[Review] Great for Work and Play: The MSI Modern 14 (B11S)
MSI Modern 14
Designed for users on the go, the MSI Modern 14 (B11S) is completely devoid of the garishness of its gaming counterparts and presents a sleek and compact exterior, complete with their new business logo that was announced last year along with their 11th Gen Intel lineup.
Measuring in at just 16.9mm thick and 1.3kg in weight, the MSI Modern 14 is an ultra-portable that allows you to take your work anywhere you want to go. Apart from minor quibbles, I found that it was overall a decent laptop for work and light gaming needs.
The Modern 14 comes in 3 colours - Carbon Grey, Bluestone, and Beige Mousse, which is the unit we received. Personally, I like the colour a lot - it's elegant and feminine without going all-out with the usual pink. The champagne tone pairs well with the matte metallic finish, and the rounded edges both look and feel good. The MSI logo is imprinted in a different texture, and looks beautiful under certain lighting angles.
Lifting the lid will elevate the keyboard deck, much like ASUS' Ergolift hinge design. This allows better airflow and a more ergonomic typing experience.
On the bottom, you'll find 1 plastic and 1 rubber strip instead of the usual tiny feet. While they weren't super grippy, they definitely felt very reassuring especially when I had to push the laptop across the table. You'll also find vents in a music equaliser pattern here, as well as along the hinge.
The Modern 14 boasts MIL-STD-810G certification, so it should withstand most shocks, drops, and extreme temperature changes. I didn't test this out on the review unit as I didn't want to be blacklisted by MSI, but it's nice to know that theoretically, it's built to withstand klutzes like me.
Display and audio
While this laptop is more for general productivity work, the 14" IPS-level display still performs adequately. In terms of colour accuracy, it covers 72% NTSC and 'close to 100%' sRGB, whatever that means. In any case, you can probably do light creative work on this, but if you want to do serious colour correction, you might want to invest in a laptop with a better display.
Screen brightness is great indoors, but is underwhelming under bright sunlight, so you might want to find a shady place to work. If you open the included MSI True Color app, you can choose from 4 color presets, including sRGB, Anti-Blue, Office, and Movie, along with an additional Custom option.
There's no obvious light bleed on the edges, and while the lid has some flex in it, it's nothing too concerning.
As expected, the bezels are nice and slim, and you'll find a 720p webcam perched on top - perfect for conference calls which are getting more and more common nowadays.
As for the audio, my best recommendation is to just get a pair of earphones, because the speakers are mediocre in every way. The maximum volume is abysmal and even so, it manages to have some crackle and distortion. Basically, it's your typical laptop speaker la. They are also downfiring, so if you want to hear anything at all, prepare to use it on a hard and flat surface for maximum effect - no snuggling under the sheets and watching Netflix unless you have some buds with you.
Keyboard and touchpad
As this is a 14" laptop, understandably it doesn't have a numpad, but it does have a simplified home cluster located on the right.
Typing on it is comfortable with a key travel of 1.5mm and decent tactility. The keyboard is backlit with white LEDs, and the keycaps themselves have a white border that allows light to peek out.
As for the layout, frankly I am not a fan of the bottom row, which has oddly gone for an extended left control key and forgone the left function key altogether, which is annoying as I usually use my left hand to toggle functions. However, there IS a function lock option, so it isn't too bad. Adding on to the weird bottom row layout is a merged function and control key and an additional backslash key, which serves no purpose in my opinion.
The power key and arrow keys are nestled into the main cluster, which is not uncommon in laptops of this size, but is still something to take note of if you misclick often.
That said, I do like the shortcuts located in the function keys. Apart from the usual brightness and volume keys, you have a dedicated mic and webcam toggle, a shortcut key to the MSI Center app, and a screen flip button that allows you to show someone sitting opposite what you're working on (after you've laid the screen flat, of course.)
As for the touch pad, it's pretty basic - it does its job decently, though I feel it could have had a smoother surface. It has a slightly darker hue compared to the chassis, but doesn't look discordant overall.
Ports and connectivity
All the ports are located on upper half of each side of the chassis, so even the right-facing ports don't really interfere with mouse movement.
On the left, you'll find the charging port, an HDMI port, a Micro-USB card reader as well as a USB 4.0 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 4.0 support, which is great. The review guide also mentioned that the latter supports USB-C charging, which opens up even more versatility to keep your machine juiced up on the go.
On the right, you'll find two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports along with an audio combo jack.
Overall, the port selection is as expected for an ultra-portable laptop, though I would have preferred a full-sized card reader instead of a Micro-SD - however, this is really subject to your individual user habits.
In terms of connectivity, the Modern 14 has Intel Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax) for a speedy connection, as well as Bluetooth 5.1.
MSI Center for Business
Basically a fancy name for the laptop's control panel, but it gets the job done. Here you'll find an array of tools to monitor the status of your laptop and tweak the settings as needed.
Battery Master provides 4 presets to manage and prolong your battery lifecycle. For users on the go, you can opt to allow the laptop to charge to 100% so you can rest assured that your laptop will last as long as possible. Meanwhile, those who spend more time plugged into the wall can opt for a different settings that allows a maximum charge of 60% or 80%, and only begins charging after the battery falls below a certain threshold.
System Checker allows you to check the status of your hardware at a glance, including your SSD health, and allows you to clean up your disk and memory with just one click.
This is also where you can enable or disable the Windows key, or swap it with the right function key.
Specs and performance
Packing Intel's latest 11th Gen i7-1165G7 processor and 16GB of RAM, this iteration of the Modern 14 promises excellent performance for general productivity tasks. Throw in a discrete NVIDIA MX450 GPU, and you have a reliable little workhorse that can sustain some light gaming as well.
I tested out CS:GO, and it fared pretty well even on high settings. It hovered between 50 and 70 FPS, depending on how much is going on at the moment. I then fired up Genshin Impact, and it was extremely playable at low settings. World exploration was a steady 60 FPS while combat caused frame rates to dip as low as 40 FPS, depending on the amount of particles flying around on screen. Loading times were also pretty decent, which was surprising.
HOWEVER, the keyboard did get uncomfortably hot after just a short period of time - not unbearably so, but enough to turn me off. If you plan on gaming on this laptop, it's best to play in a cool room and on low settings to not overtax it. Apart from the vents on the bottom, the only ones appear to be this short strip along the hinge.
Of course, this is by no means a gaming laptop, but it's nice to know you can sneak in a game or two, and clear your resin in Genshin when you're stuck at the office overnight (like me right now, heh).
As for general work tasks, I usually juggle anywhere from 7 to 10 Chrome tabs with Spotify and Photoshop running in the background, and this laptop performed well overall. There was no discernible lag, and loading times were quick.
The 512GB SSD can be maxed out up to a 2TB one, though usually you won't need that much storage space for a portable workstation.
In terms of battery life, I didn't quite get to the 10 hours boasted by MSI, but the 52Wh battery lasted around 7 hours on 60% brightness while doing my usual workload - watching videos, reading articles, light Photoshop work, and writing this very review.
All in all, I'm very satisfied with its work performance, and although thermals while gaming were a bit high for my taste, it's definitely a bonus just to be able to play on a productivity laptop.
The MSI Modern 14 packs an admirable amount of power within such a small chassis. Although I do have some reservations about the audio quality and keyboard layout, these problems are easily overcome by bringing along a pair of earbuds and acclimatising yourself to the keyboard layout with prolonged use (as I quickly did during this review period).
If you're after a stylish and lightweight laptop with more than enough power to plough through your daily workload and fit in some gaming on the side, the MSI Modern 14 is definitely a choice worth considering.
The retail price is RM4,499. For more information, head on over to the official product page here.