[Review] Powerful But Uninspired: The MSI Prestige 14 Evo
MSI Prestige 14 Evo
This time, I've received the MSI Prestige 14 Evo. Like the rest of the Prestige family, the Prestige 14 Evo is a lightweight machine built for productivity on the go. The 'Evo' suffix refers to Intel's new Evo standard, which is a set of qualifications that guarantee a certain level of user experience. This includes Thunderbolt 4 compatibility, sub-1 second sleep-to-wake time, over 9 hours of battery life with quick charging, and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. You can read more about it here.
The main draw of the Prestige 14 Evo is undoubtedly its beefed-up Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor, which is just a step ahead of most other laptops within its class, which usually boast a more modest i7-1165G7 instead.
However, apart from that, I didn't really find much else to get excited about as it was pretty much the same laptop apart from a few minor tweaks to its keyboard and port selection (which - spoiler alert - aren't necessarily for the better).
Recognisable design with an updated logo
The exterior of the laptop features the same smooth metal finish we've grown used to - it's classy and stylish, though the texture is still quite a fingerprint magnet. However, MSI has outgrown its teenage pains and updated their non-gaming lineup with a much sleeker typographic logo, which I really dig.
Built for portability, it's extremely lightweight and slim. The hinge folds under the chassis, giving it a little bit of a lift for improved ventilation and a slight tilt to make your wrists feel more comfortable while typing.
The entire chassis does bend a bit under pressure, but it's nothing too concerning or unusual, especially in such a lightweight build. Its chamfered edges are electric blue, which adds a nice touch to its austere grey chassis.
All in all, it looks elegant and boardroom-worthy without being too boring.
Same old, same old
The display is a full HD IPS-level screen - pretty standard for a laptop like this. The images are pretty crisp, though the backlighting is still a little underwhelming if you're the type who enjoys working in sunny areas. However, if you're an indoor-sy person like myself, then you'll be just fine.
On the bright side, there's an IR camera mounted on the respectably slim bezels, which is pretty much a requisite for this pandemic-stricken era. The quality is nothing to write home about, but it will suffice for video conferencing.
One thing that has regretfully stayed the same since the last Prestige is, unfortunately, the speakers. There's really nothing redeeming about it - the volume is mediocre, the bass and mids are non-existent, and you're really much better off getting a decent headset.
Some questionable changes
At first glance, one might easily mistake this as a pure rehash of last generation's Prestige with a couple of hardware upgrades. However, as mentioned earlier, there are a few subtle tweaks that I found a bit puzzling.
Firstly, the keyboard has been updated to match the MSI Modern that I reviewed not too long ago. As I mentioned back then, I'm extremely unimpressed with what appears to be a completely unnecessary design update.
The bottom row is the main offender, with the left function key completely obliterated in favour of a larger control key. To the right of the spacebar, you'll find an additional backslash that the typical user would probably have no use for, as well as the last remaining function key, which has magically fused into a Siamese twin a long with the right control key.
On the plus side, you'll enjoy a dedicated print screen key - though that's situated rather unfortunately next to the power button, which makes for some very fun mis-presses.
Apart from the keyboard, the other main design change is its port selection and layout. MSI has gone for a more minimalist selection, with just two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left, which double as fast-charging ports, as well as just one Type-A port, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack on the right.
Basically, you'll lose the HDMI port and one Type-A port, but gain one extra Thunderbolt 4 port in return. However, the Type-A port is inexplicably USB 2.0, which is in stark contrast to its speedy Thunderbolt 4 neighbours.
The new port selection may or may not be good news to you, depending on the selection of peripherals you use.
On the bright side, the touchpad remains as large as ever, and is a pleasure to use.
Still a good performer
Despite all my gripes above the exterior, what's inside is where it counts. The i7-1185G7 did a great job tearing through my general scope of work, which involves some Photoshop along with having a huge amount of Chrome tabs as well as Spotify open. Everything felt fast and responsive, and the Xe graphics handled mainstream game titles like Dota 2, CS:GO and Genshin Impact admirably.
It's a notable step up from the integrated graphics of old, and was perfectly capable of running the aforementioned titles at a steady 50-70 FPS at 1080p, albeit at lower quality settings. It's definitely a great bonus to be able to squeeze some light gaming in, considering that this laptop was designed more for work purposes.
When put through some synthetic benchmarks, it held it's own as well, with the i7-1185G7 giving it a slight edge over its counterparts.
In terms of battery life, it was just okay. When put through my typical daily workload, the 52Wh battery lasted just around 6 hours with the brightness set to 60%, which isn't stellar, but is decent enough. You can also tweak the battery options within the MSI Centre app, which might help you last longer through the day.
As for temperatures, it fared well during everyday tasks like web browsing and Photoshop. While gaming, it heated up quite a bit - enough that you wouldn't want it on your bare thigh, but who games with the laptop on their lap anyway? In any case, I'd recommend an air-conditioned environment while putting the laptop under load.
Buy or no buy?
Now that we've talked about its strengths and shortcomings, it's time to address the another important factor - the price. Retailing at RM5,199, it certainly doesn't come cheap. While the performance does pack quite a punch for laptops within its class, for this price I'd prefer a more compelling package which includes better audio and a less clunky keyboard to go along with the beefy specs.
In any case, it's still a pretty strong ultraportable, albeit with not much innovation to make it stand out against the ever-increasing competition. If you want the increased power of the 1185G7 packed into a sleek and extremely portable chassis, I'd say that the MSI Prestige 14 Evo is a decent choice. However, if you're looking for something more well-rounded that combines both power and a great user experience, you might want to look elsewhere for now.