Monday, April 22, 2024

First look: HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro is a powerful laptop designed for the age of AI


Credit: Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

It’s Day Zero of MWC 2024 and one of the first companies to launch new products is HONOR.

HONOR has had a strong 2023 and it’s looking to extend its hot streak with a batch of new products. That obviously includes smartphones, like the Magic 6 Pro, but HONOR is also dabbling in the laptop space with its MagicBook series. Never one to let a good trend go to waste, HONOR is betting on AI as the big selling point of its new lineup. Here’s what we think about the HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro, the company’s first “AI PC.”

What’s an AI PC, anyway?

AI PC is essentially a marketing term that Microsoft and its PC-making partners have been pushing in the last few months. On the hardware side, these machines feature AI-ready CPUs and GPUs. But they also borrow a page from the playbook of mobile devices by adding neural processing units (NPUs), which are specialized chips for processing machine learning tasks on-device, rather than having to rely on servers in the cloud. 

These tasks can include simple things like improving the background blur in video calls or finding images in the gallery, but having the NPU onboard means better battery life and faster response times. And because NPUs are supported at a platform level by Microsoft, developers and manufacturers will have an easier time adding new AI-based features over time.

Meanwhile, on the software side, AI PCs come with Windows Copilot, as well as a bevy of features created by OEMs such as HONOR. In short, the term AI PC may sound a lot like an empty buzzword, but there’s actual substance behind it.

HONOR MAGICBook 16 Pro: Plenty of performance

Honor MagicBook Pro 16 2

Credit: Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

So what does HONOR’s AI PC look like? The HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro is powered by a beefy Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor, part of the family previously known as Meteor Lake. That’s a solid upper-mid-range processor that combines six performance cores, eight power-efficient cores, and two low-power cores. This setup will be familiar to anyone who’s been following smartphone SoCs over the last decade — having all these different types of cores should let the system optimize performance and battery life better than before. 

While the Intel Core Ultra 7 chips feature an integrated Arc GPU, HONOR opted to use a discrete GPU on the MagicBook 16 Pro, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060. That’s no slouch — this GPU is found in some recent gaming laptops, so you know the HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro will be able to handle a gaming session or two. When needed, the machine can enter a 140W High-Performance Mode for a bit of extra oomph. In my experience with the device, it performed admirably, though I sadly didn’t get the time to push it to its limits with some heavy gaming.

The HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro brings some impressive specs to the table, making it worth a look if you want a gaming laptop.

There’s also 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage, rounding up what looks like a very competent laptop all around.

You will want to put that dedicated GPU to use, thanks to the beautiful, expansive 16-inch display. It’s a roomy 16:10 format at 3,072 x 1,920 pixels, which is great for productive use and media alike. HONOR says the screen supports 100% of the DCI-P3 and sRGB standards for color reproduction. In my hands-on experience with the MagicBook 16 Pro, the screen looks absolutely gorgeous and bright. It’s smooth too, thanks to the adaptive refresh rate that can go up to 165Hz. The bezels are very thin too at around 3mm on the sides, which gives it a modern, high-end feel.

What does the HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro look like?

As a 16-inch laptop, the HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro is not a small machine by any means. It weighs around 1.86kg and 1.79mm at its thickest. I didn’t find it too bulky in my use, especially considering the display experience you get and the beefy specs. I did take a little offense at the absolute brick of a charger that’s bundled with it, which looks anachronistic in the age of GaN chargers.

I liked the design too. I tested the white version (there’s a purple colorway as well) and the matte paint job gives it a sleek, futuristic look. The subtle rainbow coloring on the laptop lid is a nice throwback to the color-shifting looks of some HONOR phones from a few years ago. I do have some concerns about the durability of the finish, which seems to be prone to scratches.

Honor MagicBook Pro 16 6 Ports

Credit: Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

I am also not sure about the placement of the ports — the two USB-C ports (a Thunderbolt 4 and a 3.2 Gen 2) are both placed on the left side. There’s no port on the right side. The HDMI port, two full-size USB-A ports, and the 3.5mm jack are all hidden on the back of the machine, which makes for a clean look, but may not be ergonomic depending on your specific connectivity needs. 

The HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro gets pleasantly loud. There’s a subwoofer in there, so it can make music sound boomy and satisfying, and overall, it’s a very nice experience compared to the tinny sound of some other laptops.

The MagicBook 16 Pro brings some loud audio and an interesting design, but port placement could be better.

The keyboard is roomy, with crisp key action and an integrated numerical keypad. There’s no Windows Copilot key, but that’s not something most users are likely to actually miss. The dedicated fingerprint scanner felt nice and fast. HONOR equipped its machine with a decently sized trackpad that worked well, but I did notice a tendency to rattle in some cases.

HONOR makes a big deal about the proprietary features it has baked into the MagicBook 16 Pro. Just as other manufacturers aim to offer a unified experience across their different products, users who own both a HONOR laptop and an HONOR phone or tablet will benefit the most from these features. One highlight is the ability to quickly and easily move windows, such as a messaging app, between a phone and the laptop or vice versa. This kind of integration is hard to pull off without hitches, especially when you have different platforms involved, but HONOR seems to have handled it well.

Honor MagicBook Pro 16 1

Credit: Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

HONOR also promised some “platform-level AI features,” like the ability to summarize documents or to find images of specific subjects. These are the type of features that will benefit the most from running on-device models on a dedicated NPU, for privacy, speed, and accessibility. We were not able to test these features out, but from everything we’ve seen with on-device AI functionality on other devices, they are likely to become a key part of the user experience over time.

Should you buy the HONOR MagicBook 16 Pro?

We really liked our time with HONOR’s latest laptop. The company seems to have pulled out all the stops in creating a modern, powerful, and attractive PC designed for the age of AI. For now, the laptop will go on sale in China first, like most HONOR products these days, with a global release scheduled for Q2 2024.

Besides the MagicBook 16 Pro, HONOR also revealed the Pad 9, a large tablet geared towards media consumption, and of course, its flagship phone, the HONOR Magic 6 Pro. 

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