Honor MagicBook Pro review: The laptop bargain of the year
Honor’s latest clamshell looks, feels and runs like it should cost twice as much
The Honor MagicBook 14 was one of 2020’s pleasant surprises: a fast yet affordable ultraportable from a company with minimal prior laptop experience. It’s high hopes galore, then, for the MagicBook Pro: a larger, souped-up laptop with an eye on more serious usage.
As such, it’s a few hundred pounds more expensive than the MagicBook 14, but with its vast 16.1in display and a hexa-core CPU from the latest AMD Ryzen 4000 series, Honor is once again looking to undercut the four-figure competition.
Honor MagicBook Pro review: Design
The MagicBook Pro’s screen size means calling it an ultraportable is a stretch, but then at 16.9mm thick when closed and weighing 1.7kg, it’s no brick either. If anything it’s largely just a MagicBook 14 stretched sideways: the sturdy aluminium chassis and minimalist Honor branding are both comfortingly familiar, and successfully give the impression of a much higher-end device.
The extra width also has the advantage of making room for a set of front-firing speakers, which sound fuller and clearer than most equivalents. They don’t distort at high volumes and, because they’re not hidden away on the underside, they’re not muffled when the MagicBook Pro is on your lap.
Even better is the fingerprint reader, which combines with the power button nestled neatly in the right speaker grille. We had no issues enrolling a fingerprint nor with having the reader instantly unlock Windows for us, which it can do when cold booting - as long as you press the power button with an enrolled finger.
The MagicBook Pro also runs quietly - practically silently, even, when only handling a few easy applications. It’s not until you get into heavy-duty multitasking that the fan starts whirring enough to notice, though this did also reveal a slight source of worry: pressing down on the bottom-left corner of the base, while the fan is going full pelt, produces a buzzing noise. This isn’t the case at lower fan speeds but is out of step with the high build quality elsewhere.
Honor MagicBook Pro review: Display
Spreading a 1,980x1,080 resolution over a 16.1in display has its drawbacks: the overall pixel density is low enough that pixelation on small elements, like text, is visible and noticeable.
That said, the sheer size of this IPS panel does help the MagicBook Pro get around the other issue of lower-res displays, namely that they’re not as good for multitasking. There’s so much space that it’s easy to flick between multiple onscreen windows while keeping everything legible.
It’s also a surprisingly high-performing screen - sRGB coverage of 97.3% is a massive improvement on the MagicBook 14’s 58.5%, as its average delta-E - down to 0.98 from a poor 4.48. That’s practically professional quality.
Brightness is also on the up, peaking at a glare-busting 360.4cd/m2, while contrast sits at a more middling (but still acceptable) 1,031;1. Frankly, a so-so resolution is an easy price to pay for such quality elsewhere.
Honor MagicBook Pro review: Keyboard and trackpad
As you can tell from the photos, we received a MagicBook Pro with a German keyboard, which seems to differ from the UK layout in having a double-height Enter key. Otherwise, though, the dimensions and key spacing is the same, and it’s a perfectly serviceable chiclet-style keyboard. Travel could perhaps have been a bit deeper, but generally typing feels crisp and responsive enough to get with it. It’s backlit, too, with two brightness levels toggleable with a function key.
The trackpad is also spacious and smooth, making cursor movements a breeze. It’s not perfect - inputting a click by tapping on the pad’s surface feels hollow, as if the diving board mechanism is loose - though that’s not noticeable when clicking more conventionally in the lower-left corner.
Honor MagicBook Pro review: Specs and performance
This display is great, but an even better value proposition comes from the MagicBook Pro’s internals. Specifically you get a hexa-core, twelve-thread Ryzen 5 4600H processor, accompanied by 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD.
This combination promptly tore through our application benchmarks, scoring an outrageously high 229 overall - inclusive of a 252 score in the multitasking, often a stumbling block for slim laptops with limited cooling potential. Clearly, that wasn’t an issue here.
The SSD, too, is among the fastest we’ve seen from any laptop. In the AS SSD’s sequential benchmarks, it produced a 2,846MB/sec read speed and a 2,227MB/sec write speed, so it won’t ever slow you down.
In general, the MagicBook Pro has all the CPU and storage performance of a luxury portable - if not more - for a whole less cash. Among its notable scalps are the £2,082 Dell XPS 15, which scored 191 overall, and the £1,500 Razer Blade 15, which managed 183. Yes, the MagicBook Pro lacks the dedicated graphics options of these - so it’s not as effective for 3D modelling and other CAD work - but when it can outrun them on straight CPU power for less than half the price, it’s impossible not to be a little amazed.
As for battery life, the MagicBook Pro lasted 9hrs 18mins in our video loop test with flight mode engaged. That’s an hour more than the MagicBook 14 despite the bigger display, and is a decent enough showing even if it means this laptop doesn’t have the stamina of more truly “all-day” models like the LG Gram 17 (11hrs 27mins) or Samsung Galaxy Book Ion (13hrs 3mins).
Honor MagicBook Pro review: Ports and features
The MagicBook Pro employs a mix of three USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C port (which is also the charging port), an HDMI output and a 3.5mm audio jack. Having a USB-C port usable while charging would be nice, but there’s no denying the essentials have been covered; a full-size HDMI output is particularly welcome, and unlike on most portables there’s room to connect several wired peripherals or external storage drives without the need of adapters.
In terms of features, the MagicBook Pro has plenty of toys, though not all of these are as reliably useful as the fingerprint sensor. The webcam, for instance, pops up from its disguise as a function key; this saves space on the top bezel, and prevents spying when you’re not using it, but also produces an unflattering recording angle that’s easy blocked by your fingers should you need to use the keyboard during a video call.
The Honor Magic-link party trick, whereby you can tap a smartphone to instantly content-share with the MagicBook Pro, is also extremely limited in that it only supports Honor and Huawei smartphones. The same has been true of multiple Honor and Huawei laptops, all of which have shared the same feature, and it was a questionable approach even before these brands’ handsets were plunged into a crisis of relevance by being banned from using Google apps.
Lastly, there’s Honor’s PC Manager software. This doesn’t really do anything you can’t do yourself within Windows, whether it’s monitoring CPU and RAM usage or updating drivers, but then it does streamline the latter. We’d be happy to at least keep it installed, rather than give it the usual bloatware treatment of a one-way trip to the Recycle Bin.
Honor MagicBook Pro review: Verdict
In any event, it’s not like the MagicBook Pro needs to rely on side gimmicks. A laptop like this - with its incredibly colour-accurate display, high-end performance and premium design - for a mere £708 is, just like the MagicBook 14 before, a deal that sounds too good to be true.
Yet true it is, and even if there are some little niggles that stop it achieving outright perfection - that occasional buzzing comes to mind - there really isn’t anything on the market that beats it on sheer value.
Honor MagicBook Pro specifications
Hexa-core 3GHz AMD Ryzen 5 4600H
AMD Radeon Graphics
3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C, 1x mic/headphone
Yes (for Honor and Huawei devices only)
369 x 234 x 16.9mm
Windows 10 Home
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