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Hands on: Honor MagicBook 2020 Review

Ultrabook quality at a Chromebook price

First Impressions

The Honor MagicBook 2020 is tapping into a largely neglected market by undercutting the cost of most ultrabook rivals but, importantly, offering more power and freedom than a Chromebook. Such an affordable laptop seems ideal for students, especially with the slick design that imitates Apple’s MacBook.

Key Specifications

  • 8GB RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 14-inch, Full HD, IPS
  • AMD Ryzen 3500 CPU
  • Radeon RX Vega 8 integrated graphics

It’s hard to find a cheap laptop that isn’t a Chromebook these days. Most cost in excess of £1000, which certainly isn’t affordable for your average student. Honor looks to provide a solution with its new MagicBook laptop. 

While UK prices are yet to be confirmed, a rough conversion from Russian currency puts the MagicBook at around £700, hitting the sweet spot between modern Chromebooks and ultrabooks. 

Despite its price, the MagicBook looks and feels just as good as ultrabooks twice as expensive. Its metal chassis seems solid enough to endure a few scrapes and scratches, and yet remains light enough that it could easily be carried around with little effort.

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Honor MagicBook 2020

Opened up, the MagicBook looks almost identical to a MacBook. A shiny, purplish tint to the casing at least differentiates it from the hordes of knock-off clones that look to emulate Apple. 

Unlike a MacBook, Honor’s laptop flaunts a fantastic range of ports, including USB-A, USB-C, HDMI and a headphone jack. There’s no need for dongles or adaptors here. This is important, as the MagicBook is being touted as a student laptop. My initial thoughts on the keyboard are very positive too, with enough travel and feedback to qualify this system as a mean essay machine.  

Honor MagicBook 2020

The MagicBook also boasts a slew of features you’d usually only find with more expensive devices, including a fingerprint sensor and a PCI-e SSD that allows for rapid saving and loading times for on-board applications. 

Laptop manufacturers usually sacrifice screen quality when driving down costs, but Honor has fitted a 14-inch Full HD IPS panel here. The display looks bright, punchy and colourful. I won’t be able to determine exact figures until final testing, but initial impressions are great. 

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Honor MagicBook 2020

So what’s the catch? Where has Honor cut corners? Judging the spec sheet alone, the processor seems the only compromise. The AMD Ryzen 3500u chip is hardly a slouch, but certainly feels outdated in 2020 with the Ryzen 4000 mobile series processors rumoured to launch soon and Intel’s Ice Lake and Comet Lake alternatives offering a significant performance advantage. 

Stick to web browsing, word processing and video streaming, and the MagicBook should run smoothly without a hitch – just keep in mind that you won’t be getting the best performance possible, but that’s reasonable given the laptop’s price. 

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Honor MagicBook 2020

While there’s no dedicated graphics card here – understandably so – the AMD Ryzen 3500u processor does feature integrated Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics. This means you can technically play games on this portable, but we’re talking about the likes of League of Legends and Rocket League rather than Call of Duty and The Witcher. Until we get a review unit, we can’t comment on exact gaming performance or benchmarks, but expect a very basic graphics performance. 

Battery life is also unknown at this point, so it’s not immediately clear whether the MagicBook truly represents good value. But with plenty of high-end features, a lovely design and a promising price point, the MagicBook certainly has the potential to be one of the standout options for students and those on a budget. 

First Impressions

The Honor MagicBook 2020 is tapping into a largely neglected market by undercutting the cost of most ultrabook rivals, but importantly offering more power and freedom than a Chromebook. Such an affordable laptop seems ideal for students, especially with that slick design that imitates Apple’s MacBook.

We can’t be sure of the MagicBook’s quality until the performance and battery have been benchmarked, but the MagicBook looks to have a great shot of being one of the best budget laptops of the year. 

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