It took me a lot of years to be able to afford the most souped-up, best-in-show — with a cherry on top — MacBook Pro. The last one I bought cost about $3,000 all-in. That’s the most money I’ve spent on one thing at one time — ever — and it stung for sure. I justified it as the single most important work expense I have though, and hoped it would hold up at least five years. That was early 2017.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018. The “S” is nearly worn off my keyboard, and it makes it just five or six hours on a single charge. I hardly ever use the “revolutionary” Touch Bar. Still, cheating on my trusty MacBook Pro was no easy feat. It’s traveled around the world with me, helped me file more 1,000 stories, and dealt with “getting ridden hard and put away wet,” many, many times. I felt more than a little guilty cheating on it for sure.
MY FORAY INTO THE HUAWEI WORLD
I’ve been hearing great things about the MateBook X Pro for the past few months but was pretty skeptical that it could fully replace my tried-and-true Apple laptop. I’ve used MacBooks for the last decade and rarely run across anyone outside of the gadget world who’s even heard of Huawei, let alone knows how to pronounce it (for the record, it’s Wah-Way). While the China-based company has faced significant hurdles in America — including allegations of espionage — there’s no doubt the company is an electronics force to be reckoned with worldwide. In fact, earlier this year, it surpassed Sweden’s Ericsson AB earlier this year to become the world’s largest telecom equipment supplier.
BUT REPLACE MY MACBOOK? REALLY?
MacBooks were once the most powerful, well-built laptops around and very few competitors even came close. Apple’s laptops are still high-end machines, and I feel a great deal of loyalty to my current machine. But the huge gap between MacBooks and the rest of the laptop world is rapidly narrowing — and in many cases, it comes down to a matter of personal preference and price point. That might be bad news for Apple, but it’s great news for anyone who wants a powerful notebook with long battery life and doesn’t have $3,000 to blow.
For my two-week trial, there were a handful of trade-offs, but the number of features I actually lost in the transition wasn’t nearly as long as you might think.
WHAT I LIKED
Battery Life: Apple loves to tout the all-day battery life of its MacBooks, with up to 10 hours of video playback on a single charge. The MateBook X Pro somehow managed to top that, with up to 12 hours of video playback on a full charge. It was a huge difference to actually get a full workday of typing, editing, light photo editing, and social media posting, without the need for an outlet. I don’t get more than five or six straight hours of work out of my MacBook anymore.
Screen: The MateBook X Pro manages to top the MacBook Pro’s screen and makes it look easy. At 3000 by 2000 pixels, it’s sharper than even the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and it’s a touchscreen, too. It measures 13.9 inches, so it falls in between Apple’s 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, and even though Apple’s laptop has a slightly higher maximum brightness, I can’t even tell when they’re sitting side by side.
Touchscreen: I still can’t believe MacBooks don’t have a touchscreen. After all, the popular “flick, tap, and swipe,” are functions Apple made so handy and mainstream to begin with. It’s time for a touchsceen on my laptop, and Huawei did it really well.
Bezels: The MacBook Pro is a good looking notebook, but nobody’s going to give it any awards for thin bezels, which are those strips of plastic metal that surround the display. The MateBook X Pro, on the other hand, has bezels so thin they practically disappear, which adds a decent amount of space to the screen in general. It has a 91% screen-to-body ratio, which means that just 9% of the display isn’t an active screen. It managed this feat by moving the webcam off its perch at the top of the display and down into a tiny pop-up button on the keyboard.
Webcam: The webcam is actually embedded in a key at the top of the keyboard, which is fabulous for allowing the screen to take up more real estate. It’s also great for security. It doesn’t activate automatically, even when you push the spring loaded key to pop it up. It’s a novel new feature that I’ve never seen before — and that’s pretty cool. The problem, however, is that the webcam then looks directly at your chest. Or from beneath your chin, which is not even a remotely flattering angle. And yes, even with a laptop photo or video, vanity matters.
Price: Possibly the biggest difference of all between the MacBook Pro and the MateBook X Pro is the price. The MateBook X Pro’s specs — the processor, screen size, memory, etc — don’t match up perfectly with any one Macbook Pro model, but to get a comparable Apple laptop you can expect to pay at least $2,000, and possibly as much as $2,399. The MateBook X comes in at a much more reasonable $1,199. The added bonus of them throwing in a year free of Microsoft Office 365 (around $100) is a nice touch too.
WHAT I MISSED
Old habits are hard to break, and I found myself missing a lot of Apple’s little creature comforts, specifically the features that make it so easy to use my laptop alongside my iPad and iPhone:
Messages: My MacBook was my one-stop communications hub thanks to the built-in Messages app. It syncs all my texting contacts to my desktop so I never need to grab my phone when I’m hard at work on my computer. I use this all the time, and losing it was a bummer.
AirDrop: Sharing photos, videos, and other files between friends is pretty easy on a smartphone, but doing the same on a laptop can be a lot more tedious. I love AirDrop for sending photos from my phone to my MacBook, especially for work, and that same functionality just isn’t baked into the Windows operating system. There are other alternatives, like sticking them in a Dropbox folder or Google Drive and then grabbing them on my laptop, but nothing beats the simplicity and speed of AirDrop.
Shake-To-Find Mouse: Do you ever lose your mouse cursor on the screen? This never used to be a problem when computer screens were low-resolution, but with the super-sharp screens we have today the tiny mouse cursor can darn near disappear right before your eyes. Apple fixed this years ago with a feature that makes the mouse cursor super big when you shake it back and forth, and you can’t miss it. Windows just doesn’t have anything like that.
TIMES ARE CHANGING
If there’s one thing I learned from my little random experiment it’s that laptops have come a long way in just the past few years. Before, nothing could tear me away from my precious MacBook, but high-powered notebooks are now cheaper than they’ve ever been, and you don’t need to look for an Apple logo to find something great.