New MSI laptop appeals to content creators

MSI sets out to meet the needs of on-the-go content creators with the Prestige PS63 Modern laptop.

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Image: Ant Pruitt


I recently heard that MSI's line of laptops appeals to content creators who want to get things done and get things done on-the-go. Whenever I think of MSI, motherboards, graphics cards, and gaming come to mind. However, if you consider the hardware needed for a great gaming experience, it makes sense to have hardware configurations available for content creators.

When MSI reached out challenging me to put my Thinkpad T470 away for a week to see which I liked better—my Thinkpad or MSI's Prestige PS63 Modern—I was game.

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The tech specs

The highlights of the Prestige PS63 Modern include:

  • Latest 8th Gen. Intel CoreTM i7 processor
  • Windows 10 Home / Windows 10 Pro
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 with Max-Q Design (8RC)
  • Intel integrated graphics (8M)
  • Ultra-light 1.65kg, Ultra-slim 15.9mm
  • 15.6-inch close to 100% sRGB IPS-level thin bezel display
  • Productivity up to 16 hours battery life
  • HDMI and USB-C ports for display-out
  • Micro SD card slot
  • 16GB RAM

All of the tech specs sound like a machine worthy of battling the rigors of Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. My primary concerns include display quality, GPU prowess, battery life, and heat dissipation. When editing digital content you need a bright enough display with optimal contrast and clarity. You also need a GPU and system RAM that will keep up with your adjustments, color grading, and visual effects. Lastly, you don't want the system to melt your desk space, and you need it to last longer than two hours on a single charge.

After ten solid days of use, I give this device a nod. For the most part, having updated hardware makes a difference.

What I liked

The look of this device is aesthetically pleasing with it's metallic, industrial style. The size is just right for table-top work or for sitting on your favorite recliner editing images. The Modern boasts an SSD and an M.2 drive (I set up the M.2 drive as an application cache repository).

The keyboard and trackpad felt fine (Figure A). I personally prefer more travel in keys because I'm an old fogey who's used to typing on mechanical keyboards into a Unix terminal. I did like the keyboard layout of the Modern better than my Thinkpad, simply because the control and function keys are placed in a more favorable spot. (I really despise when OEMs put the left control key slightly more to the right than the standard position I'm used to seeing on a QWERTY keyboard.) The glass touchpad feels really good. The sensitivity and tracking are just right on this laptop.

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Figure A

Image: Ant Pruitt

When I first used Creative Cloud apps Premiere Pro and After Effects, I struggled after installation for about a day. I don't want to blame the Modern laptop as this was right around the same time Adobe pushed new software updates for video creators, yet my video editor crashed at least twice, which annoyed me. I ended up doing another clean re-install of the software and performance improved. While the app seemed to struggle, the pre-installed Norton security and performance monitor gave me a notification (Figure B). I'm not the biggest fan of this, but we'll address this later.

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Figure B

Image: Ant Pruit

I did my best to metaphorically break the Modern laptop. I threw large Photoshop files, motion graphics, and visual effects at it—sometimes, simultaneously (Figure C). The CPU usage definitely spiked and caused some stuttering here and there, but for the most part, the laptop carried on with business and processed my tasks.

From a photography standpoint, I enjoyed making images larger with high detail as well as add effects such as motion blur. Depending on the file size, tasks such as this will normally take about ten seconds to complete; the Modern completed these tasks with the same level of performance.

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Figure C

Image: Ant Pruitt

However, using this laptop to test out the new content-aware VIDEO fill feature in After Effects was a big challenge. I wasn't kind enough to utilize a standard definition or high definition video file. I threw some UHD 30fps footage from my library into the mix. This makes most computers weep. In my experience with the Modern the feature and footage were a bit too much to handle. I expected the experience to be sluggish or even crash After Effects. The app didn't crash, but it was definitely sluggish. I blame a lack of sufficient airflow in the laptop chassis. Any laptop will struggle with performance with poor air circulation, especially when it sits on a lap or table top. The Modern has intake and outtake vents for airflow (Figure D), but when dealing with really heavy renders such as UHD or 4K footage, it definitely needs more air for cooling and should probably be a workstation unit instead of a laptop.

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Figure D

Image: Ant Pruitt

All-in-all, the renders and day-to-day creative use was handled well on the Modern. I just had to be mindful of processor-intensive tasks. The less-than-stellar performance on those jobs wasn't the sole fault of MSI. It's a combination of app efficiency, operating system efficiency, and the general laptop design. In most cases, this laptop could handle the same jobs the workstation in my office would handle.

What I didn't like

There are two things I didn't care for with the Modern. First, the integrated installed software from MSI I didn't care for because I don't think it did anything helpful for my workflow. The idea of this software is to "tune" the laptop to fit your needs as a creator, taking into consideration processing power as well as overall battery life. In my efforts to make the device run at its full hardware capacity, I didn't see much of a difference in performance. Better yet, when attempting to utilize the specified 16-hour battery life, it failed to meet the mark.

If the Creator Center is supposed to make the experience more optimal for creators and it doesn't, why bother have this software? Just uninstall it. The Norton security and performance software is an ok idea, but again, not necessary. If you're in the middle of a task and your computer hangs, you're more than likely going to see some visual cues such as a spinning cursor or a "not responding" warning in the task manager. Having the Norton software provide you with this exact same information is redundant and not needed. If there's no need for the software, it's bloatware.

I didn't truly expect 16 hours of battery life as a photographer or videographer. Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro force your processor and video card to work, meaning more power consumption. On a day of standard creative photography or videography use, I got roughly four to five hours of battery life. If I only used the Modern to create blog posts or articles, then maybe the double-digit hours of battery life would be a reality, but not for my typical scenarios.

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My last gripe is with the I/O ports, specifically the micro SD card slot. There are plenty of USB ports and built-in quick charge functionality for your smartphone as well as a USB-C port. This is good stuff, but the micro SD slot is not desirable. Granted, many devices use micro SD cards, but those same cards come with adapters to up-convert to full-size SD cards. I try not to use micro SD card adapters in my cameras, so pulling footage from my cameras onto the Modern was a bit of a pain because I had to find my own external SD card reader. I prefer a full-size SD card reader.

Conclusion

This laptop does creative tasks with ease for about 90% of the tasks I do. I enjoyed my experience with the Modern and would suggest it for creators on-the-go. The size and weight are ideal. The hardware is powerful enough to handle most creative tasks with ease. You can get the Modern starting at $1,498 via online retailers.

What laptops are you using as a content creator? Is it time for an upgrade or are you going to stay put for now? Let me know in the comments or feel free to tag me on Twitter.

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