A perfect student laptop is hard to find. What’s more, considering the variety of degrees there are, it’s next to impossible to find a laptop that suits everyone – some courses will have you rendering and editing videos, whilst others likely won’t have you running anything other than Word.
With those caveats in place though, we can say that the “average” student is looking for a lightweight, cost effective, and sufficiently powerful machine, with enough battery to last a night writing the essay that’s due tomorrow. So, is this that laptop?
Huawei MateBook X 2020: Design and portability
If you’re a student, I don’t need to tell you how important portability is. Backpack real estate is a precious commodity, and fitting in textbooks, stationery, a laptop, and any other daily carries can quickly turn into a tricky game of Tetris. Huawei tackles this head on; at its thickest point, the MateBook X has a height of about 13mm, with a 13in display – slipping into a backpack is second nature.
The rest of this laptop is just as impressively engineered. The screen is light enough to lift with one finger, while the main body lends enough weight to keep it from tilting as you open it. The whole thing clocks in at exactly 1 kg, which is lighter than most of the textbooks I carry. Meanwhile, the edge-to-edge keyboard and run-off trackpad makes for a modern look, and no whirring fans mean your concentration is no longer disturbed by your laptop’s routine helicopter impersonation.
Naturally, there need to be sacrifices for such sleek design; for one, the camera. To make room for the insanely thin bezels, the camera is shoved below deck, hidden under one of the function keys. This is great for screen design, but not so much for video chat – which is pretty bad timing considering the migration of teaching from lecture halls to Zoom calls.
Huawei MateBook X 2020: Display
Depending on the degree, display quality will vary in priority for you – but if you can, why not go big? Clearly that’s Huawei’s philosophy, as the MateBook X comes with a 3000 x 2000 native resolution. As I mentioned in the design section, the bezels are the most striking feature, barely impeding on the rest of the display.
A high resolution and impressive design can only go so far though; without the gamut to follow through, this is just a pretty slab of glass and aluminium. Of course, colour accuracy isn’t at the forefront of a student’s mind, so I won’t go into a huge amount of detail. Let’s just say that 93.6% sRGB coverage and a Delta E of 0.52 is nothing to sniff at, giving this laptop brilliant colour accuracy.
Pair this precision with a high-res screen and crazy thin bezels, and everything you put on this display is going to look great. Well, almost everything – some apps won’t scale to the full extent of the screen, as it has a slightly strange aspect ratio of 3:2. This isn’t common in most laptops, but it’s not something I even noticed until it was pointed out to me. The only time it could be a problem is when you’re playing games or watching Netflix, where the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are notably bigger compared to the classic 16:9 display.
Huawei MateBook X 2020: Keyboard
When I came to pick out a device for university, the keyboard was one of the biggest deciding factors, alongside weight and portability. The reason being? You’ll be typing on this thing constantly. If it’s not a comfortable experience, then that’s just one more thing putting you off working.
Fortunately, this was clearly a priority for Huawei too, with a keyboard that both looks and feels great. I wrote my last essay using this laptop – and I know this sounds silly – but I genuinely enjoyed writing it more than I did on my main computer. The keys are responsive, the edge-to-edge design looks good, and it even sounds satisfying to type on. What better way to motivate you to keep taking those notes?
As I mentioned earlier, the keyboard is also where the camera is located. As many negatives there are to this – primarily the awful angle – it is a great move for privacy purposes. Being able to physically block the camera is another layer of security to ensure your camera isn’t on when you don’t want it to be. Right next door is a dedicated button to disable the microphone too – full protection against the classic blunder of leaving your mic on in a Zoom lecture.
The trackpad is interesting. Instead of a mechanical clicking mechanism, Huawei has implemented haptic feedback to simulate a click. Incredibly, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between the two. I had no idea this was even a feature until I stumbled upon the app that allows you to change the strength and sensitivity of the vibration. This is a great little bonus – it adds greater accessibility for trackpad use, and frankly, it’s just cool. Which other laptop do you have with haptic feedback in the keyboard?
Huawei MateBook X 2020: Speed and performance
If you’re looking for insane performance, I should let you know now; this isn’t the laptop for you. But if you’re a student going laptop shopping, you don’t need blistering fast speeds. The Huawei MateBook X contains a 10th generation Intel Core i5, which is more than enough for university life. I’ve used this laptop for a few weeks now, and it’s not let me down. When it comes to coursework, it’s easily handled the classic combination of Firefox, Word and Spotify – admittedly not a heavy workload, but it’s the most I need to throw at it to keep up with my work.
Of course, students do other things with their time, be it gaming, streaming shows, or chatting to friends online. For those heavy hitters, this is where the MateBook stumbles. It scores below average on Geekbench 5; 944 single-core and 3,114 multi-core are the kind of scores you’d expect from a Core i3, not a Core i5.
You also can’t expect much in the way of gaming. Although the MateBook can handle the games you throw at it, it won’t do it gracefully. Graphically intensive games will slow to a crawl without massacring the graphics settings, reducing many people’s favourites to a low-res hell. However, if you’re more into less demanding titles, you won’t have as many issues. For example, Minecraft averages a respectable 35 FPS on default settings at the native 3,000 x 2,000 resolution – 16-bit cubes have never looked so good.
Other things to consider
Don’t go breaking into the bank account yet though – there are a few more aspects of this laptop to consider. For one, the MateBook X comes with just 3 ports – 2 USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Despite the double identity of the USB-Cs as charging ports, you’re still going to find a dongle necessary for USB-A based devices. This is annoying, but the MateBook X’s biggest strength is portability – you don’t want to tie it down with a myriad of wires and external devices.
If you have a Huawei phone, you’ll be able to benefit from the ‘Multi-screen collaboration’, which allows you to cast your phone screen to the laptop and control it remotely. It’s not perfect – the latency is often significant, it’s awkward to scroll using the trackpad, and it’s completely useless without a Huawei phone – but it’s a cool bonus feature for Huawei users.
As a daily student driver, Huawei’s newest MateBook X ticks all the boxes. At only a kilogram, it’s lightweight and portable, making the trip from lecture halls to libraries far less tasking. A comfortable keyboard makes typing out essays an almost enjoyable experience, and the high-res screen means they look great too.
However, once you look a bit closer, the magic does start to wear off; the under-key camera leaves a lot to be desired, and while no fans does result in perfect silence, it also means the CPU must sacrifice performance to keep temperatures down. Although currently unavailable in the UK, other countries price the MateBook at around £1000, which is no small investment for a student. For what it is though, I think it’s worth it – this laptop makes tackling student life that much easier, with a quality design that will last beyond university.
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