The Honor MagicBook 14 I reviewed earlier this year was a pretty solid laptop, but I had some issues with it. Specifically, the webcam placement and the fact that it was shipping with a last-generation Ryzen processor after AMD introduced Ryzen 4000 mobile processors were concerns I had.

Honor has now refreshed the MagicBook 14, and it has done almost nothing to address those issues, but the company did pack in a newer Ryzen 5 4500U, which is a pretty big upgrade over the Ryzen 5 3500U in the previous generation. If you liked the design aspects of the previous MagicBook 14, this is basically that, but with better performance.

Specs

CPU AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
GPU AMD Radeon Graphics
Display 14" diagonal FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD
Body 322.5x214.8x15.9mm (12.7x8.46x0.63in); 1.53kg (3.37lbs)
Memory 8GB dual-channel DDR4
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Audio Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, dual microphones
Connectivity Realtek 8822CE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 5
Ports

(1) USB Type-C with fast charging
(1) USB 3.0 Type-A
(1) USB 2.0 Type-A
(1) HDMI 1.4
3.5mm combo audio

Camera 720p HD webcam in keyboard
Security

Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0
Fingerprint reader

Battery 56Wh Lithium Ion battery, up to 10.5 hours
OS Windows 10 Home
Material Aluminum
Price €749.90/£669.99

In addition to the upgraded processor, the base configuration here also has double the storage of the previous model, which contributes to the higher price.

Day one

Design

Like I said above, the MagicBook 14 hasn’t changed at all in terms of its design. Honor did send me the space gray variant of the laptop this time instead of silver, and I have to say I do prefer the darker, more subdued style it gives off. The Honor logo and chamfered edges on the lid still have this cool blue sheen to them, and it pops out a bit more in this darker color.

On the inside, the story is the same, with the keyboard having the same layout and the power button which still has a fingerprint sensor built in. I love that the fingerprint sensor can read my fingerprint as soon as I turn the laptop on and remember it for when Windows Hello shows up, so I don't usually have to touch it again. This isn't the fastest or most accurate sensor I've used on a laptop, but it's also far from the worst.

There’s not much in the way of flair, but again, the darker space gray variant feels a lot better than the silver version I reviewed before. Having just reviewed the MagicBook Pro a couple of weeks ago, I now feel a little less happy with things like the hinge, which is the same color and material as the screen bezel. On the Pro, it uses the same finish as the rest of the chassis, and it made it feel a bit more premium, but it’s not a big deal.

Going around the chassis, the ports are exactly the same as the previous MagicBook 14. On the right side, you get a USB 2.0 port and a 3.5mm combo audio jack.

On the left side, a USB Type-C port is used for charging, and there’s another USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, plus an HDMI port. It’s a shame that we still only get one Type-C port, which is used up if you’re charging the laptop, plus only one of the remaining USB ports is a high-speed one.

On the bottom, you’ll find this laptop’s speakers, just like in the previous iteration, but not like the MagicBook Pro, where they were top-firing units.

Overall, Honor deserves some praise for making pretty sturdy laptops. As with the company's previous laptops, this thing feels solid as can be, including the display portion, despite the fact that the display bezels are plastic.

Display and sound

The new Honor MagicBook 14 has the same 14-inch Full HD display as the previous generation, and it’s pretty alright in my opinion. I like that the bezels are small, and like before, it feels nice to the touch, but there’s no touch support, so it doesn’t really matter. I do like the more expensive MagicBook Pro’s feel more, as it feels smoother to the touch, but like I said, it’s not a touchscreen so it’s all the same.

The colors on the MagicBook 14’s display also look pretty nice. Putting it side-by-side with the MagicBook Pro and other more expensive laptops, the MagicBook 14 does have slightly cooler colors, but in some way, I kind of prefer that. Whites feel whiter, and it helps colors pop out a bit more in contrast. However, when there’s more color on the screen, the warmer tone of the display makes colors feel more vibrant on other laptops by comparison.

Like I said above, the speakers on the MagicBook 14 fire down and while it would be nice to have top-firing speakers, at least the speakers themselves are pretty loud here. I actually prefer the sound out of the MagicBook 14 over the MagicBook Pro, which does have top-firing speakers. The sound here just feels more full and more impactful.

The microphones on the MagicBook 14 are also in a better position than the Pro in my opinion. Here, they’re in the cutout that helps you lift the lid, where they’re less prone to being blocked or catching noises that happen when you move your laptop around.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard on the MagicBook 14 is also very familiar, and it feels just fine in my opinion. I do think it’s a little shallower than my main laptop, but it’s no different from the MagicBook Pro, and it’s totally fine to type on. One thing to note, as I’ve mentioned with other Honor laptops, the lack of Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down buttons, though you can replace these features by using the Fn key with the arrow keys.

Also as before, the camera is placed in the keyboard, disguised as a key between F6 and F7. I’ve been pretty clear before about my distaste for this camera placement, and yes, it still sucks. On the MagicBook Pro, I gave Honor some credit since the camera itself had pretty good quality, but this one is just average.

Moving down to the trackpad, it’s pretty much the same as what’s included on other Honor laptops, and that means it’s great. It’s big, and it has Precision drivers, so there’s really not much more I can ask for. It works really and the features enabled by Precision are incredibly useful. I didn’t notice this myself at first, but I recently saw someone noting that the MagicBook Pro’s trackpad is a little loose, but that’s not the case with the MagicBook 14. It feels as solid as can be.

Performance and battery life

This is the only section where the new MagicBook 14 gets to stand out from the version I reviewed earlier this year, since we got a pretty big upgrade from the Ryzen 5 3500U to the Ryzen 5 4500U. The Ryzen 4000 series has shown very promising results since its launch, and even though Intel now has Tiger Lake chips to fight back, this is still pretty good.

Across the board, the new MagicBook 14 performs much better than the previous model, with significantly higher scores across all the benchmarks I typically run. Here's a comparison to other laptops with similar specs, as well as the previous iteration of the MagicBook 14:

MagicBook 14
Ryzen 5 4500U

MagicBook 14 (early 2020)
Ryzen 5 3500U

Lenovo Flex 5
AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
MagicBook Pro
Ryzen 5 4600H
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Intel Core i7-1065G7
PCMark 8: Home 3,966 3,476 4,087 4,211

3,899

PCMark 8: Creative 4,156 3,457 4,247 4,470

4,253

PCMark 8: Work 3,582 3,236 3,687 3,606

3,797

PCMark 10 4,413 3,729 4,679 4,714

4,402

The scores are closely in line with other laptops with the same CPU, though scores are a little lower overall. I also included the MagicBook Pro here, even though it's in a different class with its 45W processor, so you can see how both of Honor's laptops compare. It's worth pointing out is that these scores are fairly close to those of the MagicBook Pro, which you might expect to be a lot more powerful.

In fact, in real-life use, certain things have actually performed better on the MagicBook 14 in my experience. For example, I feel less of a delay when opening multiple (around 40) tabs at the same time in Microsoft Edge. Attempting to play Rocket League in the same conditions I tested the MagicBook Pro (1920x1080 resolution, Render Quality set to Performance, Render Detail set to Quality), I still got fairly smooth gameplay at 50 frames per second or higher. It didn't hold the 60 frames per second as well as the MagicBook Pro, but it was very close. When you consider the price difference between these two devices, the MagicBook 14 starts to seem like the better deal.

That's only reinforced as we take a look at battery life. The battery itself is the exact same size on the MagicBook 14 as it is on the MagicBook Pro, but here we have a 15W processor, which uses less power than the one on the Pro. Of course, that means battery life is better here, and even though the difference isn't huge, it's certainly there. In a normal workday, the MagicBook 14 can last me an extra one or two hours compared to the Pro, but of course, results vary depending on your usage.

Software-wise, the story is similar to other Honor laptops. The company actually ships its devices with fairly clean builds of Windows 10, so there's not much more bloatware than you'd get by clean installing Windows 10. In fact, there's not even a sound tuning app like Dolby Atmos or Nahimic, which I've seen on other Honor laptops. The most notable app included is, of course, PC Manager, which serves a couple of different purposes. On its own, this makes it easier to check for driver updates validated by Honor, so you can stay up to date.

The most notable thing it does, however, is let you connect your Honor phone using the Magic-link feature. Just like other Honor laptops, you can simply tap your phone on the Magic-link tag below the keyboard, and you'll be able to easily send images and files between your phone and laptop, or even control your phone's screen from your laptop. The tap-to-connect functionality makes it really use to get started, and it's surprising more companies don't have a similar feature.

Conclusion

Just from looking at it, the new MagicBook 14 doesn't feel all that new compared to the previous iteration, The design is exactly the same as before, and that has benefits and disadvantages. It feels sturdy and premium, just as it did before, and the design feels classic, yet it has a bit of flair thanks to the blue chamfered edges, which give it a but more personality. On the other hand, keeping the webcam under the keyboard is a terrible decision, and it's just not a good way to use a camera. You're very limited in how you can position yourself in the frame, and it's especially problematic when so many people are working from home.

But what does change here has improved significantly, and that's performance. Ryzen 4000 processors are a major leap over the previous generation, and that was always a complaint I had with the older MagicBook 14, since it came out after these new processors were already announced. Now, the MagicBook 14 performs a lot better and it's actually not far from the MagicBook Pro, which is more expensive.

In fact, considering the extra battery life you get with the MagicBook 14, and how much cheaper the MagicBook 14 is, I'd say this might be the one to get. Currently, the MagicBook 14 with a Ryzen 5 4500U processor is only available with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, and it costs £669.90 in the UK, or €749.90 in other European markets like Germany, with an extra accessory of your choosing included. You'll need to make sure you're getting the right configuration, since Honor is still selling the old version of the laptop on the same page.

 

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