MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: fast but flawed

MSI’s Status 14 laptop computer line is historically marketed to content material creators. However the Status 14 Evo is in a little bit of a murkier spot. It’s priced beneath the Status 14, beginning at $1,099, and it doesn’t have the discrete GPU or high-resolution display that will render it a compelling content-creation machine. Regardless of its title, the Status 14 Evo is an on a regular basis productiveness laptop computer.

Sadly, that makes it a more durable promote. The 14-inch shopper laptop computer house at this value level is completely stuffed; there are a number of machines at comparable costs that just do about the whole lot very, very nicely. A laptop computer with even one important downside goes to have hassle rising to the highest of the pack. Sadly, the Status 14 Evo has quite a few them.

That doesn’t imply there’s nothing distinctive concerning the machine. The Status is without doubt one of the few 14-inch laptops you should buy that features the Core i7-1185G7, Intel’s strongest chip for ultraportables. This evaluation is my first have a look at the flagship processor (outdoors of a reference design that I had for just a few days final yr) — many of the prime laptops that I’ve reviewed just lately embrace the Core i7-1165G7, which is a step down.

That undoubtedly makes the Status 14 Evo one of the crucial highly effective 14-inch Intel laptops you should buy at its value level. However does the 1185G7 supply considerably higher efficiency than different Intel programs, or Apple’s M1 MacBooks, to outweigh shortcomings within the chassis? For almost all of customers, the reply goes to be no.

Learn extra: MSI Summit B15 evaluation and MSI Status 14 evaluation

The MSI Prestige 14 Evo from the front, open. The screen displays The Verge homepage. A mug is on its right and a ball and a mason jar half filled with water are on its left. In the background are plants.

Right here it’s from the entrance.

Should you’ve seen or used final yr’s Status 14, the chassis isn’t massively completely different. The Evo has the identical light-weight construct with a fold-under hinge, a fingerprint sensor within the top-left nook of the touchpad, and an honest keyboard that’s plasticky however snug total. My mannequin is “carbon grey,” however the end additionally is available in “rose pink” and “pure white.”

One replace you’ll most likely discover is that there’s a brand new brand. MSI’s traditional dragon has been confined to its gaming fashions; the Status now has the identical plain-old MSI letters because the business-chic Summit Collection. The ports have additionally been rearranged. The Evo contains two USB-C ports on the left in addition to a USB-A, a microSD, and a headphone jack on the precise; final yr’s Status had the microSD on the left and a further USB-A on the precise. I’m unhappy to lose the extra USB-A (and the one which’s there may be solely USB 2.0, which is an outdated normal at this level), but it surely’s an okay port choice both means.

The back right corner of the MSI Prestige 14.

The chassis has a contact of blue across the edges.

The MSI Prestige 14 Evo keyboard seen from above.

Not seen right here, however the keyboard’s backlit.

I’ve a number of points with the chassis, although. First, it’s fairly a fingerprint magnet, and the lid was coated in seen smudges after just some days of use. It additionally has a little bit of a plasticky really feel, with some flex in each the display and the deck. Second, not solely does the 1920 x 1080 show have a cramped 16:9 side ratio, but it surely’s additionally dim, maxing out at 248 nits in my testing. Which means it received’t be an incredible selection to be used outdoor or in different vibrant settings.

Third, the touchpad had some palm-rejection points: my proper hand rested naturally on the precise half of the touchpad whereas I used to be typing, and the cursor was continuously leaping round on my display. (MSI says they haven’t heard this grievance concerning the Evo’s touchpad earlier than.) Lastly, the audio isn’t nice — it’s tinny, bass is sort of nonexistent, and there’s not sufficient quantity to fill a room. You’ll be able to take a look at my evaluation of final yr’s Status 14 for a extra in-depth dialogue of all these options.

The MSI logo on the bottom bezel of the MSI Prestige 14 Evo.

MSI debuted its new brand this previous yr.

The fingerprint sensor on the MSI Prestige 14 Evo.

This isn’t my favourite location for a fingerprint sensor, as a righty.

The most important upgrades are on the within — the Evo is powered by Intel’s newest eleventh Gen processors. The bottom Status 14 features a Core i5-1135G7, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. (RAM is soldered and there aren’t further storage slots, however you possibly can swap out the SSD.) The $1,149 mannequin I’m utilizing bumps that as much as a Core i7-1185G7. Each processors include Intel’s Iris Xe built-in graphics.

Setting apart the chassis, $1,149 is an okay deal for that system. For value comparisons, Asus’ Zenbook 14 with 512GB of storage, a Core i7-1165G7, and 8GB of RAM is $899.99. The M1 MacBook Air is $1,449 for a similar specs. If you need one thing with a GPU, the common Status 14 with a GTX 1650 Max-Q and 1TB of storage is $1,549.

The Status 14 Evo is licensed by Intel’s Evo platform, which suggests Intel has verified that it meets quite a few efficiency benchmarks (together with “all-day” battery life and one-second boot time) and contains fashionable facilities like Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+).

The MSI Prestige 14 Evo keyboard from the left side seen from above.

Some fashions come bundled with a sleeve.

The 1185G7 did a high-quality job with my normal workload of apps, dozens of Chrome tabs, Zoom calls, gentle picture modifying, and the like. I by no means needed to suppose twice about loading extra duties on — not solely did the followers not freak out throughout my common workday, however I by no means even heard them spin up. (I did sometimes hear some coil whine, which was annoying.) The keyboard and the underside of the chassis remained cool as nicely. The expertise was fairly similar to that of utilizing an M1 Macbook Air or some other prime ultraportable as a day by day driver.

To extra immediately evaluate the 1185G7 to different chips (primarily Apple’s M1), I ran quite a few artificial benchmarks. The outcomes had been a blended bag — you possibly can see them within the chart beneath:

MSI Status 14 Evo benchmarks

Benchmark Rating
Benchmark Rating
Cinebench R23 Multi 5538
Cinebench R23 Single 1475
Cinebench R23 Multi looped for half-hour 5511
Geekbench 5.3 CPU Multi 5769
Geekbench 5.3 CPU Single 1547
Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL / Compute 19037

In our testing, the MacBook Air beat the Status 14 Evo on each benchmark right here aside from Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL / Compute and the 30-minute Cinebench loop (which is smart, for the reason that MacBook Air doesn’t have a fan). It’s notably notable that the 1185G7 loses to the M1 on each single-core benchmarks; single-core efficiency is often Intel’s power, however not right here.

The ports on the right side of the MSI Prestige 14 Evo.

One USB 2.0 Kind-A, one microSD card reader, and one mixture audio jack on the precise.

The ports on the left side of the MSI Prestige 14 Evo.

Two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left.

The MSI Prestige 14 Evo laid out flat, seen from the right.

The fold-under hinge lifts the deck a bit off the desk.

I additionally put the Status 14 Evo by two demanding real-world duties: the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark and a five-minute, 33-second 4K video export in Premiere Professional. The Evo’s outcomes right here had been fairly similar to these of the MacBook Air. The Evo ran Tomb Raider (lowest settings, native decision) at 38fps, which is similar to what the Air received in our testing. The Asus Zenbook 14 with a Core i7-1165G7 put up 29fps on the identical title.

The Status accomplished the export in eight minutes and 9 seconds. That’s the quickest time I’ve ever seen from a mass-production Iris Xe machine; the Zenbook took 11 minutes and 28 seconds. That stated, it’s actually just a few seconds sooner than the MacBook Air, which clocked in at eight minutes and 15 seconds.

Total, the 1185G7 is a transparent enchancment over lower-clocked Tiger Lake chips (however the 1165G7 is nice sufficient that you just possible received’t discover the distinction outdoors of demanding duties). Its built-in graphics appear to be neck and neck with these of the M1. (Intel’s Fast Sync can be possible a consider that speedy export time.) However the artificial benchmarks, that are extra of a tough approximation of CPU functionality, point out that the Status would possibly fall behind on different duties, relying in your workload.

I did see some battery drain throughout the export, regardless of the laptop computer being plugged in. It seems that the Status comes with overcharge safety that retains it from charging if it’s plugged in above a sure share. You’ll be able to swap between battery-capacity profiles in MSI’s Heart for Enterprise and Productiveness.

The laptop computer appeared to wrestle to chill the chip, as did final yr’s Status 14 (although that mannequin additionally had a discrete GPU to fret about). All through all of my testing, the CPU was constantly within the mid-90s (Celsius) — and that was with the followers audibly blasting.

Battery life is okay, however not one of the best. I averaged six hours and 12 minutes of steady sustained work, with the display round 200 nits of brightness. That’s not a catastrophe, but it surely’s solely a bit forward of the earlier Status 14, which had discrete graphics and a smaller battery. (I received about six hours, with the identical workload, out of that machine.) And it’s considerably worse than the MacBook Air, which gave my colleague Dieter Bohn as much as 10 hours to a cost. I even received over an hour extra out of the Zenbook 14. In comparison with each programs, that’s a heck of loads of battery life to surrender for a nonexistent-to-small acquire in real-world efficiency.

The Prestige 14 Evo open, seen from the left.

The Status 14 Evo weighs 2.84 kilos and is 0.63 inches thick.

Lastly, the Status comes preloaded with some junk, together with Norton, which despatched me annoying pop-ups till I uninstalled it. This isn’t the top of the world, but it surely’s nonetheless a bit irritating to see on a laptop computer that prices over $1,000. I additionally discovered MSI’s Heart for Enterprise and Productiveness to be a little bit of a ache to make use of — my clicks had been considerably sluggish to register, and the software program sometimes froze or crashed. (It does have helpful options, although, together with the Utility Optimizer which lets you manually distribute CPU energy between packages.)

The Status 14 Evo is a purposeful, moveable machine with a heck of a processor inside. It’s at all times spectacular to see a lot energy in such a skinny chassis. That stated, the Evo doesn’t appear fairly able to accommodate the chip, or the demanding duties that you just would possibly wish to do when you’re searching for a 1185G7. It’s capable of sport, and it’s capable of export, however I can inform that the followers are struggling to maintain up.

For that motive, I’ve hassle seeing a case for the Status 14 Evo over opponents. The laptop computer is okay, purposeful, and spectacular on the within — however from the dim display and outdated port to the skinny audio and coil whine, there are too many compromises for which a hefty chip has to make up. For almost all of laptop computer patrons who don’t want a barely higher display or discrete graphics, extra reasonably priced 1165G7 programs just like the Zenbook 14 come with out these kinks however with higher battery life and near the identical efficiency and portability advantages. Should you’re keen to pay only a bit extra, the MacBook Air performs simply as nicely if not higher in most duties and is a major step up in nearly each different space. The Status 14 Evo is in a bizarre place within the center, and it doesn’t fairly match.