The Honor MagicBook 14 is a superbly made 14in laptop that crushes the competition when it comes to value for money
- Well made and good looking
- Decent performance
- Solid battery life
- Popup webcam captures from an awkward angle
- Screen not colour accurate
The Honor MagicBook 14 represents a defining moment for a brand better known for its smartphone credentials and association with parent-brand Huawei. But Honor goes, attempting to wrestle some of the ultraportable laptop market away from the giants of the industry.
For a fresh face to prise customers away from such established brands as these, however, is going to be a monumental task. But it is possible, as we’ve seen with Huawei in recent years, as long as Honor delivers competitive, well-designed hardware, without compromising on features at a reasonable price.
Honor MagicBook 14 review: What you need to know
On the first front, Honor does appear to have achieved just that. This is a slim and light Windows 10 laptop with similar looks and build quality to the excellent (but considerably more expensive) Huawei MateBook Pro X. It comes with a 1080p non-touch Full HD display and a chassis that’s made entirely of metal.
It includes such luxuries as a fingerprint reader for fast unlocking and a ThunderBolt 3-enabled USB-C port. It’s powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U CPU with Radeon Vega 8 graphics with 8GB of RAM and there’s also 256GB of storage, so the specification is pretty decent.
Honor MagicBook 14 review: Price and competition
It’s the price that catches the eye, however, and at £605 the Honor MagicBook is ticking all the right boxes here. For this sort of money, frankly, there is nothing that comes remotely close to what the Honor MagicBook 14 is offering here.
You can pick up the excellent Google Pixelbook GO from £629 but this cheapest model comes with a far less powerful Intel Core m3 chip. Further up the price scale are machines like the excellent Acer Swift 5 (2019) and the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13.5in but both of these are considerably pricier at £900 and £999 respectively.
Otherwise, you’re looking at laptops from little known Chinese manufacturers like the Bmax X14. The Bmax is a lot cheaper, yes, but it’s a lot less powerful than the Honor MagicBook 14. Put simply, it’s great value.
Honor MagicBook review: Design and key features
So what are you getting for your £600, then? First and foremost, you’re getting a well-made laptop built with portability squarely in mind. It counts extremely narrow 4.8mm screen bezels among its selling points, with a screen-to-body ratio of 84%. It also weighs a mere 1.38kg, which is the same as the most recent MacBook Pro and that means it’s light enough to carry around all day without too much shoulder ache.
As for connectivity, the MagicBook is plenty well-endowed. It has one Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB Type-C port, two regular USB-A ports, one full-size HDMI socket and a 3.5mm audio jack. The MagicBook also comes with Honor’s Magic-Link 2.0 technology, which allows you to transfer photos, videos and documents by simply tapping your Honor phone on the NFC chip below the keyboard.
It’s also worth noting that, despite launching at the same time as the Honor 9X Pro – Honor’s first smartphone without officially supported Android – the MagicBook hasn’t been affected by the US government’s trade ban. Thus you’re getting full Windows 10 here, complete with all the necessary security updates and no restrictions on what you can install and run.
Honor MagicBook review: Keyboard and touchpad
The MagicBook 14 is not only a lovely thing to look at, it’s also pretty nice to use. Its keys have a lovely soft-yet-positive action to them that bodes well for long typing sessions and there’s no flex to the keyboard base or uncomfortable bounce. The layout is sensible, too, with a double-height UK-specific Enter key, large backspace and right shift keys and no weird function doubling.
The touchpad feels a little insubstantial for my tastes and it’s a touch rattly but it reliably and is wide enough to accommodate Windows 10’s multitouch gestures effectively. In fact, the only big problem here is the popup 720p webcam, which sits between the F6 and F7 keys. Image quality is okay but its positioning results in an awkward, up-your-nose camera angle that’s just all kinds of wrong.
Honor MagicBook 14 review: Display
The MagicBook 14 comes with a 14in IPS panel with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and it performs well for a laptop of this price.
Viewing angles are great, it’s quite bright and the contrast ratio is very good indeed. Although it isn’t the last word in colour accuracy, it’s not horrendously bad and this isn’t something you should be too worried about unless you do a lot of photo editing or design work.
Here’s a quick table of how it stacked up in testing:
- Peak brightness 278cd/m2 (good)
- Contrast ratio 1,328:1 (very good)
- sRGB coverage 57.9% (mediocre)
Honor MagicBook 14 review: Performance
The core hardware is even more impressive than the display. Unusually, the Honor MagicBook 14 eschews Intel in favour of AMD here and employs a 2.1GHz quad-core Ryzen 5 3500U processor with Radeon Vega 8 graphics and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. By default, it comes with 256GB of PCIe SSD storage, which you can bump up to 512GB for a little extra cash.
In testing the MagicBook 14 impressed. I ran it through our in-house media benchmarks, the cross-platform GeekBench 4 and 5 and some graphics-focused benchmarks and games and it came through them all with flying colours, claiming some notable scalps along the way:
Overall, this is a pretty good showing for a laptop that costs hundreds of pounds less than its main rivals. In our media benchmarks, in fact, which are pretty demanding, it edged in front of all its rivals and its SSD is pretty speedy, too.
As for battery life, it’s a similar story. In our video rundown test, the Honor MagicBook 14 put in another good showing, matching most rivals:
Honor MagicBook review: Early verdict
Honor is clearly singing the same tune as Huawei when it comes to laptop production. Thus, while the MagicBook 14 may not be very best in all departments, it is certainly good enough for most and undercuts not only most of its Windows and Mac rivals on price.
If you can lay your hands on one – I’m sure at this price there’s going to be high demand – the Honor MagicBook 14 is an absolute steal. It’s slim, light, handsome and very pleasant to use and it’s powerful, well connected and generously well specified as well.
Will it knock Apple and the others off their comfortable perches all on its own? Probably not but I still think the MagicBook offers an achingly attractive proposition for the laptop buyer that wants a good level of quality but on a tighter budget.
Honor MagicBook 14 specifications
- Processor-AMD Ryzen 5 3500
- RAM -8GB
- Additional memory slots-No
- Max. memory-8GB
- Graphics adapter -AMD Radeon Vega 8
- Graphics memory-Shared
- Screen size (in)-14in
- Screen resolution-1,920 x 1,080 (non-touch)
- Pixel density (PPI)-157
- Screen type-PS
- Pointing devices-Touchpad
- Optical drive-No
- Memory card slot -No
- 3.5mm audio jack-Yes
- Graphics outputs -USB Type-C
- Other ports-2 x USB Type-A, 1 x HDMI
- Web Cam -720p
- Bluetooth-Bluetooth 4.1
- NFC -Yes
- W (mm)-323
- D (mm) -215
- H (mm) -15.9
- Dimensions, mm (WDH)-323 x 215 x 15.9mm
- Weight (kg) – with keyboard where applicable–1.38
- Battery size (Wh)-56
- Operating system-Windows 10