It's been just over a year since I was first sent a MagicBook laptop from Honor, but I've already had the chance to review three others since then. The last one I reviewed, the Intel-based MagicBook Pro, was an odd release for me, because it featured outdated specs when Honor had already released a more powerful MagicBook 14 in China at that point.
Now, that MagicBook 14 is available worldwide, but it comes with some caveats. The Chinese variant packed an Nvidia GeForce MX450 GPU in addition to the latest Intel processors, but internationally, we have to make do with the integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics. While that is a compromise, I'm still more than happy with the performance this new iteration offers, but sadly, what this laptop needed the most was a new design.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-1165G7|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe graphics|
|Display||14" diagonal FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD, 60Hz|
|Body||322.5x214.8x15.9mm (12.7x8.46x0.63in); 1.38kg (3.04lbs)|
|Memory||16GB dual-channel DDR4|
|Storage||512GB PCIe NVMe SSD|
|Audio||Stereo speakers with virtual 5.1 surround sound, dual microphones|
|Connectivity||Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 + Bluetooth 5.1|
(1) USB Type-C with 65W fast charging
|Camera||720p HD webcam in keyboard|
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0
|Battery||56Wh Lithium Ion battery, up to 10.5 hours|
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
The configuration Honor sent me has an Intel Core i7, but you can also get it with a Core i5-1135G7 in some markets. It also has double the RAM of the previous MagicBook 14 models I reviewed, and it's much more expensive than previous models.
Ever since my first review of a MagicBook, my main complaint has been the design, specifically in regards to the webcam placement. Now that we've been in a pandemic for over a year and I've pointed this out in four reviews, I think it has to be said loud and clear that it's well past time we moved on from this design. Instead, it's exactly the same.
Even before this situation, I took a lot of video calls, and this is just inconvenient and awkward. If I need to type something while on a call, my fingers block the camera, and when I don't, it's pointed at an angle where it can be hard to stay in the frame. If I use the laptop on my lap, the camera just captures my neck. It's not like Honor refuses to make laptops with proper webcams; last year it launched a gaming laptop in China with reasonable webcam placement. I just don't get why it doesn't do that for its other laptops.
Everything else about the design is also the same. The keyboard layout is the same, as is the touchpad and the fingerprint sensor built into the power button. The fingerprint sensor works well enough, and it actually remembers your fingerprint when you turn on the PC, so you don't have to touch it again when you get to the Windows 10 login screen.
The 14-inch display is surrounded by black plastic bezels and the hinge itself is also plastic, which contrasts with the otherwise metal body.
The lid features the Honor logo and chamfered edges, all featuring this cool blue sheen that gives the laptop a bit more flair - a very welcome feature in an otherwise relatively boring design.
The ports are all the same, too, and despite having an Intel processor, there's still no Thunderbolt here. On the left, you get a USB Type-C port that supports 65W charging with the included charger, a USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, and an HDMI port.
On the right, there's another USB Type-A port, but this one just has USB 2.0 speeds. There's also a combo audio jack. That's it, and while it's usually enough for my use cases, it's also not super impressive.
As before, the speakers on this PC are on the bottom of the chassis, and the microphones are on the small cutout that's meant to help you open the lid more easily. The bottom of the laptop also has air intake vents, with it being expelled through vents ridden in the hinge.
At 1.38kg, the MagicBook 14 is not super heavy, but you can also find lighter devices in this category. It's still pretty easy to carry around, though.
Display and sound
Another aspect that hasn't changed much, at least on the surface, is the display, which is still a 14-inch panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio and Full HD resolution (1920x1080). Like most non-gaming laptops, it's also got a 60Hz refresh rate. I still haven't had the privilege of reviewing laptops with higher resolutions or different aspect ratios, so this is fine for me, but some will definitely be disappointed by that. I do have to say that the big bezel at the bottom of the screen makes it feel like the laptop is begging for a 16:10 display, though.
Honor touts 100% coverage of the sRGB color space, and I do like the display's color reproduction in general. I can't point out any obvious flaws with it, and I quite enjoyed my time with this display overall. Honor seems to have tweaked the colors slightly and I prefer this display to how previous ones looked. The display also goes up to 300 nits, which is more than enough for working at home, and the fully-laminated screen reduces light reflections a lot, so you should still be able to use it comfortably under bright sunlight.
Despite having bottom-firing speakers, sound on the MagicBook 14 is actually pretty good. It gets decently loud and it never sounds muddy or distorted to me. I actually prefer this over the top-firing speakers on the MagicBook Pro, so there's that. Honor includes Nahimic audio software with the PC, which lets you tailor your settings to different scenarios like music or movies, but I found the default setting to be good for general purposes, so I didn't fiddle with it.
I usually also mention the webcam and microphones in this section, and the quality overall is ok. I already mentioned the horrible webcam placement, but the quality itself is alright, even if it's nothing to write home about. You can see a sample from the webcam below, which demonstrates the horrible angle the camera is at, catching my hand on the trackpad at the bottom of the frame.
As for the microphones, they also sound pretty good, and I appreciate not being forced to use a headset every time I take a call.
Keyboard and trackpad
Another aspect that hasn't changed is the keyboard, but in this case, I'd say that's a good thing. I've been a fan of most Honor keyboards, as they haven't decent travel and actuation, there's nothing I can really point out as a negative. It feels quite nice to type here, and that's all you can really ask of a keyboard. If you're planning to game, though, the half-height arrow keys might be a problem, though.
The keyboard has two levels of backlight, which can be helpful if you're trying to use the laptop in the dark. One cool thing about the keyboard is that you can customize how the function row works. By default, it will prioritize the hotkeys - that is, the brightness and volume adjustment, keyboard backlight, and other shortcuts - but you can use the PC Manager app to change it. That way, it will default to the typical function keys. What's more, you can use the Fn key as either a toggle - press it once to change the behavior for the whole function row - or press and hold it to use it with a specific function key.
The trackpad is also another highlight of this laptop. It's large and doesn't waste much space on the chassis, it feels nice to the touch, and it uses Precision drivers. As with the keyboard, there's nothing I can really point out as a negative here, it just feels really nice to use, and having Precision drivers is wonderful for trackpads. I always set mine to allow me to control volume with a four-finger swipe, I find that to be super useful.
Until now, the Honor laptops I reviewed were squarely aimed at the mid-range, always packing either AMD Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5 processors and no configuration options. This time, Honor finally gave us the choice to get an Intel Core i7, and it's not an outdated version either, it's from Intel's Tiger lake range. This makes it much better than the MagicBook Pro I reviewed a couple of months ago, at least for work and productivity, especially because that one was using 14nm-based Comet Lake processors. Like I mentioned at the top, there's no discrete GPU here, despite the Chinese variant of this laptop having one.
Honor has also been slowly upgrading the RAM and storage on these laptops, at least my specific review units. My first MagicBook 14 had 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, then the late 2020 refresh doubled the storage to 512GB. Now, this model doubles the RAM to 16GB, and that makes this a very solid laptop overall, matching the configuration of the MagicBook Pro lineup.
In performance tests, the MagicBook 14 definitely holds up. I ran a bunch of benchmarks to paint as complete of a picture as possible. Here's how it compares to the previous generations and some products with similar specs:
MagicBook 14 (2021)
|MagicBook 14 (late 2020)
Ryzen 5 4500U
|PCMark 8: Home||4,229||3,612||3,966||3,839||4,478|
|PCMark 8: Creative||4,892||4,159||4,156||4,598||4,655|
|PCMark 8: Work||4,198||3,666||3,582||3,541||4,099|
|PCMark 10 Extended||4,378||-||-||-||-|
|3DMark Time Spy||1,467||1,455||-||-||-|
|Cinebench||1,507 / 4,976||1,518 / 4,929||1,540 / 5,181|
|GeekBench||1,512 / 5,041||1,361 / 4,119||1,230 / 4,428|
The jump from mid-range processors to a top-tier one, and using Tiger Lake at that, is a huge boon for the MagicBook 14, which smashes past its predecessors in basically every benchmark. Even in the gaming-focused 3DMark Time Spy test, it slightly edges out the MagicBook Pro with dedicated graphics. The same happened when rendering this video, where the MagicBook Pro had taken 24 and 39 seconds, the new MagicBook 14 took 23 minutes and 40 seconds.
In addition to those tests, I also benchmarked the SSD, specifically using the NVMe SSD test in CrystalDiskMark. The results are very similar to the MagicBook Pro mentioned above, meaning it's also pretty fast.
All of this combined with 16GB of RAM, and I'd say this is easily the first MagicBook 14 model where you probably won't have to worry about it keeping up with you. Unless you're planning to play heavy games on it, of course.
As for battery life, it's pretty much the same as before. I've almost always been able to get through a full work day, which involved seven to eight hours of active use in a balanced power mode and slightly below half brightness. This includes multiple browser tabs and windows open at pretty much all times and some YouTube video viewing in there.
As you'd expect, performance on Honor's MagicBooks has gotten better with every generation, and with this particular update, it got the biggest boost yet thanks to the switch from mid-range processors to a high-end one. Because of that and everything else being almost exactly the same, this is naturally my favorite MagicBook yet.
Honor does a lot right with its design. The keyboard is comfortable with solid key travel and actuation, it has an awesome and big Precision touchpad, the display looks good and gets more than bright enough for my needs. In many ways, it's still a great laptop.
To me, though, the position of the webcam is unforgivable. I can't be in an online meeting with a camera in a position and angle like this. It's hard to align myself with the frame of the image, and even when I do, I can't use my keyboard without my fingers getting in the way. If this was before 2020, I'd say it might be understandable that most people don't take video calls, but now tons of people are doing it. It frustrates me that after over a year of working from home and with two MagicBook 14 refreshes in the bag, Honor still hasn't changed the webcam placement.
Pandemic or not, I personally would never buy a MagicBook with this design, because video calls are part of my personal daily life. If you're in a position where you don't need a webcam, then this is still a solid choice and easily the best MagicBook yet, though it's also the most expensive one yet. Otherwise, you'll need to look elsewhere.