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Huawei has pulled a Dell — the MateBook X Pro uses a gimped Thunderbolt 3 port

Huawei has pulled a Dell — the MateBook X Pro uses a gimped Thunderbolt 3 port (Image source: Huawei)
Huawei has pulled a Dell — the MateBook X Pro uses a gimped Thunderbolt 3 port (Image source: Huawei)
The MateBook X Pro ships with a Thunderbolt 3 port not unlike many newer Ultrabooks and gaming laptops. What Huawei isn't telling you, however, is that the port appears to offer just half the PCIe lanes for half the theoretical transfer rate of an otherwise regular Thunderbolt 3 connection.

The MateBook X Pro has been available since early this year and we absolutely love the system. As the direct successor to the 2017 MateBook X, the MateBook X Pro introduces numerous improvements including a larger 3:2 touchscreen, dedicated Nvidia GPU, USB Type-A, and the all-important Thunderbolt 3 port. Unfortunately, digging deeper into its specifications has revealed some cut corners that are not explicitly mentioned in Huawei's martketing.

Aside from utilizing the slower '1D12' variant of the GeForce MX150 GPU, we've since discovered that the laptop is also utilizing only half the PCIe lanes for its single Thunderbolt 3 port. Thus, its PCIe x2 Thunderbolt 3 port is only capable of providing a maximum of 20 Gbps instead of 40 Gbps when compared to a standard Thunderbolt 3 port with PCIe x4 lanes.

To test this, we ran the AIDA64 diagnostics tool on both an Asus Zephyrus GX501 (for reference) and a MateBook X Pro. When a USB Type-C drive was connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port of the Zephyrus, the tool would report the following results:

PCI Express Controller:

  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #1  Empty
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #3  In Use @ x1 (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 WiFi Adapter)
  • PCI-E 2.0 x4 port #5  In Use @ x4 (Intel DSL6340 (Alpine Ridge 2C 2015) Thunderbolt 3 Bridge --> Intel DSL6340 (Alpine Ridge 2C 2015) Thunderbolt 3 Bridge)
  • PCI-E 2.0 x4 port #9  In Use @ x4 (Samsung NVMe SSD Controller)

When a USB Type-C drive was connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port of the Huawei, the tool would report the following:

PCI Express Controller:

  • PCI-E 2.0 x4 port #1   In Use @ x4 (nVIDIA GeForce MX150 Video Adapter)  
  • PCI-E 2.0 x4 port #5   In Use @ x4 (Samsung NVMe SSD Controller)  
  • PCI-E 2.0 x2 port #9   In Use @ x2 (Intel JHL6240 (Alpine Ridge LP 2016) Thunderbolt 3 Bridge (Low Power) --> Intel JHL6240 (Alpine Ridge LP 2016) Thunderbolt 3 Bridge (Low Power))  
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #11   In Use @ x1 (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 WiFi Adapter)  

Port #9 is suspected to be the Thunderbolt 3 for the MateBook X Pro. To confirm, we removed the USB Type-C drive from the Huawei notebook and reran the diagnostics tool to get the following results:

PCI Express Controller:

  • PCI-E 2.0 x4 port #1   In Use @ x4 (nVIDIA GeForce MX150 Video Adapter)  
  • PCI-E 2.0 x4 port #5   In Use @ x4 (Samsung NVMe SSD Controller)  
  • PCI-E 2.0 x2 port #9   Empty
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #11   In Use @ x1 (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 WiFi Adapter)  

The revelation is notable because the Dell XPS 15 9550/9560 and XPS 13 9350/9360 series also have half-speed Thunderbolt 3 ports. It wasn't until this latest XPS 15 9570 and XPS 13 9370 refresh cycle that the series would begin offering full-speed Thunderbolt 3 ports.

To most users, half-speed Thunderbolt 3 will have no impact on day-to-day activities. Enthusiasts and especially eGPU users, however, will certainly be disappointed by the unadvertised limited bandwidth. We suspect that other laptops with both Kaby Lake-R and discrete GeForce graphics could also have gimped Thunderbolt 3 ports due to the more limited number of PCIe lanes available when compared to a Kaby Lake-H or Coffee Lake-H alternative. The recent HP Spectre x360 15, for example, certainly comes to mind.

It is possible that the less expensive MateBook X Pro SKU with only integrated UHD graphics could have full-speed Thunderbolt 3 since it has no GeForce GPU occupying the fixed number of PCIe lanes. We will check this once a unit comes within reach and update as appropriate.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 07 > Huawei has pulled a Dell — the MateBook X Pro uses a gimped Thunderbolt 3 port
Allen Ngo, 2018-07-17 (Update: 2018-07-17)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.