Motile M142 review: Ryzen finds a home in this surprisingly good budget notebook

Walmart's house brand never feels cheap. There's a lot to like about this Motile M142 low-cost laptop, including the surprisingly solid AMD Ryzen 5 inside it.

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Motile M142 performance: Feast or famine

We grade notebook PCs and other products’ performance as objectively as we can, using scripted benchmarks and other tools. Our evaluations become more subjective as we factor in how the device operates on a daily basis, how comfortable it is to use, and so on. What we would call “value” falls somewhere in between: If a device costs $2,000, for example, we expect its performance to justify the price tag. But we’re more forgiving of poorer performance if you’re not spending as much.

That preamble explains what we think of as one of the Motile M142’s key strengths: value. AMD’s older mobile Ryzen chip doesn’t need to overpower the competition to justify buying it—it just needs to compete, remaining above a “good enough” threshold of performance. It does, and therefore Motile M142 does, too.

We’ve compared the Motile M142 against a variety of notebook PCs, some priced significantly higher than the M142’s $699 list price. (As noted above, Walmart has dropped the price to as low as $399 or even less, over the course of this review.)

As we do with all of the devices we test, we used the M142 as a daily driver, both for writing this review as well as simply our daily work. We had no hiccups while web browsing, working with office apps, and the like. (One exception was occasional judder in playing back 4K videos at 60 fps in YouTube, though Netflix played with no issues.) The M142 was responsive—perhaps not quite as quick to recognize us in the morning using Windows Hello as other, competing devices, but otherwise a pleasure to use. 

We test using a variety of “real-world” and purely synthetic benchmarks, pushing laptops like the Motile M142 to their limits. About the only oddity we noticed was a rather pronounced spread in certain benchmark scores, specifically the PCMark 8 scores, where the delta reached 15 percent. We normally test each benchmark at least three times, but on certain tests we ran far more passes, just to make sure we received representative scores. Some sort of power or thermal throttling may be going on here. However, our usual way of checking this, Intel’s XTU software, doesn’t run on AMD processors. 

We use UL’s PCMark benchmarks to approximate real-world use, with both the older PCMark 8 benchmarks as well as the modern PCMark 10. PCMark 8 breaks out its tests into separate benchmarks. We use the Work test, which measures word processing, spreadsheet work, video calling, and more, as well as the PCMark Creative test, which pushes the laptop harder on multimedia-specific tasks such as photo editing, light gaming, and the like. We have PCMark 8 Work test scores for all of our low-end laptops, so we’ve used that test here.

pcmark 8 work IDG

Motile’s M142 finishes at the bottom of the heap here, although we recorded an unusually wide range of scores, from 2,671 to 3,282. That still wouldn’t really have boosted its scores much higher, though.

The M142 didn’t do well here. One possible explanation for the low scores, however, could be the anemic performance of the internal SSD. CrystalDiskMark measures random and sequential data reads using various metrics, and in the first column, sequential reads using multiple data queues are only 81 megabytes per second. While it’s completely unfair to measure the M142 against the substantially more expensive Surface Laptop 3 for Business, it’s worth pointing out that the SL3 read 2,282 megabytes per second using the same metric—28 times faster! This is a budget SSD inside a budget laptop.

Motile M142 SSD CrystalDiskMark IDG

Next, we use Maxon’s Cinebench test to render, as quickly as possible, a complex CGI scene. Although the test supports both single-core and multi-core scores, we only record the result from turning on all of the cores and processor threads and running them at full load. Here, the Motile M142 performs well.

cinebench r15 IDG

The Walmart Motile M142 holds its own in the Cinebench CPU test, nearly topping the competition.

While Cinebench takes a scant few minutes to run, our HandBrake test stresses all of the cores over a prolonged period, sometimes an hour or more, as the PC works to convert a Hollywood movie into a format appropriate for storing and viewing on an Android tablet. More often than not, the test PC will begin to slow down over time to avoid overheating the CPU. In the case of the M142, its fan turned on often, and remained on for most of this test (though it wasn’t particularly loud or oppressive). Apparently that was the right decision, as the Motile posted an impressively fast result.

handbrake IDG

The Motile 142 finishes at the top of the heap in our video conversion stress test using Handbrake.

We use the 3DMark test to evaluate how well a laptop performs in 3D games and other tests of its GPU. The 3DMark Sky Diver test has consistently proven to be a good comparative measure. Here, AMD has traditionally positioned its Radeon integrated GPUs as superior to Intel’s own. Our recent Intel “Ice Lake” tests show that isn’t true—but Intel hasn’t migrated the chip down to the budget PC category yet, either. The Motile’s performance here is fantastic, exceeding the score of the closest competitor by 32 percent!

3dmark sky diver IDG

AMD’s Radeon cores excel here, pushing the Motile M142 way over Intel’s integrated GPUs.

Finally, there’s battery life. We perform a video rundown test, where we set the laptop screen to 250-260 nits’ brightness (maxed out, in the case of the M142’s dim display), attach earbuds at midrange volume, and loop a 4K video over and over until the battery dies.

Your mileage will vary, but in any scenario, the Motile M142 posted a lackluster score of 6 hours, 38 minutes. The 46.7Wh battery is on the small side, but the display clearly isn’t sucking extra power, so we’re not sure why the Motile M142 quits so soon. 

battery life IDG

Average battery life of about 6.5 hours suggests the Motile M142 should rarely stray from AC.

Should you buy the Motile M142? It’s the price

Price weighs heavily in our evaluation of the Motile M142. Acer sells scads of Aspire 5 series laptops, but compared to the M142, the Aspire is superior only in battery life. Lenovo’s IdeaPad S340-15IWL hugs the top of our performance charts as well, but at a current price of $458, it’s somewhat more expensive. 

The Motile M142 also may be shooting itself in the foot with its low-end parts. If you’re the adventurous type, break out your screwdriver and consider upgrading the poky SSD—there are screws on the bottom that allow access to its innards.

Walmart’s Motile house brand nevertheless deserves attention because of its potential, assuming it sticks with AMD. We’d like to see how the M142 fares if it’s refreshed with AMD’s mobile Ryzen 4000 chips, which promise some real competition for Intel at last.

If you’re a student considering toting the Motile M142 from class to class, I’d pass it over, and consider something a bit more powerful, and with a longer-lasting battery. But at $350 to $399, I’d definitely recommend that a family member with mainstream needs purchase the Motile M142 as their next budget laptop. 

Updated at 12:10 PM on Jan. 30 to clarify details of the THX Spatial Audio for Headphones app.

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At a Glance
  • Walmart's little-known budget laptop scrimps in some areas that we think you'll tolerate in favor of the low price.

    Pros

    • Price tag is low, and can go lower
    • AMD's mobile Ryzen CPU provides solid performance
    • Lightweight and sturdy

    Cons

    • Lacks a touchscreen
    • A fairly noisy and constant fan
    • Poky SSD slows down performance in places
    • Keyboard design invites crumbs
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