MSI Prestige 14 Evo (2021) full review
The Prestige 14 Evo is the latest lightweight laptop from MSI, and it impresses on paper with one of Intel’s latest 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors, and it has a smart, diamond-finished design.
That all sounds great, but there’s no denying that 14in laptops face loads of competition in an increasingly busy market – so MSI’s machine must work hard in order to impress.
Design & Build
- Military-grade certification
The MSI certainly looks good: its body is finished in a smart Carbon Grey shade, and there are diamond-cut edges around the trackpad and a sunken keyboard. The hinge pitches the base upwards for better cooling and easier typing, while the lid folds back to completely flat to allow for easier collaboration.
The good looks impress, but testing time reveals that the MSI is inconsistent. Take build quality: the MSI’s MIL-STD-810G certification means it can withstand drops, falls and knocks, but there’s still too much movement in the screen and there’s loads of flex in the area above the keyboard.
That MIL-STD-810G testing means that we’re confident in the MSI’s ability to cope with the knocks and wobbles of everyday life, and its weight of 1.22kg and depth of 16mm are both impressive. But plenty of other laptops feel far more robust.
Happily, the Prestige 14 Evo has two USB-C ports that support power delivery and Thunderbolt 4’s blazing 40GB/s transfer speeds, but the only full-size USB port uses the archaic USB 2.0 protocol. The MSI has a fingerprint reader and a microSD card slot, but its grainy 720p webcam doesn’t have Windows Hello support and there’s no HDMI output either.
A bigger issue is the sheer amount of competition. The Honor MagicBook 14 is a sturdy and attractive aluminium machine at a comparable price, and the Samsung Galaxy Book S is slimmer, lighter and cheaper than the MSI.
Keyboard & Trackpad
- Crisp action
- Large trackpad
The inconsistencies continue on the keyboard. There is a lot to like: the typing action is crisp, fast and quiet. The buttons are large, and they’ve got a bright backlight and clear font.
For some reason, MSI has shifted the Function key to the right-hand side of the keyboard and combined it with the Control key, which is awkward. The power button is installed on the keyboard, too, which is irritating.
Get used to those foibles, though, and this keyboard can stand up to the best hardware on rivals. These buttons are bigger than those on the Honor and more satisfying than those on the Samsung, and the Dell and Apple units are only a little snappier. The trackpad is good, too: huge and responsive.
Screen & Speakers
- 14in IPS
- Full HD
- 16:9 aspect ratio
The 14in display has a Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio, which is normal for an everyday machine. Some rivals do better, though: the Apple and Dell machines are available with higher resolutions and 16:10 aspect ratios, and machines like the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 use a 3:2 aspect ratio. Those designs all provide more vertical space, which is often better for working.
The contrast level of 1,772:1 is huge, and helps the display deliver decent punch and depth. The rock-solid black point of 0.18 nits contributes to that depth, and the brightness peak of 319 nits is just good enough to handle some outdoor scenarios alongside indoor use.
The Delta E of 0.99 and colour temperature of 6,651K ensure colour accuracy, and the Prestige 14 Evo’s panel rendered a solid 97.3% of the sRGB gamut.
It’s all decent stuff, but this is another department where the competition is better. Every rival I’ve mentioned is brighter and more vibrant.
Don’t expect much from the speakers: the two 2W units produced tinny, underwhelming sound without much bass, and they don’t have huge volume either. They’re only suitable for casual use.
Specs & Performance
- 11th-gen Intel
- Up to 16GB RAM
- Up to 512GB storage
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo uses a Core i7-1185G7 processor, which is one of Intel’s latest Tiger Lake CPUs. There is also a cheaper Core i5 model available.
Back to the i7 on test here and you get four Hyper-Threaded cores alongside base and boost speeds of 3GHz and 4.8GHz. This slimline notebook relies on Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics rather than a discreet AMD or Nvidia core, so it’ll only handle casual games.
There’s 16GB of dual-channel LPDDR4 memory and a 512GB SSD that delivered decent read and write speeds of 4,972MB/s and 2,534MB/s. Connectivity comes from dual-band WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 but there’s no Ethernet.
It’s a solid specification for mainstream productivity, and the laptop performed well in benchmarks. Its Geekbench result of 5,362 squeaked ahead of the older Core i7 chip in the Honor and is miles ahead of the Samsung’s Qualcomm CPU.
For everyday workloads the MSI is fine: it won’t struggle with Office tasks and it’ll handle photo-editing and light video-editing work alongside plenty of other content-creation software. It won’t balk at dozens of browser tabs either.
It’s a good processor, but it’s not the best option. Last year’s XPS 13 was marginally quicker in Geekbench and only a little slower in PCMark 10, so Dell’s updated model will be quicker now it uses the same Core i7 CPU as the MSI. Meanwhile, Apple’s M1 chip is more than 2,000 points faster in Geekbench.
If you’re using the Prestige 14 Evo for everyday tasks, it typically runs silently, and fan noise is modest even if you push the hardware – you’ll barely notice the MSI in a modest office or with subtle music. The exterior doesn’t get too hot, either.
Expect restricted performance if you stress the CPU, though. In a single-core work benchmark the processor settled at speeds between 4.3GHz and 4.5GHz, and in a multi-core test it ran at 3.3GHz. Both figures are below the chip’s advertised speeds.
Battery life is only ordinary. When playing a looped HD video at 120 nits the MSI lasted for 10 hours and 12 minutes, and in a work benchmark its lifespan ducked under 10 hours. That’s an hour behind the Honor, about level with the Dell and miles behind the Samsung and Apple notebooks. You’ll get through a workday with the Prestige 14 Evo, but its longevity is ordinary and easily beaten.
Price & Availability
The cheapest new Dell XPS 13 costs £1,299 in the UK, and that rig has the i7-1185G7 processor alongside the taller display and sleeker style. In the US, those machines start at US$1,009 with a Core i5-1135G7 CPU and US$1,309 for the Core i7 chip. The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 with its 3:2 display starts at £999 and US$999 with Core i5 CPUs. The Apple MacBook Air starts at £999 and US$999, and an upgraded CPU costs £1,249 or $1,249.
MSI’s mid-range laptop is competent in plenty of departments. On the outside, it’s got a good-looking design, a satisfying keyboard and a screen with good contrast and accurate colours. On the inside, there’s a reasonable Core i7 processor.
Look beyond this machine, though, and rivals outpace the MSI in several areas. Most have better displays and superior battery life. Apple and Dell laptops have sleeker, stronger design and fantastic screens, while alternatives from Honor and Samsung are often cheaper.
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is a decent everyday laptop at a reasonable price – a capable all-rounder with no huge flaws. But when so many rivals are better in many areas it’s hard to recommend.
MSI Prestige 14 Evo (2021): Specs
- Screen: 14in 1920x1080 IPS
- Processor: 3GHz Intel Core i7-1185G7
- Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
- Memory: 16GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 512GB Phison SSD
- Ports: 2 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4/power delivery, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x audio, 1 x microSD
- Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ax WiFi, Bluetooth 5.1
- Dimensions: 319 x 219 x 16mm (WxDxH)
- Weight: 1.22kg
- Warranty: 1yr RTB
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