Thursday, May 27, 2021

Honor MagicBook 14 2021 (Intel Edition) laptop

Honor has been delivering some stunning designs over the past few years and the MagicBook 14 2021 (Intel Edition) looks - at least on paper - like the real deal. The company - which is no longer owned by a Chinese consortium - is now free from the political constraints that frustrated Huawei’s growth, allowing it to try new things. However, with a global pandemic still going on, huge shipment issues, ambitious competitors and an ongoing shipment shortage, does the MagicBook 14 actually stand a chance at all to surpass its rivals?

Pricing and availability

The Honor MagicBook 14 is available directly from Honor’s retail website and in selected European territories. The UK site carries the Core i5 version with 8GB RAM while France seems to be the only country currently stocking the Core i7 version with 16GB of RAM, same as the one we reviewed (1000 Euros at Fnac). It is not officially available in the US but can be purchased from Chinese online websites such as Banggood for $1,330 (£937, AU$1705), a price that excludes courier fees and any potential local import taxes.

Lid Closed

(Image credit: Future)

Design

For a very detailed description of the current MagicBook 14 chassis, check Matt Hanson’s excellent MagicBook 14 2020 (AMD Edition) review from last year. Our model was a space gray which has a MacBook-esque vibe to it. The dimensions, weight and location of the ports are the same which leads us to believe that this Intel Edition laptop is a minor evolution.

Keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

Like its AMD-powered predecessor, we like the minimalist design and the fingerprint power button. On the other hand, no Thunderbolt port (a shame on a Core i7 processor) and no microSD card reader takes the proverbial shine off the MagicBook 14. 

Lid Closed

(Image credit: Future)

Hardware

The focal point of the MagicBook 14 2021 is the Core i7-1165G7, a quad-core processor based on the new 10nm manufacturing process that Intel named Superfin. It has a 12MB cache, runs eight threads and has a maximum clock speed of 4.7GHz.

The brand new processor graphics that accompanies it - the Iris Xe - promises to be far faster than the previous generation with support for 8K resolutions (via DisplayPort) being the flagship feature. Note that the Chinese version of the laptop comes with an additional Nvidia GeForce MX450 GPU with 2GB GDDR5.

Spec Sheet

Here are the full specs of the Honor MagicBook 14 2021 (Intel Edition) configuration sent to TechRadar Pro for review:

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe

RAM: 16GB

Screen: 14-inch FHD resolution

Storage: 512GB WD SN730 SSD

Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB-C, audio jack, 1 x HDMI

Connectivity: Intel AX201, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1

Weight: 1.38kg

Size: 322.5 x 214.8 x 15.9 mm  (H x W x D)

Battery: 56Whr

Elsewhere, Honor has stuck to the same hardware platform with the trusty but now long-in-the-tooth WD SN730 providing 512GB solid state storage. No Gen 4 SSD here, which is a missed opportunity, although that is mitigated by the fact that you can actually swap it. Compared to its predecessor though, it has double the amount of memory, neatly arranged in dual-channel mode.

Note that the 2021 MagicBook 14 also featured the same 56WHr battery (powered by a 65W fast charger) and 1-megapixel front facing camera found on the 2020 MagicBook 14. At the time of writing, two versions of the AMD powered MagicBook 14 were still on sale on Honor’s website. The Ryzen 5 3500U with half the memory and half the storage costs £550 while the faster 4500U with half the memory is on sale for £670.

Which brings us to another question? Why didn’t Honor just use another AMD chip this time around (given that they forfeited any unique selling point associated with Intel’s 11th generation CPU)? With 50% more threads and cores, the Ryzen 5500U is a far more potent - and cheaper processor than the Core i7-1165G7 and would have been an ideal candidate. See what Huawei did with the Matebook 14 2020 (AMD Edition).

In Use

(Image credit: Future)

In use and performance

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Honor MagicBook 14 2021 (Intel Edition) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Passmark: 4907

Passmark CPU: 11056

CPU-Z: 621 (single-thread); 2819.4 (multi-thread)

Geekbench: 1571 (single-core); 5122 (multi-core); 16115 (compute)

3DMark: 1468 (Timespy); 3792 (Firestrike); 13763 (Nightraid)

CrystalDiskMark: 3413MBps (read); 2688MBps (write)

Cinebench CPU: 1460

Novabench: 2202

Atto: 3190MBps (read, 256mb); 2530MBps (write, 256mb)

AJA: 2819MBps (read); 2615MBps (write)

Windows Experience Index: 8.1

The PC Manager application is still well alive, allowing you to boost performance on the go (at the expense of battery life) and incorporates Magic-link which is a simple way (via NFC) to connect your Honor smartphone to your Honor laptop. 

One popular benchmark, Sandra Sisoftware, repeatedly refused to run for unknown reasons but otherwise, the laptop delivered very solid numbers on all benchmarks we threw at it. We were particularly impressed by its integrated graphics scores which were competitive with the discrete Nvidia Geforce MX350 GPU found in the MagicBook Pro (Intel edition).

At 300 nits, its BoE-sourced full HD 14-inch display appears to be slightly underlit because of its matte finish. Subjectively, it does a decent job with pictures, with crisp edges and warm colors out of the box.

Ports Left Side

(Image credit: Future)

The keyboard is very similar to what you’d find on any recent Apple laptop: short travels, sharp feedback, flat and slightly bigger than average keys. Very much a love-it-or-hate-it scenario. The touchpad is elongated with no physical buttons but a bigger than average usable surface area.

Underside Fans

(Image credit: Future)

The presence of a dual-heatpipe and a supersized cooling fan means that heat is dissipated more efficiently although it does help to have the laptop chassis acting like a massive heatsink. The fan whir was bearable even under load.

When it comes to battery life, it performed on par with expectations, requiring an average 0.130WHr for every minute of activity.

The competition

We’re looking for a stylish laptop that packs an 11th generation Intel Core i7 processor with at least 16GB of RAM, a half-terabyte SSD and a fingerprint scanner.

Meet the Dell inspiron 7306 (£876.34 from Dell Direct), a convertible laptop that offers touchscreen capabilities and a slightly lower screen size (13.3-inch). It offers a 12-month subscription to McAfee LiveSafe security suite and supports active styluses. Unlike the MagicBook 14, it has a Thunderbolt 4 port and a card reader.

The Pavilion x360 14-dw1003na (£899.99 from HP direct) is a tad more expensive than the above but comes with an active pen. It doesn’t offer a security suite subscription, is heftier, has a smaller battery and a slower Wi-Fi 5 wireless connectivity but bundles a 25GB DropBox cloud storage freebie.

Last but not least, the Lenovo ThinkBook 14 G2 (£739.49 at Box) which ticks all the right boxes especially for those looking for a business laptop. From the privacy shutter to the extensive extended warranty options (up to five years onsite warranty), definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a WFH device on a budget.

Buy it if

You already have an Honor smartphone Honor’s Magic-Link is a useful feature but not a deal maker in our eyes given the fact that US sanctions during the Trump years - when it was still a Huawei sub-brand - have severely reduced its appeal to a wider public. Its current flagship, the Honor 20 Pro, is almost two years old.

A stylish business laptop The fingerprint power button and the pop up camera are two features that will appeal to users that want enhanced security and privacy. The fact that the MagicBook 14 actually looks good and is made of sturdy heat-dissipating material is a bonus.

Don’t buy it if

You hate webcams that go low, low, low. The pop up camera is one of the up-your-nostril type one. Not great if you plan to do a job interview or an important company wide announcement.

You want more/better ports/expansion There’s no Thunderbolt 4 port, which is - as we saw on rival laptops - an essential companion for an 11th generation Core i7 chip. Likewise, the lack of a PCIe 4.0 (i.e. Gen 4) solid state drive is a real let down especially as the performance gains are real. The absence of a microSD card reader combined with the presence of a USB 2.0 port - a 20-year old antiquity - is another sore point.

You want the best value-for-money The MagicBook 14 2021 won’t score highly on value-for-money charts even amongst stylish, all-metal laptops, especially when compared to those running AMD processors.

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