"The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is a thin and light ultrabook with impressive performance."
Solid build quality
Good battery life
The keyboard and touchpad are not precise enough
Dim the display
MSI is best known for its gaming equipment, but the company has repeatedly tried to go beyond its specialty. Like brands like Razer, MSI wants to use its gaming reputation to expand to more mainstream laptops.
The Prestige 14 Evo is the latest – and perhaps most ambitious – attempt at doing this. MSI worked closely with Intel on the 11th generation of Tiger Lake processors and the new Evo certification (hence the name).
My test device has an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1185G7, the fastest Tiger Lake CPU, as well as 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB solid-state drive (SSD). The 14-inch laptop is priced at $ 1,199, a low price for such a high-end configuration. Some retailers even sell it for just $ 950. But is it enough to convince myself that MSI has a future beyond gaming?
Let's get "cheap" questions out of the way. The Prestige 14 Evo is made of aluminum and feels solid all around. That is, with the exception of the display, which has a certain flex when pressure is applied. Both the keyboard deck and the bottom of the case feel robust and leave an overall impression of solid workmanship. It's still half a step behind Lenovo and Asus in the 14-inch class and Dell and HP if you're looking for 13-inch alternatives. The Prestige 14 Evo doesn't feel "cheap", but it could certainly benefit from a firmer lid.
It's also an attractive device with three color options: Carbon Gray, Rose Pink, and Pure White. I received the Carbon Gray version which has a darker silhouette. Despite the beveled edges, it is a conservatively designed laptop without any gloss. Even the MSI logo is a dark shade on the lid and it's easy to miss if you're not looking at exactly the right angle. The lines are clean and elegant, with a sharp taper on the bottom from back to front.
There is no bling at all.
I will notice that the Carbon Gray surface is a fingerprint magnet and it's not that easy to remove stains.
The display hinge lifts the back of the case off the desk nicely and offers plenty of space underneath to allow air to move and noises to come out of the two-floor speakers. The Asus ZenBook UX425EA is similar, although Asus adds some flair with concentric rings engraved in the lid.
The Prestige 14 Evo is thin and light for a 14-inch, 0.63-inch, 2.85-pound laptop, though it's neither the thinnest nor the lightest you can get in this class of machine. The ZenBook 14 is 0.54 inches and weighs 2.58 pounds, while the Acer Swift 5 is another 14-inch notebook from Tiger Lake that is even lighter at 2.31 pounds. The thickness of 0.59 inches is between the MSI and the Asus.
Each of these machines has small bezels with a screen-to-body ratio of around 90% and therefore has a modern appearance when the lid is open. Speaking of the lid, the Prestige 14 Evo's hinge is well constructed and only needs one hand to open while it resists the wobbling.
Connectivity is a bit of light for the class. There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left and a single USB-A 2.0 port (oddly enough) for a microSD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack on the right.
As with the Acer Swift 5, you often get an HDMI 2.0 port, which is missing here. However, the wireless connectivity is cutting edge with both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is one of the fastest laptops in its class that I have tested. That sounds impressive on the surface, but it's also the first laptop I've tested with the Core i7-1185G7. I'm still learning what to expect from the latest generation of processors from Intel, but one thing is certain: the MSI Prestige 14 Evo impressed me.
The first test I ran was PCMark 10, which I ran on a handful of newer laptops with Intel 10th and 11th generation CPUs. The Prestige 14 Evo achieved the second highest value in this group with 4866 and only lost to the Lenovo Yoga 9i with the 45 watt Core i7-10750H CPU with six cores and 5173.
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is one of the fastest laptops in its class.
The Prestige 14 Evo was faster than any other Tiger Lake notebook we tested by a good margin. Interestingly, the Porsche Design Acer Book RS with its surprisingly fast Core i5-1135G7 was Tiger Lake's closest competitor. Looking at each element of the PCMark 10 Complete test, the Prestige 14 Evo was particularly productive (spreadsheets and word processing) and creation (photo editing, video playback and playback, and video editing) while lagging behind some other laptops in the Only category Essentials (starting the app, video conferencing, surfing the Internet).
These results make the MSI a relatively faster laptop for more demanding tasks than basic computing. So if your main focus is to browse the web and spend time zooming, you don't need the power of the MSI.
In our handbrake test, which encodes a 420 MB video at H.265, the Prestige 14 Evo took just under two and 45 minutes, a fast score that surpasses any other U-series CPU. You need to look at laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 9i for faster results on Intel laptops (AMD Ryzen 4000 series laptops are a bit faster too). However, if you're looking for a laptop with a Tiger Lake CPU, the Prestige 14 Evo is the fastest you can find right now.
The same was true for Cinebench R23, where the Prestige 14 Evo achieved a strong 1,513 points in the single core score (after the Apple Mac Mini with the new Apple M1 chipset) and 5,789 points in the multi-core test. I'll repeat myself here: the Prestige 14 Evo is the fastest U-series CPU we've tested, and it's not really close. MSI did an excellent job of setting the CPU and managing the thermals so that the Prestige 14 Evo is the best example of Tiger Lake's potential.
Given the Intel Iris Xe graphics provided by the Tiger Lake platform, we should also briefly touch on gaming. These integrated graphics have so far offered an almost discrete low-end graphics performance and are well above the previous integrated graphics from Intel.
The Prestige 14 Evo even masters Fortnite surprisingly well. (/
Given MSI's experience with gaming laptops, the Prestige 14 Evo didn't seem as strong in graphics performance as its processor at first glance. In the synthetic 3DMark Time Spy benchmark, it achieved a rather low value of 1,465 behind the Porsche Design Acer Book RS with 1,504 and the Acer Swift 5 with 1,686. It managed to beat the anemic value of the Asus ZenBook 14 UX425EA of 1,281.
However, I also ran Fortnite to test a real world game that would fit in with the capabilities of the Intel Iris Xe graphics performance. It handles it surprisingly well. The Prestige 14 Evo managed 42 frames per second (fps) at 1080p and high graphics, which in turn outperforms any other Tiger Lake laptop. The fastest so far, the Intel reference laptop, ran at 34 fps. The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 with an Nvidia GeForce MX350 achieved 37 fps. At Epic Graphics, the Prestige 14 Evo was 28 fps, the reference laptop 29 fps and the Lenovo 24 fps.
At least in a game like Fortnite, the MSI doesn't do justice to its low 3DMark score. And a game like Fortnite is definitely on the verge of what you'd want to play on a Tiger Lake laptop.
MSI was smart enough to equip the Prestige 14 Evo with a 1 watt IPS display with low power consumption and 1080p. This selection should help balance the fast CPU in terms of battery life, as we'll discuss later in the review.
It comes in a 16: 9 aspect ratio, which feels a bit dated at this point. Dell, HP, and Lenovo have started turning to higher displays in their premium laptops that offer either 16:10 or 3: 2. In comparison, 16: 9 feels stocky, especially with the large lower bezel.
According to my colorimeter, this is an average display for a premium laptop with only one obvious weakness. In fact, "glare" is the wrong word because while the display does well on other metrics, its brightness is only 228 nits. This is well below the 300-nit threshold we love to see on premium displays, and it may be too dark for many brightly-lit offices.
The color range of the display is 97% of sRGB and 73% of AdobeRGB. Most other premium laptops can be found here. Some brands like Dell and Lenovo offer 4K displays with much larger gamuts (up to 100% of sRGB and AdobeRGB). Creative users who need lots of color will want to check out these brands.
The display of the Prestige 14 Evo scored quite well in terms of color accuracy with 1.3, whereby 1.0 and less are indistinguishable to the human eye and are the standard for excellent displays. Finally, the contrast ratio was 940: 1, just below the 1000: 1 we like to see on premium laptops.
Compare this display to the very good ones on the Acer Swift 5 and Asus ZenBook 14 UX425EA and you will find that brightness is the only differentiator – albeit an important one. Note that the Lenovo Yoga 7i, in contrast, was an outlier, only scoring 690: 1 and making for a muted panel.
Overall, if you're not in an overly bright environment, you'll love this display for productivity work and Netflix. However, if you turn up the ambient lighting, you will be disappointed. If you work in bright environments, the MSI can be a problem for you.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard of the Prestige 14 Evo is in the typical island style with spacious key caps, comfortable key spacing and a lot of spring travel. My only complaint is that the switches are a bit soft which makes them feel light but with no precise ground effect. This reduced my accuracy and speed as I wasn't quite so sure that I had registered the correct keystroke.
I found the keyboard just one step behind my favorites, the HP Specter line of keyboards, Dell's latest XPS 13, and the best of them, Apple's Magic Keyboard on the latest MacBooks. But it's not so blatant that the average person would disapprove of the typing experience.
The problems with the touchpad are a bit more noticeable. It's pretty wide, although not as big as I'd like it to be. I also found it too deep in terms of key movement. You really need to learn to register a click. While that click is one of the quieter ones you'll experience, the touchpad could be streamlined for me.
However, the touchpad is a Microsoft Precision version, which means that it responds well to Windows 10's multi-touch gestures. My device was not equipped with a touch display and a touch version is not offered. I regularly use Touch for scrolling long web pages and the like, and I missed it here.
MSI chose to place the fingerprint reader, which supports passwordless Windows 10 Hello login, in the upper left corner of the touchpad. This is my least favorite place for a fingerprint reader and worse than placing it directly on the power button (like on the Dell XPS 13) or at least a separate area on the keyboard deck. Still, it worked well and signed me up quickly and without a lot of fuss.
MSI equipped the Prestige 14 Evo with just 52 watt hours of battery life, which is a bit sparse for a 14-inch laptop with such a powerful CPU. Part of Intel's Evo certification is the ability to achieve nine or more hours of battery life for typical tasks. According to my testing, the Prestige 14 Evo will likely do this – hardly.
First, I ran our web browsing test, which iterated over a number of popular websites. It gives a fair estimate of the use of light productivity, and the Prestige 14 Evo lasted about 7.25 hours. This is a below average duration for the class. The ZenBook 14 UX425EA lasts 10 hours and the Acer Swift 5 a less impressive eight hours.
Switch to the PCMark 10 Applications score, which provides a more direct comparison with productivity longevity, and the Prestige 14 Eve did a significantly better job at almost 10.5 hours. This is a new test for us so we don't have that many computers to compare it to. However, this value is only 22 minutes behind the Dell XPS 13 9310, the longest-lasting we tested and the laptop outperforms the older XPS 13 7390 with a 10th generation Core i7. Combine these two and the MSI can take the nine hours required for Evo certification.
I also ran the PCMark 10 gaming battery test which put a strain on the CPU and GPU. It is a replacement for the Basemark web benchmark test we ran in the past that cannot be completed on Tiger Lake laptops. The Prestige 14 Evo took a little over 1.5 hours on the lower end of our limited database. The Acer Swift 5 lasted just under two hours, while the XPS 13 9310 was strong with almost four hours in this test.
Finally, I used our video test grinding a Full HD Avengers trailer and the Prestige 14 Evo took a little over 16 hours to complete. This is a strong score that surpasses the XPS 13 9310, Acer Swift 5, and ZenBook 14 UX425EA – largely thanks to the low-power display that MSI selected for the machine.
Ultimately, the Prestige 14 Evo gives you a full day of work unless you hit the CPU and GPU. And it will likely meet the Evo certification requirements of nine hours of typical use.
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is the fastest Intel U-Series notebook we tested and outperforms any other example by a lot. It competes more strongly with the latest offerings from AMD than the rest of the class while offering decent battery life.
You won't indulge the build quality of the Prestige 14 Evo either, because for $ 1,199 you get a very well configured laptop with just one slightly flexible display that you can complain about. The laptop's biggest weakness is its display brightness, but everywhere else it is a competitor.
Are there alternatives?
The Asus ZenBook 14 UX425EA is a viable alternative to the MSI. Keep it in Performance Mode and it'll stay in close proximity to the much faster Prestige 14 Eve, but you have to deal with louder fans. It's a bit more solid than the MSI, with an HDMI port and a better display. You'll be spending about $ 100 more on the Asus, though you get the slightly slower Core i7-1165G7.
The Acer Swift 5 is another solid alternative to the Prestige 14 Evo. It's the next fastest Tiger Lake laptop, and it's also around $ 100 more expensive, while also sporting the slower Core i7. The Swift 5 is also lighter than the MSI and the display is brighter.
If you like the idea of a 2-in-1 then the HP Specter x360 13 is a great choice. It can also be outfitted with Tiger Lake, although we haven't had a chance to test the latest version yet, and features a stunning OLED display that will blow the Prestige 14 Evo's display away. You'll spend a little more on the same configuration, but you'll get a wonder that's a little smaller than the MSI.
Finally, the Dell XPS 13 remains one of the best laptops out there and should always be considered. The Tiger Lake update shows what may already be the perfect laptop. As you spend more on the XPS 13 and give up some of the MSI's performance, you get a great design to go with it.
How long it will take?
The Prestige 14 Evo is so well built you don't have to worry about years of downtime, and it's built with components designed to keep Windows 10 running for just as long. You only get a one year warranty, but this is industry standard.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is the fastest ultrabook you can buy, and it's a great choice in the 14-inch laptop class.