MSI Prestige 14 review: Workhorse power in a thin-and-light shell

It packs a 6-core Comet Lake U and a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q into a 2.8-pound body.

msi prestige 14 6
Gordon Mah Ung

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At a Glance
  • MSI Prestige 14

All laptops are a compromise in design and MSI’s Prestige 14 is no different. Even so, there’s a lot to love about what is likely the most powerful laptop in its class.

We’re not exaggerating. The Prestige 14 packs a 6-core Comet Lake Core i7-10710U along with a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q discrete GPU, all while weighing 2.8 pounds. That’s basically the same weight as a Dell XPS 13 7390 or HP Spectre x360 13, which don’t have discrete GPUs. MSI does all this while also including a 4K screen and a reasonably sized 52-watt-hour battery.

msi prestige 14 5 Gordon Mah Ung

MSI’s Prestige 14 is arguably the most powerful laptop in its weight class.

The compromise

But as we said, there is compromise to all laptops, and in with Prestige 14, it’s the cooling. While competitors might use two fans or beefier heat pipes to keep all of that hardware cool, MSI tasks a single fan and a single heat pipe. That results in loud fan noise when pushed and yes, performance throttling at times.

For many people, the performance and weight of the Prestige 14 will be a godsend. For others, the compromise may be too much. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of the Prestige 14.

screenshot 20200129 152008 IDG

The MSI Prestige 14’s single exhaust fan pushes all of the heat out one side of the laptop.

MSI Prestige 14 Specs

It’s truly impressive that MSI was able to fit so many high-end parts into such a small and slender chassis. Here are the main features:

CPU: Our review model came with a Comet Lake U 6-core Core i7-10710U. Budget-minded folks can opt for the quad-core Core i5-10210U.

RAM: 16GB LPDDR3

Storage: Our unit had the 1TB NVMe SSD, and a 512GB SD is available in the lower-cost model.

Display: 14-inch 4K UHD (3840x2160) “IPS-level” LCD with 100-percent Adobe RGB color space support. We measured it at a blazing 565 nits of brightness. The lower-cost version features an FHD “IPS-level” panel, rated to hit 100 percent of the sRGB color space, rather than the wider Adobe RGB gamut.

GPU: The Turing-based GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q is a massive step up over the typical Pascal-based GeForce MX250 chips we see in laptops this size.

msi prestige 14 15 Gordon Mah Ung

The MSI Prestige 14 (middle) is sandwiched between an HP Spectre x360 13 (top) and a Dell XPS 15 (bottom).

Ports: Two Thunderbolt 3, two USB Type A, microSD reader, combo audio jack.

Size and weight: The laptop is 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.63 inches thick and weighs 2.8 pounds, 3.7 pounds with the included 90-watt USB-C power adapter.

Wireless: MSI uses an Intel AX201 2x2 WiFi 6 controller with support for Bluetooth 5.

Windows Hello: The laptop features both facial and fingerprint biometric readers.

msi prestige 14 17 Gordon Mah Ung

MSI bundles a USB-C dongle with ethernet and USB ports along with a 90 watt USB-C power brick.

Accessories: In a nice touch, MSI includes a USB-C dongle with two more USB Type A 5GBps ports, an SD card reader, a microSD card reader, and a Realtek-based Gigabit ethernet port. Oddly, the dongle has what we believe to be a supplementary cable you stretch to the USB Type A port on the right side of the laptop. We say oddly, because we had no issues running Gigabit ethernet, a mouse, keyboard, and an SD card in the dongle without the optional power plug. MSI also includes a leather-like case for the laptop.

msi prestige 14 7 Gordon Mah Ung

The keyboard features a white backlight and is hollow-sounding but functional. The trackpad is glass-smooth and despite its size, did not react to palm presses.

Keyboard, mouse and speakers

The backlit keyboard action on the Prestige 14 is functional, but under hard typing can sound hollow and bouncy. It’s serviceable for most except the picky-keyboard brigade (you know who you are).

The trackpad is oversized, with one corner occupied by the biometric fingerprint reader. Despite its extra real estate, the palm rejection was excellent—we did not have issues with our palm causing the cursor to jump around. The surface of the trackpad is beautifully glass-smooth, with effortless finger-gliding.

There's nothing special about the speakers on the Prestige 14. Like most laptop speakers (especially in a design this slender), they sound thin and tinny. 

msi prestige 14 12 Gordon Mah Ung

The speakers are bottom firing and we suspect made of the smallest kazoos ever produced. You can also see the generous portions of vents on the laptop’s bottom to aid in cooling.

Build quality

“Build quality” is difficult to quantify. First, the Prestige 14 feels like a premium laptop, with its brushed aluminum finish and a hinge that lets you flip the lid open with one hand. 

To get to this weight though, the shell is a fairly thin gauge. While the chassis feels sturdy, you can flex it by gripping it in each corner and twisting enough to see a slight gap open up at the trackpad. Unles you're preparing for some laptop-twisting competition this isn't a move you'd normally do, but it demonstrates one of the challenges laptop manufacturers face in the quest for ever-thinner and lighter machines.

msi prestige 14 left side ports Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

Lifting the lid on the MSI Prestige 14 causes the bottom edge of the panel to tilt the laptop upward, increasing airflow.

MSI Prestige 14 CPU Performance

With so much hardware jammed into such a light laptop, the compromise was always going to be about performance. MSI tries to mitigate this by offering no fewer than four profiles for running the laptop: High Performance, Balanced, Silent, and Super Battery. Performance profiles in laptops are not new, but with the MSI they are critical to getting the most out of the laptop.

On its default setting of Balanced, for example, the CPU’s performance is essentially limited to that of a quad-core 8th-gen CPU. Set the laptop to its High Performance setting, and the CPU is now basically on a par with competing 6-core Core i7-10710U laptops.

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MSI’s Creator Center can automatically tweak approved applications for increased performance by changing affinity, GPU performance, and RAM performance.

To give you a better idea of just how the Prestige 14 performs, we ran Cinebench R15’s multi-threaded test on all of the modes. The worst, not surprisingly, is Super Battery, which limits the CPU’s clock speeds to 400MHz—yes, 400MHz.

Silent lets it clock up to 2.6GHz and is more accurately quiet, rather than “silent.” We say that because some may think silent means fans totally off and, uh, silent, but on silent they do spin—quietly. The default Balanced mode is also generally acceptable for fan noise, and a good compromise on CPU performance.

Setting the MS Prestige 14 to High Performance gives you the best performance, and also a near-constant running of the fans at full speed under loads. You can see all the modes compared in the chart below. 

msi prestige 14 cinebench r15 nt power profiles IDG

MSI’s Prestige 14 features four power profiles as part of its Creator Center, each of which noticeably impacts overall performance.

We have limited data for comparing the CPU performance to that of other laptops, because we’ve seen only one other Core i7-10710U laptop. We wouldn’t normally include a much heavier, much faster 8-core Core i9-9980HK against laptops in this category, but those who are looking at a laptop with the performance promise of the Prestige 14 should know what they’re giving up, and what they’re getting, for the weight differences. We can say performance is on a par with competing designs—when the Prestige 14 is set to High Performance. 

msi prestige 14 cinebench r15 nt IDG

Make judicious use of the power profiles on the Prestige 14 to get the most performance out of the laptop.

We also test laptops using Cinebench R15 and a single thread. This gives us an idea of how well the laptop will handle the more mundane applications you might use. General performance for most tasks on Balanced or High Performance is quite good—most people probably couldn't tell the difference.

We didn’t include the performance of the laptop set to its Super Battery mode, because it's off-the-charts underwhelming at a mere 83. Set to Super Battery, the laptop feels like an Atom-based CPU—sluggish.

msi prestige 14 cinebench r15 1t IDG

Single-threaded performance of the Prestige 14’s Core i7 is fine even when set to its default Balanced mode. Just don't ask about Super Battery mode.

One limitation to using Cinebench 15 as a gauge is its short run time. On modern laptop CPUs it might finish in a minute or so, which doesn’t properly test performance under a longer load. For that, we use an older version of the free HandBrake utility to convert a 30GB 1080p file using the Android Tablet preset. It’s a taxing, multi-threaded test which can take an hour to finish on many laptops. That’s long enough that any Turbo Boost capabilities usually are burned off early, as the laptop settles down for a long marathon run.

As you can see, the Prestige 14’s performance depends very much on which mode you’re in. On its default of Balanced, performance is in the neighborhood of quad-core CPUs from Intel and AMD. Set it to High Performance, it actually outpaces the similarly equipped (by CPU) Dell XPS 13 7390 by a few minutes. So yes, performance of the CPU can be quite impressive when it's working alone.

For the record: Set to Super Battery, the MSI Prestige 14 took 12,472 seconds, or about 207 minutes, to complete the encode.

msi prestige 14 handbrake IDG

The Prestige 14 can be quite fast on CPU tasks when set to its High Performance mode.

Keep reading for more benchmarks and battery life.

At a Glance
  • MSI's Prestige 14 offers an impressive amount of hardware in a laptop weighing less than 3 pounds.

    Pros

    • Six-core Core i7-10710U and GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU
    • Very bright, 100-percent Adobe RGB panel
    • Amazingly light considering the CPU and GPU inside

    Cons

    • Chassis can flex
    • Can hit performance wall under heavy CPU and GPU loads
    • Speakers sound like Kazoos
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