Huawei Matebook X Pro Signature Edition misadventures

Updated: 5 days ago

Sometime in June 2018, I decided to get the top of the range Huawei Matebook X Pro Signature Edition portable computer from the Microsoft Store after a long and careful assessment of light and powerful computing devices that were cooler looking than Macbook Pro goodies but which did not exceed the $2K (US) point by too much. (or so I thought)...

I had been developing a ChessAI training system for beginners to seriously advanced levels and the hardware it ran on was important.

This machine looked hot and it was throttled to 90% CPU performance so it could not be stressed which I liked for the ChessAI POV.

It was to turn out to be a big time suck and re-work focal point though.

After some serious dithering I ordered mine in Space Gray and made sure it came armed with an Intel i7 8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM, an nVidia MX150-2 15W GPU and a 512GB NVMe SSD which very unfortunately turned out to be a Liteon SSD.

I now have several of these machines and have sold hundreds but did use two for my own Chess playing antics.

One running Windows 10 2004 armed with a Samsung 970 Pro SSD and one running Mint Linux Cinnamon armed with the 512GB Liteon SSD.

For any of these Matebook X Pro devices with the i7 CPU in them, if they come armed with the Liteon 512GB SSD, and you desire Windows 10 as the default operating system, cease and desist all efforts right here and right now!!

Microsoft and these guys have and are still having some sort of spat and as a result the driver being used by Microsoft for Windows 10 for any Liteon SSD is a generic driver that DOES NOT WORK.

I have had truly horrible experiences with various HPe, Dell and Lenovo laptops running those Liteon SSD's with Windows 10.

You will waste Hundreds of hours getting messed around if you run Windows 10 with these Liteon SSD's.

Should you have such Liteon equipped Matebook X Pro with Windows 10 aspirations, immediately go to Amazon and order the Samsung PRO 970 512GB V2 NVMe SSD (M2) post haste. Its some $159 less tax at the moment and its worth every penny.

It has the NVMe M2 interface you will need for this laptop.

However, the performance peaks cannot be hit with this particular SSD in the MXP rig as this MateBook X Pro i7 device only uses 2x PCIe lanes and not four.

You will experience strange BSOD events 4-5 times a day or worse with this Liteon SSD in any Windows 10 machine actually, but particularly in this one.

Mine was doing it every few seconds. This renders it effectively as useful as tits on a bull as my outback Aboriginal chums would colorfully tell me whenever they got the chance..

These BSOD events will be reported as an event ID 41 message in the Windows event viewer but rest assured that it has nothing to do with power at all.

If you intend to run Ubuntu 19.04 and later on your Matebook X Pro and do not need a second monitor (like ever), carry on with the Liteon, Ubuntu deals with the Liteon SSD just great.

Microsoft, however elected to use a generic driver that is not compatible with any Liteon SSD and there is nothing you can do about it until Microsoft come to their senses and do their job with the drivers properly that they took ownership of and are not delivering on.

You have been warned. Serious sado-masochists can ignore to their pending delights.

The Toshiba 256GB SSD used in the lighter version of these systems is even worse than that Liteon by the way.

It seems like half the components in one of these Matebook X Pro systems are production run rejects.

The first thing I do when I get one is strip it completely and remove the truly ghastly thermal paste they use.

If it is going to be a Windows 10 system I remove the Liteon SSD and put them aside for Linux use.

If the Toshiba 256GB SSD is in it I walk it straight to the garbage can.

As far as this laptop package is concerned, In a perfect world I had desired a similar profile package with the AMD Ryzen 4000H CPU but these only just came out.

Since I made this comment I see a lot of new Huawei platforms are AMD based by the way.....They better get used to it, now that the new AMD Ryzen chips are here in 7nm, they are going to dominate the gamer, desktop and laptop space big time!!

The Huawei Matebook X Pro was unavailable at the time I was looking in this desired AMD profile format and even the Intel i7 version was scarce in the June 2018 time frame.

I had actually ordered and paid for mine online at the Microsoft store back in early June and it took a fair long time (5 weeks) to turn up on my doorstep.

I already had an Asus i5 quad core laptop machine but it was literally killing me hauling it all over the planet in my backpack so I decided to palm that off on one of my colleagues (Jona) and get this machine as it was said to be quite the lightweight tiger.

First overall impressions were good but I was not overly happy with how easily it scratched and the camera in the pop up keyboard can best be described as a seriously bad joke.

The camera angle gives you a very unfortunate angle of your nose from that pop up key perspective that is best suited to ear nose and throat medical professionals.

I am not sure what that was about and the camera resolution is very poor regardless.

I did not really use it much at first as I had switched to my trusty 15" Macbook Pro Retina (while I waited for the new toy) which was a 2012 model also with 16GB of RAM and which also had an earlier variant of the i7 quad core Intel CPU in it, and which also came with the Intel GPU and a more beefy nVidia chip graphic combo that I just don't get the exact point of.

As in why have two graphic chips on a notebook platform? I always want the more powerful nVidia, all the time, no matter what I am doing or where I am.

I guess if you are on a plane and battery power is an issue.......?

I have two AMD Ryzen 7 3000 based workstations and two Threadripper 3960X Rigs in my home office so I did not really need a Windows based laptop per se, though it would have been rather nice to drag along to customers for bling effects and talking points.

After hauling the i5 based Asus anchor to Taipei and almost suffering a broken back because of it, I was determined to get a functional lightweight machine that could do everything I needed, catch the eye and do the job well without any major back strain.

My Taiwanese colleagues did not get the Asus I was lugging around or my desire to get the Huawei Matebook X Pro, but translated to dollars, the latter made plenty of sense to me!

Taiwanese folks spend a lot of time trying to be more like the Japanese and Apple is very big in Nippon as a status symbol like Dyson vacuum cleaners are. Tres bizarre....

Microsoft listed the MateBook X Pro Signature edition at some $1485 on the Microsoft store and with my Microsoft discount it brought it down to some $1255 odd.

Compared to getting a new Macbook Pro, this was less than half the price and struck me as a pretty reasonable deal considering what you were getting on paper, at any rate.

The thin 13" Macbook Pro's my Taiwanese colleagues were all using lacked the Graphics I needed for my Visio work so it was never going to fly on that over-priced platform for me.

I did not really run into any significant issues with the Matebook X Pro until I went to Prague over Christmas of 2018 with my wife Julie as up till then I had not really been using it very much due to the Macbook and I renewing our acquaintance care of the Mac OS X Mojave update.

I recently did the same upgrade on that old 15" 2012 MacBook Pro Retina with Catalina on it and have an i9 9880 based MacBook pro as well, also running Catalina - which is a total revelation.

On Reddit I had been reading about the many cooling issues the Matebook X Pro has and the fascinating myriad of unnatural acts some of the owners got up to with the thing to mitigate its various over-heating quirks.

Huawei throttled back the CPU capability to 90% and as it turns out, did so for a darn good reason.

As an ex Microprocessor guy myself I am well aware of the thermal problems modern processors and the thin aluminum based packages they come in present and what the pragmatic limits to mods are as I had undergone this self same experiment and taken the tortuous path to make that problem go away with my 2012 15" Macbook Pro Retina and it had been a painful and expensive exercise.

My old 15" Macbook Pro runs much cooler now due to custom made cooling fans and custom made copper cooling tubes and the like combined with long overdue changes Apple made to the OS that was plagued with millions of needless background processes that caused CPU stress and heat to mount to the point of insanity.

For what I was doing, a 90% throttled CPU on the Matebook X Pro was just dandy and I had no intention for a rinse and repeat experience a la Macbook Pro, thank you very much!

Update: I actually did rip the Matebook apart and I advise every owner to do the same. Rip the cooling plate off, clean up the sub par thermal paste Huawei put in it, replace the Liteon SSD with a Samsung 970 Pro, re-apply the thermal paste and delicately put it back.

Warning: When you do this, place a sheet of white paper on a table next to the laptop and place the screws exactly as they come out on the paper in roughly the same order - there are around 18 of them on the cooling plate.

When I first got it though, the userbenchmark testing results were kinda disappointing.

It scored deep in the Yacht class.

By the time I had done tweaking it though it was in the top Nuclear submarine category and almost in the UFO class for a desktop.

Somebody really needs to make an Ultrabook, notebook and laptop specific edition of this testing software as you can't really compare a Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX based desktop to any laptop rig and expect a comparison scale that means anything.

There really are a few reasons why the Matebook X Pro doesn't test that well and you can really only do something about two of them.

The first is the graphics state and settings.

The graphic system is a dual nVidia MX150-2 15W and a poxy Intel 620 setup.

The nVidia MX-150-2 15W variant has 2 GB of DRAM and is much better than the poxy Intel 620 which is very basic and very slow.

You have to go into the nVidia software in control panel and set the thing to always run the nVidia graphics for the benchmark testing results to get better btw.

The default settings are to let the OS decide which GPU to use and bench-marking will result in the poor Intel 620 graphics being used for the tests that this software runs.

One thing that annoys me is Windows 10 insistence on using the Generic PnP monitor driver with the 3K screen on this thing. All the gurus say the nVidia MX150 driver should work and to delete the PnP driver or uninstall it.

Only thing is on the next reboot the PnP monitor is back again! Looks like Microsoft forgot that a GPU and a monitor are not the same thing....?

The 90% CPU throttling situation most folks cannot do anything about, and seriously, do not even bother changing it other than applying decent quality thermal paste.

In any event, it simply has no air volume to breathe right, no matter what you do to it.

There is something you can do about that situation to help it though.

Nexstand make a very cool folding plastic stand that I now use that is awesome.

It runs at somewhere around 48 degrees C when working on Visio and Word documents like this.

Mucking around with thermal paste and cooling on your Matebook X Pro will invalidate any warranty you may be looking forward to by the way, though admittedly, this is of questionable value in the best of circumstances as I was to find out for myself later after experiencing Huawei USA tech support.

Huawei tech support in the USA is manned by exceedingly poor tech support types, it must be said.

The second thing you can do to make things better is chuck out the Liteon NVMe M2 SSD and replace it with something faster like the Samsung 970 Pro but think carefully about this as how fast does it need to go for the pain to get it into this platform anyway? Unless you intend to run Windows 10, in which case this action is mandatory.

It will generate more heat than the Liteon SSD though.

You will also need to reapply thermal cooling paste to the components dislodged in this process if you go this route by the way.

I believe this Liteon NVMe 512GB SSD will not last long anyways so I will no doubt get to do this upgrade sooner rather than later I suspect. (Since I published this, it has now failed and has a Samsung 970 Pro in it with the most exotic thermal paste I could find).

There is however something that you can do to make this thing more reliable that I would urge most people to act on with immediate effect.

This has to do with Power supply and the truly appalling Mini HDMI MateDock-2 docking device the Matebook X Pro comes with.

The Matedock-2 docking device shown above is a shockingly bad piece of equipment.

As you can see there are no cooling vents and this thing gets so hot that it actually breaks very quickly.

I could not get it to work in the required 4K graphic mode on my Samsung 4K curved screen monitor I had bought at the same time as the Matebook X Pro.

It had actually worked at 4K res for around 5 hours then started outputting nasty 1980 x 1200 1080p graphics.

The issues with this Mini Dock-2 device came to my attention while I was in Prague when I attempted to install the latest BIOS revision on it one day when I got bored and had some time on my hands.

I had decided to take it with me to Prague in case I needed to do any work for my Taiwanese clients while there.

After reboot, post 1.13 BIOS update, I started getting a message after 20 minutes or so that a USB device I had just plugged in was not recognized by Windows and that a subsequent port reset had failed.

I pulled the mini dock out and plugged it back in again and all was good per Reddit suggestions on the topic.

This seemed to be OK until I updated the BIOS from version 1.13 to 1.18.

While I was querying the firmware it automatically started doing an auto update to BIOS version 1.23 and I was powerless to stop it.

This was more or less about when the bad stuff started to happen.

At first I did not notice any issues but after I got back to the USA it started telling me the USB device failure issues and errors were present again.

I called Huawei USA tech support who did not want to hear the shitty mini dock 2 was the problem and they told me to re-install Windows.

So I did their recommended factory reset, which by the way was a total waste of time and a cheap tech support cop out.

After that followed a Microsoft support call where some technician looked at the registry and told me for $119 they could fix this problem.

I threw the phone down on their ear pretty smartly, and re-installed Windows a total of three times myself as this was definitely not a registry issue.

At first this seemed to fix the problem but it got to the point where it was a permanent state issue and nothing I did would make it go away.

I called Huawei US tech support again and they said I had to send it to Texas so they could reload the OS on it.

That idea was a seriously bad joke.

This was because the first thing I did when I got it was to upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations which was Windows 10 rev 1803.

The Home version it came with has some very peculiar behaviors indeed.

The first was that it would not run Windows-Update and when I tried to run the Windows Update fix for 1803 it reported that it had repaired the Windows Update Database, but some Huawei or Microsoft software immediately corrupted it again.

On purpose.

Very bizarre.

I have since found that this was all a Microsoft shenanigan they have since made a U turn on.

The question I have is does anybody at Microsoft actually do any QA testing and customer beta testing feedback anymore?

I went through this process several times with the debugging tools to see what was going on exactly.

So eventually I forced it to update to 1809 with a manual install update process and a USB Key.

At this stage though, no matter what I did, plugging in the Matedock-2 device brought this device failed and not recognized message back from the OS.

I concluded the Matedock-2 was pretty sub-standard pile of junk and went to Best Buy to get me a new non-Huawei Mini HDMI dock device with 1 GB Ethernet to see what happened.

This actually took a long time as there were several versions on sale equivalent to the Matedock-2 in size and which also came with similar reported user problems I had just had per what I was reading on my quirky Pixel 3 phone while standing in the store.

This was because none of them had any cooling vents to speak of.

After a careful process of examination and crude internet review reading in the store, I plumped for the $119 J5Create JCD381 dual HDMI mini dock as it was the only one with cooling vents and that made sense to me standing there in the store gawking at them all.

I did not like the cable and USB-C adapter it came with very much though but I figured I would deal with that if and when it became a problem.

I was to later find I was overcharged quite a bit by Best Buy for this device as you can get one online for $89 and even the manufacturer sells them online for $109.99.

Not surprisingly, the second I plugged it in and updated the drivers from the j5create web site it worked perfectly with no issues.

I soon had to learn which ports support 4K HDMI and the non-trivial issue of powering the Matebook X Pro itself.

At first, I plugged the power cable into the J5Create dock and plugged the J5 dock into the first USB-C port on the Matebook thinking it would cascade charge the Matebook AOK.

It did not...

This solved the graphic resolution issue but I was to discover a few hours later that even that was not actually the full 4K resolution.

It was not powering and charging the Matebook in this cascade config either as Cortana told me 2 hours later with her dry female based cyborg voice that informed me of this fact when the power level triggered her response and she demanded I give her more juice or an auto shutdown due to lack of power would be the sad but inevitable consequence.

At first the Samsung monitor would not work on the second HDMI port in the Matebook, which is the correct 4K port by the way and I had to unplug the monitor power and plug it in again before the dock and the monitor were happy working buddies.

The above picture shows how it now gets power and drives my Samsung 4K curved screen monitor now.

I bought some nice metal braided USB-C cables on Amazon by the way, the horrid white plastic coated rubbish that came with the Matebook is very cheap and nasty looking.

Since it has been in this config, I have had no issues apart from the sound defaulting to the Mini Dock which required me to go back into control panel>sound and make the Matebook X Pro Realtek audio the default sound system and turn the Dolby sound system to theater mode in the software settings for the Dolby stuff to do its thang.

I was not aware the J5create dock had any sound features until that point but USB sound comes up as default when you plug the JCD381 into the Matebook.

The Dock itself will only drive one 4K monitor @ 30Hz by the way.

If you plug in two 4K monitors they will default to 1080P on both monitors at 1980 x 1200 resolution.

Several people on Reddit swear you can do 4K plus 2K but they are delusional, the Huawei Matebook X Pro only uses two PCIe lanes, so you cannot get the bandwidth to do this.

I tried for many hours in my home lab to do this with all manner and combination of 4K monitor from LG, Samsung and Asus by the way.

The awesome screen itself on the Matebook X Pro is a 3K affair that works pretty well with one decent 4K monitor in extended format.

The 3K graphics in the Matebook also presents problems to many screen views and software packages by the way, which struggle with the aspect ratio and quirky resolution.

You soon get used to what you can and cannot do with this 3K mode, it is just a 2GB nVidia MX150-2 15W GPU after all!!

I am about to investigate the eGPU scene and see what it can do as feedback is that such a rig with an nVidia 2070 in it will enable you to do much with this thing like the Razer blade Stealth does.

The Razer blade stealth is not limited to the PCIe lanes it can use though but it is much more expensive and a bit thicker and heavier in size.

When you upgrade the Razer to the same spec as the Matebook X Pro Signature Edition it adds another $644.99 to it FYI.

The stuff the Matebook X Pro is compared to here is the 2017 Dell XPS 13, Apple Macbook Pro and the Microsoft Surface Book 2.

Don't forget the Huawei Matebook X Pro has a 3K touch screen and the upgraded Razer 13 has a 4K Touch screen but both are driven by the same nVidia MX150-2 graphic setup with one key difference, the Razer version is rated at 25W, the Huawei GPU only at 15W.

The RazerBlade Stealth 13" so armed comes in at a whopping $1899.99 vs the $1255 I paid for my Matebook X Pro Signature Edition.

$644.99 is a very big difference.

After playing with both the Razer Stealth 13" and the Huawei Matebook X Pro Signature Edition, I believe they both have their sweet spots and advantages, use case wise.

If you are a serious gamer, the eGPU plug in experience with the Razer Stealth is the much better option than that which the Huawei Matebook X Pro could give you but if you are a serious business user or Technical support guy needing strong enough graphics for Visios and the like, the Matebook X Pro rig in i7 format takes some beating at that price.

Do not forget you will have to buy either a Plugable USB C mini docking station or the J5Create JCD381 like I did if you go for the Huawei Matebook X Pro.

You will probably have to do this with the Razer Stealth also by the way (if you want 1 GbE).

The Huawei uses the Intel 8550U CPU while the Razer uses the later Intel 8565U CPU, but the Razer has the better cooling capability to be able to use it sans any throttling of the CPU.

For me in my work life as a Chief Technology SE and IT consultant, the Huawei is just fine and if I ever need the extra graphics horse power I am sure a low end eGPU box with an nVidia 2070 in it will do the job nicely.

For those of you that are thinking of doing this, do not mix the nVidia MX150 with an AMD GPU, keep it all in the nVidia family.

The Huawei Matebook X Pro Signature Edition stand alone is a better work machine than the Razer 13" which really needs the eGPU to drive that 4K screen properly IMHO.

Do not consider the Huawei without replacing the Mini Dock-2 with a decent HDMI docking device.

In fact I seriously advise that the first thing you do when you take it out of its box for the first time is walking straight to the garbage can with the Mate-Dock 2 device in your paw and making the Mini-Dock 2 an immediate gift to Republic Waste management, or whoever your local waste management company happens to be...

I know many people with fried Matebook X Pro's because they ignored the overheating situation with the Mini Dock-2 self destruct device.

Mine also came armed with a year of Office 365 basic, though I installed Visio 2016 on it from my own licensed Microsoft software collection.

Lots of people are waiting for their device to auto update to 1809, but as the Windows update database I talked about earlier is being deliberately corrupted by some nasty Microsoft software, you will have to get the 1809 version on a USB and force it to do a clean install to get it.

This situation actually seems spotty as some folks on Reddit are saying it does update and others are still waiting. I am guessing there is some Microsoft fix at work here...

It's never going to get presented to you as Windows update does not work on this device if you have 1803 Home edition, per Microsoft at any rate.

I am also sure Windows 10 Home version 1803 is not supposed to offer you this upgrade, though someone at Microsoft mentioned there had been a change of heart on this issue in recent times at Microsoft.

Whatever the situation with that, there is something weird and deliberate that is preventing this windows update thing working like it does on all my other AMD based Windows 10 machines.

I upgraded all 4 of them while attempting to do the Matebook and they all did it properly with no issues.

I suspect that when I typed in the upgrade keys for Pro, that it did not clean up the Home version features and it continued to behave like that Windows version until I did a clean install that deleted everything, after that it stopped doing the winupdate database corruption thang.

The sound this machine delivers via the Dolby sound when I watch movies is pretty awesome for such a small device once the Dolby Software is set as the standard Sound device at any rate.

I watched Arrival on it several times in theater mode and was pretty blown away by the experience.

I do not use the touch screen much due to years of not touching the screen, but do when I remember to, which is nice.

Time will tell how it compares to my now long in the tooth 15" Macbook Pro Retina which is about to have its 8th Birthday....

As far as a traveling companion and business tool goes, the Matebook will be my default choice every time!!

It handles my Visio 2016 workload very well and rapidly, PowerPoint runs great and my word shenanigans with the Samsung 4K monitor have made it my default working platform.

I am having issues with a suitable keyboard to use with it though, right now the mini logitech K380 bluetooth device and I are not having a great relationship as fat fingering the round keys on the K380 is causing all manner of commands to get executed on the Matebook and it is fairly annoying when typing machine gun style is attempted.

At CES 2019 in January by the way, I looked at the new Huawei 13" and was not impressed, its a step down from this platform in my opinion.

With any luck Huawei will build a next Gen Matebook X Pro with a Gen 3 AMD Ryzen 3750H or better CPU architecture with Vega GPU Combo.....

Now there's a sweet daydream I'm having.........

Its almost time for CES 2020 and I am looking forward to that a lot this time.., IT Tech-Talk Blog focusing on AMD and Nutanix with Cloudy things

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