WITH all the geopolitical and cybersecurity drama going on around it, it feels a little odd writing a straight tech review about a Huawei gadget.
Even more odd is that this is the best conventionally-built slim Windows laptop I've used so far this year.
But it's true: Huawei's Matebook X Pro tops some stellar models from HP, Lenovo and Dell.
What I've found over recent weeks is that it has an almost flawless combination of design and power and is the most ergonomically comfortable portable computer - both for typing and physically resting on your lap - that I've tried in a long time.
It's also light, slim and sturdy with a high-end engine, good battery life, a great display and loads of built-in storage as standard.
It's not perfect: a slightly awkward, weak webcam is a telltale sign that it was signed off before the work-from-home pandemic struck. And there is now (possibly unfairly) a lingering reputational issue over Huawei gear, especially if you're buying it in a work or enterprise context.
But in general, this is as good as it gets for a slim, powerful, work-friendly, non-detachable Windows laptop. For this price, you won't get much that's comparable.
One of the first things you'll notice is the slim bezels. What you're looking at now is almost all screen - not a display with thick non-screen bezel margins all around it. So it fits a 14-inch touchscreen into what was the regular frame for a 13-inch machine. That means no extra bulk for your bag or your shoulder and more display real estate to play around with.
The ergonomics are also a high point. It has a great keyboard with slim keys that still have a decent amount of clicky travel on them.
The spatial balance between the keyboard, trackpad and non-active areas layout allows me to type while resting the heels of each palm on the space each side of the trackpad. (That trackpad, by the way, is nice and big but not so big that you'll screw up your windows by accidentally tapping it.)
The 14-inch display is a 3k screen (the absolute most you'd ever want on a non-gaming laptop) and is nice and bright for outdoor use if you need it in that context.
One by-product of the excellent screen design is a serious compromise on the position of the webcam. It's now a clickable button in the row of 'F' keys. While it's very clever in one sense, the point of view of the one-megapixel webcam is unfortunate and unflattering. If you're serious about Zoom or Teams calls, I'd advise getting a separate HD webcam. (Then again, I'd advise that for the majority of currently available laptops.)
Other perks include an elegantly integrated fingerprint reader on the power button that speeds up switching the machine on and off.
The engine specifications on the Matebook X Pro are spot on for those who want future-proof power but don't want to pay for gamer-style graphics add-ons. Thankfully, 16GB of Ram is standard, with a choice of either an Intel i5 or i7 processor and a choice of either 512GB or 1TB of solid storage.(There's a €300 price difference between the two model choices; my test model was the upper i7/1TB version.)
At 1.3kg, this is light enough to reasonably fit into any laptop-compatible bag without giving you back spasms.
Its battery life is completely fine, at around eight to nine hours of ordinary mixed use. It has one USB-A port and two USB-C ports, which can also be used for charging. It also retains a 3.5mm headphone port.
For anyone who has a Huawei smartphone (which make up about one in seven phone sales in Ireland), there's also a neat little trick where the laptop can share documents and screens with the phone when in close proximity.
At this point, it's worth mentioning that a laptop like the Matebook X Pro hasn't suffered the same regulatory assault as Google on Huawei smartphones.
So this laptop isn't missing anything fundamental, like the P40 Pro misses Google's Play Store.
Overall, this is a stellar laptop at a comparatively reasonable price. It's a shame about the mediocre webcam, but there are so few laptops that you'd praise on this feature that it's nowhere near a deal breaker.