back to article Review: Huawei's Matebook X Pro laptop is forgetful and forgettable

Rightly or wrongly, Huawei has acquired a reputation for being a risky proposition, security-wise. It almost beggars belief, then, that the Chinese goliath's flagship Matebook X Pro laptop contains a literal hidden webcam secreted under a fake function key on the top row of its keyboard. Touch the key and it clicks lightly, …

  1. VoiceOfTruth

    Come on

    -> Huawei has acquired a reputation for being a risky proposition, security-wise

    It didn't acquire it. It was given it by the USA. Huawei offered its source code for review - something that USA vendors do not do. So please stop being a shill.

    1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

      Re: Come on

      "Rightly or wrongly, Huawei has acquired a reputation for being a risky proposition, security-wise."

      Please stop quoting half sentences just so you can be insulting to the author.

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: Come on

        The quote is succinct and not out of context. Try and argue the point: did Huawei acquire a reputation or did the USA bestow it upon Huawei?

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Come on

          "or did the USA bestow it upon Huawei?"

          And then try bullying others to follow suit. For what, so we can chuck out the Chinese tech with (allegedly) Chinese spyware and replace it with American tech with American spyware (also allegedly)?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Come on

            > chuck out the Chinese tech with (allegedly) Chinese spyware and replace it with American tech with American spyware (also allegedly)

            Built by the same Chinese contract manufacturer in the same Chinese plant (ironically)

        2. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Come on

          Try and argue the point: did Huawei acquire a reputation or did the USA bestow it upon Huawei?

          Yes.

          The two statements are not mutually exclusive. If someone bestows something upon me, I have acquired it. Rightly, wrongly, willingly or otherwise. It seems to me that the "Rightly or wrongly" part of the line is probably more worthy of debate than the exact semantics of the word "acquired".

          On the actual point you are bringing up, I am in no doubt that the USA saddled Huawei with that reputation. I strongly suspect that there is no single reason why they did so, but fear of the Chinese government planting security vulnerabilities in their gear and the opportunity to give USA companies a leg up both played a major part, I believe.

        3. that one in the corner Bronze badge

          Re: Come on

          Come off it.

          The only point you tried to make was to claim that the article author was being a shill and to do that you deliberately removed the context from the quote by removing the first part of the sentence.

          Where or why or how Huawei gained that reputation is utterly irrelevant to the article so not something that I need to address.

          You are, of course, free to babble on about it to you heart's content.

        4. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Come on

          In 2003 Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler traveled to Shenzhen to confront Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei with evidence of Huawei's theft of Cisco IP. The evidence included typos from Cisco's technical manuals that also appeared in Huawei's, after being presented with the evidence Ren replied "coincidence".

          In June 2004, a Huawei employee was caught diagramming and photographing circuit boards after-hours from a competitor booth at the SuperComm trade show.

          Huawei added to it's reputation by selling kit to Iran in violation of sanctions. It even produced internal company records in 2010 that show it was directly involved in sending prohibited U.S. computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator.

          In July 2010, Motorola filed an amended complaint that named Huawei as a co-defendant in its case against Lemko for alleged theft of trade secrets.

          In 2012, Australian intelligence officials informed their U.S. counterparts that they had detected a sophisticated intrusion into the country's telecommunications systems. It began, they said, with a software update from Huawei that was loaded with malicious code.

          In September 2014, Huawei faced a lawsuit from T-Mobile US, which alleged that Huawei stole technology from its Bellevue, Washington, headquarters. T-Mobile claimed in its filed suit that Huawei's employees snuck into a T-Mobile lab during the period of 2012–2013 and stole parts of its smartphone testing robot Tappy.

          Just to name a few things.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Come on

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeTybKL1pM4

            Copying is not theft.

            There are a lot of problems with Huawei and using Huawei gear. Theft is NOT one of them.

    2. elip

      Re: Come on

      I agree, this struck me as an odd way to start this review. As if setting us up for the rest of what is to come.

      Frankly, if my choice of network kit (some bits I'm in charge of currently) comes up and it's between Cisco (way overpriced, and with known backdoors, and a very poor security record) and Huawei (moderately priced, "alleged" backdoors [none alleged by actual infosec pros but by beaurocrats], and *some* bungled releases from a security perspective), it'll be an easy one to make.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    It is possible that there exist people who don't use webcams (or if they do, prefer using a dedicated webcam) but *do* like the prospect of a 3:2 screen. (MS Surface devices are often 3:2, some previous Matebooks, like MacBooks, are 16:10). They know who they are.

    It's rare to read a laptop review that mentions strange general glitchiness. The prospective buyer is left scratching their head at whether it was a single duff hardware component in that particular laptop, or if the model range uses drivers that aren't of the best quality. Maybe it worked perfectly in the factory but a later Windows update broke something. It's not a reviewer's job to diagnose these things.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It's not a reviewer's job to diagnose these things."

      But "a laptop review that mentions strange general glitchiness" is quite correct. Reviewer was sent a machine _to review_ that had strange glitches and odd choices. What were they supposed to comment on?

      "The prospective buyer" is rightly warned there may be dragons in those machines. (Pun intended)

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Sorry, I wasn't clear: I meant it *was* the reviewers job to mention glitches, but that it is beyond their remit to *diagnose* the cause of said glitches. The mere idea of diagnosing glitches makes me shiver in fearful memory of 1990s PC gaming because the fault could be hardware, drivers, Windows oddness, intermittent, and or never to be fixed. Urgh. I couldn't be arsed to troubleshoot that sort if thing, and I wouldn't expect the reviewer to faff around troubleshooting either.

        My comment at how unusual it was to read of general glitchiness wasn't meant at a criticism of the reviewer. However, I can see how it could read as such, so I'm sorry that I left room for ambiguity.

        I don't often read of vague glitchiness in laptop reviews, that is all. It seemed worth remarking on. I hypothesised, a, duff unit, b, immature drivers, c, duff windows update, d, random annoying shit the way of all computers ever e, unknown unknown, f, etc etc. g, cat...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Probably all the factory-installed spyware and rootkits using all its spare CPU cycles.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    However

    "the Huawei struggled mightily running the same workload in an Ubuntu VM under VMware Workstation."

    So it's not the hardware, in other words.

    Biased, or what's your agenda?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: However

      Gee, I read it as "some instruction mixes seem oddly difficult for this machine." In other words, some workloads may not work well with this box. Reviewers agenda is reviewing capabilities, it seems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: However

        If he's testing alternative operating systems, that's hardly Huawei's problem. And of course running an emulator in Windows will be slower. He may as well criticise the hardware for not running Apple macOS.

        It would have been more informative to report on the transcode time after booting with a Linux USB stick and using Handbrake.

        Regardless, it looks like linux may be thermally throttling the CPU by default, see https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=272947

        1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

          Re: However

          He's testing how well the kit, as supplied, can support running a VM, not whether it works well when booted directly into Linux. Certainly not whether booting into Linux causes the CPU to be throttled.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: However

            And he compared it with the same operation in a previous review, noting that the Asus was also slower transcoding in a VM (no surprise there) but not as mucb slower as this Huawei. It's a different processor. Perhaps that had something to do with it?

            M.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: However

              @Martin an gof

              You don't say. See i9-10980HK vs i7-1165G7.

              Apples and oranges. They're different. Who'd have thought?

              Why did the reviewer think the comparison is relevant?

              1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

                Re: However

                The article compared the machine under review with another machine and pointed out that there is a distinct difference between their ability to cope with the sort of task that someone reading The Register is likely to be interested in.

                That is pretty much a text-book example of telling your audience something relevant.

                This is only a short End-User review of a commodity laptop, not a complete technical breakdown, so the precise reason *why* the difference in performance exists isn't really important.

              2. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: However

                Ok, I'll bite.

                It is entirely expected that natively the i7 is slower at transcoding than the i9 - six minutes against four minutes, or in other words, half as long again (150%). Transcoding is usually a highly parallel task, but the i7 is a newer generation processor, has more L2 and L3 cache (per core - according to your link), has a higher base clock speed, faster all-core turbo, faster memory (if fitted) and faster PCIe, so slightly unexpectedly it doesn't take twice as long as would be expected if the core count was the only thing that mattered.

                However, it was slightly unexpected that under virtualisation the same task took "more than double the time". There's obviously something else going on. Where is the bottleneck under virtualisation that doesn't show up natively?

                Not that I'm in the market for either, but yes, absolutely this is the sort of "oh, by the way, I noticed this interesting thing" I quite appreciate in reviews.

                M.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: However

                  All valid and relevant points but I would have expected the readers of this site to also be interested in the root cause of the observed symptom. Apparently they aren't - they're more interested in defending their own corner.

                  Personally, I think the cause is almost certainly software related and the hardware discussion is a red herring. It would be useful to know if the same issue was observed with different virtualisation software or version of Ubuntu. If the fans are coming on more often than under Windows, there's a good chance there are other things at play. There are also hints, in other forums, that incorrect graphics drivers under Linux impact performance under virtualisation.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: However

      Did you miss how it got compared to a different laptop doing the same thing, I.E. also in a VM? It's a test of performance of a demanding task under Linux in a VM under Windows running on the machine, and the Huawei did worse than the Asus. That's a comparison. Why that is is not the reviewer's job to explain, but there are various possible reasons that virtualization might be slower on one machine versus another.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: However

      Is running Linux in a VM a use case the readership of this website could be interested in? Yes.

      Does this laptop choke on it while others don't? Yes.

      Don't see the bias.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: However

        @Dan 55 and doublelayer

        They're powered by completely different CPUs!

        See above.

        But apart from that, totally unbiased...

        1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

          Re: However

          Starting to thing that you are trying to say that reviews should only compare two machines when they have the same CPU? What about if they have different amounts of RAM or different drive technologies?

          Perhaps the only unbiased review is one where you refuse to compare two laptops because one has a dark grey shell and the other is more of a bluey grey?

        2. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: However

          Sure, a different CPU. However the performance difference in Windown vs a VM is dispropotianate, which is something that is likely to be a factor for many El Reg readers. There are times when Linux/FreeBSD/etc in VM is more convenient than dual booting despite how much one might dislike Windows.

          From the article:

          The machine did decently on my go-to nasty job: running Handbrake to transcode a five-minute 4K video file down to 1080p, consuming six minutes and 20 seconds for the job. That was just two minutes slower than the Corei9-powered Asus laptop I used on my last Desktop Tourism adventure.

          However, the Huawei struggled mightily running the same workload in an Ubuntu VM under VMware Workstation. The laptop's fans got quite a workout as it struggled through the job in 16:11, more than double the time needed by the Asus.

          So 130% time taken in Windows, 200%+ in VM. May not matter to you but would do for me. Although to be fair i'm in the awkward minority where lack of WWAN will make it no sale anyway.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The wbecam and audioconnectors position might be right for hunt and peck typists. hunched over the keyboard.

    1. that one in the corner Bronze badge

      My Preciousss

      new laptop, I got it for my birthday.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      I've been in video conferences with people whose laptops' cameras and microphones are below the screen rather than above it. It's a very creepy camera angle and when they start typing it gets worse. The microphone is also far too close to the speakers and the resulting sound quality is terrible.

      I don't understand how manufacturers consistently get it so wrong.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Their goal is to tick the webcam/microphone boxes but they don't give a damn how it's done.

  5. Dave559 Silver badge

    "you can do better for the $2,000 or so Huawei charges for it"

    "you can do better for the $2,000 or so Huawei charges for it"

    This perhaps begs the question as to why this review series didn't start with the MacBook Pro as its first test?

    Yes, I am a bit of a fanboy (but not droolingly so), but I also rather suspect that any other laptop available this year is just simply going to struggle to compare favourably with it, if you're looking for something with serious oomph?

    1. Andrew Hodgkinson

      Re: "you can do better for the $2,000 or so Huawei charges for it"

      Dunno why you got downvotes - Apple haters I guess; they're a horrendous company, but then, show me a big corporate that isn't? Google, Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo... Huawei?

      At $2000 I'm kind of astounded at the poor value indicated here. Apple charges a LOT under Tim Cook for just about anything, but for $1999 US I can get the 14" MBP with 16GB+512GB and the M1 Pro that'll beat this Lenovo machine in just about any test with a battery life that by the sounds of things would be at least double, if not triple, the reviewer's quoted uptime of 6 hours, coupled with maximum performance available at all times, rather than only when plugged into the mains.

      Now, OK, sure, it's heavier and bigger and maybe you want 3:2 etc. etc; the Mac *will* run Windows 11 ARM unofficially and very fast too, but yeah, it's macOS native and Linux almost-native, not x86, so we're not comparing like with like. Even so, if the size and weight are the issue, the 13" MBP same spec with M1 would almost certainly still outperform the Lenovo in just about every metric and cost "only" $1699 despite Apple's horrific markup for the 8->16GB bump from standard MBP 13" spec.

      The PC world is meant to offer better value - but clearly, not in this case. It seems that some PC vendors need to catch up; prices need to drop, stability needs to improve and surely 11th gen or earlier Intel is largely a joke at this point, unless (IMHO) it's only at a 3-figure "budget"-ish price tag.

      1. Ken G Bronze badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: "you can do better for the $2,000 or so Huawei charges for it"

        that'll beat this Lenovo machine?

        You're making up your own comparative reviews now.

  6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Stop messing with the Function keys

    Want F7, well it's not next to F6.

    Equally bad on my works supplied Surface.

    And "UX" designers, stop messing with the scroll bars

    1. TheProf
      Happy

      Re: Stop messing with the Function keys

      F7? It's one to the left of F8. You can't miss it.

  7. VicMortimer
    FAIL

    Why would anybody consider a Chinese government spyware computer?

    And no sane IT department is going to allow this on a corporate network.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Dunno, quite a few Lenovos in many corporate networks. Or do you really think Huawei is special?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nope, Huawei isn't special. And anybody allowing a Lenovo on a corporate network is an idiot.

        https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/security-failings-demonstrate-avoid-lenovo/

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Web cams eh

    Haven’t had one of those since the early 2000s.

    Thankfully I retired just before the great covid, work from home “Teams” pandemic.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile

    I just want to know if that's a Tool t-shirt

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    Black Helicopters

    Fans sometimes on for no apparent reason? Runs slow for no apparent reason? Sometimes glitches for no apparent reason?

    All the hallmarks of something hidden and poorly written running in the background, that wakes up occasionally to package up and upload what it's gathered.....(!)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You must be American.

      It only happened under Linux...

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