MSI is quite well established as a gaming brand. The company makes excellent peripherals and sensibly specced laptops that are always toeing performance boundaries. Thus, when the company announced its ‘PS’ lineup of “pro” laptops, I was intrigued.
The PS series of laptops cater to design professionals. Where the gaming laptops feature software and optimisations for no-holds-barred gaming, the PS series offers software and optimisations for no-holds-barred creativity.
Central to these optimisations is MSI’s Creator Centre, a software suite not unlike MSI’s Dragon Centre for gaming laptops. This Creator Centre offers users more control over the resources their laptop has to offer. You can also use it to reconfigure buttons like the Fn key, change your monitor’s colour profiles and more.
More importantly, this is where you enable Creator Mode, a series of performance optimisations designed to enhance performance in apps like Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop. MSI claims that they’ve seen a 15-20 percent bump in performance with the optimisations turned on.
Now that we know what the PS series is about, let's take a look at the MSI PS63 Modern 8rc, a more entry-level entrant in this series.
In terms of hardware, you get a slim and light laptop (1.6 kg) with a 15.6-inch FHD display. It’s powered by a low-power Intel Core i7-8565U CPU, 16 GB RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Max-Q GPU with 4 GB VRAM. For storage, you get a 512 GB high-speed NVMe SSD.
In terms of raw power, this doesn’t promise much, especially because you do get more powerful options in the same price range. The U series CPU is good enough for light work but not heavy editing, and that Max-Q 1050 will struggle to satisfy gamers or in heavy rendering workloads.
Thankfully, one thing the MSI does offer which others in this price range (Rs 1,29,999) don’t is a pre-calibrated display. Calibration is necessary for ensuring colour-accuracy. This is very valuable for professionals who work with apps like Photoshop and Premiere because a good display can help them perform more accurate colour grading.
On the other hand, the display only manages a colour gamut of 90 percent sRGB and a middling brightness of 222 nits. For reference, a MacBook Pro, which retails for about the same price, offers a higher resolution display with a gamut of 140 percent sRGB and about twice the brightness. That means the MacBook Pro is brighter and shows more colours.
Real-world performance is lame
If the specs on paper were worrying, real-world performance is even more worrying.
While Photoshop worked well enough on this laptop, Premiere Pro, everyone’s go-to video editor, really struggled. Scrubbing through a video timeline was sluggish and there were plenty of dropped frames. If you use fancy effects, performance tanks even further. By comparison, the timeline was buttery smooth on a MacBook Pro 13, which, by the way, doesn’t even have a dedicated GPU.
Rendering times were quite fast though, taking about 4 min 30 seconds to export a 6 min 30-sec 1080p timeline. The MacBook managed the same task in about 7.5 minutes.
This performance, by the way, is when the device is plugged in, high-performance mode enabled, and Creator Mode enabled.
As an aside, I noticed no difference in performance with Creator Mode on or off. If anything, benchmark testing with Photoshop showed a one percent improvement in performance when Creator Mode optimisations were turned off. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Unplug the device and performance tanks so badly that even Photoshop becomes sluggish to use. Though to be fair, this is a problem with most Windows-based laptops. Apple’s MacBooks perform the same regardless of whether you’re using them on the go or plugged in.
Basically, the export is fast, but it’ll take you so long to edit that export times are irrelevant.
To top it off, the laptop can get blisteringly hot when used. The region around the hinge gets too hot to touch and that heat can sometimes seep into the keyboard region. It gets so hot that pressing and holding the power button, which you might need to do if the PC hangs (and it will, thanks to Microsoft’s screwed up update process), is a race against burning your fingertip.
Speaking of fingertips, at least the integrated fingerprint reader is nice.
If you’re into gaming, just don’t bother. Between the heat and low power hardware, playing anything other than PUBG Lite or 2D games is simply not recommended.
Oh, and the speakers are woeful.
Versus the competition
Laptops that retail at about 60 percent of the price can perform twice as well as the PS63. A great example is the ASUS TUF FX505DT (review). It’s powered by a more powerful AMD CPU and Nvidia 1650 GPU, and to top it off, retails at a mere Rs 85,000. Performance benchmarks put it far ahead of the PS63.
I really don’t know what to make of the MSI PS63 Modern 8rc. Despite coming from a company that’s as value-conscious and sensible as MSI, I’m at a bit of a loss as to why the PS63 exists. It’s not competitive on any front and its best feature is a gimmick. If you’re a “creator”, you’d actually be better off with a gaming laptop or a MacBook Pro.