Can you expect a laptop that costs less than £1,000 to tick all the boxes? Absolutely not. But the Honor MagicBook Pro ticks more boxes than any laptop I’ve ever seen for £850.
In this review, I’m going to take the key factors I look for in every laptop one by one, with an indication of whether that particular box is ticked, so you can see just how much this ridiculous bargain of a laptop gets right.
Put simply, the Honor MagicBook Pro delivers far better performance than you have any right to expect from an £850 laptop. It’s outrageously powerful.
AMD is currently pulverising Intel when it comes to mobile processor performance and the six-core Ryzen 5 processor inside this laptop is supremely fast. Accompanied by 16GB of RAM and 512GB of fast SSD storage, the laptop smashed through the benchmarks conducted by my colleagues at PC Pro, achieving a score that wasn’t far behind the top-spec Apple MacBook Pro 16in. The notable difference being the MacBook Pro that PC Pro was sent for review cost not far short of £4,000.
In the PassMark PerformanceTest 10 that I ran on the laptop, the AMD CPU achieved roughly the same score as the 4.1GHz Intel Core i5-10600K – a desktop processor that was released earlier this year. The SSD performance, meanwhile, was in the top 5% of scores ever recorded. In short, this laptop will eat up any day-to-day computing task that the average family will throw at it.
What about games performance? This laptop relies on integrated Radeon RX Vega 6 graphics rather than a dedicated graphics chip. That normally means that AAA action games are out of reach, but the MagicBook Pro can cope with some big-name titles.
Drop the graphics quality settings to medium and this laptop can easily crank out 60 frames per second in Fortnite on the screen’s native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. That’s plenty fast enough for your teenager, and a half-hour long Fortnite session barely mustered a whisper from the laptop’s fans.
That said, if PC gaming is your top priority, you’re definitely better off looking for a system with dedicated graphics.
When you first open Windows Explorer on the MagicBook Pro, you might feel robbed. The main SSD appears to only have 120GB of storage, not the promised 512GB.
This is because Honor has taken the strange decision to split the SSD into two partitions. There’s no obvious benefit to this – in fact, it’s a mild pain in the arse. I suggest you use Windows’ built-in Disk Management utility to delete the second partition and extend the main C drive when you first get this machine. (We already know you’re buying it, right?)
Otherwise, as noted above, SSD performance is sizzling, with read and write speeds that will give you no cause for pause: both screamed in above 2,500MB/sec in my tests.
If you compare the Honor MagicBook Pro to the 16in MacBook Pro, the screen does look disappointing. The Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution stretched over 16 inches does leave detectable grain. But let me remind you the MacBook Pro 16in starts at £2,399, almost four times the price of this device.
In isolation, the screen is fine. It’s not super-bright, but it’s evenly lit, colours aren’t oversaturated and the bezels are thin. I miss not having a touchscreen with Windows, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Two things to note: the screen is much wider than it is long, which does at least make working with two windows open side-by-side easier to manage. I also find the screen has an annoying habit of tilting backwards by itself when you lift the laptop, as if the lid is too heavy. Again, it’s not disastrous, but it’s one of the few signs of poor attention to detail.
Battery life ✔
Given the size of this laptop, the inclusion of a mere 56Wh battery feels stingy. Surely there’s more battery space inside that case?
However, in daily use the battery has proved decent enough. I’ve been picking it up, on and off, for a few days since it was charged and it’s still got 20% of the battery left. That’s around eight hours of word processing, noodling around on the web, Spotify blaring out of the speakers and so forth. The kind of day-to-day stuff a family PC would be subject to.
That’s a respectable result, much longer than my MacBook Pro can stay awake, and almost certainly down to the parsimonious processor and the fact the fans barely ever kick in. Keep the screen at a medium brightness and you should have few worries about needing to top this up over the course of the working day. If you do, the compact charger slots into the only USB-C socket on the laptop.
Keyboard and touchpad ✔
Sub-£1,000 laptops rarely come with a top-notch keyboard. The Honor MagicBook Pro’s keyboard isn’t outstanding, but it’s comfortably above mediocre.
They keyboard is well spaced with everything in the right place, and no mucking around with half-height enter keys or shrunken spacebars. The keys are a tad too lightweight for my liking, but there’s good travel to them. The keyboard is allegedly backlit, but I literally had to turn the lights off in my office to notice the dim glow.
The accompanying trackpad isn’t the size of a swimming pool, like it is on the MacBook Pro, but it’s sufficient. It is unremarkable in every sense of the word.
Build quality ✔
Honor isn’t messing around here. The all-aluminium chassis could handle itself in a bar fight. It’s going to be fine in the rough and tumble of family life.
It’s not a light laptop at 1.7kg, but it’s not a beast, either. You could sling this into a rucksack and travel with it, especially with that lightweight charger barely weighing you down.
The aluminium casing is shinier than the MacBook it’s clearly taken (ahem) inspiration from, but it’s not cheap looking. The Honor logo embossed into the lid doesn’t detract from a good looking bit of kit.
The Honor MagicBook Pro is old school when it comes to ports. There’s that single USB-C port mentioned earlier, which will get swallowed up by the charger. Otherwise, there are three, chunky USB slots, a full-size HDMI for connecting a monitor and a headphone jack.
Given the direction of travel in the industry, you might yearn for more than one USB-C, but I suspect most families will still find the full-size USB ports more useful for plugging in peripherals such as thumb drives, game controllers and the like.
Those two speaker strips down either side of the keyboard might raise hopes of substantial sound quality, but that would be over-egging it.
The speakers are bearable for a Spotify session, but I can afford them no higher praise. They verge on tinny and the top volume is not going to have your neighbours banging on the walls. No tick here.
Perhaps the best thing about the speakers is the power button built into the right-hand one, which also doubles as a fingerprint reader. This means you can let any of the family log in without having to remember passwords.
And the one big ✘
The webcam. Honor plumps for one of those silly little webcams that pops up out of one of the function keys in the top row of the keyboard.
This is the most unflattering of angles, at best giving your videoconferencing family or colleagues an unwanted tour of your nostril hair. And if you’re a hulking lummox like me, it’s near impossible to actually get yourself in frame with the laptop placed on the desk in front of you, as you can see from the screenshot below:
Budget for an external webcam if you need the laptop for Skype, Zoom et al.
Webcam grumble aside, the Honor MagicBook Pro is sensational value. It’s almost workstation-grade powerful, capable of playing 3D games, and solidly built with no major flaws.
£850 is nobody’s idea of pocket money, especially with the economy crumbling like cheese, but I honestly can’t remember reviewing a three-figure laptop that delivers such value.
If you need a new general-purpose family laptop, or even one for work, you will not get better for less than a grand.
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Honor MagicBook Pro (2020)
Value for money
A stylish, solidly built laptop that delivers ridiculous performance for the price
- Gobsmackingly fast
- Durable build – perfect for family use
- Decent keyboard
- Should be twice the price
- The poorly-positioned pop-up webcam