Honor MagicBook 14 review: an affordable Windows laptop with extra style

The Honor MagicBook 14 looks great and runs pretty well too

Honor MagicBook 14
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Honor MagicBook 14 offers an appealing proposition as soon as you take it out of its box: it's sharp and stylish and compact, and is a pleasure to use as well. It's one of the best laptops around at this price, though it does have its weaknesses as well as its strengths.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Appealing aesthetics

  • +

    Comfortable typing experience

  • +

    Rapid battery charging

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Mid-range performance

  • -

    Display could be better

  • -

    Odd webcam position

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The Honor MagicBook 14 is likely to appeal to anyone wanting one of the best budget laptops, and even with the competition so fierce at this end of the market, the MagicBook 14 holds its own in its design and the value-for-money proposition that it offers to users.

A larger MagicBook 15 model is also available, but this 14-inch model is perfect if you want a bit more portability at the expense of some additional screen space. It feels compact and lightweight, and we like what Honor has done in terms of most of its design choices.

If you're wondering whether the Honor MagicBook 14 is the right Windows laptop for you then this full review should answer all of your questions – from the battery life to the day-to-day performance, we've assessed the laptop in all the categories that matter.

Honor MagicBook 14 review: screen and design

The Honor MagicBook 14 really impresses in terms of its build and design, with the brushed aluminium finish adding to the feeling of quality – to the eye and to the touch, this seems like a much more expensive laptop than it really is. With two USB-A ports, HDMI out, an audio jack and a USB-C port, you're well covered in terms of connectivity too, and we do always like having an integrated fingerprint sensor for quickly logging into Windows. We're less keen about the webcam position, which is at the top of the keyboard and results in a slightly strange angle for those video calls.

On the whole, this is a laptop that very much ends up in credit in the design and aesthetics department. The lines and curves are very well judged, and both the Space Grey and Mystic Silver colour options have a touch of class and subtlety about them. It's lightweight too, tipping the scales at just 1.38 kg, and the dimensions are 322.5 mm by 214.8 mm by 15.9 mm – by no means the thinnest or the lightest laptop we've ever come across, but still very easy to carry around, and a computer you're not going to be embarrassed to take out of your bag at the local coffee shop (you might even attract some envious glances).

Typing and using the trackpad are both smooth and responsive experiences. Some people might find the feel of the keyboard a little on the spongy side, but we quite like the soft and tactile feel of hitting the keys, and you certainly won't have any trouble reaching your maximum typing speed here. The trackpad is relatively large and has a premium feel to it as well, responding to the lightest of touches – so when it comes to the actual business of getting stuff done on your laptop, the MagicBook 14 isn't going to disappoint.

We were less impressed with the screen: the 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS LCD panel is by no means a disaster, but it's one of the areas where Honor's cost cutting is a little bit more obvious. There are brighter, sharper screens to be had for around this price, but this one is good enough for your web browsing, email checking and movie watching needs (even if we do prefer the 16:10 aspect ratio for fitting more on screen vertically). As you can tell from the laptop's name, the screen is 14 inches corner to corner.

Honor MagicBook 14 review: performance and features

Honor MagicBook 14

(Image credit: Future)

Our review unit came with an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of local hard drive storage – not at all a bad spec for everyday computing tasks (checking email, word processing, navigating the web and some light image editing). Unless you need hardcore gaming performance or are expecting to have to edit a lot of 4K workflow, the MagicBook 14 from Honor is going to have enough oomph to manage whatever you're going to put it through. If you want to save a bit of money, a model with 256GB of storage is also available.

While the AMD processor inside the laptop is distinctly average in terms of speed, the amount of memory and storage you get should be enough for most people. We were able to load up a few dozen browser tabs with only a couple of brief stutters, and on the whole the laptop did everything we asked of it. We didn't have any issues with video streaming or opening up some rather large spreadsheets, for example.

Speaking of video streaming, the laptop is a perfectly good media playback device – helped by that widescreen 16:9 display. Movies and television shows look detailed and sharp, while the audio pumped out by the integrated speakers is reasonably clear and crisp. We didn't notice any major problems with heat on the underside of the laptop either, and Honor appears to have done a good job with the internal cooling of the MagicBook 14.

Our two-hour video streaming test – with the display at maximum brightness – knocked down the battery level from 100 percent to 78 percent: a decent result, suggesting 9-10 hours of video playback in total. More demanding tasks will knock the battery down more quickly, but dimming the screen a little will save you some juice. We should note the 65W fast charging over USB-C, which can refill the battery from zero to almost half its capacity in just half an hour.

Honor MagicBook 14: price and verdict

To be one of the best laptops of the moment, a computer needs to find the right balance of price, performance and features – and while the Honor MagicBook 14 isn't flawless in that regard, we think it does a good enough job to be worthy of your consideration. While the screen and the performance show that this isn't at the top table in terms of premium laptops, the MagicBook 14 does have enough about it in general to justify its price, especially when it comes to its look and feel.

Check the widgets on this page to see the latest Honor MagicBook 14 prices on the web, but at the time of writing the cheapest configuration of this laptop is a little over the £500 mark. That's not a bad price for what the computer offers, but it's fair to say you can get some alternatives for cheaper if you shop around. With Windows machines available at just about every single price point, there are always options to be had.

There's also the list of best Chromebooks to consider: you can save yourself some money by going for a laptop powered by Google's Chrome OS, if you do all of your computing inside a web browser. Windows gives you more flexibility and access to full desktop apps of course, but when you're talking about the sort of low-level performance that the MagicBook 14 offers, it's harder to justify the extra cost unless you're sure that you need desktop image editors, media players, and so on.

All that said, we came away from testing the Honor MagicBook 14 very impressed by what it had to offer, and we'd recommend it for consideration to anyone who is shopping for an affordable laptop running Windows 10. It really looks the part and feels great to use, and as long as your computing needs aren't too demanding, it'll cope perfectly well with everything that you ask of it. Bear in mind there's no touchscreen or flip display here, so if you need that flexibility you might be better off with a 2-in-1 laptop.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.