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Honor MagicBook 15 review: A mighty fine mid-ranger

Thomas Newton
29 Nov 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
650
inc VAT

The Honor MagicBook 15 delivers top value for money in a slim, attractive package

Pros 
Clean, slim, streamlined design
Excels at day-to-day PC tasks
Battery recharges reasonably quickly
Cons 
Noisy fans
Battery life is mediocre
Webcam is sub-par
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Save £50 on the Honor MagicBook 15

If you're hoping to buy a big-screen laptop on a budget, the Honor MagicBook 15 is well worth a shot. That is especially true since it's available for just £400 from Honor. You'll need to be quick though, as the offer ends on 30 November.
Honor
Was £449
Now £400

The Honor MagicBook 15 is a straightforward Windows 11 laptop aimed at buyers who want an inexpensive laptop to do basic PC tasks. Priced at £650, it’s very much a mid-range machine.

For your money you’ll get a laptop with a 15.6in display that promises to be bright enough to let you work comfortably anywhere, enough processing power to let you smash through your to-do lists and a battery that will give you ten hours off the pump, ensuring you don’t have to worry about glancing aside for a spare mains socket every couple of hours.

The Honor MagicBook 15 is also slim, measuring 16.9mm thick when closed, and light, weighing 1.54kg, so it’s easy to slip into a bag and carry between meetings, lectures and lessons.

Pitched at students and anyone else who wants a cheap laptop, the Honor MagicBook 15 is certainly a looker, but let’s see if underneath that sheen it’s as good a buy as the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 or the Huawei MateBook D 15 (2020). Could it be magic?

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Honor MagicBook 15 review: What you need to know

Honor is perhaps better known for its smartphones, but its laptops have also impressed us in recent times when it comes to value for money. That’s not altogether surprising given they use the same chassis as their Huawei counterparts, which also tend to deliver strong value.

Indeed, the Honor MagicBook 15 is physically identical to the Huawei MateBook D 15 – even the hidden webcam is tucked away in the same place, in a pop-up module between the F6 and F7 keys. So there’s some work to be done for Honor to break away from its former stablemate, as well as stand out from other cheap laptops on the market.

While there’s an emphasis on style and portability, you at least get a variety of ports here. Some pared-down laptops would dispense with an HDMI port, for example, so it’s good that Honor hasn’t skimped here. For the most part, you’d probably be able to get away with not needing any dongles or adapters.

However, there isn’t a separate port for the mains power, which means that the single USB-C port will be relegated to the role of supplying juice most of the time.

There’s also no Ethernet port, although that’s perhaps less of a problem, as the MagicBook 15 comes with a Qualcomm WCN685x wireless module. This supports the newer Wi-Fi 6E standard, which means if you’re lucky enough to be connected to a cutting-edge router, you’ll be enjoying some of the fastest wireless speeds possible.

Honor MagicBook 15 review: Price and competition

Configuration tested: AMD Ryzen 5 5500U with integrated AMD Radeon GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS-type LCD display, Windows 11 Home; Price: £650

At the time of writing, there’s just one iteration of the Honor MagicBook 15 available, and you’re looking at it.

That specification is about what you should expect to see in a laptop at this price point in 2022, although it’s a little disappointing that there aren’t any versions available with more memory.

While 8GB of RAM should suffice for most computing tasks – that’s enough to let you write, browse the web and crop a few photos with no hassle – 512GB of storage is pretty generous for £650, although as with all Huawei and Honor machines it’s been divided into two partitions, with 120GB set aside for the Windows installation and apps and a 337GB for your data.

This compares well with its main rival, the Huawei MateBook D 15. The D 15 has the same attractive metal chassis, is about the same price and shares many key specs (15.6in Full HD display, 8GB of RAM, 512GB SSD) but has a less powerful Ryzen 3500U processor and an older Wi-Fi module.

The smaller Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is more stylish, has a smaller 12.4in touchscreen, and has become something of a yardstick for budget laptops in 2022, offering great performance for an excellent price. However, it can’t match the MagicBook 15 for pure value and performance per pound. The specification that’s most similar to the specification of the Honor MagicBook 15 (8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) is currently priced at £729.

The Acer Swift 3 (2022) is also an excellent budget laptop choice, and versions with the biggest display option – 14in – are currently available for around £700. For your money you’ll get a device with an Intel Core i5-1135G7, 8GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. Alternatively, there’s a Swift 3 option that comes with 16GB of RAM, if your working needs require extra memory, for about £100 more.

Likewise, the HP Pavilion 14, another great budget laptop, has a slightly smaller, 14in touchscreen display but can be had for around £550, a little less than the Honor MagicBook 15 list price. For your money you’ll get a laptop with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor and 8GB of RAM, but a smaller 256GB SSD.

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Honor MagicBook 15 review: Design, keyboard and touchpad

The MagicBook 15 is a minimalist masterclass, an all-metal body with a smooth matte finish, complemented by a 15.6in display with narrow bezels, thanks in part to the webcam being squirrelled away on the keyboard.

At 1.54kg, it’s just about light enough to be picked up in one hand and, while parts of the keyboard deck can get hot when you’re running lots of things at once, the keyboard itself and wristrest always stay cool.

When it comes to physical connectivity there’s a good selection here. On the right-hand edge, there’s a basic USB-A 2.0 socket and a 3.5mm headset jack, and on the left is a single Type-C USB port, which supports data and charging but not Thunderbolt or DisplayPort.

Next to that is a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 socket and an HDMI video output. Honor doesn’t list the exact specification for the latter on its site but I was unable to get the laptop to connect at 60Hz when I plugged it into to a 4K TV, so I will assume, pending clarification from Honor, that it’s HDMI 1.4.

That’s not the end of the world as you’ll still be able to connect this laptop to big monitors for work and presentation purposes. But it means that some content won’t look as smooth as it would if the laptop had an HDMI 2.0 port.

The keyboard is well laid out and generally makes good use of the space available. The keycaps don’t have a great deal of travel and they feel a bit on the thin side, which makes me wonder about how robust they are and what the keyboard will look like after a few years of wear and tear. There’s also no backlight for the keyboard, which will make working in dim lighting tricky.

On the plus side, the actuation point is 1.3mm so you don’t have to hammer away at the keys to type. And I found it pretty easy to get comfortable and up to 80 words a minute after a few hours of bedding in.

One minor moan is that the arrow keys are both on the small side and that they double as navigation keys (Home, End, Page Up/Down), but they’re not labelled as such. So, if you didn’t know you had to hold down the Fn button while using the arrow keys to move around large chunks of text quickly, you might never find out.

Below the keyboard, the 5.5in touchpad does its job well. It’s nicely sized and easy to use. It supports multitouch (up to four inputs at once) and by default will let you move the cursor in an edge-to-edge sweep with one gesture, meaning most people won’t have to dial up the sensitivity.

The 720p camera is something of a mixed bag, though. The positioning – embedded in the keyboard – gives you a high degree of privacy because you can physically push it down to block the lens, but the unusually low angle means that whoever is videocalling you will get a great view of your chin and nostrils. The sensor adjusts well to changes in lighting, so you’ll be able to chat to colleagues even in poorly lit rooms, but the video quality itself is incredibly grainy.

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Honor MagicBook 15 review: Display

Honor claims the MagicBook 15’s display (15.6in, IPS, 1,920 x 1,080) will cover 100% of the sRGB colour space. Using a Calibrite ColorChecker and DisplayCAL, I recorded 96.4%, which is pretty close to, if not exactly bang on, 100%.

To be honest, for most cases – writing reports, essays and homework, and watching a bit of Netflix or YouTube after work – this will generally suffice, and websites and video don’t look particularly discoloured or weird.

Unsurprisingly, colour space reproduction elsewhere isn’t great. If you’re looking for a cheap laptop on which to edit photos to a professional level, the low coverage of the Adobe RGB space (67.0%) means this isn’t the ideal machine, unless all you want to do is crop and resize holiday snaps and not heavily edit things too much. DCI-P3 coverage is also low at 68.9%.

On the plus side, colour accuracy was not totally terrible. Testing yielded an average Delta-E score versus sRGB of 0.74 (where zero is perfect) and a maximum of 2.1.

Brightness was even better. I recorded peaks of 345cd/m², a little higher than the 300 cd/m² maximum Honor says you’ll get, and the black level was also nice and low at 0.3 cd/m². That’s not as inky black as you’d get on a laptop with an OLED display but it’s still good enough to deliver decent contrast – the colorimeter recorded a contrast ratio of 1,146:1. In lay terms, this means dark video content won’t look like a gloomy indistinct morass.

Day to day, I found the MagicBook 15 easy enough to work with in all but the sunniest and brightest of light. The matte finish of the display means any glare from the sun or overhead lights won’t be picked up or reflected back at you as harshly as it would on a glossy display.

The twin speakers are not much to write home about, however. Bass and mid tones have very little impact or richness, so consequently things sound a bit tinny. As they fire downwards, if you’re watching something on the sofa or in bed and not at your desk, then everything will sound muffled and muted. While that’s typical of laptops in this price range, it’s no less bemusing.

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Honor MagicBook 15 review: Performance and battery life

The Honor MagicBook 15 is more than capable of powering through everyday PC tasks with ease. In my experience, it rarely struggled to cope with anything I threw at it, with the exception of high-end games, which is to be expected as the Honor MagicBook 15 is not a gaming laptop.

Indeed, it has an edge over most of its rivals, as you can see from the results of the Expert Reviews in-house benchmarks below:

Despite having smaller displays, I’ve included the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 and Acer Swift. The M1 Apple MacBook Air (2020) is included here as the cheapest macOS alternative. It’s more expensive at £999 and has a smaller screen, but even that can’t quite compete on the same level.

The in-house benchmark test simulates a wide range of PC use cases to demonstrate how well a system handles basic PC tasks and multitasking, although looking at the results for the Geekbench 5 test – which gauges CPU power alone – the Honor MagicBook 15’s Ryzen 5 5500U is only slightly more powerful than the Intel Core i5-1135G7, which features in its Windows rivals, and is left in the dust by Apple’s M1 chip.

Disk speed tests results were in line with expectations and comparable to other devices in the same price range. The very similar Huawei MateBook D 15 is slightly faster and, again, the M1 Apple MacBook Air (2020) is faster still.

Despite not being designed for gaming, I ran a few in-game benchmarks to see how you’d get on if you wanted to play something lightweight. The MagicBook 15 just about cleared 30fps on the Metro: Last Light benchmark but fared a lot better running the Dirt Showdown benchmark at 720p.

In less good news, I recorded a lowly 17.90fps on the Hitman 2 Mumbai benchmark at 1080p, and that was with supersampling set to 1.00, texture quality at Low and shadow quality at Normal – in other words, the highest benchmark settings the game allowed me to apply.

In short, the Honor MagicBook 15 is fine for undemanding retro games and indie titles, but not much else.

Battery performance isn’t great either, with the Honor MagicBook 15 lasting a mere 8hrs 49mins in our video rundown test, with the brightness locked at 170 cd/m² and wireless disabled. That will see you through most working days but when working away from the mains, you’ll want to keep the brightness levels as low as possible.

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Honor MagicBook 15 review: Verdict

The Honor MagicBook 15 is a very good budget large-screen Windows laptop. It looks great, handles basic PC tasks with aplomb and is superior to the very similar-looking Huawei MateBook D 15 (2020).

The Huawei offers faster disk speeds and a marginally better graphical performance but the Honor’s display boasts better colour space coverage and greater colour accuracy, meaning it’s better suited for creative work. Battery life and CPU performance are slightly higher on the Honor as well.

The Honor MagicBook 15 is edged out slightly by the Acer Swift 3 in terms of overall performance and portability, but if you value screen acreage over speed then the Honor MagicBook 15 is a very good-value option. If you’re looking for a large-screened 15in laptop for not very much money, they don’t get much better than this.

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