Huawei MateBook X Pro ultra-thin notebook hides a webcam in its keyboard

Huawei, best known for mobile phones and enterprise networking equipment, has unveiled its MateBook X Pro series of laptops at Mobile World Congress.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Huawei has released the MateBook X Pro, the premium model of last year's MateBook X series.
  • In an effort to minimize bezels and enhance security, the webcam is tucked in the middle of the function key row of the keyboard, and can be hidden when not in use.

Huawei unveiled the MateBook X Pro at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on Sunday. The MateBook X Pro, announced via press release, features a 13.9" 3000x2000 touch-enabled LTPS display, with a 91% screen-to-body ratio, and is powered by Intel's 8th generation (Kaby Lake R) quad-core processors, in three configurations:

  1. The high-end model has a Core i7-8550U, which has a base frequency of 1.8 GHz and turbo frequency of 4.0 GHz, 16GB RAM and 512GB PCI-e SSD storage, and an NVIDIA MX150 with 2GB RAM.
  2. The mid-range model has Core i7-8250U, which runs at 1.6 GHz / 3.6 GHz, and is paired with 8GB RAM and 512GB PCI-e SSD storage, and an NVIDIA MX150.
  3. The entry level model shrinks the SSD to 256GB, and includes only integrated graphics.

The trio have two USB-C ports (one of which is Thunderbolt 3 enabled), one standard USB 3.0 port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as a 57.4Wh battery, according to the release.

SEE: IT hardware procurement policy (Tech Pro Research)

While US pricing is not available, the high-end model will retail for €1899 ($2338), with the mid-range at €1699 ($2091), and entry level at €1499 ($1845), the release said. Of note, the European prices include VAT. It would be reasonable to infer that the actual US prices would be lower than the European prices converted to US dollars.

Perhaps most interesting is the webcam—it is situated between the F6 and F7 keys on the keyboard. When the webcam is needed, it can pop up by pressing the camera button on the keyboard. When not in use, the lens sits inside the keyboard. This design decision plays a dual role in reducing the screen bezel, and acting as a security feature to prevent the webcam from being used by malware to surreptitiously record the user without their knowledge.

Webcam security has been a topic of particular interest in recent years, with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg known to tape over the webcam and microphone on his MacBook, and former FBI director James Comey calling the practice "common sense." Similarly, Lenovo introduced the "ThinkShutter" feature to this year's refresh of ThinkPad laptops, allowing the user to cover the webcam without using tape. The Librem 13 and 15 series laptops from Purism have kill switches for the webcam and microphone, which electrically disconnect the two.

However, placing the webcam that low in the interest of reducing bezels is quite likely an exercise in form over function. Dell has alternated between placing the webcam in the bottom left and bottom center in recent iterations of their XPS line of laptops, which has been roundly criticized for the "up-the-nose" angle in which it is placed. The Verge's Vlad Savov called the MateBook X Pro camera "woefully impractical" after using it at MWC.

The most redeeming feature of the MateBook X Pro may be the display, which is functionally identical to the one found in Microsoft's Surface Book. With the proliferation of cheap 16:9 panels, even business-focused laptops are using the traditionally media-focused display panels.

Huawei is a relative newcomer to the notebook PC industry. The company announced the MateBook X, E, and D series of systems last May, which were met with polite enthusiasm. ZDNet's review of the MateBook X noted that it "stacks up well as an ultra portable laptop," but criticized it as being too expensive. Wan Biao, COO of Huawei's consumer business group, told CNBC last June that the company intends to become the no. 1 PC maker globally "in three to five years."

Also see

Image: Huawei

About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware.

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