Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: A light and stylish business laptop

Alun Taylor
9 Dec 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
800
inc VAT

MSI’s latest Prestige 14 notebook dispenses with Nvidia's discrete GPUs but gains Intel’s Evo certification

Pros 
Huge touchpad
Two Thunderbolt 4 ports
Stylish, light and compact
Cons 
Soldered RAM
Type-A 2.0 USB port
Mediocre sound system
Advertisement

The most important word in the name of Micro-Star International's new business laptop is Evo. Not so much because of Intel’s Evo platform accreditation, but rather because it means you don’t get discrete graphics as part of the package.

While the MSI Prestige 14 series comes with either an Nvidia GTX 1650, GTX 1650 Ti or MX450 graphics cards alongside an 11th generation Core i7 processor, the new Evo models sadly have to get by with Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics processors. So, while the Prestige 14 is aimed at creatives, as well as business users, the Evo model is more directly targeted at the latter.

Buy from Laptops Direct


MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: What you need to know

First and foremost, the Prestige 14 Evo is a business laptop, so values like solidity, reliability and competency are to the fore at the expense of thrills, spills or excitement. That’s where the Evo sticker on the keyboard deck comes in.

Evo certification dictates a basic level of technical capability including Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, support for Thunderbolt 4, dual-channel RAM (and at least 8GB of it), biometric log-in, all-day battery life and the ability to get at least four hours of battery life from just 30 minutes of charging. Admittedly, I’d expect most of that from any laptop costing more than £700 but it’s still handy to have that guarantee of a basic specification.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Price and competition

The Prestige Evo I was sent to review is built around the Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor and carries the model name A11M-022UK. This is the version most commonly found on sale in the UK for around £800, though some retailers are listing this as a promo price down from around £1,140. There are also versions with either an i5-1135G7 or i7-1195G7 as well.

MSI’s website currently lists two variants of the Prestige 14 Evo, one with a Killer Wi-Fi 6E card with Bluetooth 5.2 and a USB3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, the other with an Intel AX201 wireless card with Bluetooth 5.1 and a USB2.0 Type-A. My review machine is the latter spec.

For roughly the same money, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to 14-inch notebooks. Acer’s Swift 5 is rather more expensive, at £899 for the Core i5 version, but you get great battery life and a high-quality display, all in a package that weighs less than 1kg.

Honor’s MagicBook 14 is now on sale for just £599, which makes it very good value even with an i5 rather than an i7 CPU, a somewhat stingy array of ports and a webcam positioned to look directly up your nose.

Lenovo’s Yoga Slim 7 is a super little notebook with excellent audio and outstanding battery life and it’s something of a powerhouse, too, thanks to its Ryzen 7 chipset. HP’s Pavilion 14, meanwhile, offers a touchscreen and decent speaker system for £650, but the display is rather drab and there’s no keyboard backlight either.

READ NEXT: The best refurbished laptops selling for less

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Design and build quality

MSI has ticked all the right boxes with the design and build of the 14 Evo. To start with, it’s usefully small and light, measuring only 319 x 219 x 16mm and tipping the scales at just 1.29Kg. Being made entirely of metal (MSI isn’t saying exactly what kind) it feels solid and benefits from MIL-STD-810G levels of durability.

Aesthetically, I’d say the 14 Evo is a big success, managing to look both chic and professional at the same time. I especially like the Pure White colour scheme, though the more sober Carbon Grey machine I was sent is probably easier to keep looking box-fresh.

The lid hinge is one of those handy designs that elevates the rear of the base by about 5 degrees to facilitate more comfortable, angled typing, something further enhanced by the back of the keyboard being slightly recessed into the deck. A three-level white backlight provides just the right amount of illumination and the keys are well spaced and have a positive and quiet action.

The return key is one of those single-height, double-width affairs which I’m not a fan of but it didn’t hamper my typing speed. The rather narrow and closely spaced Fn and Ctrl keys on the right may irk some users too.

Below the keyboard sits one of the biggest touchpads I’ve ever seen on a 14-inch notebook. At 140 x 65mm it’s huge. As well as being massive, it’s pleasant to the touch and houses a fingerprint scanner in the upper left corner. If fingerprint readers aren’t your thing, the webcam also supports Windows Hello IR biometric logins.

On the left side of the base, you’ll find two fully-loaded Thunderbolt 4 ports which also double as charge ports. On the right, there’s a solitary Gen. 2 USB Type-A port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a MicroSD card reader. I’m at a loss to explain why one model of the 14 Evo has a v2.0 port while the other uses a v3.2, but the two Type-C ports make it a less aggravating decision than it otherwise could be.

Pry the back off the Evo 14 – not the easiest job in the world – and you can swap out the wireless card and the 512GB SSD but not the 16GB of RAM: the 2x8GB modules are well and truly soldered to the motherboard.

Buy from Laptops Direct


MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Display and audio

The laptop’s matte 1,920 x 1,080 IPS panel doesn’t support touch but otherwise makes a very decent fist of things. Maximum brightness is a reasonable 313cd/m2, while the contrast ratio is a very healthy 1,743:1. It’s a nicely colourful affair, too, with 96.9% sRGB gamut coverage and 99.3% sRGB volume. The Delta E colour variance of 1.07 is also excellent.

The speaker system is a bit of a letdown, however. It’s not particularly bad in terms of balance and definition but there should be more bass and a lot more volume. According to my measurements, the sound system struggled to break the 70dB mark, 5dB below what I regard as an acceptable minimum. Granted, this isn’t a laptop designed primarily for media consumption, but laptops like the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 sound much, much more impressive.

Judging by the quality of many laptop webcams, you’d never guess webcam performance is a requirement of Evo certification. Intel’s demands must be pretty slack, though, since the Evo 14’s camera isn’t impressive when it comes to colour reproduction or sharpness. In this brave new world of virtual meetings and Zoom conferences, I expected the makers of business laptops to up their game on this front.

READ NEXT: Our favourite laptop bags for your work and travel needs

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Performance and battery life

The Prestige 14 Evo scored 145 points in Expert Reviews' in-house 4K media and productivity benchmark. That is a very respectable return for a machine with a quad-core Tiger Lake i7 CPU and 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM. AMD Ryzen 7-powered machines like the Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim are faster but buying one of those would mean forgoing the Intel Evo certification and Thunderbolt ports for a small hike in performance that you’ll probably never really notice.

Graphics performance was even more impressive, with the Evo 14 hitting an average of 60fps in the 1080p Metro: Last Light test and performing equally well in the usual GFXBench tests. This is a graphic demonstration – quite literally – of how far Intel’s Iris Xe Graphics G7 has moved the iGPU game forward. Despite this being no gaming machine it still managed to hit almost 60fps running Doom at 720p, which after all is the best you’re going to see on a 60Hz screen, no matter how powerful the GPU.

The standard Expert Reviews battery rundown video test drained the Evo 14’s 52Wh battery in 11hrs 5mins, which is expected of a Core i7 laptop, though again 14-inch notebooks powered by AMD and Apple processors can do better.

As is becoming more common, the Evo 14 has a control panel that lets you manually adjust system performance parameters. The MSI Centre lets you choose between four self-explanatory settings called Balanced, Performance, Silent and Super Battery. For the record, I ran all the bench tests in Performance mode and the battery duration test in Balanced. Even when running hard in Performance mode there were no issues with heat management or excessive fan noise.

The 512GB Phison SSD proved remarkably swift in testing, recording sequential read and write speeds of 3,968MB/s and 2,382MB/s respectively and 4K read and write speeds of 63MB/s and 203MB/s. Unlike Huawei and Honor’s laptops, there are no odd partitioning issues to worry about, either.

Buy from Laptops Direct


MSI Prestige 14 review: Verdict

As I said at the start of this review, the Prestige 14 Evo is a hard machine to get excited about but that shouldn’t detract from its essential competency. It ticks all the boxes for a thoroughbred business laptop including decent battery life, a nice keyboard, a colour accurate display, a brace of Thunderbolt ports, an SSD that goes like the clappers, all wrapped up in a stylish and solid package. It's a bit of a shame about the lacklustre sound system though.

Read more

Reviews