Honor magicbook pro review: It looks just like an Apple MacBook, but can it really rival it?

·9-min read
We looked at a whole host of different elements that we think make the perfect laptop such as build quality, audio, and performance (iStock/The Independent)
We looked at a whole host of different elements that we think make the perfect laptop such as build quality, audio, and performance (iStock/The Independent)

The Honor magicbook pro is proof that the brand can work wonders, even if former parent company Huawei no longer owns them.

Founded in 2013, Honor has been, to date, one of China’s most popular smartphone brands. Since then the brand has evolved to produce laptops, bringing the magicbook 14 (£799.99, Hihonor.com) and magicbook 15 (£517.94, Amazon.co.uk) to the market.

Now, with the magicbook pro, the brand has dramatically improved on its previous two models. With faster chip, more RAM, an improved graphics card and more SSD memory but there are still a few niggles with the machine that need addressing.

We’ve been testing the Honor magicbook pro to find out whether it can truly rival Apple’s MacBook (£1,299, Apple.com) and whether it’s a serious challenger to other laptops on the market.

How we tested

We put it through its paces for an entire week, using it for various work and leisure tasks. We looked at a whole host of different elements that we think make the perfect laptop, such as battery life, build quality, display, audio, and most importantly, performance. As well as using this machine for basic work tasks we also did some light photo and video editing and tried out some basic games to see how well this laptop performed.

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So, without further ado, here’s what we thought...

Honor magicbook pro: £849.99, Johnlewis.com

 (IndyBest)
(IndyBest)
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4600H

  • Graphics: Radeon RX Vega 6

  • RAM: 16GB

  • Screen: 16.1”

  • Storage: 512GB SSD

  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows 10

  • Pros: Excellent screen quality, fingerprint sensor, good battery life

  • Cons: The popup webcam, Unable to upgrade RAM

The Honor magicbook pro features a large 16.1-inch screen with a 10th-Gen Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe solid-state storage. It combines excellent performance with a host of features and is an all-round good looking machine.

Design

We briefly mentioned its similarity to the Apple MacBook pro (£1,299, Apple.com), and we’re not just talking about the space grey colour scheme. The aluminium chassis looks sleek and stylish and, thanks to its matt finish, is pretty much fingerprint-resistant.

The aluminium also means very little flex when the lid is closed, which is excellent news if you carry your machine in a backpack or laptop bag as you won’t have to worry about damage to the screen during transit.

The screen is on the larger side, but, if you’re looking for a compact laptop, don’t let the size of this screen put you off. The magicbook pro is still ultra-portable, weighs just 1.7kg and at only 17mm thick, you won’t find transporting this laptop a chore.

Read more: We review the Huawei matebook X pro 2021 review

The backlit keyboard has a shorter travel time and is responsive and comfortable to type on. Although the trackpad is a little on the large side it was responsive even with smaller movements and supported Windows 10 gestures.

This laptop is also super quiet; even when we pushed it to its limits, it didn’t make much noise. That could partly be down to the dual fan design. This machine uses a shark fin 2.0 fan, which optimises the airflow and keeps the laptop cool and quiet when in use.

 (Rachael Phillips)
(Rachael Phillips)

It comes with a good range of ports. A single USB-C is also used for charging, an HDMI 2.0, three USB 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack with microphone support. There’s no SD card slot or Thunderbolt support, which is a bit of a letdown when marketing itself to creatives, but there have to be some compromises when you consider the price difference to its rivals.

It’s not often we comment on the base of a laptop, but the magicbook pro has two parallel rubber feet, which raise the laptop slightly, promoting better airflow and reducing the risk of overheating. This also made it more comfortable when typing as it elevated it slightly meaning less pressure on our wrists.

Display and audio

One of the first things that will catch your attention with the magicbook pro is the screen. It’s a 16.1-inch full HD display with slim bezels and a 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio.

We found this a great screen to look at whether we were streaming video content or producing documents. The 16:9 aspect ratio made it perfect for streaming movies. It is just 1080p, but in no way does it lack in quality with super sharp images and vivid, accurate colours. The brightness on this laptop is also impressive, topping out at around 300 nits without any loss in viewing quality.

Read more: 7 best VPN services for streaming securely in 2021

The speakers are of decent for a laptop. They are situated on the side of the keyboard, and although they don’t get too loud, they do sound good. They have added bass, and you get the virtual surround sound effect, perfect for watching tv or movies.

Performance

The Honor magicbook pro delivers and has a much better performance than you would expect for a laptop at this price point. The twelve-thread AMD ryzen 5 4600H processor accompanied by 16GB of RAM makes this laptop speedy and snappy, whatever you are doing with it.

Even when it comes to gaming, this laptop showed up. It’s in no way designed to be a gaming laptop, so we weren’t expecting big things, especially as it has integrated radeon RX vega 6 graphics rather than a dedicated graphics chip. But for light gaming at regular settings, you’ll find they work well, have no lag or pixellated pictures.

Multitasking was no issue either, and we whizzed between applications without any slowing down. It also handled editing 4K video in its stride with a slight slow down but nothing that felt frustrating.

Read more: 7 best students laptops for studying for success

The 512GB NVMe SSD has excellent read and write speeds, but you may feel a little let down when you first open this machine. That’s because despite promising 512GB, it appears to only be 128GB when you head to the settings section you’ll see that’s because Honor has split the SSD into two partitions. There is no good reason for this and you can change it if you want to merge the discs and free up that extra space.

It also has a realtek 8822CE wireless card that supports WiFi 5 alongside bluetooth 5.0 which worked well with no drop outs.

Battery life

The battery is great. It lasted around 8 hours when we had the screen brightness to around half of the maximum brightness and used it for light work, including web browsing, handling documents and streaming video content. If you’re planning on streaming Netflix or other video content, it lasts around 10 hours, which is a pretty solid battery life.

It also has fast charging, with it taking around 30 minutes to get 50 per cent battery and 1 hour 10 minutes for a full charge, so if you know that you have a heavy workday ahead, you can top up to a full charge in your lunch break.

Webcam and microphone

The quality of the webcam can be described as average at best, but surprisingly, that’s not the real issue. Instead, the placement of the webcam is where we have a real problem.

Read more: 8 best webcams for video calls and streaming

Unlike most laptops, the positioning of this webcam is on the keyboard. You press the camera button when you want it to activate, which means you get a very unflattering angle as it points upwards towards your chin. And if you’re planning on typing whilst you’re on a video call with someone, then this is where the webcam positioning also falls foul. All the other person will see are fingers getting in the way, which may be ok if you’re chatting to a family member, but it’s not a good look if you’re using it for work and professional purposes.

The microphone quality, however, is outstanding. Because the microphone is situated at the front of the laptop on the underside, it doesn’t struggle to capture voices and the sound is clear.

Software and features

The magicbook pro runs the latest version of Windows 10 home, which is pre-installed, and this machine is Windows 11 ready. The power button also doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. The fingerprint scanner is super responsive and works with Windows Hello for extra security.

MagicLink is another feature of this laptop. If you have ever used an Apple computer, this feature will feel familiar to you. MagicLink will connect your Honor or Huawei phone to your laptop to allow you to file transfer and screen share. The connection is super easy; the smartphone just needs to be placed on top of the laptop, and within seconds your smartphone will be paired, and you’ll see the home screen of your mobile on your laptop screen.

Read more: Apple’s sleek and portable iPad Air 4 is powerful enough to rival the iPad Pro

There is also Honor’s PC Manager software which can help you monitor your CPU and RAM usage, as well as update your drivers. This isn’t really anything you can’t do with Windows, but it does speed up the driver updates, so it’s worth keeping.

The verdict: Honor magicbook pro

This is a laptop that will suit everyone. Whether you want to use it for work or at home Honor’s magicbook pro has the power and performance to tackle any task that is thrown at it. It effortlessly handles every day use such as web browsing, internet shopping and basic office tasks but really shows its colours when taking on the more complex jobs such as video editing and light gaming.

The webcam placement is the only thing that really lets this machine down, but we don’t know anyone who’d want to enter a video call with the camera giving the other participants a full view of their double chin or nostril hair. It could also do with Thunderbolt support, especially if it’s going to be a serious competition against Apple. The lack of an SD micro-card slot could also be an issue for any creatives who are considering purchasing this machine.

But overall using the magicbook pro is a great experience. It’s well built, has good all-round performance and it looks stylish too. It’s hard not to compare this machine with the MacBook Pro, especially when you take in the aesthetics. But with the magicbook pro being significantly less expensive, if you’re on a budget, then it’s a no brainer.

Honor magicbook pro

Buy now £849.99, Johnlewis.com

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