that the screen was quite well calibrated, with a slight imbalance of gamma and white point. After calibration we got an evenly lit panel and a bright color palette, again perfect for daily use.
Equipment, performance and upgrades
Our trial version is the standard configuration available for the Huawei MateBook X 2020, with an Intel Comet Lake Core i5-10210U processor, 16GB LPDDR3x 2133MHz RAM, a very fast 512GB Samsung SSD and an Intel UHD graphics chip integrated in the processor.
We are also testing software available from the end of December 2020 (BIOS 1.04, PC Manager 184.108.40.206).
As a result, Huawei opted for older generation hardware in this notebook, a mid-range Comet Lake processor and slower LPDDR3x memory, but did not save on storage quality by choosing the Samsung PM981 high-speed drive. The memory should be able to be upgraded (at least I think so), but it’s not easy to get into this laptop because there are screws behind each of the rubber feet (with a guarantee sticker on one of the feet, at least in this market). Also, there is no SSD inside, just a large hob on the whole motherboard, which I have not noticed on this device.
For some of you, this may all be a reason to give up, but listen to me before you make a decision.
If you are looking for a fast and compact ultrabook, this is definitely not the right choice to start with. According to current standards, it works not only on older, less powerful units, but also on units with constant load for passive cooling. The MateBook X is therefore only suitable for daily use, video streaming, text editing, browsing, etc. In fact, running more than 10 tabs in Edge and a few other applications in the background seems to lock the device faster than I expected. So don’t expect too much performance when you get into this MateBook X. Or in terms of battery life when multitasking, as we will see in the next section.
In short, it is very important to understand and accept this fact before proceeding. The MateBook X is perfect for light everyday use, but if you are looking for serious multitasking or a notebook that can withstand prolonged loads, look away, this passively cooled model is not for you.
With this in mind, we looked at the performance of the system to better explain what happens if you decide to do more demanding work. In the cyclic test of the Cinebench R15, the i5 processor starts beating hard at about 30W, but only for a few seconds, and then drops to 15W or less as a reminder of the test. However, this only applies to the first run, as the constant TDP continues to drop and stabilizes around 7W after a few runs, with the CPU temperature fluctuating around 60°C.
Scores are consistent with TDP and stabilize at just over 300 points, which is much less than on other laptops with their quieter power profile. For comparison, I have included a few models below, as well as the Cinebench and Prime95 logs that show how the processor stabilizes at 7W.
Of course none of these laptops have a fan and they are completely silent, but at around 30dB, the fans are barely audible under normal conditions, with a significant increase in CPU performance, which also means that these laptops are more attractive when using multitasking on a daily basis. And if you need more power for heavier loads, you can choose a higher power profile while reducing noise levels, making these options more versatile with what you give them.
We also launched (or at least tried to launch) a few games on the MateBook X. According to Cinebench’s cyclic test, the laptop runs pretty well at about 15W, the CPU clock at about 4GHz and the GPU clock at about 1GHz. However, this only takes about 30 seconds as the system then slows down quickly and gradually and stabilizes at about 7W of total power after about 10 minutes of play, with a CPU clock speed of 0.8GHz, a GPU clock speed of 0.6GHz and a temperature of about 60 degrees Celsius.
This means that gaming is not an option on this laptop, and no other continuous charge has been tested.
Finally, here are some reference results. We performed all tests and benchmarking with the standard Best Performance on Windows profile. Here’s what we’ve got.
- 3DMark 13 – Shot: 778 (graph – 864, CPU – 4848, combined – 259) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid : 3394 (Graph – 3554, CPU – 2705) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy : 304 (Graph – 266, CPU – 1596) ;
- AIDA memory test64 : The writing: 31994 Mbps, playback: 31141 MB/s, latency: 76.2 ns ;
- Uniengine Overlay – Environment 1080p : 795 ;
- PassMark10 : Assessment: 2341 (CPU beacon: 3337, 3D graphics beacon: -, disk beacon: 27072) ;
- PCMark 10 : 3216 (Foundations – 8228 , Productivity – 5451 , Creation of digital content – 2013) ;
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit : Single core: 4831, multi-core : 13388 ;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit : Mononuclear: 973, multi-core: 2006 ;
- CineBench R15 (best performance): 495kb processor, 157kb single-core processor ;
- CineBench R20 (best performance): 583 cc processor, 355 cc single-core processor;
- CineBench R23 (best performance): 1655kb processor, 651kb single-core processor;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 124.74 s.
As expected, there are not many, and keep in mind that in some cases we will see better results and that the actual sustainable performance will be slightly lower.
Sound, heat, communication, speakers and other
The MateBook X has passive cooling, i.e. there is no rotating fan or visible air inlet and outlet grilles, only an internal hot plate above the processor.
This approach, as explained in the previous section, has an impact on the performance for remote control of thermostats. Every day the laptop is completely quiet, there are no gain coils or noticeable electronic noise and it’s just warm. Even at higher loads, it remains completely silent when the outside temperature reaches 40 degrees, which is still normal for this class. Details below.
*Daily use – Netflix streaming in EDGE for 30 minutes, best battery mode
*Games – best performance mode – NFS display : Most searched within 30 minutes
For connectivity there is 6 Gig+ WiFi and Bluetooth 5 via the Intel module on this laptop. It worked well with our platform, and the signal and power remained strong at 30 feet, with obstacles in between.
The sound is diffused by a series of stereo loudspeakers that pass through grilles at the bottom and sides. They are quite loud in our tests, about 77-80 dB at head height, and the sound quality is better than I expected, with good averages and decent bass for this class. The laptop comes with the Nahimic audio control software pre-installed in the music profile.
I should also note that at maximum volume I noticed a slight vibration in the deck, so you might want to put the speakers at less than 70% in daily use to get rid of them.
The camera is in HD quality and is located on the keyboard between the F6 and F7 keys, just like other modern Huawei laptops. So it’s still one of the worst cameras in the segment, a real weasel camera that barely fits in the frame without forcing you to press the keyboard. The quality is also not excellent, and the microphones are located on the front lip of the laptop, just below the click pad, so they can be easily muffled if you are not careful.
Inside the MateBook X is a battery of only 42 watts, which is normal for an Ultrabook of this size, but still less than what the competition offers today. Intel’s power-limited implementation works quite effectively, but the 3K display takes its toll, so generally this laptop doesn’t last long on a charge.
This is what happens to battery life. The screen brightness is set to approximately 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 8W (~5 hours usage) – Google Drive text editing, best battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 7.5 W (~5-6 hours usage) – 1080p full screen YouTube video in Edge mode, Better Battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 7W (~6 hours usage) – Netflix full screen in Edge mode, best battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 12 W (~3-4 hours usage) – Border mode display, Better performance mode, 60% display, Wi-Fi ON.
Huawei combines the laptop with a compact and lightweight 100-watt charger that is connected via USB-C, which is quite redundant for this type of laptop. It is a monoblock model with a compact brick and a long, thick cable. It takes about an hour and a half for a full load, with fast loading allowing a long operating time of 2 to 3 hours in less than an hour.
Prices and availability
This version of the Huawei MateBook X, which was released at the end of 2020, was only available on a limited scale at the time of writing, mainly in Europe.
But it is expensive, quoted at 1500 euros in Germany or France or here in Romania.
We’ll let you know as soon as we know more. In the meantime, please check this link for prices and configurations in your area.
At first glance, the Huawei MateBook X looks like a super-ultrabook, and it’s even more impressive when you take it out of the box. The quality of the construction, the light and compact form factor, the high-quality 3:2 touch screen, the uncompromising inputs or the exceptional sound for its size set this notebook apart from many of its competitors. However, it is only a niche product targeting a narrow segment of potential buyers for three main reasons: Performance, battery life and cost.
First of all, Huawei had to limit the power of the Intel chip to cool the laptop properly and passively. That’s why it’s good for everyday use and limited multitasking, but it’s not as invigorating or responsive as other modern laptops, even for this kind of light activity. In addition, it suffocates under the weight of multitasking and heavier workloads.
Realistically, it can only be used 3 to 4 hours a day, and about 5 to 6 videos, thanks to its small internal battery and energy consuming screen. That may not be enough for most of you.
After all, the MateBook X is expensive. With a price of 1500 EUR it is cheaper than most other mid-range and even high-end ultrabooks with similar specifications, but with better performance and longer battery life.
Sure, you pay a premium for beautiful craftsmanship and a 3K 3:2 screen, but is that money worth the sacrifice in terms of performance or battery life? In the end, the decision to purchase the MateBook X is entirely up to you, depending on how much importance you place on a fanless, large-screen laptop with a first-class construction.
From my point of view, the MateBook X is hard to sell, despite the fact that I’ve always wanted a fanless ultrabook for my travels, and despite the fact that it checks a lot of good boxes, perhaps more than any fanless ultrabook released so far. I mainly blame the Intel platform that Huawei used. It’s simply not enough to make a 3K display work smoothly with the reduced power required for a passive thermal design. There’s a reason why no one has ever really dropped an Intel U-Passive laptop in the past, and unfortunately, the MateBook X hasn’t either.
Now, if you absolutely must have a fanless ultrabook, maybe one of the new MacBook Airs M1’s is better for you, they’re faster, cheaper and more durable. But if Windows is also a must, well, bad luck, then the MateBook X is the best choice for the time being, despite its flaws. But hopefully one day this will change with future ARM Windows laptops. In the meantime, I would like the MateBook X to become less expensive in the coming months.
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Andrei Girbea, editor of Ultrabookreview.com. I’ve been involved in mobile computing since the 2000’s, and you’ll find here mainly reviews and detailed tutorials written by me.
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