HUAWEI, and its sub-brand, HONOR, have been present in the laptop landscape for quite some time, but it’s only been the past couple of years that the two companies really started to make waves. HUAWEI offers really high-tier, premium products, as we’ve seen with the occasion of our MateBook X Pro review, and HONOR is doing a great job at bringing premium quality and design, as well as performance, to the more affordable segment.
The HONOR MagicBook 14 hasn’t changed much, if at all, compared to the previous generation, in terms of its design. However, the 2020 model, announced at IFA, brings a serious spec-bump with the addition of AMD’s Ryzen 5 4500U chip, a step up from the previously used 3500U.
In our HONOR MagicBook 14 review (2020), we’re taking a look at whether you get the most bang for your buck if you decide to purchase this laptop.
Those familiar with the previous generation will be right at home when it comes to the MagicBook 14. If, however, this is going to be your first time with the computer, you should expect a solid build mostly of aluminum and some plastic.
The laptop is available in Mystic Silver, and Space Gray, the unit we’re currently reviewing. While the case itself is indeed Space Gray, the logo on the top, as well as the chamfers, have a nice blue tone to them, which gives it an extra flashy, but subtle look at the same time.
Taking a look around the MagicBook 14, on the right side you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone port, next to a full-size USB3.2 Gen 1 (Type A). On the left-hand side, you get a USB Type-C, an HDMI, and a full-size USB2.0 (Type A) port.
The bottom features a slightly raised design in order for air to easily find its way underneath the laptop, and inside, through the grill that runs almost the entire width of the device. This is also where the speaker grills reside, one on each side for stereo sound.
Opening up the lid reveals, as its name implies, a 14-inch display with rather small bezels, thanks to HONOR inheriting the webcam approach from HUAWEI. The display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is FHD, and an aspect ratio of 16:9. Said small bezels result in a screen-to-body ratio of 84%, which is not the largest out there, but it’s definitely nice to look at, granted, hindered only by the fairly large bottom bezel.
The panel is an IPS LCD, and HONOR claims a brightness of 250 nits and an 800:1 contrast ratio. The matte finish of the display ensures no reflections and the colors are nice and punchy. About the only thing we can nitpick on is outdoor visibility which is a tad difficult in bright environments, as well as the viewing angles, which are narrower compared to a higher-end laptops, but definitely not a dealbreaker.
The keyboard is full size, with nice and pleasant key travel. Keys size and spacing ensure comfortable typing and the backlight is nice and even with little to no bleeding, illuminating clearly each key in the dark.
The touchpad offers a great experience as well. Despite being plastic, it doesn’t pose any usability issues. Clicks are firm and gestures work as they should.
On the top right there’s a round power button which also has the fingerprint scanner embedded in it. What’s worth mentioning here is that if you turn on the computer with the finger you enrolled as your fingerprint authentication, Windows will automatically sign you in without the need to authenticate or touch the button again.
Inside you’ll find the new AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor, paired with AMD Radeon Graphics. The chip is a six-core CPU with six threads, built on the 7nm technology, and has an 8MB L3 Cache. Depending on the market, the laptop is available with either 8- or 16GB of memory, and the same goes for storage with 256- and 512GB versions.
…and then the webcam, which is always a polarizing topic when it comes to HONOR and HUAWEI laptops. The dreaded “nosecam” title still remains, but HONOR, just like HUAWEI, stresses on the privacy issue, and they’re right. A camera that’s tucked inside the keyboard will most likely not reveal anything about you even if hacked. Once you pop it open, the only downside is the awkward viewing angle, but you’ll get used to it (or buy a separate webcam if you have to).
Performance and battery life
Our review unit has 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. While it is by no means a powerhouse gaming machine, it gets the job done if you’re ok with playing titles that are not demanding. You might also need to tweak the game’s settings to a lower resolution to be easier on the graphics card.
That being said, all other mundane tasks are being handled without issues. Whether it’s work (documents, spreadsheets, browsing, emails, video calls, etc.) or entertainment (YouTube, Netflix, listening to music, basic photo manipulation), it gets the job done without any issues.
We’re not huge fans of benchmarks here on Pocketnow, but for those of you who are, here are some of the results from the tests we ran:
In terms of battery life, the 56Wh unit inside the MagicBook 14 did a great job. It will last for an entire day if you do lightweight office work. To get a better sense of how much juice you can squeeze out of the battery, it should last you a tad above 11 hours of YouTube videos with the display brightness cranked up to the maximum, and close to 13 hours of constant browsing.
Software and experience
In terms of software, the MagicBook 14 ships with Windows 10 out of the box. After a couple of updates to the operating system, drivers, and firmware, once you’re up to date, the entire experience is smooth. Not much to report here, things are working, behaving, and performing as they should.
A special mention goes to HONOR MagicLink, which is the company’s take on HUAWEI Share. It acts and behaves the same way, allowing you to link up your compatible HONOR or HUAWEI phone to the computer so that you can mirror your display, and do some other tasks.
The sticker on the laptop is basically an NFC tag which, once scanned, will pair your phone to the computer. NFC, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi will have to be enabled on both devices. Once paired, your smartphone’s home screen will appear windowed so that you can take calls, send texts, chat, as well as drag and drop files among the two devices seamlessly. This includes images, texts, documents, and real-world scenarios include dragging a photo from your phone straight into a document or presentation.
There’s also a shared clipboard feature where you can access content copied on one device on the other one. Overall, it’s a great experience, with one caveat: your smartphone has to be HONOR or HUAWEI to access this Multi-Screen Collaboration feature.
The overall experience is top-notch. We absolutely like the display, as well as the sound produced by the speakers. Considering the affordable price tag, we’ve experienced poorer sound quality on more expensive laptops, so props to HONOR for this.
The system doesn’t overheat, thanks mostly to the huge grill vent we talked about in the Design segment. The fans are doing a great job at keeping it from overheating, but you’ll have to get used to them hissing if you’re in Performance mode and you’re undertaking demanding tasks.
For day-to-day lightweight operation, they barely fire up while the system stays nice and cool and stable.
The HONOR MagicBook 14 was already a great choice when it ran the older version of the processor. Now, with the upgraded 4500U chip, the 2020 model not only outperforms other laptops in its class and price range, but it also manages, like an overachiever that it is, to sometimes get closer and bridge the gap to that high-end segment.
But not everything’s roses and rainbows. Our cons category includes the “nosecam”, a rather heavy build at 1.4kg, and I/O could be somewhat better.
However, for (currently on sale) €749,90 or £669.99 respectively, it’s affordable enough to overlook the aforementioned cons. The price is for the model we’ve been using, in an 8GB and 512GB configuration.
- Great design, premium materials;
- Really nice display;
- Great performance;
- Excellent battery life;
- Speakers are loud;
- Integration with HUAWEI smartphones via HUAWEI Share.
- Not recommended for graphics-intense operations;
- Pop-up webcam’s angle is something you’ll have to get used to;
- A tad heavy at 1.4kg;
- I/O could be better;
- If you’re in the U.S. you’ll likely need to import it, which will add to the price.