Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
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 ($1,699 from Amazon) 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.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing models and how we tested them.
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.
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 (3840×2160) “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.
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 2×2 WiFi 6 controller with support for Bluetooth 5.
Windows Hello: The laptop features both facial and fingerprint biometric readers.
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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keep reading for more benchmarks and battery life.
Does it even matter how fast it is?
One thing that you should always keep in mind when buying a PC is to pick the right tool for the job. If you have the need for a 6-core CPU and GTX 1650 GPU in a 2.8-pound laptop, rock on. But if all you really do is open up a few Chrome tabs, Word, and Outlook, and watch Netflix, do you really need a 6-core CPU and GTX 1650? Probably not.
One good measure we have for that is PCMark 8’s work test, which simulates everyday productivity tasks. A score of 2,000 or more indicates your PC is up to the job. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter which laptop you pick for the job, as just about any modern laptop will do the job.
We did, for kicks, throw in the score from the laptop when set to its painfully slow Super Battery mode. The score of 2,086 just barely squeaks by the 2,000-score threshold for acceptable performance. For reference, it’s a little faster than the 1,717 score eked out by an Atom X7-z8700 CPU in a Surface 3. We can tell you that Surface 3 was painfully slow to use, too.
Prestige 14 GPU performance
MSI has reiterated many times that although it includes a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q in the laptop, it didn’t do that for gaming. Still, a discrete GPU should open the door to some play. Using the 3DMark Sky Diver benchmark, the Prestige 14 easily sweeps away all of the older Intel integrated graphics laptops, as well as those based on Intel’s newer Ice Lake 10th-gen Core i7-1065G7. It also easily dispatches Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 laptops, and AMD’s current Ryzen APUs.
For reference, we also include the performance of the GeForce GTX 1650 inside of Dell’s larger and heavier XPS 15 7590. As you can see, you do give up a hefty chunk of performance going with the Max-Q GPU—but you save on weight and size, too.
Overall, gaming should mostly be fine if your expectations are moderate.
CPU vs. GPU vs. IGP
If the GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q isn’t for gaming, then why have it? Well, one reason MSI likely picked it over the more practical GeForce MX250 is its capability in encoding. With its newer Turing chip, the GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q supports Nvidia’s NVENC hardware encoder and decoder. The older Pascal-based MX250 GPU doesn’t.
With hardware support for NVENC, the Prestige 14 gives you a lot more flexibility than a laptop with an MX250 GPU. To see the impact on performance we used the newest version of HandBrake and encoded a 4K file using the 1080p 30 fps H.265 preset. As you can see the GTX 1650 comes in a bit faster.
More important is the flexibility. Application support for Intel’s QuickSync and Nvidia’s NVENC varies widely, so having it as an option at all is likely more important than just how fast it is.
Prestige 14 battery performance
Our last standard benchmark is a battery life test. For that, we loop a 4K video using Windows’ Movies&TV app, with the laptop’s display brightness set to 250-260 nits, Wi-Fi set to Airplane mode, and a pair of earbuds plugged in with volume set to its midpoint.
Overall, we’d rate the Prestige 14’s run time as adequate. Don’t blame the hotshot GPU and CPU; the 4K panel is the most likely culprit.
If you look at the results below, almost every laptop on the bottom of the list features a high-resolution display. Battery size matters, too: While the Dell XPS 15 7590 can produce better results using a 4K panel, it also has a massive 97-watt-hour “gas tank.” The standout battery life numbers come from laptops with 1080p FHD screens.
The test is “realistic” because if you’re trying to watch a movie on a train, plane or automobile, every minute counts. It’s also fair to say that video playback performance on any modern laptop is essentially cruise control. Most of the video is handled with dedicated circuits in the integrated graphics, so the CPU and the accompanying GPU should be asleep and using minimal power.
If you were to do something much more battery-intensive like browse the web (yes, that’s a battery drain) or run Photoshop, you can probably lop off a third to half of the battery life. If you’re going to encode a video or push the GPU hard—you probably shouldn’t expect more than an hour to an hour and a half at best.
MSI could have solved this, of course, by using a larger battery. But then the laptop wouldn’t be as light.
For the first test, we ran OpenCL Luxmark 3 with the Luxball model. The test uses Open Compute Language to ray-trace an image. OpenCL can be run on CPUs and GPUs, so for the first test, we run OpenCL on just the Prestige 14’s GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q. We also run the test using all four of the available power presets for the laptop. It’s the first chart we ran, and here it is again.
As you can see, there are huge CPU performance hits depending on the profile selected on the Prestige 14. But what about the GPU? As you can see in the chart below, even when the CPU is basically locked at 400MHz, this GPU-based OpenCL test is essentially a tie.
This second result tells us MSI’s power profiles don’t gate GPU clocks as part of its power savings plan. It also confirms that LuxMark properly doesn’t care how fast the CPU is running, because this particular test is supposed to be a GPU OpenCL load.
What happens when you stress both the GPU and CPU at the same time? We tasked the Prestige 14 with the same OpenCL load, adding the CPU’s x86 cores too. Performance improves, even on the 400MHz Super Battery mode.
Everything is fine until you set the laptop to High Performance. Rather than scaling up the performance, the laptop hits a wall and actually drops below using just the GPU alone.
Why? We believe that loading up the CPU and the GPU simultaneously with such a heavy workload simply pushes the laptop beyond its cooling or power limits, which causes the slowdown.
During Luxmark, the GPU’s clock speeds alone would stick to 1,500MHz for most of the run. With the CPU also putting out heat, the GPU’s clock speeds drop to 900MHz. That’s enough to drop overall performance even with both working.
With so many layers of nuance, MSI’s Prestige 14 is not an easy laptop to review. We basically think the main fact that sets the Prestige 14 apart from the pack is its weight and the potential performance of the components inside.
To help think about this, we made a chart with the weight of the Prestige 14 against those of other comparable laptops with discrete GPUs.
For reference, we also include a Dell XPS 13 7390, which has a 4K touch screen. The 4K screen and touch adds a few ounces on the Dell but it has a 6-core CPU with only integrated graphics. Huawei’s MateBook X Pro is similar in screen size, and heavier—but it tops out with an 8th-gen 4-core CPU and GeForce MX250 graphics.
The only real natural competitor to the Prestige 14 is the Razer Blade Stealth 13, which features the same GTX 1650 GPU and an Intel Ice Lake Core i7-1065G7 GPU. Although we haven’t reviewed the latest Razer Blade Stealth 13, other reviewers say it’s faster than the Prestige 14 when both CPU and GPU are working heavily. It’s also heavier by almost half a pound, mostly due to the thicker aluminum body, and the additional heat pipes and fans.
Of course, you could just step up to a 15.6-inch laptop, which would get you far more CPU and GPU performance—at the cost of a lot more weight.
So, the question you should ask yourself is how much every ounce matters to you. If you must have 6 cores and a GTX 1650 in as light a package as possible—and you’re willing to accept the limitation of the platform—we can heartily recommend the MSI Prestige 14. If, however, you’re ticked off by giving up any performance for “just” another 8 ounces, then you might want to look elsewhere.
But let’s make sure to say it’s still fairly amazing to get this much hardware in this light of a laptop.