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Honor MagicBook 14 hands-on: They ruined the excellent formula…

The Honor MagicBook had a lot going for it. It wasn’t a crazy spec-per-ringgit device, sure, but it had a lot of other stuff going for it. It had good speakers, build and a decent screen while being portable enough to carry daily. On top of that, you got a good amount of SSD storage too.

Now, they’ve updated it to the MagicBook 14, but in doing so they’ve also upset the excellent formula that they had with the older model.

For those who are unable to watch the video, here’s a summary of my thoughts.

What’s new

The new MagicBook 14 has an updated design that adds a little pizzazz to the laptop. While the previous MagicBook had more serious navy-grey colourway, this one comes in a silver chassis with a pop of blue around the chamfer. Looks pretty slick, but still restrained enough that it’ll fit in even in the most stuffy boardrooms. An added benefit of this new shell is that the laptop is now lighter, weighing 1.38kg.

Honor did remove the speaker grilles flanking the keyboard, though I don’t think that’s a big deal. On the predecessor, it didn’t seem like those grilles did much of anything as most of the sound came out of the bottom firing grilles. In this case, the speakers still sound great for its class and I’d say it’s indistinguishable from the MagicBook it succeeds.

While the Full HD display looks pretty much identical to the predecessor, the bezels around it has been shaved significantly down. However, that also means there’s no space on the top for a webcam. Now, it’s a pop-up unit in the keyboard similar to its Huawei cousins. I’m not a fan of this because I think it’s an unflattering angle and has no support for Windows Hello. There is, however, still a fingerprint scanner built into the power button.

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Interestingly, the battery on the device is smaller, measuring 56Wh instead of the 57.4Wh cell you’d find in the older MagicBook. That said, I don’t think this will affect battery life by much.

What’s the same

Internals are pretty similar, which is unfortunate because it means you still get the same Ryzen 5 3500U processor. I would have loved to see an upgrade to the Ryzen 4000 series chips because those represent a big performance increase, but alas that is not the case.

Memory configuration has now been adjusted. The base model comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, while those who want more can opt for the 16GB RAM and 512GB storage model instead.

The MagicBook 14 retains the excellent I/O port selection which I like. The backlit keyboard also feels identical, which is to say that it’s serviceable but not super awesome to type on. Unfortunately, the trackpad has also been retained which I never really liked on the MagicBook.

And, despite the new looks, the build quality of the chassis feels unchanged. The metal body still has the less-than-premium feel to it, with the same kind of flexing on the keyboard deck. It’s OK for the price, but I would have liked to see a little more rigidity.

The thing I really don’t like

Despite so much of the laptop being the same, with only minor updates here and there, the new Honor MagicBook 14 is actually more expensive this time around.

You see, the base model is now priced at RM2,499, which is an RM200 price hike of the previous MagicBook. While that maybe would have been OK if they kept the same memory configuration, but as you can see the base model is now only 256GB rather than 512GB like on the previous MagicBook.

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That means for RM200 extra, you’re effectively getting half the storage for a couple of blue accents and a new silver colourway. Not worth it, in my opinion. What’s more, I absolutely preferred the 8GB RAM+512GB storage configuration over the 8GB+256GB and 16GB+512GB. I think the 8GB+512GB strikes the better balance because for most work and play stuff, 8GB of RAM is sufficient. I don’t need the extra RAM.

Photography by Zachary Yoong with the Sony A7 III.

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