Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) review: An excellent design hampered only by a last-gen AMD processor

This mid-range laptop has the right price, but perhaps the wrong processor for mid-2020.

Honor Magicbook
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

A few years ago, Huawei surprised many of us in the PC world by releasing some exceptionally well done gen 1 Ultrabooks. While the company is mired in US-China trade relation issues, its Honor subsidiary has continued to push into general consumer technologies, including mid-range laptops.

I've been using the Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) for a few months now, and there is a lot to like here. But relying on last-gen AMD Ryzen does hobble its potential even more so than its non-US release.

Honor MagicBook 14 specs and features

Honor Magicbook

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The MagicBook 14 (and its bigger 15.6-inch version) are solidly mid-range laptops that follow Apple's MacBook design ethos without the Apple tax.

While there are Intel variants, the one used for this review features an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U CPU. Putting a third-gen Ryzen Mobile into a premium laptop like the Surface Laptop 3 15-inch was not a great idea, but for the asking price for the MagicBook 14 it's OK. There were originally only the AMD Ryzen 3000 Mobile options for the 2020 MagicBook 14, but Honor added Ryzen 4000 Mobile chips later for extra performance.

While there is nothing particularly special about the MagicBook specs they are very good for an entry-level and mid-range laptop:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySpec
OSWindows 10 Home
ProcessorAMD Ryzen 5 3500U Mobile Processor
GPUAMD Radeon Vega 8
Display14-inch non-touch
84% screen-to-body ratio
1920x1080
TÜV Rheinland Certified
StoragePCIe NVME SSD 256GB
Memory8GB DDR4 dual channel
Ports3.5mm audio jack
1x USB-C 3.1
1x HDMI
1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
WirelessBluetooth 5.0
Realtek 8822CE Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Battery56Whr
SecurityFingerprint power button
Size221 (H) x 323 (W) x 15.8 (D) mm
Weight1,450g (3.1lbs)

The metal chassis is solidly built with little flex. Honor deserves credit for making an aesthetically appealing laptop with gorgeous blue accents on the edges. While the overall design is muted and tame, it lends itself to looking classy and professional.

Honor Magicbook Camera

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The 14-inch IPS full HD 1920x1080 display is matte and evenly lit with TÜV Rheinland certification, which ensures low blue-light reflectivity making it better for eye health. There is an 84 percent screen-to-body ratio thanks to three of the bezels being quite thin (and a lower, larger chin). The design here is reminiscent of laptops circa 2018, but considering the price point here, it's not bad.

Honor went with a clean, sharp, and well-lit screen, and it's satisfying so long as you don't need color accuracy for photo editing. Color accuracy is below average with just 64 percent sRGB and 48 percent AdobeRGB (DCI-P3 was also 48 percent). Brightness is below average, peaking at only 277 nits of brightness. While the display looks great indoors, it will struggle in brighter conditions, although the matte anti-glare layer helps.

Port selection is basic but satisfactory with a 3.5mm audio jack, one USB 3.1 Type-C (also used for included 65-watt charging), one full HDMI, and two Type-A ports (one 3.0, the other 2.0).

There is a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint reader on the keyboard deck that doubles as a power button. It works very well, with fast and accurate reads.

Honor MagicBook 14 What you'll love

Honor Magicbook

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The MagicBook 14 is a handsome, relatively thin laptop with particularly good fundamentals. The design is excellent and feels higher quality than its sub-$600 asking price. Although the one used for this review has a European keyboard layout, typing is excellent with decent key travel. It feels perfect to use, and the backlighting and contrast are decent.

The trackpad is a nice size, smooth, and it uses Microsoft Precision drivers. It's very accurate, and it has a satisfying click.

The ports are also good. Many companies are moving away from full HDMI, but it's still nice to have, especially on a consumer-media laptop. The Type-C port does what you expect one to do with data, video, and power, and two Type-As handle legacy items just fine.

Geekbench 5

Geekbench 5.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Honor MagicBook 14Ryzen 5 3500U7482,999
Surface Laptop 3 15Ryzen 5 3580U7692,720
CHUWI AeroBook Proi5-6287U9252,049
HP ENVY x360Ryzen 5 4500U1,1004,564
Acer Swift 3Ryzen 7 4700U1,1314,860
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14Ryzen 5 4500U1,0874,570
Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yogai5-10210U1,0693,754
Lenovo Yoga C640i3-10110U1,0152,111
Lenovo Yoga C740 14i5-10210U1,0943,767
Samsung Galaxy Book Flexi7-1065G71,3174,780
Dell XPS 13 (9300)i7-1065G71,2844,848
Surface Laptop 3 15i7-1065G71,3364,893
HP Elite Dragonflyi7-8665U1,1252,942
Surface Laptop 3 13.5i5-1035G71,1774,413
HP Spectre x360 13i7-1065G71,0063,402
Surface Pro XSQ17252,819
Galaxy Book SSD 8cx6852,681

PCMark

PCMark 10

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceScore
Honor MagicBook 143,711
HP ENVY x3604,755
Acer Swift 34,861
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 144,759
Surface Laptop 3 15 (AMD)4,006
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 143,202
Surface Book 3 154,393
Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga4,899
Lenovo Yoga C6404,008
Lenovo Yoga C7404,941
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex3,924
Dell XPS 13 (9300)4,524
Surface Laptop 3 15 (Intel)4,604
Dell XPS 13 2-in-14,554
HP Spectre x360 134,261
HP Elite Dragonfly3,716
LG gram 174,157
Surface Pro 7 (i5)3,992

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceReadWrite
Honor MagicBook 143,517 MB/s1,674 MB/s
HP ENVY x3601,530 MB/s864 MB/s
Acer Swift 32,161.99 MB/s1,214.84 MB/s
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 142,199.10 MB/s1,017.07 MB/s
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 143,405 MB/s1,512 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga3,188.82 MB/s1,685.61 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga C6401,906.78 MB/s970.69 MB/s
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex3,376 MB/s2,983 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (9300)3,000 MB/s1,217 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 (Optane)2,092 MB/s515 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 2-in-12,400 MB/s1,228 MB/s
HP Elite Dragonfly (Optane)2,124 MB/s548 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga C7403,408 MB/s2,982 MB/s
LG gram 17 (2020)3,477 MB/s2,900 MB/s
Surface Laptop 3 152,028 MB/s806 MB/s
Surface Laptop 3 13.52,338 MB/s1,583 MB/s
Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54T)1,641 MB/s1,025 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 2)3,416 MB/s3,016 MB/s

.

Storage performance is incredibly good. The high-end 256GB Samsung PM961 SSD gets a jaw-dropping 3,500MB/s sequential read, while writes are respectable at 1,675MB/s. It's unusual to see such a premium SSD in a budget laptop.

Fans of AMD will appreciate the lower price compared to the Intel variant. Battery life is also decent thanks to the 56WHr battery, which pegs usage at around seven hours. That's not amazing, but it's enough for most students.

Honor MagicBook 14 What you'll hate

Honor Magicbook

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The webcam design here borrows from the clever solution found in Huawei's more premium laptops – that is, it's in the keyboard deck and pop-up webcam. Back when this laptop was designed in 2019, webcams were mostly an afterthought, but now play a more critical role thanks to work-from-home initiatives and the pandemic. The camera here works, but it's not ideal (but hey, you get those thin display bezels).

It's also hard to get excited for the Ryzen 5 3500U in mid-2020. Its performance, especially compared to Intel, or the latest from AMD, is underwhelming. We reviewed HP's excellent ENVY x360, which delivers a better display, convertible design, and is powered by AMD's newer Mobile 4000 series. The performance jump between Ryzen 3000 and 4000 is massive, but you're not paying much for it either as the ENVY x360 starts in the $650 range (and you get a pen). The 2020 MagicBook 14 did get Ryzen 4000 Mobile chips later on as a way to boost performance.

That's the other letdown here as the MagicBook is a straight-up, button-down 14-inch thin laptop as it lacks a touchscreen or convertible design. It is a very good traditional notebook, but the market is getting more sophisticated these days.

Audio here is also just OK. Two smaller speakers are found on the bottom edges with some clearance but lack the power of top-firing or amplified ones. They sound better than most entry-level or mid-range laptops but are also nothing special.

Honor MagicBook 14 Should you buy?

Honor Magicbook

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Like Huawei, Honor can make impressive PCs. The Honor brand is geared towards a younger crowd, and the MagicBook 14 tells me this company has a future in making exciting mid-range laptops (mainly for non-US markets).

That said, the MagicBook 14 reveals more potential than anything compelling as we head into late 2020. The design would have been tremendous in early 2019, but companies like HP proved they could deliver more power (and features) for the buck than some of the Chinese competitors.

But, for the asking price, the MagicBook 14 is also quite satisfying to use. As I mentioned, the fundamentals here are great: typing, trackpad, acceptable audio, and a non-glare matte display that is easy on the eyes. It's a sharp-looking laptop that beats similar releases from CHUWI and its relatively low asking price redeems it. In my usage, there was nothing that drove me nuts, nor any massive flaws that prevented me from liking it.

I think Honor is a brand worth watching in this space. The MagicBook can be an incredibly competitive mid-ranger, so long as Honor can iterate more quickly the next time around. And indeed, Honor has refreshed the laptop with some worthwhile changes.

There's now a MagicBook 14 for 2021, complete with 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs and better display. It still lacks Thunderbolt and an SD card reader, plus its camera still pops up out of the keyboard, but otherwise it's a major improvement over the 2020 version reviewed here. Qualms about performance have been quieted, and the build quality (especially for a budget PC) is as good as ever. Staff Writer Cale Hunt's Honor MagicBook 14 (2021) review has a lot more information on the subject.

Review Changelog, August 2021

This article was originally published July 2020. It was updated August 2021 with the following changes:

  • Updated "Should you buy?" section with information about the refreshed MagicBook 14 for 2021.
  • Updated "Specs and features" section with new CPU info.
  • Updated prices and buy links for the MagicBook 14 (2020).
Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.