Honor MagicBook Pro Review – Tech Advisor
What’s in a name? Sometimes quite a lot actually. And while the ‘Pro’ moniker has been rendered almost meaningless by years of slightly-larger-than-normal phone releases, it still rankles to hit a product like the Honor MagicBook Pro: a very good laptop by most measures, but not one that’s suited to the pros it seems to be targeting.
This is really more of a MagicBook Plus: a bigger, 16in laptop that uses the extra space to fit in a more powerful CPU, but doesn’t go the extra mile of including a discrete GPU or high-spec display. It won’t suit creatives or gamers especially well, but anyone looking for a big-screened laptop for day-to-day use should be satisfied.
Design & build
The MagicBook Pro does at least live up to the name in design, with a muted but slick aesthetic. Gone are the flashy flourishes seen on the MagicBook 14 and 15 from earlier this year, and instead the Space Grey finish is interrupted only by a small Honor logo on the lid – also in grey.
It’s perhaps a little boring, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and no doubt many will appreciate the restraint that Honor has shown in the design here.
With a 16.1in display, it’s understandably a pretty large laptop, and at 1.7kg it’s a fairly heavy one too, though it’s always welcome to see a large laptop clock in below the 2kg line. Slim bezels keep the overall frame similar to a traditional 15in model though, and at 16.9mm it’s still a very slim device. It feels like an ultrabook scaled up, and other than the likes of the LG Gram 17 you’re unlikely to find many laptops as portable as this with 16in+ displays.
Ports are solid too, with the single USB-C (also used for charging) joined by a remarkable three USB 3.2 Type-A ports, HDMI 2.0, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s no SD card slot though, and perhaps more importantly no Thunderbolt support, as the Intel port tech currently isn’t available on AMD laptops – the first of a few cues that this might not actually live up to the needs of professional creators.
The full-size, backlit keyboard is comfortable to type on, with a slightly clicky, responsive feel that I’m a big fan of. You might be able to spot from my photos that I’ve been testing a model with a German keyboard, but don’t worry – if you buy the MagicBook Pro in the UK it will come with a UK keyboard.
The touchpad I’m sadly less enamoured with. It’s plastic rather than glass, and feels like it, with a slight friction that stops your finger from ever gliding effortlessly across it. It’s a decent size at least, but despite that I found myself regularly wishing for a mouse to work with.
Large speakers frame the keyboard, though sound quality and volume are both disappointingly average. Embedded in one you’ll also find the combined fingerprint sensor & power button, which lets you turn the PC on and log in with a single press.
As is standard for Honor and Huawei now, the webcam is hidden beneath a fake key in the Fn row. This is part of what enables the laptop’s ultra-slim bezels, but it’s worth a reminder that this viewing angle is extraordinarily unflattering, and you’ll frequently block the webcam with your fingers while typing. If, like me, you’re on a lot of video calls right now then this webcam will frustrate you, guaranteed.
The display is arguably the first place where the MagicBook Pro lets itself down. The 1920×1080 IPS panel is decent enough, with great viewing angles and vivid colours. It’s more than enough for browsing the web or watching Netflix, but if Honor wants to attract a pro creator crowd – or gamers, as the company has also hinted to me – it’s got to offer more.
The company touts max brightness of 300 nits and 100% sRGB coverage, which lines up more or less with the 319 nits and 99% sRGB I hit in benchmarking. You’re only getting 73% AdobeRGB and 76% DCI-P3 coverage though, meaning this simply won’t be colour-accurate enough for many creatives.
Meanwhile gamers are likely to be frustrated by the fact that the panel is limited to a refresh rate of 60Hz, and everyone might be disappointed to learn that it isn’t a touch panel.
All of which is to say, this isn’t a bad panel. But if you’re expecting a display optimised for gaming or creative work, this isn’t it, beyond the fact that at 16.1in it’s simply one of the largest screens you’ll find these days, especially in a laptop this slim and portable.
Then the specs. Again, this is a bit of a mixed bag, with a strong CPU let down by the lack of other options to support it.
The MagicBook Pro is powered by the AMD Ryzen 5 4600H. In case you’re not aware, AMD has been killing it with its mobile chips recently, and the 4600H is no exception, with multi-core performance that rivals and often even surpasses Intel’s pricier Core i7 models – though of course that may change with the recently launched Intel Tiger Lake CPUs.
In any case, the Ryzen 5 in here delivered strong benchmark performance and proved as nippy as I’d expect in day-to-day usage and light creative work. You should even be able to use it for some gaming, but it won’t handle anything too demanding. It comes paired with 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB of SSD storage – that’s the only model launching here, so there won’t be any customisability.
Honor has made two odd choices in the specs though. The first is to deny Western markets the option of a more powerful Ryzen 7 4800H, included in this laptop’s Chinese release. More damningly, there’s no option at all for a discrete GPU, meaning you’re entirely reliant on integrated graphics. And remember how there’s no Thunderbolt support either? Good luck running an eGPU off this thing.
The Ryzen 5 4600H is strong enough to overcome this to some extent – it still outperformed several rival devices, including the Huawei MateBook X Pro, on the 3D Mark Sky Diver graphics benchmark. But there are limits to integrated graphics, and video editors or serious gamers will run into them fast.
The end result is the same again: these aren’t bad specs at all, and in fact this has one of the best CPUs you can get in a laptop right now. But if that Pro name has lured you in, you might be disappointed: if anything you work on requires GPU support, the MagicBook Pro likely won’t cut it.
Battery life at least is undeniably a strong suit. Honor touts 11 hours of video playback for the MagicBook Pro, but the 56Wh cell actually exceeded that and lasted almost 13 hours of HD video playback in our testing.
Using it over the last week it’s comfortably delivered a full day of work, even with that big display to power, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this on the basis of battery.
It doesn’t hurt that Honor has also thrown in the fast-charging tech it uses in its phones. With 65W fast-charging over USB-C I managed to top the cell up to 46% in half an hour, meaning you can get the best part of a day’s usage from less than an hour plugged in.
There’s usually not a huge amount to say about laptop software, but Honor and Huawei devices are a bit of an exception.
First up, a reassurance: despite the much-publicised US trade ban, the MagicBook Pro still runs full Windows 10. That means you can access all the same software and apps you usually would – yes, including everything Google.
But second, you do get some extra perks, so long as you also own other Honor or Huawei tech. The Magic Link tech lets you link the laptop to a compatible smartphone from either company, using it for near-instant file sharing between the devices, screen-syncing, and even the option to take phone and video calls from your phone through the laptop.
Price & availability
The MagicBook Pro is out in the UK and Europe now and costs £849/€899 – bundled with your choice of a smartwatch, earbuds, or router is you buy it before 30 September 2020. That’s a decent step up from Honor’s £549 MagicBook 14 & 15, but for a display this size it’s undeniably affordable.
The closest rival is likely the super-lightweight LG gram 17, which is around £1,250 these days, while Dell’s XPS 17 starts from £1,799. Obviously those have slightly larger 17in displays, and the Dell also gives you discrete GPU options, but the point remains: if you want a screen bigger than 15in, this is one of the best value options around.
If you’re not so set on the big display, check out the rest of our best laptop chart for more options that we’ve tested.
The MagicBook Pro is a very solid piece of kit. The slim and relatively lightweight form factor is one of the best you’ll find for a 16in display, and the Ryzen 5 processor delivers phenomenal performance and impressive battery life to boot.
If you want a large display without spending a fortune on it, the MagicBook Pro definitely delivers the goods. But if you want a genuinely pro piece of kit, I want to manage your expectations: the 4600H is a fantastic processor, but there’s only so much it can do with integrated graphics, and the display is good enough for Netflix, but doesn’t deliver creator (or gamer) class colour accuracy or performance.
For office work, studying, light gaming, and creative work that doesn’t require top-tier colour accuracy or performance, the MagicBook Pro delivers some of the best bang for your buck out there. It just won’t go much further than that.
Honor MagicBook Pro: Specs
- 16.1in 1920 x 1080 IPS FullView display
- AMD Ryzen 5 4600H
- 16GB DDR4 RAM
- 512GB SSD
- 56Wh battery
- 65W USB-C fast charging
- 1x USB-C
- 3x USB 3.2 Type-A
- HDMI 2.0
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Power button fingerprint sensor
- Windows 10
- Space Grey