I just cheated on my star laptop with a rival from Huawei

Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA Today
Published 7:00 a.m. ET June 21, 2018 | Updated 11:29 a.m. ET June 24, 2018

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Jennifer Jolly shows off the Huawei MateBook X Pro, a lower-priced rival to Apple’s laptops.
Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA TODAY

I loved, and nearly wore out, my state-of-the-art Apple MacBook Pro. Would a cheaper alternative do nearly as well?

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 in early 2017 cost about $3,000 all-in, the most money I’ve spent on one thing at one time — ever. 

By the summer of 2018, the “S” is nearly worn off my keyboard, and the computer makes it just five or six hours on a single charge. I hardly ever use the Touch Bar. Still, cheating on my trusty MacBook Pro was no easy feat.

My foray into the Huawei world

I’ve been hearing great things about Huawei’s MateBook X Pro for the past few months but was pretty skeptical that it could fully replace my tried-and-true Apple laptop. While the China-based company (pronounced Was-Way) 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, it has become the world’s largest telecom equipment supplier.

But replace my MacBook? Really?

Apple’s laptops are still high-end machines,but the huge gap between them and the rest of the laptop world is rapidly narrowing — and in many cases, it comes down to personal preference and price. 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 beat that, with up to 12 hours of video playback on a full charge in my tests.  It made 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.

Screen: The MateBook X Pro manages to top the MacBook Pro’s screen. At 3000 by 2000 pixels, it’s sharper than even the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and it’s a touchscreen, too. The screen 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.

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 on its phone and tablet. It’s time for a touchsceen on my laptop.Huawei did it really well.

Bezels: The MacBook Pro is good looking , 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 embedded webcam is great for security and this cool and novel feature doesn’t activate automatically, even when you push the spring loaded key to pop it up. 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. Vanity matters.  

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

I found myself missing a lot of Apple’s 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. 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 Microsoft Windows operating system on the Huawei.

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.,Windows doesn’t have anything like that.

Before, nothing could tear me away from my precious MacBook, but high-powered notebooks are now cheaper than they’ve ever been. You don’t need to look for an Apple logo to find something great.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

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