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The new and improved Matebook X Pro fixes HUAWEI's silliest laptop problem
Huawei’s slow drift into consumer tech obscurity has been a sad sight to witness. In what now feels like an overnight switch, a juggernaut on course for world domination shrank into an industry minnow, with the US trade ban effectively crippling its mobile strategy outside of its homeland of China.
Of course, its phones were hit the hardest, with some canceled and others severely limited by the lack of familiar app stores and services. Other categories fared slightly better. HUAWEI continues to make quality true wireless earbuds and its wearables are still exquisitely designed. In spite of their individual qualities, however, it’s been tricky to wholeheartedly recommend otherwise wonderful accessories that only really excel when paired with a compromised HUAWEI smartphone.
The one product line that remained almost entirely unscathed is the Shenzhen brand’s laptop family: the Matebook. Where HUAWEI’s severed ties to Google saw its mobile plans drown, the reinstatement of a licensing agreement with Microsoft was a necessary lifeline. Unbismerched by software woes, Matebooks, and particularly its flagship Matebook X Pro line, persevered as a perfectly viable option for laptop shoppers.
Huawei's laptops emerged unscathed from its ongoing political troubles, yet they were saddled with a ridiculous pop-up webcam.
That is, as long as you could put up with a truly laughable feature: the nose cam. HUAWEI wasn’t the only offender (hello, Dell), but it was the one that pushed nostril-gazing webcams onto more laptop models than any other company.
It was also the last to drop the controversial design choice, first from its more value-focused laptops, and then from the Matebook X Pro (2022). That wise decision carries over to the latter’s unexpected refresh, the cumbersomely named Matebook X Pro with 12th gen Intel Core Processor — you can probably guess what the headline upgrade is.
Faster silicon is great, obviously. But I, for one, am more glad to see that we’re now a few generations deep into the era of HUAWEI laptops with sensible cameras. Why? Because I can finally recommend a HUAWEI product again without caveats. Well… mostly.
The nose cam is dead, long live regular webcams
I’ll talk more broadly about HUAWEI’s latest flagship laptop a little later but for now, let’s raise a toast to the dearly departed snot-seeking webcam. For a short while last year, I used the 2021 Matebook X Pro as my daily laptop. You can read more about it in our full review, but the short version is it was a perfectly fine piece of hardware priced a little too high on balance. Oh, and the nose cam was bad.
For those not familiar with the layout, the company made the call to embed its 720p webcam inside a pop-up module nestled between the F6 and F7 keys. This was the case on many of its laptops in the past few years, including its budget offerings. When not in use, the pressed-in webcam looked like any old function key. Push it and pop, a camera.
In theory, the idea was sound. Bezel-less designs were quickly becoming a desirable trait for premium productivity laptops. The problem was you needed some bezel for the webcam. Where else can you put it? Dell’s answer was below the screen. HUAWEI’s answer was perhaps more elegant in concept, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Putting aside the middling resolution for a moment, the upward-facing angle was never going to offer a particularly favorable view of its subject. And because you’d spend most of your time still looking at the screen and not the camera, it always gave the impression that you were rudely staring off into the distance. Worse than exposed nostrils or a perceived lack of manners, it meant that using the laptop on your lap for video calls was a complete no-go, as fellow callers were stuck staring at your chest/chin when balanced on your thighs.
The 2021 Matebook X Pro was launched two years after Dell unceremoniously ditched its own weird, upward-facing webcams on its beloved XPS series. That’s a long time not to learn a lesson. But 2022 sees the start of a new dawn for HUAWEI laptops, as we’re back to a sensibly placed camera — a tiny one embedded into the thin top bezel. Said bezel is a fraction taller than the 2021 model’s 4mm top bar, but at just under 6mm and with a display screen-to-body ratio of a whopping 92.5% (up from 91%), it’s clear the 2022 Matebook X Pros have exorcised this particular demon.
We asked HUAWEI about how it managed to squeeze in its diminutive shooter (only 2.25mm wide) and a spokesperson explained that it’s achieved using high-precision laser soldering techniques which allowed the design team to get to the small spaces you can’t get to with a regular soldering iron during construction of the frame, thus enabling such thin bezels while retaining a camera. When pushed on the reason for the switch to a standard webcam placement, the representative noted that, “some people prefer the more classic, flattering angle.” Yes, yes we do.
Huawei’s webcam solution may also prompt a few further eyebrows raises in the direction of a certain Cupertino company. I recently tested the MacBook Air M2 with its infamous notch and, on the whole, I came away very impressed. Cards on the table; I’m not a notch hater. I honestly forgot it was there after a few hours, and it’s far less intrusive than it is on iPhones. But it is there, it does occasionally get in the way of toolbar icons, and I can also understand why some consider it an eyesore on an otherwise impeccably designed product. HUAWEI not only wipes away this blemish but also adds hardware-based face Windows Hello unlock support. It does make you wonder how all that redundant notch real estate on Apple’s more recent laptops couldn’t have been filled with the necessary Face ID sensors. HUAWEI’s camera can also track you and adjust the image as you move around much like Apple’s Center Stage for iPad and Studio Display — a feature conspicuously absent on its current crop of laptops.
HUAWEI does what Apple don't? It does with the webcam, though only if you ignore the image quality.
That said, Apple’s laptops, and many other Windows laptops — some well below the Matebook X Pro’s princely asking price of £1,799 — do deliver better image quality. HUAWEI’s tiny sensor is capped at 720p and the results are mediocre. The lack of detail and washed-out colors pale aren’t up to the standard of webcams found on many modern laptops with 1080p cameras, including Apple’s refreshed MacBooks. In fact, while the views aren’t as uncomfortable as those from the dreaded nose cam, it did provide a more color-accurate picture. The 2022 model’s camera will suffice for casual calls, but if you’re a professional who needs top-tier picture quality you’ll want to invest in a standalone webcam regardless.
Almost the complete package
Of course, no one is buying a laptop solely because of a webcam — the rest has to cut the mustard too. And 2022’s 12th gen Intel-powered Matebook X Pro is a solid contender in a market filled with stellar hardware.
A lot of the great stuff about the latest variant of the Matebook X Pro carries over from the model launched at the start of 2022. It still charges at a beastly 90W with the supplied “SuperCharge” adapter, refilling up to almost two-thirds full from zero in just 30 minutes. The audio quality from the six-driver speaker setup that flanks the keyboard is shockingly good, with enough volume to easily fill a room and a surprising amount of bass. Not only do you get the aforementioned face unlock, but HUAWEI also includes a Windows Hello fingerprint reader too. It’s always nice to have options!
The HUAWEI Matebook X Pro (2022, 12th gen Intel) is a portable powerhouse Windows laptop with a unique, professional-looking design.
The roomy 14.2-inch, 3:2 aspect ratio display framed within those razor-thin bezels is a stunner, with a crisp 3,120 x 2,080 resolution (264ppi) and 90Hz refresh rate support. It’s bright too, reaching up to 500 nits, though if you want the best experience you’ll need to pick up the so-called Premium Edition (the version we tested). This version adds a magnetically-controlled nano optical AR layer, which HUAWEI claims reduces glare by 60% in their lab conditions. I can’t possibly vouch for that number, but I did find that reflections were less of a concern compared to the 2021 Matebook X Pro.
The Premium Edition — the version HUAWEI is plastering all over its marketing — comes in Ink Blue (pictured) or White colorways. These are also the two models which feature what HUAWEI calls a skin-soothing metallic body, created from magnesium alloys. The result is a matte, almost rubber-feeling finish across the deck, underneath, and lid of the laptop. Ironically, it feels slightly less premium to the touch, though the huge upside is that it almost never gets covered in unsightly finger smudges even after extensive use. It also feels far more secure in your hands as the soft-touch material provides some extra grip. It’s lighter than the standard aluminum Space Grey version too — 1.26kg vs the vanilla model’s 1.38kg.
All models do receive the titular upgrade to Intel’s 12th gen processors, specifically the Core i7 1260P with Intel Xe graphics, backed by 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM as standard, and up to 1TB of NVMe storage. This is bolstered by an optional 30W performance mode and shark fin fan cooling. As you might expect with all that in tow, it comfortably handles everyday tasks but can also handle photo editing and single-stream video edits, as well as light gaming via Intel’s integrated GPU. In terms of benchmarks, HUAWEI claims that the Geekbench 5 multi-core score has increased by 60% over the previous generation due to the latest Alder Lake Intel chips. We didn’t quite hit that mark, but it reliably hit between 9,000-10,000 in performance mode compared to the ~5,000 scores of the earlier 2022 model.
There are sore spots, though. Four USB-C ports is better than what you get with Apple’s lightweight laptops, but only two (the left side ports) support Thunderbolt 4, and unlike the 2021 models, you won’t find even a single USB-A port. There’s also no HDMI port, which seems like a big ask for a portable machine like this, but Samsung managed it with the ultra-light Galaxy Book 2 Pro.
The real letdown, however, continues to be battery life. The 2021 Matebook X Pro had fairly middling battery life, as did the early 2022 version. The refreshed version for late 2022 tells a familiar tale. It’s fine if you don’t push it; you’ll eke out a day with light use, but heavier workloads can drain it in under five hours. It’s offset a little by that 90W charging, but most laptop users would take endurance over charging power (myself included).
HUAWEI Matebook X Pro (2022, 12th gen Intel): Is it worth buying?
Battery concerns and more minor quibbles aside, the souped-up 2022 Matebook X Pro (12th gen Intel) is an excellent all-rounder laptop.
HUAWEI is understandably pretty keen to push its laptops as a vital piece of its ecosystem puzzle. Yet while you do get some exclusive multi-screen perks and other cross-device features if you have other products within its “Super Device” network, it doesn’t feel wrong to use it in isolation either. The laptop’s version of Windows 11 is relatively clean, with only a few entirely optional intrusions from HUAWEI.
Finally, a HUAWEI device in 2022 that I can recommend without caveats… except the price.
Unlike so many HUAWEI products, you don’t need to be invested in the brand to get the most (or in the case of its phones, any) satisfaction out of it. As I said in the intro, this is finally a HUAWEI device I can recommend without caveats…
Or at least it would be if not for the price. £1,799 (~$2,076) for the Premium Edition model is a huge chunk of change for any laptop, and represents a ~£200 hike over the already-pricey existing 2022 Matebook X Pro.
That also puts it just £100 shy of the base model 14-inch MacBook Pro (£1,899), which will serve actual “pros” far better thanks to its elite Apple Silicon. You’re also in the ballpark of the ever-reliable Dell XPS 13 with a 12th gen i7 chip and UHD+ display (£1,449), the business-grade Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 10 (£1,549), and well above the likes of the MacBook Air M2 (£1,249), HP Spectre x360 14 (£1,199), Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro (£999), and the expected price of the upcoming Ryzen 7-powered ASUS Zenbook S13 OLED.
If you’re after the best bang for your buck, there are perhaps better choices than HUAWEI’s very best, then. Though if you’re on the hunt for a portable powerhouse Windows laptop with a unique, professional-looking design and have money to burn, the Matebook X Pro (12th gen Intel) is a more than capable machine — and, mercifully, one that doesn’t need a gimmicky webcam to accommodate its handsome, near-bezel-less screen.