Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Windows 10’s MacBook Pro rival | Laptops – Blog – 10 minute

The 2020 MateBook X Pro takes a winning design and upgrades the chips to Intel’s latest for a powerful and surprisingly good-value machine.
The new MateBook X Pro starts at £1,299, and fits a pretty large 13.9in screen in the size of a laptop body that would traditionally fit only a 13in screen.
The design is exactly the same as its 2018 predecessor down to the millimetre and gram, which is just fine, as it was an excellent machine two years ago.
The 14.6mm-thick wedge is all aluminium, weighing 1.33kg, with a block-cap Huawei logo emblazoned on the lid. The 13.9in touchscreen is super crisp and bright, filling the entire of the inside of the lid with slim bezels all the way around.

The keyboard and trackpad are excellent, apart from a small amount of play in the trackpad’s button. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The deck of the machine has a large, smooth and accurate trackpad, which clicks towards the bottom. It works great but this one has a slight rattle in the trackpad, which was a common problem with the previous generation model. The keyboard is excellent: backlit with well-spaced, solid-feeling keys and enough travel for a satisfying typing experience.
The function row hides a one-megapixel webcam in a pop-up key between F6 and F7, which is an excellent way of hiding it away when not in use. Unfortunately, it is not the best and doesn’t provide the most flattering of angles for our new video-chat heavy environment.
The power button in the top right doubles as an excellent fingerprint scanner, which can turn on the machine and log you straight into Windows in one press. Besides the keyboard are grilles for the good and loud quad speakers.

Putting the webcam under a pop-up key was a great idea pre-pandemic but now video calling usage has exploded, having the camera that low and only one-megapixel in resolution has proven less than ideal. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Specifications

Screen: 13.9in LTPS 3000 x 2000 (260 ppi)

Processor: 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7

RAM: 16GB

Storage: 512GB or 1TB

Graphics: Intel UHD + Nvidia GeForce MX250 (2GB)

Operating system: Windows 10 Home

Camera: 1MP pop-up webcam

Connectivity: Wifi ac, Bluetooth 5, 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, headphones

Dimensions: 217 x 304 x 14.6mm

Weight: 1.33kg

Hot hardware

The MateBook X Pro still has a single USB-A port, which makes using legacy cables and hardware possible without reaching for a USB-C adapter. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The 2020 MateBook X Pro is available in two configurations, both with the latest 10-generation Intel Core processors and 16GB of RAM. The cheaper one has a Core i5 with 512GB of storage and the top model has a Core i7 and 1TB of storage – as tested here.
Both machines come with a generous amount of RAM and storage compared with chief rivals. And they also come with Nvidia’s entry-level laptop graphics card, the GeForce MX250, which is positioned somewhere between the common integrated graphics and a gaming graphics card.
Performance all round was excellent, the machine handling complex image editing jobs without issue, as you’d expect. The combination of the latest Intel chips, plus the GeForce MX250 graphics card won’t set any gaming records, handling most at low settings only, but will make it more capable for video editing and running high-powered design and art packages.

Both USB-C ports are also Thunderbolt 3 ports, and can be used to charge the laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The laptop suffers from one irritating problem: heat. When used as a laptop on battery power it is a cool and quiet machine, regardless of power settings, with the fans only audible at a low pace, even when pushed hard. But when plugged into power it’s a different animal. The machine heats up, particularly the strip between the keyboard and the screen, while the fans are loud and audible almost all the time, even at idle.
It appears Huawei has a problem with charging that generates heat unrelated to the work that the laptop is currently doing or the charge level in the batteries. The same thing has been reported by users of previous generations of the MateBook X Pro, so it appears to be a design flaw.
The laptop’s battery life is similar to rivals with similar levels of performance, lasting a work day between charges but not much more than that. The MateBook X Pro will manage just under eight hours of general work, including using Chrome with up to 10 tabs open, various chat apps, Typora text editor, Affinity Photo, Windows Mail and a few other bits.
The MateBook X Pro took one hour, 45 minutes to fully charge while off, and significantly longer during use, likely because the heat generated when connected to power was throttling the charging rate.
Sustainability

The MateBook X Pro is generally repairable by authorised service providers. While the RAM and graphics chips are not replaceable, the SSD storage is but it must be replaced by an authorised service provider or it may void the computer’s warranty, the company warns.

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 Home comes as standard and works great, apart from the lack of disk encryption on the MateBook X Pro. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The MateBook X Pro ships with a standard version of Windows 10 Home, and updates through Windows Update like any other similar PC. Microsoft was granted licence to work with Huawei by the US government, unlike Google with Huawei’s smartphones.
It ships with Huawei’s PC Manager software, which takes care of driver updates as well as running diagnostics on the machine’s hardware if needed.
One thing that is missing is disk encryption, which is built into Windows 10 Home but is not supported by the MateBook X Pro despite it having the prerequisite TPM security chip. Upgrading to Windows 10 Pro (£119.99) enables the full BitLocker system for encrypting your data, which given this is a portable computer that is easily stolen, is wholly recommended.
Observations

The big power button is also a fingerprint scanner that can turn on the laptop and unlock Windows in one press. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

There are no pause or track skip media buttons in the F-keys

If you have a Huawei or Honor phone there is an NFC spot just below the keyboard on the MateBook X Pro that triggers Huawei Share for mirroring your phone’s screen on the laptop and transferring files, photos, the clipboard and other bits

The auto-brightness adjustment for the screen was consistently too dim, so I turned it off

Price

The Huawei MateBook X Pro comes in two versions: the Intel Core i5 with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage for £1,299.99 or the Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for £1,599.99.

For comparison, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 starts at an RRP of £999, Dell’s XPS 13 starts at £1,399 and the 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,299.

Verdict
The 2020 MateBook X Pro is a few refinements short of one of the very best Windows 10 laptops available.
It is light, looks good and has a great keyboard and trackpad. It has lots of power on tap with 10th-generation Intel processors and the Nvidia MX250 graphics card, plus it ships with lots of RAM and very generous storage options. It even lasts long enough to get a work day done and the screen is big, pin-sharp and all-round great.
But for every good bit there’s a small niggle. The auto-brightness control was irritatingly dim. There’s a little play in the trackpad. It doesn’t ship with full disk encryption enabled on Windows 10 Home and it gets really hot and loud when connected to power.
The MateBook X Pro is therefore a really great laptop held back from top marks by a bunch of small but irritating things that you could learn to live with. Whether you should is another matter.

Pros: great screen, slim and compact, excellent keyboard, great trackpad, USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, USB-A, fingerprint scanner, Nvidia MX250
Cons: gets hot when on power, no disk encryption out of the box, trackpad rattle, battery life not class-leading, no SD card slot, pop-up webcam has an up-nose angle

The smooth aluminium lid has a Huawei logo in the centre. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
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This is what’s new in Windows 10’s upcoming April 2020 update – Blog – 10 minute

Something to look forward to: Microsoft’s first big update for Windows 10 this year brings with it lots of improvements, but with the company focusing on Windows 10X and the necessary modularization work to make that OS a reality, it hasn’t managed to smooth out all the rough edges just yet.
Windows 10 is set to receive a new major update in April, one year after they officially started working on it. Dubbed 20H1 or version 2004, this is supposed to be a more significant upgrade than last year’s November update (19H2).
You can already download the ISO file to perform an in-place upgrade or a clean install as an Insider, but it’s best that you wait for it to be released via Windows Update, as Microsoft is still working on squashing bugs and polishing the release for final delivery. Understandably, the company is also busy getting Windows 10X-powered devices to market, so it’ll be taking its time to get it right before pushing it to all users.

One the most interesting features included in Windows 10 version 2004 is something that Mac users have enjoyed for years — if you’re in a pickle and need to use “Reset this PC,” you now have the option for a cloud download to perform a reinstall of Windows. This is especially useful if you live in an area with a fast and solid Internet connection, but if you have a metered connection it’s worth keeping in mind that it can eat through your data quite quickly.
Do keep in mind that Reset this PC using the cloud doesn’t do a factory reset, but the download option will reinstall the current version of Windows instead of the one that came with your device.

Besides saving you the trouble of having a USB drive at the ready for recovering your PC, the new version of Windows will make it possible to use your Windows Hello PIN in Safe Mode for faster login. This can be a great time saver if you have to do some back and forth to figure out what’s causing trouble on your device.

On the developers’ side, they can look forward to the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. While many were a bit disappointed by the first version’s performance, compatibility, and file system access limitations, Microsoft says it’s dedicated a lot of time to fixing those.
Among a host of changes, improvements in memory usage and ARM64 support are key, so that you can use devices like the Surface Pro X, and full system call compatibility for those of you who need to run things like Docker.

Developers can also connect to their Linux networking applications using localhost, and Microsoft has introduced a way to set global configuration options that apply to any Linux distros that are run using WSL 2.

You may be familiar with the Windows Sandbox, which is based on virtualization and has been present in Windows 10 since version 1903. This is very useful for working with certain apps inside an isolated environment, but until now it didn’t have things like microphone support, or the functionality to configure different aspects of the sandbox like networking, shared folders, startup scripts, or vGPU.
Microsoft has also added some quality of life improvements in the form of keyboard shortcuts for the Ease of Access dialog (Shift + Alt + PrintScreen) and entering/exiting fullscreen mode (Ctrl + Alt + Break).
There are other functional updates, such as the ability to rename Virtual Desktops. Usually, both macOS and Windows 10 give dull names to virtual desktops such as Desktop 1, Desktop 2, etc., or, in the case of Mission Control, the most it can do is choose a name based on what app is in the foreground in that space.
With version 2004, your Virtual Desktops and their custom names are retained after reboot. What’s even better is that if you use UWP apps like Mail, Calendar, and OneNote they’ll also be restarted minimized, in a suspended state, on reboot.

Microsoft has been working on improving Windows Settings for many iterations, moving stuff over from the legacy Control Panel and putting things in places that make the most sense. In the April 2020 update you can see all Language settings in one place within an overview section, and get quick access to individual ones like the display language, app language, speech settings, keyboard, and regional format through their respective tiles.
Notification settings have proven particularly difficult for users to discover on their own, so toast notifications will have inline options to either turn off all notifications for that app of head directly to the app’s notification settings. You can also disable sound for notifications and hunt for a specific app that’s bugging you using filters. Microsoft is known for making some actions in Windows possible in several ways, and this persists with the addition of a shortcut to manage notifications at the top of the Action Center, which could come handy when patience runs thin.
The ‘Network status’ page under Network & Internet has been consolidated, so that you no longer need to delve into subpages to see basic information like overall data usage. On similar fashion, the ‘Optional features’ page has been improved so you can select and install multiple features at the same time, sort them, and do that without leaving the main page in the “Latest actions” section. It’s also worth noting that Notepad, WordPad, and Paint are now optional features in Windows 10 and can be uninstalled.

When Bluetooth quick-pairing was introduced in version 1803, devices that support Swift Pair would generate a notification prompting you to pair them with your PC. But while it saved you the trouble of going to Settings, it didn’t compensate for the slow UI.
Now you can do the pairing right from the notification itself, and the toast will sometimes show the name and category of the device being connected.

Cortana has been completely migrated into its own Store app that’s undocked from the taskbar, and is now essentially a chat bot for managing your schedule and tasks.
Microsoft says this is part of a new strategy of turning Cortana into a productivity assistant for Microsoft 365 (Office 365). But while the company will now be able to update it more frequently just like a normal app, this is also a loss of smart home features and, soon enough, the removal from Microsoft’s Android launcher.

After decoupling Cortana from Windows Search, Microsoft has overhauled Search to offer quick access to your most used apps, recently-accessed documents, a tabbed interface for filtering results, and quick search suggestions.
A lot of users find that when they search for certain settings or apps they don’t get exact matches, and Windows Search will try to make a guess based on what you typed. Now you’ll get a “Related” line with an explanation under each search result with a clarification on why that result has appeared in your search.

Image: Windows Central
There’s also automated spell correction that will be applied whenever you misspell the name of something that Windows Search has indexed and can recognize based on what you have typed in the search box.
File Search also now governs the search box in File Explorer, which means it’ll offer search suggestions from local and OneDrive files in a drop-down.

People using Windows 10 on a tablet or 2-in-1 PC will be able to enjoy a new experience with increased spacing between Taskbar icons, and an optimized layout in File Explorer that makes touch targets easier to tap on. The touch keyboard will automatically be invoked whenever you tap on a text field, and Microsoft says it has made it so that your device will be able to recognize the scenario in which it’s being used and switch to an appropriate UI experience.
There are also updates to the Xbox Game Bar (fps counter and an achievements overlay pane) and added support for Kaomoji, for those of you who like using emojis.
All that being said, there are some less obvious changes coming in Windows 10 version 2004, such as improved disk and CPU usage for Windows Search. This has been a pain point for users who still run Windows on a mechanical hard drive, with the indexer deciding to get busy at the worst possible moments, such as when gaming or running on battery power.

Microsoft says the indexer will now be smarter at choosing the right time to do its job thanks to an algorithm that will throttle down or stop indexing activities whenever one or more conditions are met. Examples include situations where you unplug a laptop from the wall, or immediately after logging in or returning from sleep. Then, if disk and CPU usage go above a certain threshold, indexing will be paused.

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Windows 10’s next major update could improve system performance with tweaked search indexer – Blog – 10 minute

Why it matters: Indexing content on a PC enables Windows Search to instantly show related items when prompted. Maintaining the index, however, comes at a performance cost, which is why the related service is designed to kick in when the PC is receiving little to no usage. Despite these measures, Microsoft’s research has shown users frustrated with system slowdowns due to excessive CPU and disk usage caused by the Windows Indexer, an issue which the company will be addressing in its next major update to the OS.
Microsoft’s hit-or-miss track record with Windows 10 updates leaves much to be desired, but its upcoming 20H1 update, the first of this year, is coming with plenty of new features and improvements, including a more efficient Windows Search experience meant to keep system slowdowns at bay.
As reported by Windows Latest, Microsoft’s new algorithm for the Windows Search Indexer comes in the wake of extensive research conducted by the company last year, where Windows Insiders were found to be disabling the feature, citing “excessive disk and CPU usage, general performance issues, and low perceived value of the indexer.”
Although the May 2019 update fixed previous issues related to Windows Search, Microsoft continued to work on refining the algorithm, which will now be included in the Windows 10 20H1 update.

Windows 10 May 2019 Update added an ‘Enhanced’ mode to expand indexing across more locations
The new changes (rolled out in the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 19025) are meant to lower the chances of system slowdowns and will stop or throttle the indexer in case of the following events:

Gaming mode is ON
Power savings mode is ON
Low power mode is ON (constrained mode or connected standby)
The device is waking up after being in low power mode or in a logon state
Device goes from AC->DC
CPU usage goes above 80%
Disk usage goes above 70%
The device’s battery charge is
The device’s display state goes to screen off

For developers, popular code repositories like Git (and project folders) will be excluded from the indexer, which Microsoft says is “partly because of the sheer size of these repositories and also because the tools developers use to interact with their repositories typically have their own indexers.”
Microsoft’s stable/public release of Windows 10 20H1 is expected to arrive in Spring 2020 with new features like better control over optional updates, enhanced Cortana, Cloud download for reinstalling Windows, improved Task Manager and the ability to go passwordless with Windows Hello sign-in or a PIN, among other features.

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The Galaxy Note 10+’s Display Is Practically Perfect, but Does That Matter Anymore?


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Ever since Apple unleashed the term “Retina Display” upon the world, smartphone manufacturers have been laser-focused on improving display technology. In the beginning, these gains absolutely mattered. A lot of ink was spilled (some of it by yours truly) on the difference between OLEDs and LCDs, or PenTile subpixel arrangements versus the traditional RGB.

In the end, OLED won the high-end smartphone display race. LCDs continue to be used in some models, of course, including Apple’s iPhone XR, but OLED technology has won the day in high-end displays. At DisplayMate, display technology expert Dr. Raymond Soneira has written a shoot-out on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+, and declared it the best phone display he’s measured to-date. The question is, does anyone really care any longer?

According to Dr. Soneira, the Note 10+’s display has “has again raised the bar significantly higher.” But the significance of that movement as a whole has never looked more tenuous. Consider how close the Note 10+ ranks against the S10, the display Samsung launched earlier this year. Data below drawn from the Galaxy Note 10+ and Galaxy S10 display reviews:

Note 10+ versus S10

Data by Dr. Raymond Soneira, chart by ExtremeTech

We’ve created this chart using the metrics Dr. Soneira declares are most significant for each display. As you can see, the Note 10+ and the S10 displays are extremely similar. This is not a bad thing on the face of it — both the Note 10+ and S10 are recognized as having an excellent panel to begin with. Dr. Soneira declares that the shift in color accuracy and intensity values for both the Note 10+ and S10 are record-setting. While there’s a numerical difference between the two, the value is below 1 in both cases, which means it’s visually indistinguishable from perfect. The fact that we’re literally measuring differences that humans can’t visually perceive tells you something about how far down the rabbit hole device manufacturers have gone already.

As Dr. Soneira notes in his evaluation of resolutions, moving to 4K over 3K in a panel this small does not provide a noticeable improvement. He states, “As a result, it is absolutely pointless to further increase the display resolution and pixels per inch (ppi) for a marketing wild goose chase into the stratosphere, with no visual benefit for humans!” We may have hit this point in more ways than one. Reading over the Note’s performance, it’s one “excellent” score after another. The iPhone XS and S10 are scarcely different. It’s not that there are literally no differences in the designs of these screens, but that the differences have shrunk to virtually nothing. The major chatter these days is on when Android vendors will adopt panels with high refresh rates, because moving to 90-120Hz makes a display feel faster than a 60Hz equivalent.

Even so, screens don’t really feel like the upgrade-drivers that they once were. There was a time when a faster phone, better panel, and sharper image combined to make a new iteration of Android or iOS feel like a reinvention of mobile computing, especially if you skipped several OS versions at once. The strength of this effect obviously depended on when you upgraded — some Android and iOS versions have overhauled the UX more than others — but the boost used to be significant. Larger devices may have also indirectly helped with this — if you went from a 4-inch panel to a 5.5-inch or even 6-inch display, you obviously got a very different experience in that regard as well.

For all the hubbub over foldable displays in 2019, it seems telling that the most interesting and important aspect of the panel is a trait that has nothing to do with its actual ability to display an image. In 2012, the hottest thing in smartphone displays was a phone that could display a crisp, sharp picture. In 2019, the hottest thing in smartphone displays is a phone that can fold like a washcloth (until it breaks). Apart from faster refresh rates, smartphones seem to be topping out against the limits of human visual perception if nothing else. The enduring problems of smartphones, like the difficulty of reading them outdoors, are intrinsically difficult to overcome. The Sun, being powered by nuclear fusion, has a distinct performance advantage over the hapless OLED screen attempting to outshine it. Incremental improvements in JNCD, viewing angles, and reflection certainly seem possible, but these gains are all subject to diminishing marginal returns.

This leads to an odd scenario: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ may indeed have the best screen you can buy today, but I’m less certain than ever that this empirical observation will lead to additional sales. Much of the conversation around the phone has debated whether or not(e) it should even exist with the extremely-similar S10 on the market, though stylus lovers continue to defend it.

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