“Here’s what we make of MSI’s latest business-class laptop, the Prestige PS42”

If you’re in the market for a gaming laptop, then chances are you might have glanced over Taiwanese brand MSI’s brochure. The company has launched numerous gaming laptops over the years and has solidified its presence amongst consumers who like to game on the go. That said, it’s unwise to have all your eggs in one basket and consequently, MSI too is diversifying. Recently, the brand announced its first ultra-portable business notebook dubbed the Prestige PS42 in India. Seeing how the market is flooded with quality business-class laptops from the likes of Dell, HP and Lenovo, can MSI’s offering stand out? I intend to find out in this review. Stay with me.

Design and Display

MSI has done a complete 180 when it comes to the design of the Prestige PS42, which frankly looks nothing like the company’s gaming laptops. The unit comes clad in a silver finish and has been constructed in entirety using metal, save for the plastic trim bordering the display. Despite that, the laptop weighs a meagre 1.19 Kg, making it lighter than even Dell’s XPS 13. Suffice it to say, you’ll rarely ever feel the weight of the laptop towering on your shoulders when you’re carrying it around.

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You will, however, get plenty of compliments on the design of the machine every time you take it out of your backpack. Although MSI’s take on the PS42’s design is rather minimalistic, I noticed that my colleagues were inadvertently drawn towards the laptop. It could’ve something to do with the laptop’s compact chassis, or its near bezel-less display, or even the presence of a dragon logo etched onto the laptop’s lid. Rest assured, MSI was able to swoon my compadres with the PS42’s aesthetics easily, and I’m confident that the unit will leave a lasting impression on others too.

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Thankfully, the laptop’s build quality is on par with the competition and there’s no noticeable flex around the keyboard or the base of the unit. To achieve this, MSI has cleverly positioned a plastic ridge towards the bottom of the PS42, which prevents any flex you’d otherwise experience by applying pressure on the keyboard. The hinge mechanism is quite sturdy too and it offers plenty of friction, meaning the display won’t wobble when you’re aggressively typing or playing games on the machine. Moreover, you can swivel the display a full 180-degrees, ensuring buyers will get a wide range of viewing angles.

Unfortunately, the design of the laptop is not without its flaws. For starters, while the hinge supporting the display is solid, the panel feels quite flimsy. So much so, a gentle push from the back of the lid makes the display pop outwards. Moreover, while the unit ships with a healthy assortment of ports (including two USB Type-A 3.1 ports, two USB Type-C 3.1 ports, a full-sized SD card reader, and a headphone jack), the laptop still makes use of a traditional barrel-style port for charging. Making matters worse, neither of the two USB Type-C ports support Thunderbolt and therefore, you can all but forget about using them to charge the laptop or to connect to an external GPU enclosure.

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Barring the flexing, I was quite satisfied with the laptop’s display. The PS42 ships with a 14-inch, Full HD IPS panel with razor-sleek bezels, which paves way for an immersive media consumption experience. What’s more, the panel also sports an anti-glare coating on top, which keeps unnecessary reflections to the minimum.

Keyboard, Trackpad, and Others

The MSI Prestige PS42’s keyboard is both, extremely satisfying and infuriating to use. Let’s start with the good stuff. First of all, the keys have a spacious layout and therefore, my fingers weren’t fighting for space on the keyboard. Moreover, the keys offer adequate tactile feedback and have plenty of travel too. Consequently, I was able to get acclimated to using the keyboard in a jiffy.

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That said, MSI’s placement for the function (Fn) key is questionable at best, and the brightness and volume toggles have been awkwardly positioned on the arrow keys, instead of their usual location up top on the function row. What’s more, while I’m glad the keyboard ships with a backlit LED, it is white in colour which makes it hard to strike the greyish-coloured keys in broad daylight.

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As for the trackpad, try as I might, I couldn’t get myself to use it during my stint with the PS42. Not only is it off-centre from the laptop’s top, but it’s tiny in size too. Moreover, the unit doesn’t support Windows Precision drivers either and instead, is backed by Synaptics SMBus. Consequently, you’ll have a tough time nailing three-finger gestures on the laptop’s trackpad.

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On the bright side, the laptop ships with a fingerprint sensor built in to the trackpad, which worked flawlessly during my testing. The sensor is extremely accurate, and I seldom had to tap on it twice for the unit to recognise my fingerprint. I was quite pleased with the laptop’s speakers too, which get considerably loud and don’t distort the audio at higher volumes.

Lastly, if you’re the type to make a lot of video calls, then you’ll not fancy the laptop’s inconveniently placed webcam – or as I like to call it, a nose-cam. Ergo, you’ll be better off with a third-party alternative which clips to the top of the laptop’s lid.

Performance and Battery life

MSI knows a thing or two about making powerful, portable machines and the company’s Prestige PS42 is a shining example of the same. My review unit of the laptop shipped with Intel’s 8th Gen Core i7-8550U processor clocked at 1.8GHz. For the uninitiated, the 8550U is a quad-core chip with eight threads and therefore, should suffice for most buyer’s productivity needs. Furthermore, the laptop comes equipped with Nvidia’s MX150 GPU with 2GB of DDR5 memory along with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. To store your data, the laptop offers a 512GB NVMe PCIe Gen 3 SSD.

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Now, depending upon your budget, you can opt to equip the laptop with a Core-i5 processor too. Or, if you feel like you might need a bit more grunt in the graphics department, then you can choose to configure the machine with Nvidia’s GTX 1050 card (Max-Q) as well. That said, bear in mind that all the configurations for the PS42 ship with single-channel memory only. Consequently, laptops offering the same processor/GPU combination with dual-channel RAM modules will be a tad bit faster.

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With the specs out of the way, let’s talk about how well the PS42 performs in real-life. In a word, the laptop is a fantastic performer and it managed to breeze through my workflow with ease. On any given day, I had over a dozen applications open in Chrome, was tethered to an external display and had a myriad of different applications like Apple Music, Slack and Microsoft Word open in the background. Yet, I didn’t notice any instance of lag or stutter whilst using the PS42. I even managed to play games like Far Cry 5 and Monster Hunter on the machine, albeit at low graphics settings. All the while, the laptop’s dual-fan system kept the chassis cool to the touch and surprisingly, the fan noise wasn’t all that audible either.

I do have an assortment of benchmark results for you to feast your eyes upon. Let’s start with PCMark 10, where the PS42 secured 3,508 points, comfortably beating the likes of ASUS’ VivoBook S406U which ships with a Core-i5 processor. Moving on, the presence of a dedicated GPU bodes well for the PS42 in the CineBench R15 benchmark too, where the unit secured 80.45fps in the OpenGL test, and 509 cb in the CPU test. In CrystalDiskMark the laptop achieved sequential read and write speeds of 1,612MB/s and 1013MB/s respectively.

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As for the battery life, the MSI Prestige PS42 is fuelled by a 50WHR battery which managed to last me around six hours off a single charge. While six hours is a respectable number, you’ll find plenty of options in the market which will keep you away from a charger for longer. To give you a better picture, the PS42 managed to last a little over two hours under load in our Battery Eater Pro test.

Verdict

The MSI Prestige PS42 starts at Rs 77K, however as configured, my review unit will set you back Rs 99K. For the price, MSI’s offering goes up against the likes of Dell’s XPS 13, which offers better display configurations, speedier dual-channel memory, Thunderbolt connectivity, and longer battery life.

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That said, despite this being MSI’s first attempt at a business-class laptop, the company has managed to nail the basics and the Prestige PS42 offers oodles of performance, is compact and extremely portable too. What’s more, the model I reviewed undercuts the competition significantly by shipping with a quad-core Core-i7 chip. In fact, the only flaw which sticks out like a sore thumb is the laptop’s iffy trackpad.

Consequently, if you want to save some bucks at the expense of some minor compromises, then I’ll reckon you opt for MSI’s Prestige PS42. Else, if you have deep pockets, then you’ll find plenty of other options in the market which would fit your bill.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5

Pros:

  • Stunning design
  • Good performer
  • Ultra-portable

Cons:

  • Awkwardly-placed trackpad and webcam
  • Average battery life
  • No thunderbolt ports
Photos by Raj Rout

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