Review: MSI PS42 8M-096CA

MSI is rolling out a new pair of laptops that’s aimed at creators of content. Meaning photographers, designers, or 3D animators. The first one that I will look at is the MSI PS42.

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The first thing that I noted was this laptop was very, very light. It weighs 1.19kg which puts it in the range of the MacBook Air. However, based on these specs, it is way more powerful:

  • Intel Core i7 8550U processor that runs at 1.8 – 4.0GHz
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 16GB RAM
  • Intel UHD graphics
  • Thin bezel 14″ IPS-level panel
  • 512 GB SSD based Storage
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetoot 4.1

Those specs on paper crush the MacBook Air rather easily. To confirm what the results would be in the real world, I put that to the test. But before I get to that, let me point out some other things:

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On the left side of the PS42 there’s a HDMI port, a USB-C port and a headphone jack.

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On the right side are two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, a card reader slot as well as a security lock slot. In short, unlike the MacBook Air which makes you live the dongle life, you will not have to make any such compromises here as every port that you need is right there.

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The web camera which is 720p camera is at the bottom of the screen. I am not a fan of this position as it places your head at an unnatural position when you use it. You’ll also notice that the keyboard is backlit.

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There’s also a fingerprint sensor built into the trackpad and it works with Windows Hello authentication.

The PS42 feels very solid and it feels like a very quality piece of kit. The screen is bright and the fact that it close to bezel-less makes this a very easy screen to read. The keyboard  does not have a lot of travel. But touch typists shouldn’t have an issue typing once they get used to it. Battery life is outstanding. MSI quotes 11 hours. I got 9.75 hours surfing the web and playing YouTube videos which is more than respectable.

So, in terms of performance, I threw Zwift at it to see what it would do. Zwift is an online platform that allows cyclists to ride a variety of real and imagined courses assuming you have a stationary software controlled stationary trainer. In my case, this one. That doesn’t sound exciting. But Zwift really pushes a computer because it has to acquire data such has the riders heart rate via a Bluetooth enabled chest strap, their cadence (how fast they are pedaling) via a Bluetooth enabled sensor, and not only determine how fast you are going via the software controlled trainer, but also to the required math to replicate uphills and downhills in 1% gradient increments. All while trying to replicate roads of London, Innsbruck, or wherever else you happen to be riding. Not to mention the dozens or in some cases hundreds of people around you. In short, that’s not easy for any computer to do as there is a lot that is in play. Now even at the default settings, Zwift can humble a lot of computers. It taxes my 2015 MacBook Pro every time I run it. But the MSI PS42 had no issues with it at HD resolution while connected to my TV. And this was with the Intel UHD graphics chipset. You can add Nvidia graphics as an option to seriously amp things up. But based on this test, it’s got a ton of power as it is. A couple of things that I noted was that the laptop offered to optimize the sound for game play seeing as Zwift technically was a game. The other thing that I noted was that the aluminum chassis was slightly warm to the touch. If this was my MacBook Pro, it would be really warm if not hot.

This particular MSI PS42 goes $1488 CDN on Amaon.ca. At that price this is a package that makes the MacBook Air look rather pedestrian. Thus if you’re looking for a very lightweight laptop that is still packed with power, take a look at the MSI PS42 and forget the MacBook Air. You’ll be glad that you did.

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