Honor MagicBook 16 review: Magical but limited
Honor's brilliant budget laptop is indeed magic in every department - except battery life
Chinese manufacturer Honor may have parted company with Huawei in 2020, but there's still a strong similarity between the two companies' laptops. And not just the names. Take for example the MagicBook 16; a big old 16in laptop which looks more expensive than it actually is.
There's a lot of competition around the mid-range laptop market, particularly as most of us need competent computers that travel well these days. But is the MagicBook 16 your ideal hybrid work companion?
Honor MagicBook 16 review: Design
Here at IT Pro, we appreciate well-designed laptops, especially when they've been done so on a budget. The MagicBook 16 looks like an Apple MacBook and a Huawei MateBook have been melded together to form one stretched-out laptop. The similarity in design may lack imagination, but it is impressive considering the lower cost.
The aluminium and space grey finish gives the machine a premium look, though the lid buckles if you poke it, and the screen has a worrying amount of flex overall. However, beyond that, it feels like a sturdy bit of kit with chunky hinges and a solid base. The Honor logo is minimalist in the best possible way, in that you only notice it if you're looking for it.
Some elements are less minimalist, however: the MagicBook's big aluminium body weighs a hefty 1.84kg and feels like putting rocks in your backpack. People working on the go might prefer something a little lighter, but we still managed to get it places with minimal sweating.
Honor MagicBook 16 review: Display
The MagicBook has a 16.1in IPS display with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. There's a decent screen-to-body ratio for such a large machine, with 7mm bezels on the side and a 9mm one across the top, which neatly houses a 720p webcam. What's more, it's got a surprisingly high refresh rate of 144Hz. This can be dropped to 72Hz via the advanced display settings, though it doesn't save much battery life (more on that later).
With our calibrator, using the DisplayCal calibration software, the MagicBook 16 managed to reproduce 96.2% of the sRGB colour gamut, similar to the fantastic MagicBook 14 from 2020. It can't quite match the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro's perfect score, but that's not the criticism it sounds like, as Samsung's laptop is over £400 more expensive.
The MagicBook 16 hit a peak brightness of 351cd/m2, which is a little low, but not drastically so. We found it struggled a little in bright sunlight, which was an issue during the UK's record heatwaves - but in normal conditions, it was a perfectly pleasant experience.
Honor MagicBook 16 review: Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard space on the MagicBook 16 is a little bit of a mixed bag, in that some of it is really enjoyable while lots of it is just frustrating. It's a sparse keyboard area with chiclet keys. As we mentioned above, there's no numerical section; instead, it has two unsophisticated-looking speaker grills flanking the keyboard. There's also not much travel in the keys, which took a little time to get used to. On the plus side, those keys are very silent, there's nice backlighting and it has a snappy fingerprint reader-slash-home button to the top right of the keyboard.
In contrast, the trackpad was near-faultless with a wide scope and responsive click action. The only criticism we could have here is that Honor could have made it that little bit bigger. It's 120 x 72mm, which is a fairly decent size, but there's so much unused space on either side of it.
Honor MagicBook 16 review: Specs and Performance
Inside the MagicBook 16's beefy build is a powerful AMD Ryzen 5 560H processor which has been paired with 16GB of RAM. The Ryzen 5 brings six-core performance and a max clock speed of 4.2GHz, which almost defies the price of this laptop.
That sentiment was backed up by our in-house benchmarks, which test a range of performance metrics. The MagicBook 16 hit an overall score of 231, well above that of the similar-priced Huawei MateBook D15 (112) and the more expensive Galaxy Book Pro (122).
In day-to-day use, the MagicBook proved, time and time again, to be a super fast piece of kit. Multiple tabs, as many apps as we could open, video playback - all handled simultaneously, with not even the slightest noise of exertion. This is a perfect budget machine for workers that have CPU-intensive workloads, or even light video editing tasks.
Honor MagicBook 16 review: Battery
It's not all sunshine and roses, however. There's only a 56Wh battery inside the MagicBook 16 and that seems quite silly for a machine with such a high refresh rate and powerful processor. The Huawei MateBook X Pro (2021) also sports a 56Wh battery but that lasted under 9 hours thanks to more conservative components. Our best guess is that Honor had to make sacrifices to keep such a low price, but this does drag the whole thing down a little.
In our looped video test, where a video file is played until the battery runs out, the MagicBook 16 lasted just 7hrs 43mins. This is roughly an hour and a half less than the MagicBook 14 and almost five hours less than the Galaxy Book Pro - which is frankly woeful.
So as well as being a bit too heavy to take to coffee shops or co-working spaces, it doesn't really last that long. We, with our rather modest CPU needs, managed to make it through eight-hour shifts, but not much further beyond that. Worse, even dropping the refresh rate down to the minimum (72Hz) made very little difference. Basically, anyone with demanding workloads will definitely need to take the charger. On the other hand, its fast charging capabilities promise full charge within an hour and a half, and from our experience, that's pretty accurate - and it even occasionally got to 100% in even less.
Honor MagicBook 16 review: Features
Feature-wise, there isn't a great deal to talk about with the MagicBook 16, aside from the usual fare of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. There is a power button with biometric login, which is similar to what we have seen on Huawei's MateBook X Pro. If we had an Honor-branded smartphone we could have explored the NFC screen-sharing capabilities. Again, this is similar to Huawei's One Hop where users can transfer files and images from phone to laptop by just tapping the phone on the laptop's NFC tag.
It does, however, come with Windows 11 Home and there are a number of connectivity options; Two type-A USB slots and two type-C ports. These are all 3.2 gen 1, but none are Thunderbolt, sadly. There's also a HDMI port and 3.5mm headphone jack - but, that's where its feature list ends.
Honor MagicBook 16 review: Verdict
It's hard to sing the praises of a device - whether that's a phone, a laptop or a tablet - with poor battery life. And there is a lot of good work on the MagicBook 16 that's undone by its limited power source.
But then again, you do get more than you should for the price, including a six-core AMD processor, a stunning display, a (mostly) solid body and an attractive design. Most laptop manufacturers would charge you a lot more than £800 for such things, so take it for what it is. It's the technological equivalent of Cinderella's pumpkin carriage: it doesn't last long, but it's absolutely magical while it does.
Honor MagicBook 16 specifications
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 5 560H|
|Graphics adapter||AMD Radeon|
|Screen size (in)||16.1in|
|Screen resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Memory card slot||No|
|3.5mm audio jack||Headphone/mic combo|
|Graphics outputs||2x USB-C|
|Other ports||2x USB-A 3.2, 1x HDMI|
|Web Cam||720p webcam|
|2x stereo speakers||Wi-Fi|
|Dimensions, mm (WDH)||236 x 368 x 18.2mm|
|Weight (kg) - with keyboard where applicable||1.84kg|
|Battery size (Wh)||56Wh|
|Operating system||Windows 11 Home|
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