PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5-1235U or Core i7-1255U
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB
Storage: 512 GB
Screen size: 15.6 inch 1920 x 1080 IPS
Weight: 3.85 lb (1.75 kg)
Dimensions: 358 x 241 x 20 mm (14.1 x 9.5 x 0.8 in)
Getting reliability is important if you’re a college-going student or a creative professional who needs a photo notebook, and the MSI Modern 15 tries to fit the bill at a budget price.
The Core i7 (B12M-026UK) version of this 15.6-inch device costs $799 in the US and a paltry £549 in the UK. For that money, you get a 12th generation Intel processor and a chassis that has passed military durability tests.
It’s perfect when you’re looking best student laptop or tempting, accessible photo editing notebookbut the MSI Modern 15 faces stiff competition from the likes of the Acer Aspire Vero and the HP Envy x360 13.
MSI Modern 15 Review: Design and Features
- Military testing and light hull
- A clear keyboard, perfect for all-day work
- The connection is good but could be faster
We’ll get straight to the point: The MSI Modern 15 isn’t going to win any design awards. However, its metallic plastic is quite mature, so people won’t give it critical glances either.
Despite the price, the MSI has undergone MIL-STD-810G testing, so it will withstand shocks, drops and temperature changes. So that means I have to deal with the scrapes and scrapes of campus and work life. This is comforting because the base feels fragile. Modern may have this testing, but we’d use an out-of-house safety sleeve just in case.
There are some other areas where MSI is common. At 1.75kg it’s not heavy, but it’s 20mm thick – the Acer and HP are slimmer and arguably better looking.
MSI’s system has a microSD slot, a boon for photographers, and has three full-size USB ports and a USB-C slot. Two of those full-size connectors use sluggish USB 2.0, though, and the USB-C socket doesn’t support Thunderbolt, so there’s no speed to spare for transferring files. The MSI has an HDMI output, and internally there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 – great for campus connectivity and TV output. Unfortunately, there is no Wi-Fi 6E or wired internet.
Rivals offer more. The Acer has a faster USB connector and wired network, but no microSD. The HP Envy has two Thunderbolt connectors and Wi-Fi 6E along with microSD.
The 720p webcam is also basic, with mediocre quality and no privacy shutter. It doesn’t support Windows Hello and the laptop doesn’t have a fingerprint reader either, so you don’t get biometric login support. The Acer device has both options, and the HP has a super-sharp 5mp shooter. Now, while these competitors are generally more expensive than MSI, they justify their higher costs with better connectivity in slimmer, sleeker designs.
The MSI keyboard is snappy, with the speed and consistency to handle all-day essay writing sessions. The buttons feel a little hollow, but the MSI easily holds its own against its competitors. It has a digital pad and backlight which enhances its versatility. We can’t say the same about the trackpad, which is too soft. We recommend a USB mouse, especially for precise creative tasks.
MSI Modern 15 Review: Specs and Performance
- Low-power Intel chips provide reasonable day-to-day performance
- You’ll need to spend more to pace your content creation
- No major noise or heat issues
The model we tested includes the low-power Intel Core i7-1255U, which has two cores with Hyper-Threaded performance that has a peak frequency of 4.7 GHz. It has 8GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory and a 512GB SSD that delivers only mediocre read and write speeds.
Opponents Acer and HP use the same kind of processor, and there’s no surprise when it comes to MSI’s performance—its Geekbench single and multi-core scores of 1654 and 6931 are normal for this processor.
There is hardly any difference between MSI and its competitors. There’s enough speed here to handle everyday Office applications and student tools. Multitasking between browser tabs, media tools, and communication utilities won’t be a problem. It would also be decent codeine laptopg on a tight budget. And while the Intel Iris Xe graphics chip can handle light gaming and content creation, that’s about it.
If you want proper content creation capability, expect to spend more on a laptop like the Dell XPS 15. And while MSI’s US version already has 13th generation Intel processors, they won’t make much of an impact. If you go for the more affordable version of the Core i5-1235U, then say goodbye to any content creation capability and accept that you’ll only be able to run everyday office tools.
At least from a thermal point of view the MSI is decent. Push the internals and you’ll only notice a modest amount of fan noise, but it’s almost silent in most situations. And while during our testing we found that there is a bit of excess heat above the keyboard if you load the CPU, it’s not dangerous and the rest of the chassis stays cool.
MSI Modern 15 review: Screen and speakers
- Good contrast means acceptable day-to-day quality levels
- The low color gamut and accuracy lend themselves to creative work
- T-shirts, unimpressive speakers
The 1920 x 1080 resolution is suitable for everyday use, and the matte finish means you won’t have to worry about reflections. The 1330:1 contrast level is decent and gives the Modern a solid foundation for everyday work – you’ve got enough power and depth to make everyday tasks look decent.
Don’t expect more than that though. The brightness level of 266 nits can only handle indoor use, so you won’t get much work done in the park after a lecture.
This display also has no scope for serious creative work. It only renders 56.8% of the sRGB gamut, so it can only produce some of the hues required by everyday games and applications. This makes the screen look a bit washed out. Unsurprisingly, it’s worse with Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 spaces, and its Delta E of 5.22 is poor, so accuracy suffers.
This screen can only handle everyday tasks and media viewing – anyone serious about photo editing will want something better. The Acer suffered similarly, while the HP had an OLED touchscreen that’s much more useful for creatives.
We also recommend different audio sets for games, TV shows or movies. The speakers have reasonable volume, but are thin and lack bass. An affordable bluetooth speaker would be better.
MSI Modern 15 Review: Battery Life
- You’ll have a hard time getting through lunch with this laptop
- Seven hours of life at best
MSI builds this laptop with two different batteries. In the UK it’s sold with a tiny 39.3Wh battery, while US buyers get a larger 52Wh unit… and frankly, neither is good.
We tested this British model, which lasted nearly five hours in a daily work test. Dim the screen or play a movie and you might get six hours.
If you have the larger American battery, add an hour to these numbers. And if you want to stretch the inside with light gaming, you won’t get two hours out of this notebook.
No matter which model you have, you’ll have a hard time seeing lunch time. That’s a long way from other rivals – the Acer lasted at least seven hours in a work benchmark, and the HP lasted even more.
MSI Modern 15 Review: Price
Weaknesses like poor battery life are no surprise when you consider MSI’s price. In the US, the i5-1235U model it costs $499 and on i7-1255U version is $799. In the United Kingdom, they cost £529 and £549. There’s no doubt that these prices are affordable, but some of MSI’s competitors are also surprisingly well-priced.
Get the Acer, which has better battery life and more connectivity than the MSI. In the US, the Core i5 and Core i7 models cost $499 and $862. In the UK at least, the Acer’s £699 and £799 prices put it beyond the MSI.
The HP is reliably expensive, but that’s no surprise given the convertible AMOLED display and better battery life. Its Core i5 and Core i7 models cost $799 and $949, or £799 and £1,099 in the UK, so it’s always more expensive.
Should you buy the MSI Modern 15?
It’s impossible to get everything right on a budget laptop, but the MSI Modern 15 has some positives. The Core i5 and Core i7 processors are capable everyday CPUs for home and student use – the latter in particular is a good multitasker and adds some basic content creation capabilities.
Elsewhere, the MSI has reasonable build quality, isn’t heavy, and has plenty of USB ports. The keyboard is also comfortable. On the downside, its battery life is poor, the screen isn’t impressive, and a faster connection is easy to find.
The MSI is a capable everyday performer for students and home users – especially those who need to save money or do a lot of typing. However, this probably shouldn’t be on your list if you want long battery life, lots of ports, or the ability to edit photos.
If MSI Modern 15 is not for you?
Want more ports, more biometrics, and better battery life without breaking the bank? Then the Acer Aspire Vero is perfect. It’s also very good for the environment.
If you’re a creative person who likes to spend more money, then the HP Envy x360 13 has a fantastic display, convertible design and all-day battery life. This is a solid photographic choice.
Although not known for low price, the quality of Apple products is highly regarded. So if you’ve had your eye on a MacBook, then the cheapest way to get an Apple laptop is to go for the MacBook Air M1. It’s a powerful machine with impressive battery performance.