MSI has earned a good name for itself in the high-end gaming laptop space. It was the Taiwanese component manufacturers, most notably MSI and Asus, who first popularised powerful gaming laptops. They used their knowledge of gaming and history with enthusiasts to realise that customers wanted laptops more than desktops but weren't always happy with sacrificing power for slimness.
Now, Dell, Acer, HP and Lenovo have gone all-in on the profitable gaming segment, and they're all very serious about grabbing market share. Faced with competition from well-known brands, MSI is returning the favour by going mainstream.
MSI's Prestige series still uses relatively high-end hardware, but the focus is on style. The company started down this path with the well-received GS65 Stealth Thin 8RF, its first ultra-portable gaming laptop. With the new PS63 Modern, MSI is hoping to attract buyers who don't like the blinged-out style of a gaming laptop but still want powerful components. Can this gaming-focused company bring a fresh perspective to the ultra-portable laptop segment? We're about to find out.
MSI PS63 Modern 8RC design
By the standards of MSI's gaming laptops, the PS63 Modern is downright demure. Gone are the red accents, aggressive lines, oversized vents, and gratuitous LEDs. This laptop has a simple low-key shape with slightly rounded corners and a tapered base. The entire body has a deep blue-gray metallic tint that MSI calls Carbon Grey.
There are very thin bevelled edges at the top and bottom, as well as the rim of the trackpad, which are a shiny purplish-blue colour. This is going to be a polarising design choice — it's certainly attention-grabbing, and it's the only thing that keeps the design from what we would consider minimalist. You can't call the PS63 Modern understated or subtle, but you can't call it boring either.
The lid is metal and has a matte texture, but it's unfortunately easy to smudge. MSI's dragon badge, typical of gaming hardware, seems a little out of place here even though it's just printed and not illuminated. Surprisingly, the only other visible branding is a very faint MSI logo below the screen.
There are two small hinges at the extreme ends of the PS63 Modern's body. They're stiff enough to keep the screen upright without wobbling, and we were still able to open and close the lid with one finger. There are large vents between the hinges but they're hidden nicely.
MSI highlights the 5.6mm thin screen borders and 86 percent screen-to-body ratio, and the PS63 Modern does live up to its name in that sense. There's still enough place above the screen for a webcam, which is great. The lid is stiff but flexes quite a bit, especially in the centre where the hinges don't support it.
The keyboard deck is metal with the same colour and texture as the lid, but also the same tendency to pick up smudges from your fingers and palms. This is nit-picking, but we were annoyed by the inconsistent sizing and capitalisation of the keycap label text.
Laptop keyboards are hard to get right, and MSI has done a very good job here. The keys are just the right balance of crisp and springy even though there isn't much key travel. You can choose between three levels for the white backlight. There's no numeric keypad, which a lot of other 15.6-inch laptops manage to fit in, but that isn't entirely a bad thing.
We're happy to see dedicated paging keys and an arrow cluster that isn't crammed into a single line. There are still a few layout quirks, such as a completely unnecessary extra ‘\' key to the right of the spacebar but no Fn key to the left. The Fn key row is also curiously underutilised with no media playback shortcuts and very few system-level toggles and controls.
The trackpad is surprisingly wide — MSI says it's 35 percent bigger than usual. The entire surface is a button and can physically be clicked. There's a fingerprint sensor near the upper left corner (but the considerable space between the corner of the trackpad and the sensor itself is a dead zone).
Unfortunately, this design introduces a few usability issues. The trackpad's surface is very slick and we found it difficult to move the cursor with fine accuracy. Our palms rested on the trackpad while typing, and palm rejection was occasionally a problem. We kept accidentally clicking the trackpad and this did sometimes make the cursor jump to the wrong place or make a context menu appear when we were trying to type. We should note that if you aren't a touch typist or if you tend to hover rather than rest your palms on the trackpad, you might not have the same experience that we did.
On the left side of this laptop we have the DC power inlet, an HDMI output, a USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port that supports DisplayPort video output, one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, and a 2.5mm headset socket. That Type-A port is very interesting because it supports Qualcomm's QuckCharge 3.0 standard — more on that later. The right side has another USB 3.1 Gen1 port, one USB 3.1 Gen2 port, and a microSD card slot. We would have liked a full-sized SD card slot and Ethernet, but this is still a very good amount of connectivity.
The MSI PS63 Modern weighs 1.6kg and is 15.9mm thick, making it very portable. You could easily carry this laptop around in a backpack or sling bag every day. Even the 90W charger is relatively small and light.
MSI PS63 Modern 8RC specifications and software
Two variants of this laptop are available in India, the PS63 Modern 8RC, and the PS63 Modern 8M. The former features an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 (Max-Q) GPU and comes with a 90W mains adapter, while the latter makes do with Intel's integrated graphics and only needs a 65W charger. We're reviewing the more expensive PS63 Modern 8RC, which should be able to handle light gaming and some professional content creation tasks a bit better.
Both are identical in every other way, starting with a quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor running at a base speed of 1.8GHz and a boost speed of 4.6GHz. There's 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD. Considering that this is a slim laptop, we're happy that the spec sheet notes that both the RAM and SSD are modular and upgradeable. In fact, there's an additional SATA M.2 slot for a second SSD if you need one.
The 15.6-inch display is listed as “IPS-level” and is said to be able to reproduce “close to 100 percent” of the sRGB spectrum. There's an 82WHr battery rated for 16 hours of productivity on the go. You get Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and a 720p webcam which can be disabled at the hardware level for security.
The PS63 Modern runs Windows 10 Home. There is some preinstalled software including a demo version of Norton Security which keeps on throwing up popups, and Norton Studio for managing multiple devices. Most of the software is MSI's own, and the company is not subtle about letting you know it. You'll be prompted by an MSI online registration tool, a colour calibration widget for the screen, a driver and app updater, Nahimic Audio control panel, a backup tool, and the main Creator Center utility (which also includes most of the smaller apps' functions).
Creator Center is the equivalent of MSI's Dragon Center for gaming laptops, minus the overclocking and RGB LED controls. Its main tab shows a toggle for ‘Creator Mode', which is described as an “auto tuning” function for specific photo, audio and video editing programs. It supports Adobe's Creative Cloud software and several tools from Magix and Corel.
What this means is you can override the Windows scheduler to set these apps' affinity to specific CPU threads and give them preferred access to RAM. There are also unexplained memory and GPU optimisation toggles. We would really not recommend that you mess with this level of tweaking unless you know exactly what you're doing and how it affects all other hardware and software.
Creator Center shows you an overview of your laptop's resource usage, lets you tweak the display colour mode and audio equaliser settings, enable or disable the webcam, and choose a power mode. You can choose to swap the Windows and Fn keyboard keys which are on opposite sides of the spacebar, or disable the Windows key altogether. You can also enable or disable the QuickCharge 3.0 USB port.
MSI PS63 Modern 8RC performance and battery life
We were very happy with the PS63 Modern in the time that we spent with it. It's very portable but at no point did we feel that performance or comfort had been compromised. Of course there are even thinner and lighter laptops, but MSI has found a very good balance between portability and power. Other than the frustrating trackpad we had no trouble at all with multitasking in Windows, streaming video, and getting work done.
You don't get a touchscreen, which is a slight disappointment for such a premium laptop. On the other hand, the panel is non-reflective, and we were very happy with it. We didn't have to struggle to work comfortably under our overhead office lights. Windows 10 was set to 125 percent scaling but we took that down to 100 percent and had a lot more usable workspace. Videos and games look fine on this screen. Colours are slightly muted unless you pump the brightness up above 75 percent.
The side-firing stereo speakers on the bottom of this laptop are fairly loud and produce a surprisingly open and clear sound. It works very well for dialogue in movies, but when we started playing music we realised that there was no bass whatsoever and everything sounded tinny. The webcam is good enough for video chats but you'll need to be in a brightly lit room.
The MSI PS63 Modern breezed through all our benchmarks thanks to the Core i7 CPU and generous amount of RAM. We got 337 and 1,087 points respectively in the brand new Cinebench R20 benchmark's single-core and multi-core tests. POVRay ran its built-in render test in 3 minutes, 54 seconds. PCMark 10's Extended test gave us a score of 3,387. We compressed a 3.24GB folder of assorted files using 7-zip in 4 minutes, 6 seconds, and transcoded a 1.36GB AVI file to H.265 in 2 minutes, 2 seconds.
One minor annoyance with our review unit was that the 512GB SSD had been divided into two partitions of 286GB and 173GB, which we thought was unnecessarily restrictive. Nearly 17GB was reserved for system and BIOS recovery data. Still, the SSD performed quite well and gave us sequential read and write speeds of 1,737.7MBps and 1,446MBps respectively.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU means that there is scope for gaming. MSI has gone with Nvidia's Max-Q option which is supposed to help keep heat and noise under control. We got 1,724 points in 3DMark's Time Spy test and 5,222 in the Fire Strike test. We then ran Unigine Valley at 1920x1080 using its Ultra preset and got 30.4fps on average.
We ran through a few in-game benchmarks as well. Rise of the Tomb Raider ran at a respectable average of 43.17fps when set to the native 1920x1080 resolution using the High preset. Far Cry 5 gave us an average of 33fps using the same settings, but there was a little stuttering and inconsistency. All of this shows that there is potential for gaming at reasonably high quality settings.
MSI boasts of a ‘Professional Quiet Mark' certification so you aren't distracted while working. We found that we could only hear the PS63 Modern's fans when running heavy games, but when we did hear them the sound was scratchy and not subtle. The entire keyboard got a bit hot after about an hour of gaming too. With everyday use, we found that the base got a bit too warm for us to keep this laptop on our lap for long.
The PS63 Modern is supposed to deliver 16 hours of productivity, but we found that claim to be optimistic. We ran for about 12 hours of basic Web surfing and document work with a bit of HD video streaming.
That brings us to this laptop's most interesting feature — its QuickCharge 3.0 USB port. When running on mains power or when the laptop's battery level is over 30 percent, you can plug any QuickCharge 3.0 compatible smartphone or other device into the USB 3.1 Type-A port on the left, and it will be charged quickly. When this happens, that port will not support data transfers.
You can turn QuickCharge mode on or off using the Creator Center if needed, but it will come on by default when the laptop's battery can support it. A white LED next to the port will light up to tell you that this mode is active. Quick charging is available even when the laptop is closed and in standby. We tried it and it worked as expected.
It's really hard to find a laptop that strikes the perfect balance between features and portability. MSI has come very close to that with the PS63 Modern. This is a company that knows what serious PC users want, and design hasn't come in the way of usability. The screen and keyboard are very good, battery life is strong, and overall construction quality is satisfying.
Looks are subjective but we like the direction that MSI has gone in. The QuickCharge USB port could really come in handy for road warriors like us, and at just 1.6kg we wouldn't mind carrying this laptop around every day.
The only real issue we had was the trackpad. We don't find the regular-sized trackpads on today's laptops restrictive so we can't really see what MSI was going for with this super-sized one. Hopefully firmware updates will fix the accidental taps and sensitivity.
It might take a leap of faith for laptop buyers to spend Rs. 1,29,990 on a laptop from a brand that isn't as well known as Dell, HP, Lenovo, or Acer. We think it's worth considering if you're serious about portability and productivity. It's available online, and MSI does have retail stores in a few big Indian cities, so you can try it out for yourself. If you like the style and don't see yourself playing any games, the PS63 Modern 8M without the GeForce GTX 1050 GPU is priced at Rs. 99,990 in India.