MSI Modern 14 B11SB Review: A Decent Ultrabook With One Flaw

MSI Modern 14 B11SB Review
Poco Ad

MSI’s new Modern series of portable laptops introduced a new design aesthetics and the latest processors from Intel or AMD. It is also targeted as an entry-level option for enterprise-grade users. And here with me is the MSI Modern 14 B11SB that is powered by an Intel Tiger Lake CPU. So, just how good is it? Let’s find out more in this review of the MSI Modern 14 B11SB.

MSI Modern 14 B11SB Specifications:

  • Design & Build: Aluminum build, 12.56W x 8.62D x 0.67H-inches, 1.3 kg (2.87 lbs), MIL-STD-810G compliant
  • Color options: Carbon Gray, Blue Stone, Beige Mousse
  • Display: 14.0-inches Anti-glare IPS LCD panel, LED-backlit, (close to) 100% sRGB coverage, 72% NTSC, 60Hz refresh rate
  • Resolution: FHD (1920×1080) resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Keyboard: Backlit Chiclet (single color – white), 1.5mm key travel
  • Processor: Intel Tiger Lake CPU (Core i5-1135G7), 4C/8T, 4.2GHz Max Turbo Frequency, 8MB Intel Smart Cache
  • RAM: Up to 32GB DDR4 RAM @3200MHz (single slot)
  • Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD (non-upgradeable)
  • Graphics: Intel Irix Xe (integrated), NVIDIA GeForce MX450 (2GB GDDR5)
  • Audio: 2x2W speakers, Hi-Res Audio certified, Nahimic
  • Battery: 3-cell 52 Watt-hours Li-Ion battery
  • Power Supply: DC-in, 90W adapter
  • Webcam: IR webcam (720p)
  • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 ax, Bluetooth 5.1
  • I/O ports: 1x HDMI, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x Type-C (USB4 / DP / Thunderbolt 4) with PD charging, 1x Micro SD card reader, 1x, mic-in/headphone-out combo jack
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 135,000 (8GB RAM, 512GB SSD)
  • Buy here (ITTI)

MSI Modern 14 B11SB Review:

Design & Build

  • Thin, lightweight build
  • Decent port selection

Starting with the design, the MSI Modern 14 Ultrabook that I have with me is in Carbon Gray color while depending on the region, it is also available in Blue Stone or Beige Mousse options. Anyway, its case is made of aluminum with a brushed finish to it. If you have doubts about the durability, the laptop has gone through 10 different military-standard tests for durability under the MIL-STD-810G classification.

If you look closely at the lid, you will notice that this one has the new sophisticated MSI logo instead of the classic MSI dragon. The old dragon logo on MSI’s business and productivity lineup looked a bit out of place so this change is a warm welcome.

Also, you will have no difficulty in opening the lid with one hand. Doing so will lift the keyboard deck for a better typing experience. It also exposes the three exhaust vents that are present on the left side, while ensuring that the vents on the bottom are not completely blocked when placed on a flat surface too.

Audio quality

There are two tiny speaker grills on either side of the bottom panel. The output is good enough to casually enjoy music while on a desk. You can further customize the speaker or any connected Bluetooth audio speakers using the Nahimic Sound app.

On the left side, you can find a power connector, a Thunderbolt Type-C port, an HDMI Connector, and a card reader. Similarly, there are two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a power LED, a battery LED, and a combo audio port on the right side.

Keyboard & Trackpad

  • Backlit keyboard (white), 1.5mm travel
  • Trackpad with integrated left/right keys

Modern 14 B11SB - Keyboard

Moving on, MSI Modern 14 B11SB’s keyboard is made up of plastic and it’s caved-in compared to the top and side edges. The company could have made the keyboard deck sturdier as you can notice a significant flex if you apply moderate pressure against it. However, the Ryzen variant (B4MW) is better than the Intel one in this matter.

The keyboard layout, on the other hand, looks more premium on the Intel variant. The keys here have a travel distance of 1.5mm and I feel that it offers better feedback than the Ryzen variant. Similarly, the keys on the B4MW are comparatively mushier while its decals feel amateurish and I doubt they won’t peel off over time.

Backlit keyboard

Moving on, the keyboard is also backlit with a single shade of white with three distinct levels of brightness. Some Function (F) keys along with the Caps Lock and Power come with an additional indicator that lights up when certain functions are enabled. For instance, the Power LED glows amber when the discrete GPU is in use. Oddly, the Fn key and the left control key share the real-state of a single key so it gets tricky to get either right.

Modern 14 B11SB - Trackpad

Likewise, its trackpad is not the biggest but gets the job done just fine. The keys are integrated into the trackpad and I had no problem using gestures on this either.

The problem that I have here is the palm rest. You can hear a slight creak when you press on either side of the trackpad. The right side is a bit hollower and thus results in a slightly louder creak. Similarly, if you press it hard enough you can even feel the laptop tilt slightly to the right.

Display

  • 14″ FHD LCD panel (LED-backlit)
  • 100% sRGB (close to), 72% NTSC

As the name suggests, the Modern 14 sports a 14-inch display with an FHD resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. To those looking for a bigger screen real-estate, there’s the Modern 15. The display flexes a bit but it’s nothing to be concerned about.

The side bezels on this screen are very slim. There is a 720p HD webcam on the top which is nothing extraordinary. Similarly, the bottom bezel is home to the new MSI logo. You will hardly notice the logo even with its reflective surface.

There is this feature called “Flip and Share” that I can see being useful in offices and schools where you want to share something with your colleagues who are on the opposite side of the table or desk. Just push the screen all the way up to 180-degree and then “flip” the window using the F12 key to “share” the contents with them.

Modern 14 B11SB - Display [1]

While its 72% NTSC color coverage is decent enough for regular usage, Modern 14 is not ideal for professional photographers or graphics designers. It’s a 60Hz panel and the brightness is ample for indoor usage. Yet, the visibility takes a hit when the laptop is taken outside.

With the MSI True Color, you can choose between four display profiles. The sRGB mode is selected by default. Others include – anti-blue, Movies, and Office. You can make adjustments to these pre-existing models or even create a display profile of your own.

Performance

  • Intel Tiger Lake Core i5-1135G7 (4 cores/8 threads)
  • Iris Xe (integrated), NVIDIA MX450 GPU (discrete)
  • Up to 32GB DDR4 RAM, Up to 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD

Now let’s get into the performance. Our review unit of the MSI Modern 14 B11SB comes with an 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake Core i5-1135G7 processor. If you need more power you can skip it for the Core i7-1165G7 variant. On the graphics front, this laptop has entry-level MX450 from NVIDIA but some models rely entirely on the Intel Iris Xe graphics for people that don’t need the dedicated GPU.

Similarly, it packs 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD. Unlike the Modern 15, the Modern 14 comes with a single RAM slot and thus is upgradeable only up to 32GB.

Different performance modes

Here, the Modern series is placed as an entry-level laptop in MSI’s business and productivity class and it is actually pretty great for normal day-to-day usage. There are four performance modes or user scenarios as MSI likes to call them – High Performance, Balanced, Silent, and Best Battery.

I primarily use my laptop for writing scripts, creating images to be featured on our website, and for multimedia consumption. For this, I found myself using the laptop on either Silent or Best Battery mode as the battery is one of the weak points of this laptop. But more on that in just a minute.

Most of the time, I would be using Office 365 on Microsoft Edge with additional 5 – 10 tabs active on another window. On top of this, I would occasionally play music via Spotify in the background on full volume and make small adjustments to pictures using Adobe Photoshop too. Though apps like Photoshop took more time to load, I never had other reasons to scale up the performance.

Let’s take a look at some benchmark scores of the Modern 14.

1. CrystalDiskMark
Read (MB/s) Write (MB/s)
SEQ1M Q8T1 1977.91 974.71
SEQ128K Q32T1 1968.70 974.49
RND4K Q32T16 308.12 977.99
RND4K Q1T1 46.77 196.01
2. Geekbench 5
  • Single Core: 1231 | Multi-Core: 3938
  • Compute: 28565 (MX450)
3. CineBench R23:
  • Single Core: 1242 | Multi-Core: 3787
  • MP Ratio: 3.05x

But when you need more power, you can switch to a different performance mode using the F7 key or the MSI Center. The latter also lets you adjust panel brightness and keyboard brightness. You can even change the fan speed for the High-Performance mode.

Modern 14 B11SB - Design

There is also an Application optimizer that improves the performance of select apps in real-time or based on a predetermined user priority list. Being an entry-level laptop features under the MSI Center are quite limited here compared to the Prestige or Summit series.

Gaming

With the MX450, you can even play light games on the Modern 14. I was able to get 30fps on average while playing CS: GO (High graphics settings) on Balanced Mode. With the High-Performance mode on and fan speed set to Auto, the average fps was between 50 – 60 fps. The laptop does get a little hot and you can even hear the fan noise but it’s nothing concerning. Similarly, I was able to get around 30 – 40 fps on average on Valorant (Everything set to high) on Balanced Performance mode.

I compared its gaming performance against its aforementioned Ryzen counterpart and found that under similar circumstances both the laptops can achieve similar peak fps. However, the Intel variant with MX450 does a better job at maintaining average fps and also runs cooler in the process.

Battery

  • 3-cell 52Wh Li-Ion battery
  • 90W power adapter

The most disappointing aspect of this laptop for me its battery life. Featuring a 4-celled 52Whr battery, it only provided an average screen-on-time of 3 hours while using the device on balanced mode with 50% brightness and 100% keyboard brightness level. Depending on whether your variant comes with a discrete GPU or not, you will get either 65W or 90W power adapter in the box.

Modern 14 B11SB - Display [2]

So naturally, the MSI Modern 14 B11SB comes with a 90W adapter and it is capable of charging the laptop from 0 to 100% in 2 hours. I still think MSI should have included a Type-C charger here instead of a DC-in connection.

Conclusion

As we’ve discovered throughout this review, MSI has delivered a is slim, light, and durable laptop with the Modern 14 B11SB. Featuring the latest Intel Tiger Lake processor, it can get you through daily non-demanding tasks with ease. Similarly, the discrete GPU means you can even play light games on it or run different photo editing software. However, its terrible battery life makes keeps me from recommending this laptop to any colleagues.

MSI Modern 14 B11SB Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Lightweight, portable design
  • Decent display quality
  • Nice typing experience
  • Reasonable performance

Cons:

  • Terrible battery life
  • Trackpad could’ve been better
  • No USB Type-C charging
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
Display
Keyboard
Trackpad
Performance
Audio
Webcam
Battery
Value for Money