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MSI Prestige 14 review: hot pink and hot in your lap

A stylish ultrabook for content creators

Photography by Avery White

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The MSI Prestige 14 isn’t a new machine — it’s been kicking around since last October — but it’s just been released in a new color: a very pink color. I spent a week with one of the first “rose pink” units, and it’s an excellent laptop for making a fashion statement — and a so-so laptop for everything else.  

MSI, until recently, has been known for making bulky, garish gaming laptops. In the past few years, the company has made several attempts to break from this mold and compete with the MacBooks and Dell XPS laptops of the world, including its sleek Creator series and budget-oriented Modern devices. The Prestige lineup, which comes in 14- and 15-inch sizes, is its latest attempt, marketed to content creators. 

It’s not surprising to see MSI branching into this space. Specs-wise, a good gaming laptop and a good “creator” laptop shouldn’t look all that different; both need a powerful processor, a discrete GPU, and the cooling mechanisms necessary to sustain demanding tasks. 

But there are a few things that a creator laptop needs to do better than a gaming laptop. It needs an excellent, color-accurate screen, and, as a device you’re more likely to use at work and on the go, it should have an attractive and compact design. The Prestige 14 does a decent job on both counts, but it doesn’t knock the former out of the park to the point where I can recommend this laptop to serious creators.   

The Prestige 14 I’ve been testing costs $1,399 and includes a Core i7-10710U, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU (don’t confuse this with the regular GTX 1650 that’s in the Dell XPS 15; the Max-Q is a lower-end chip that tends to pop up in light, thin laptops), 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 1920 x 1080 IPS panel. MSI plans to release a pink model with a 4K screen, but it hasn’t yet announced pricing or availability. 

This is a product people will notice. Bright pink laptops are a rare sight; the Quartz Razer Blade Stealth 13 is the only competitor in this category that you’ll find in a similar color. Even the Prestige’s screws are pink. Everywhere I brought it, somebody commented on the color. It also comes with a matching pink case, mouse, and keychain of Lucky the Dragon, MSI’s mascot. 

This is definitely a laptop people will notice

I like the pink a lot. It’s a fashion statement that stands out. If that’s not what you’re after, look elsewhere.

I sometimes worry about durability with such a thin chassis, but the Prestige does look and feel like a nice laptop. There’s a bit of flex in the screen, but I don’t feel like I could snap the thing in half, and there’s flex in the keyboard if you press very hard. The device was battered around in my backpack during a weekend trip, and it came out free of scratches and dents. 

The Prestige 14 didn’t weigh my backpack down much either. It’s fairly light, at just 2.8 pounds (1.27 kg), and I could squeeze it into my stuffed bag and carry it around without a problem. That’s lighter than most other laptops with its GPU. (The quartz Razer Blade Stealth 13, arguably its closest competitor, weighs 3.1 pounds.) It’s about average for an ultrabook of its size, however: HP’s Spectre x360 13 undercuts it at 2.7 pounds, and the Asus Zenbook 14 UX433FN gets down to 2.6 pounds, though both base models have integrated graphics. 

The Prestige’s display, unfortunately, does not stand out as much. The 1080p panel only got up to around 282 nits of brightness, which is dimmer than many laptops in its category. (Last year’s Razer Blade Stealth, which isn’t even aimed at creators, tops out at 346.) The screen covers 100 percent of the sRGB color gamut and around 74 percent of the wider Adobe RGB. That’s usable and better than the Blade Stealth, but it doesn’t approach the accuracy you’ll get from premium displays, such as the OLED panel on the Dell XPS 15

That said, the screen is fine for casual use. The matte texture does a good job of eliminating glare; you’ll have no problem using this outside or in bright indoor settings. I watched the dark indoor scenes at the beginning of The Witcher in a bright room, and I couldn’t see my reflection at all. While watching the same scenes on the glossy MacBook Pro screen, I could see a clear watermark of myself and the wall behind me, which heavily interfered with the viewing experience. 

The panel’s darks were deep, even at full brightness. Lighter colors, such as the reds and pinks of the flowers in Stregobor’s courtyard, were vivid, though not quite as sharp as they were on the MacBook. I also noticed a bit of ghosting in fast action scenes, such as the final battle in Avengers: Endgame. It wasn’t hugely distracting, but it was still disappointing to see on a computer that’s marketing itself on its excellent screen. 

The darks were deep, even at full brightness

In creative tasks, the Prestige got the job done but wasn’t an exceptional performer. I had no issue converting videos, copying files, or exporting clips smoothly and in a reasonable amount of time. But out of curiosity, I also looped Cinebench R20, which leverages the CPU to render a complex image, and each run scored in the high 1300s. That’s worse than the Spectre x360, which Tom’s Hardware clocked at 1,572. The Razer Blade Stealth tends to hit the mid-1400s, while larger creator machines like the Prestige 15 and the Dell XPS 15 blow all three out of the water. 

Can the Max-Q handle gaming? Well, kind of. Call of Duty: Black Ops II was fairly playable at native resolution (1080p) and default (medium) settings, hitting around the high 30fps and low 40fps range. When I upped the settings even a little bit, however, I immediately had problems. My character’s movements became stuttery, and there was a lot of lag in the explosions around me. At maximum settings, the Prestige was topping out at 20fps. Only at the lowest-possible settings did it hit 60. The laptop had an easier time with the less-demanding Rocket League. The game was very playable at maximum settings, running very smoothly at over 70 frames per second. 

Handily, the base model comes with a 512GB SSD, allowing you to store both creative assets and a few games if need be. (You’ll need to fork over $1,899 for the 512GB version of the Razer Blade Stealth.) Outside of heavy gaming, this is a fun laptop to use. It handled heavy multitasking well; with Spotify streaming and Slack running, I got up to 29 Chrome tabs before I noticed any slowdown. 

So what’s the trade-off? As you may have guessed, it’s the cooling.

There’s a reason why it’s uncommon to see a graphics card in a notebook this light. Thinner devices often lack the cooling capacity to run at high speeds for long periods of time. Case in point: the Prestige 14 runs very warm. While I was browsing with just four or five Chrome tabs, the bottom of the chassis was hot enough to be slightly uncomfortable on my jeans, and it would have been painful were I wearing shorts. At my desk, the fans were often so loud that colleagues around me were concerned. While I was gaming, the wrist rests and keyboard were so hot that typing was actually uncomfortable.   

Another nontrivial sacrifice you’re making with the Prestige 14 is battery life. I could only squeeze out about six hours from the machine at half brightness and default battery settings, which slightly prefer battery over performance. My workflow included browsing through about a dozen Chrome tabs, Slack, and the occasional Spotify stream or YouTube video. If you’re doing more demanding tasks that leverage the GPU, you’ll get even less juice. Six hours isn’t terrible — it’s more than we got out of the quartz Razer Blade Stealth — but it means the machine won’t last a full workday. 

If you can stomach the warmth and don’t mind carrying a charger, the laptop’s other features are fine. The Windows Precision touchpad is smooth. (The button produces more of a “thud” than it does a click.) I had no issues with palm rejection, and the gestures all worked well, though even at the highest sensitivity, I had to tap a bit harder than was comfortable for clicks to register. The keys, while not particularly clicky, have comfortable travel, and I tended to score mid-high 120s on typing tests, which is close to (but not quite) my typical average. The tilde key is very small, which irked me as someone who often uses tildes in her passwords. But if you have to compromise on one key, I guess that’s a fair candidate. 

Decent port selection, and a dongle comes in the box

Port selection is serviceable; I could plug in everything I needed to. On the left, there are two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and a microSD card slot. On the right, there are two USB 2.0 Type-A ports and a headphone jack. MSI includes a USB-C dongle that includes an additional microSD card slot, a full-size SD card slot, two USB 3.0 ports, and an Ethernet jack. Hopefully, that means you won’t need to buy any USB-C adapters of your own

You can secure the Prestige in three ways: a PIN, a fingerprint reader in the top-left corner of the touchpad, and Windows Hello facial recognition. They all worked well in my tests. I had no problems with the fingerprint reader, even with my finger placed at varied angles. Windows Hello was able to pick up my face in dim light and with different makeup looks, though it didn’t recognize me without my glasses.

The 720p webcam is usable. It produced a decently clear and well-lit image of my face, but edges (such as my hairline) were grainy and pixelated. There’s an HDR option, but it just seemed to wash out the image a bit. 

The audio from the Prestige’s pair of two-watt speakers is not very good. At max volume, they are nowhere near loud enough to fill a room; I tried to play a song for a friend in a classroom, and we could both barely hear it from a few feet away. And while, up close, I could hear the percussion in various songs I played, the bass was nonexistent. You can adjust equalizer settings in Nahimic, a native audio app, but even after I turned the bass tones all the way up, they didn’t pop through. 

The Prestige comes with some creative software installed, including video- and audio-editing apps directly from MSI and a couple of third-party services for music. There’s also some junk, including Candy Crush and a few other games, but nothing was intrusive, apart from the occasional pop-up from Norton.

Ultimately, I don’t recommend this laptop for serious gaming, and I’m hesitant to recommend it for professional creators. The screen certainly looks good, but I’d expect better brightness and improved color accuracy from a display that’s primarily to be used for artistic work. There are cheaper options with better screens, such as the $1,099 HP Spectre x360 13, and last year’s Dell OLED XPS 15 is only $200 more. The Prestige 14’s $1,699 4K model, which MSI says covers 100 percent of Adobe RGB and Notebookcheck measured at 513 nits, is likely a better buy for creative professionals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come in pink yet. 

But while MSI has missed its target market, the Prestige 14 is still a fine general-use laptop. It does well with everyday browsing, streaming, and light gaming. If you’re looking for an ultraportable device with a finish that turns heads, it’s a decent option — but you need to be willing to take some heat. 

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