The Honor MagicBook 15 is an extremely functional laptop which gets a lot right in terms of the design, display and performance while managing to add high-end features such as fast charging. Just be mindful of its shortcomings.
Solid metal body
Annoying webcam placement
Limited port selection
Only one storage configuration
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The Honor MagicBook 15 enters India at the perfect time — when people all over the country are turning to laptops to strike the perfect work-life balance from home. It's debut is with one of the most popular price segments that provides a device that is usually enough for the masses to get their job done. It isn’t a particularly exciting price band, but definitely a competitive one.
Honor tries to match the established players in terms of performance and battery life by opting for Ryzen silicon, and for the most part, that is a great choice. It has managed to keep up with almost everything we’d look for from a work laptop and then some. It won’t blow you away (nothing in this segment will), but you won’t hate using it either.
Here is the Honor MagicBook 15 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
GPU: AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics
RAM: 8GB DDR4
Screen: 15.6-inch IPS
Storage: 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Ports: 1 x USB 2.0 Type A, 1 x USB 3.0 Type A, 1 x USB Type C, 1 x HDMI
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Camera: Pop-up webcam
Size: 357.8 x 229.9 x 16.9 mm
Moreover, it also punches above its weight in aspects such as the build and design, bringing a cold hard aluminium body that barely flexes. It manages to strike a fine balance between being minimal yet having a swagger that is recognizable. The bezel-less display and full-metal body are also rare inclusions in this segment.
However, not all is rosy, as the battery life is just about average. Moreover, the keyboard is not backlit and the webcam is barely usable. If these don’t sound like hindrances to your workflow, then this ultrabook from Honor might just be the magic you were waiting for.
Price and availability in India
Launched in India on July 31, the Honor MagicBook 15 is priced at Rs 42,990 and is available on Flipkart. Occasionally, it can be found under Rs 40,000 as well. Keep in mind that stocks are extremely difficult to come by, as things stand right now. Mystic Silver is the only colour variant available.
As with most other laptops this season, the MagicBook 15 opts for a pretty minimal design. It is a solid slab of metal on the inside and out and feels very reassuring. Don’t be fooled by its looks though, as it is surprisingly light. It weighs 1.53kgs which is spread very well across the body. Solid is the best way to describe it.
The lid has a subtle Honor branding which looks blue from some angles and chrome from others. The edges above the laptop have a beautiful azure blue chamfer, which makes it less sharp to touch and gives it some character without looking over the top.
There’s a slight cut near the track to lodge your finger in and open the laptop. One-finger opening is possible but it dances around a fair bit at the start, probably due to higher weight concentration towards the opposite side. The hinge itself isn’t too strong and will move around if not used on a strong base. It opens up to a maximum of about 140-degrees.
As for ports, we get a pretty miserly collection of two full-sized USB Type-A ports on either side, a Type-C port which is also used for charging, and an HDMI port. Needless to say, it’s pretty easy to run out of I/O options. Imagine using your laptop while it is charging and a wired mouse is connected. The only real port left will be one USB port. Our workflow that involves photo editing and media management had to be planned as there were walls against which we could potentially bump into.
The base, too, is made out of aluminium, adding a nice touch of class. However, the keyboard deck has a bit of flex and makes the typing experience a little mushy. The keys themselves are pretty spacious and jumpy, but we’d prefer a little more travel. No real issues, just nitpicking. The space on either side of the trackpad and around the keyboard serves as a comfortable palm-rest and reduces wrist fatigue. The ridges of the F and J keys for touch-typing could’ve been a little more pronounced
There are barely any extra keys and you’ll have to make do with the function keys. Interestingly, it opts for a toggle instead of a hold implementation to trigger the function row. We personally consider this to be the more convenient way of switching between shortcuts and media controls. Sadly, there’s no keyboard backlighting, so using it at night could be difficult.
The slender edges on the Honor MagicBook 15 mean that there’s no space for the webcam above the display. Instead, it pops up from the keyboard with a hard press of the dedicated camera key, which is flanked by the F6 and the F7 keys. Our usage didn’t call for a lot of the webcam, but even for the short durations when we had to, the compromises were evident. There’s no other way to say it: the angle is downright terrible. Not only will the other person get an unflattering angle of your chin, but even the image quality also isn’t good. Moreover, this inherently means that it’s impossible to maintain eye contact at any level.
Though, it does come with a silver lining. Since the camera will rarely be facing you, it is a lot more secure when it comes to privacy.
We also get Windows Hello support with the fingerprint scanner. It is embedded within the power button on the top right (outside of the keyboard layout) and works beautifully. When asleep, a single press is enough to wake the laptop, unlock it and take you within the interface. The entire process takes only about 6 seconds. It Is one of the only laptops in this segment to offer this,
On the other hand, we have a rather large trackpad which seems to have a glass layer on top. It is plenty smooth but the clicks are very inconsistent. Most budget laptops are guilty of this where the top portion of the trackpad barely moves when pressed. Swipe gestures also make the cut for easier multi-tasking. Be sure to spend some time customising the tracking sensitivity.
Once opened, you are greeted with a big display with pretty slim bezels on three sides. The bottom edge has Honor branding once again, but it is easy to forget as the bezels are black in colour, blending in with the surroundings. The display is a 15.6-inch IPS panel with anti-glare coating on top, doing away with stray reflections or glare. It boasts of surprisingly good viewing angles and colour accuracy, which is not something we usually see on laptops in this segment. In fact, all images in this review were edited on the Honor MagicBook 15 itself.
The contrast and black levels are not too bad either. The maximum brightness is just above average, but the minimum brightness is lower than most laptops. Night owls will love it! The overall body of the laptop isn’t much bigger than the display, making it suited for backpacks and compact workspaces without compromising on the viewing experience.
If you’ve followed the computing space recently, you must’ve heard of the wallops AMD has been serving to Intel with its recent chipsets. While that has been true for the most part, the Honor MagicBook 15 in India is not powered by that processor.
Instead, we get a last-gen AMD Ryzen 5 3500U CPU. This is a 12nm quad-core chipset that has a base frequency of 2.1GHz and can go up to 3.7GHz. It is paired with the AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics card with eight cores at 1,200MHz. This package has been created keeping the laptop’s form factor and usage in mind, which is bringing decent performance and battery life.
For most of our general usage which includes many Chrome tabs open at once, light photo editing, and push notifications, the laptop was able to keep up with everything. No surprises here but this level of consistency is rare for laptops in the Rs 40,000 segment. Very rarely did it feel inadequate.
We were even able to run Photoshop and edit two dozen images at once with nary a hiccup. The responsiveness was barely lost. Mixing music on Audacity was a breeze too. Heavier tasks like video editing are doable but it’s a much more difficult process. Scrubbing through the timeline will get laggy once the project gets heavy.
As for gaming, we tried light titles such as PUBG Lite and Falls guys. With tweaks to graphics and resolution, these games can be brought to 60fps without many issues. Just be vary of the heating all across the top of the keyboard and the area closest to the hinge. We didn’t notice any discernible thermal throttling, which is always a good sign.
Overall, the Honor MagicBook 15 is a solid performer and will outclass most other laptops in this segment which are powered by Intel Core i3 chipsets and can compete with equivalent i5 ones as well.
On the audio front, we get two bottom-firing speakers on either side. The output will depend on the base, with wooden tables yielding the best results, and beds, the worst. There’s also Dolby Atmos support for improved audio, and the output drastically improved, not only on headphones but also via the loudspeaker. Even otherwise, the volume levels can also get pretty high, which most ultrabooks fail at.
We also faced some issues connecting to 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. Otherwise, the connection was solid. Bluetooth connectivity was great.
Honor claims a modest 6 hours of battery life for the MagicBook 15. In our testing, that figure was achieved only on the lightest of days which involved just reading or writing. Adding video calls or photo editing to the mix cut it short significantly. Gaming killed it in less than an hour. We would call its battery performance just average.
It also supports 65W fast charging over the USB Type-C port. Firstly, it did not get charged when we tried using other Type-C chargers, 65W or otherwise, defeating the purpose of using the Type-C port. It takes about 90 minutes to go from 0 to full when asleep, which is great. The initial 30 minutes is where the laptop’s battery charges up to 50%, so top-ups are generally more effective. It’s good to see fast charging on a budget laptop.
Honor’s first laptop in India is aimed squarely at the masses who just want something reliable. From that perspective, it’s an easy recommendation as most other laptops in this segment usually cut bigger corners than the MagicBook 15.
According to us, the next best alternative is the new Xiaomi Mi NoteBook 14, which is a little more expensive, but is a more well-rounded machine.
In case you’re worried about the after-sales support, Honor India tells us that it has a network of 15 exclusive and 173 authorized service centres across India. Additionally, for consumers living in areas where service centres are not available, the brand provides free pick-up and drop service to ensure a hassle-free experience. Customer care can be reached at 18002109999.
Buy it if...
You want a premium-looking machine
Very few laptops in this category are as pretty and well-built as the Honor MagicBook 15. The aluminium body, beautiful display and fast charging are rare traits too.
You are looking for reliable performance
The Ryzen 5 3500U is not exceptional, but is still among the better choices available in this segment. Moderate usage such as writing, studying, photo editing and documents should not pose an issue.
Media consumption is a priority
A surprise win; the MagicBook 15 has an expansive display with ample brightness, great colours and no bezels! Even the audio experience was good, with or without headphones.
Don't buy it if...
You need a reliable webcam
The recessed camera implementation is a failure. We wouldn’t recommend using it for anything but the most bare-minimum occasions where you just need to show a face.
You need more storage
While the SSD storage is speedy, it is limited to 256GB and is not user upgradable. You’ll have to lug around an external hard drive or rely on the cloud for your needs.
Your usage demands for better I/O
The port selection over here is pretty bland. You might have to rethink your workflow if you transfer a lot of files locally or use your laptop while it is charging.
Aakash is the engine that keeps TechRadar India running, using his experience and ideas to help consumers get to the right products via reviews, buying guides and explainers. Apart from phones, computers and cameras, he is obsessed with electric vehicles.