I will outline what Huawei has and has not fixed in the 2019 MateBook X Pro compared to the 2018 model. You can find the more obvious talking points on The Verge and other normie sites, but here are the small engineering changes that I noticed during my teardown and testing.
- Huawei has perforated the regions of the heatsink above the CPU VRM. Whereas 2018’s VRM would overheat and cause the laptop to abruptly shut down when the CPU is pushed to around 15W, 2019’s VRM can supply over 30W continuously just fine. The CPU starts thermal throttling way before the VRM has any problem keeping up. I did manage to find the VRM’s limit though: with a fan blowing at the laptop’s bottom, the VRM bumps into a hardware current limit when the CPU reaches about 48W. That’s the maximum power the VRM is designed for.
- The fan casing is wider and has an indentation around the intake. I would have liked to see the fan’s top cover be copper and connected with the heatsink, like on the Honor Magicbook.
- The fan is manufactured by AVC just like 2018. Its connector is wider with twice as many pins, so it’s not directly interchangeable with 2018.
- The only differences I notice on the propeller are that the blades are longer and don’t have the 3 tiny grooves on top. Whereas 2018’s propeller can be easily pulled off the motor shaft, I wasn’t able to do that with 2019, so I couldn’t check the motor windings. However, the fan is much quieter, especially in the higher frequencies. It sounds much more pleasant.
- No Shark Fins detected here. Huawei, please stop with the fancy names.
- I wish Huawei changed the fan control algorithm. The fan always decides to come on many minutes after the CPU temperature has risen. This causes the CPU to start throttling while the fan is still off. Maybe Huawei is aiming for unobtrusiveness instead of performance, but even for that purpose, it’s still a lousy implementation, because the eventual ramp-up is sudden, ruining the whole smoothness they were aiming for.
- They added a ~0.5mm thermal pad between the SSD and the heatsink. They also added a rubber stud to the bottom cover to press down this corner of the heatsink because there’s no screw around here.
- One leg of the CPU bracket is now further away. The base plate mounting mechanism looks beefier, potentially for more mounting pressure. The insulation sheet on the motherboard backside has retreated to only the charging and I/O circuit area, perhaps allowing more heat to dissipate to…
- Surprisingly, Huawei added a second layer of graphite sheet behind the keyboard! (It’s the very thin black paper-like sheet going all across.) Since pyrolytic graphite sheets are much more thermally conductive across the plane than through the thickness, they are a good way of trading vertical heat transfer for horizontal heat spread, which reduces keyboard hot spots.
- The charging circuit is redesigned, and it’s reflected in the fact that the charging throttles less now. But the problem still occurs sometimes, under heavier stress.
- The battery is still 7.6V and can only output roughly 60W of power. This bottlenecks performance when running on battery. With modified cooling and power limits removed, running Prime95 causes a brownout shutdown.
- The trackpad is still loose, so the infamous “touchpad rattle” remains. I didn’t notice it initially, because…
- The chassis is still very malleable yet inelastic, meaning you can easily bend it and it’ll retain that bend. My unit had a bit of “uneven feet” from traveling in a bag, and when the chassis is bent, the touchpad is tighter. I simply bent it back and found our old friend, Touchpad Rattle.
- As far as I can tell, there is 0 change to the chassis. This makes sense because retooling is expensive.
- The speakers are the exact same, with the foam pad distortion fix introduced in later batches of 2018. This is more of a mitigation than a fix because the distortion is still there at around 500Hz.
- Still there, about the same loudness. Especially when connected to an external monitor.
Firmware and Software
- The keyboard backlight still turns itself off after about 15 seconds. Uggh!
- Intel’s Panel-Self Refresh is still broken and causes everything to lag.
- The temperature control algorithm for the thermal throttling mechanism is now smoother than before. When 2018 throttles, it’s like 90°C, 75°C, 90°C again even though the load is continuous. 2019’s CPU no longer bounces off the threshold. Instead, it equalizes itself right at the 90°C threshold and stays there, giving you much more consistent performance. It’s now perfectly fine to let thermal throttling manage the CPU instead of manually setting a custom power limit.
- The MX250 is again the 10W version, as indicated by device ID 1D52.