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 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.
Bottom line: This thin and light laptop is geared towards younger people on the go. While it utilizes an older AMD Ryzen processor, the excellent design and low asking price make it an exciting option for those on a budget.
- Excellent design and feel
- The matte display is sharp, easy to look at
- Speedy SSD
- Perfect keyboard and trackpad
- Good price
- Older AMD Ryzen underwhelms
- Pop-up webcam
- Non-convertible design
HONOR MagicBook 14 specs and features
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 that run 8th Gen Core processors, 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 roughly $550 asking price for the MagicBook 14 it's OK.
While there is nothing particularly special about the MagicBook specs they are very good for an entry-level and mid-range laptop:
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Mobile Processor|
|GPU||AMD Radeon Vega 8|
84% screen-to-body ratio
TÜV Rheinland Certified
|Storage||PCIe NVME SSD 256GB|
|Memory||8GB DDR4 dual channel|
|Ports||3.5mm audio jack
1x USB-C 3.1
1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
Realtek 8822CE Wi-Fi 802.11ac
|Security||Fingerprint power button|
|Size||221 (H) x 323 (W) x 15.8 (D) mm|
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.
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
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 5.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)
|Device||CPU||Single core||Multi core|
|HONOR MagicBook 14||Ryzen 5 3500U||748||2,999|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||Ryzen 5 3580U||769||2,720|
|CHUWI AeroBook Pro||i5-6287U||925||2,049|
|HP ENVY x360||Ryzen 5 4500U||1,100||4,564|
|Acer Swift 3||Ryzen 7 4700U||1,131||4,860|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14||Ryzen 5 4500U||1,087||4,570|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga||i5-10210U||1,069||3,754|
|Lenovo Yoga C640||i3-10110U||1,015||2,111|
|Lenovo Yoga C740 14||i5-10210U||1,094||3,767|
|Samsung Galaxy Book Flex||i7-1065G7||1,317||4,780|
|Dell XPS 13 (9300)||i7-1065G7||1,284||4,848|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||i7-1065G7||1,336||4,893|
|HP Elite Dragonfly||i7-8665U||1,125||2,942|
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||i5-1035G7||1,177||4,413|
|HP Spectre x360 13||i7-1065G7||1,006||3,402|
|Surface Pro X||SQ1||725||2,819|
|Galaxy Book S||SD 8cx||685||2,681|
|HONOR MagicBook 14||3,711|
|HP ENVY x360||4,755|
|Acer Swift 3||4,861|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14||4,759|
|Surface Laptop 3 15 (AMD)||4,006|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14||3,202|
|Surface Book 3 15||4,393|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga||4,899|
|Lenovo Yoga C640||4,008|
|Lenovo Yoga C740||4,941|
|Samsung Galaxy Book Flex||3,924|
|Dell XPS 13 (9300)||4,524|
|Surface Laptop 3 15 (Intel)||4,604|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1||4,554|
|HP Spectre x360 13||4,261|
|HP Elite Dragonfly||3,716|
|LG gram 17||4,157|
|Surface Pro 7 (i5)||3,992|
CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)
|HONOR MagicBook 14||3,517 MB/s||1,674 MB/s|
|HP ENVY x360||1,530 MB/s||864 MB/s|
|Acer Swift 3||2,161.99 MB/s||1,214.84 MB/s|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14||2,199.10 MB/s||1,017.07 MB/s|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14||3,405 MB/s||1,512 MB/s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga||3,188.82 MB/s||1,685.61 MB/s|
|Lenovo Yoga C640||1,906.78 MB/s||970.69 MB/s|
|Samsung Galaxy Book Flex||3,376 MB/s||2,983 MB/s|
|Dell XPS 13 (9300)||3,000 MB/s||1,217 MB/s|
|HP Spectre x360 (Optane)||2,092 MB/s||515 MB/s|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1||2,400 MB/s||1,228 MB/s|
|HP Elite Dragonfly (Optane)||2,124 MB/s||548 MB/s|
|Lenovo Yoga C740||3,408 MB/s||2,982 MB/s|
|LG gram 17 (2020)||3,477 MB/s||2,900 MB/s|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||2,028 MB/s||806 MB/s|
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||2,338 MB/s||1,583 MB/s|
|Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54T)||1,641 MB/s||1,025 MB/s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 2)||3,416 MB/s||3,016 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.
The current price is around $544 (USD), which is exceptional for what you are getting.
HONOR MagicBook 14 What you'll hate
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).
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 around 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?
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 $540, 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.
Nevertheless, one does have to wonder how much cooler this laptop could be with the latest from AMD, which does rock Intel's boat. And while there is a more expensive Intel version, it is also a generation beyond making it even a harder sell.
I think HONOR though, 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.
This thin and light laptop is geared towards younger people on the go. While it utilizes an older AMD Ryzen processor, the excellent design and low asking price make it an exciting option for those on a budget.
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