When you see a dragon logo on a laptop, it’s mostly meant for hard-core gaming. But this one, with the same kind of dragon logo ventures quite a different territory. MSI is a household name when it comes to gaming, and it’s not been very long since the company charted to the ultra-book territory. This is a line that’s mostly dominated by the likes of Apple and Dell XPS, or HP and stuff. But they have their Prestige lineup comprises of ultra-books, and there are quite a few laptops in there now. Among them, the MSI PS42 Modern 8RA is the latest – a refreshment to last year’s PS42 8RB.
MSI PS42 Modern 8RA Specifications:
- Design: Aluminum body, brushed metal texture, subtle white Dragon logo on the lid, 1.2 kg
- Display: 14″ Full-HD matte display (1920 x 1080), 72% NTSC Color Gamut
- Keyboard: Island-style full-size keyboard, 4-level back-lighting, No num-pad
- Trackpad: Glass surface trackpad, Windows Precision Drivers, Fingerprint sensor with Windows Hello
- Ports: 2 x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1, 2 x Type-A USB 3.1, 1 x HDMI, 1 x audio jack, 1 x SD card reader
- Wireless connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth V4.2
- Processor: 1.8 GHz 8th-gen Intel i7-8565U WhiskeyLake
- RAM: 16 GB DDR4 @ 2400 MHz (single channel, dual slot)
- Graphics: NVIDIA MX250 graphics, 2 GB VRAM
- Battery: 4-cell 50 Watt-hour
- Storage: 512 GB NVMe SSD
- Price: Rs.149,000
This laptop really gives a good first impression. Packed in a very sleek and compact box, it’s very different from what we’re used to seeing from MSI. But of course, it doesn’t really stand out from other ultra-books. Still, the fact that this one is an MSI ultra-book is enough excitement.
With an all-metal build and a subtle white MSI logo up top, it looks like your typical ultra-book too. Except that this one looks somewhat more elegant and classier. Maybe it’s the brash look or the brushed texture on the outer aluminum lid, or even the color, I can’t really say. But it just looks kinda different from other such ultraportables. Also, the brushed metal texture on it doesn’t really attract fingerprints, which is another plus for this laptop.
This laptop also weighs very less, about 1.2 kg, and is pretty comfortable to carry around. Build quality, though, takes a slight hit. The keyboard deck area is pretty sturdy, but the lid flexes quite a bit.
The back has air vents on each side, so even if this is an ultrabook, they did consider including a good cooling system. And yes, it does have dual fans inside that does the job well.
When you open the laptop, the first thing you’ll notice is this vent or grills up top that surrounds the circular power button, that appears to be the speakers. I, too, mistook it for the speaker, but they’re actually located underneath on both sides. This just seems to be some kind of an air vent, or a strange design choice, hard to tell which.
Ports and Connectivity
The port selection is, pretty standard. You get two USB As, an HDMI, an audio jack, and an SD card slot. What’s noteworthy is you get two USB-Cs. But it’s a shame that none of them supports Thunderbolt 3 or can be used to charge the laptop with. However, there are these LED indicators for battery, WiFi and power.
As for WiFi, you get the standard 802.11 ac WiFi, and there’s Bluetooth 4.2.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Being an ultrabook, this laptop misses out on the number pad. But otherwise, you have a full-sized keyboard. Of course, I mean that in the sense the keys are larger and well-spaced than some other ultrabooks. The keys, however, are a bit mushy for taste, and with very less key travel (0.9 mm), typing doesn’t feel very good. But since the keys do give off that clicky feedback, it makes up for some of its shortcomings.
But one good thing is that you get full-sized arrow keys, which are rare for ultra-books. Another good thing is the backlighting. It’s only white, but there are 4-levels to it, and so, this helps immensely. However, this is not a new feature by any means.
The trackpad, here, too small for taste. And that is made even smaller by the curved edges of the top. There just isn’t enough room to move around. The only good thing about this is that it has Windows Precision Drivers, so tracking and gestures are fairly accurate. Plus, you do get a fingerprint scanner, which is a nice addition. And that works pretty well, too.
The Prestige lineup boasts about good displays. And upon first look, it does appear so. There are minimal bezels around the sides, making the display almost edge to edge. But with small bezels comes the awkwardly placed web-cam, which points straight to your nose. And as usual, the webcam quality is nothing to go on about.
Anyways, back to the display, the Full HD panel looks good. I mean, with the IPS LCD, it is your de-facto display for ultra-books and does not look anything extraordinary, but it is good nonetheless. Brightness is good enough at about 300 nits, and dark scenes in movies (for instance, Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3) are visible enough that you don’t have to squint to see them.
And since it’s a matte display, it’s pretty visible outdoors too. The 14-inch display has enough crispiness for good video and multimedia experience, and the color range is also another plus point about the display here.
With an acclaimed 100% sRGB and about 72% NTSC Color Gamut Coverage, this can be a suitable machine for content creators as well. But of course, this is not the most ideal laptop for that. You get other laptops with much more color accuracy than this one. Still, this, for an ultra-book is pretty good. And since it enables you to change the color modes right from the desktop itself, that’s another plus point.
The MSI PS42 Modern 8RA is a great performer. It packs the latest 8th-gen Intel i7-8565U Whiskey Lake processor. And these new Whiskey Lake processors are capable of getting more performance on demand. The base clock remains the same about 1.8 GHz but the boost clocks can go up to 4.6 GHz, which is actually higher than some other gaming laptops can go.
And that, apparently, helps during heavy workloads. However, all of that is on paper. In real usage, I never felt a lot of difference. Also, even though this is a U-series processor, made for power efficiency, it seems to handle everything fine. Light 1080P Video editing and stuff run quite well, while a whole lotta tabs on Google Chrome is also not enough to slow it down. There are slight instances of lags, here and there, but that is nothing beyond expectations.
Maybe it’s partly due to its 16 GB DDR4 RAM – which is quite a good amount for an ultra-book. Also, it’s got two RAM slots but only a single stick inside, so, if you want to upgrade it, you can. But, again, if they had made it a dual channel with 8GB RAM on each slot, that would’ve offered better performance.
A dedicated graphics card helps gaming and video editing. It’s nothing high end – just an Nvidia MX250 graphics with 2 GB Video Memory. And when I say gaming, do not expect anything high end. You’ll be able to play CS: GO or Dota 2 or FIFA 19 on high settings and still get good frame rates. Games like Fortnite do run at medium and you’ll be able to play games like Assassin’s Creed Unity, but that’s about it. But even so, this is actually good enough for a non-gaming laptop.
Storage wise, you have a 512 GB of NVMe SSD, which is pretty good. Most ultra-books shy out at 256 GB. However, this doesn’t, and that helps a lot for content creation. The storage speeds are also decent enough, so, yes, these are the makings of a laptop for content creators.
I didn’t really feel this laptop struggle in the thermals department, either. During gaming and heavy workloads, it does kinda get warm, but heat management is really good – thanks to the dual fans and this ventilation on top. When it does get hot, it is concentrated towards the top vents, so, the keyboard area remains cool enough.
Moving on to the battery, you get a 4-cell 50 Watt-hour battery, and they claim up to 10 hours of battery life. However, as these claims by laptop companies go, this is not true at all. During office workloads, when your usage consists of normal spreadsheet and occasional web browsing, it will last slightly over 7.5 hours.
With vigorous browsing and media consumption, you’ll get close to 6. And if you’re doing some heavy editing and stuff, expect no more than 3 hours. But still, it will last a typical work day for you, so, that’s still good enough.
To sum up, MSI’s venture into ultrabook territory looks somewhat promising. With this PS42 Modern 8RA, it has improved from the 8RB. Yet, there is a lot of room for improvements. The build quality still needs work, while the keyboard and trackpad need to see improvements as well. I’d like this laptop better if it had a dual channel RAM. And the speaker quality needs more improvement than anything else.
Good things about it include performance, display, battery life, and overall design. So, you can say this is a pretty good laptop. Maybe, I had high expectations from this one, because, it’s an MSI laptop after all. But after using it, all I can say is MSI has not done as good a job as it does with its gaming rigs. But, I’m still positive that MSI will improve in this sector as well.
The MSI PS42 Modern 8RA is priced at some $1300 for the base model, which comes with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. There are quite a few configurations available, so, prices are set accordingly. Our particular model costs about Rs.149000 in Nepal, and as far as ultrabooks go, this one seems priced well enough.
However, if this is too much money to spend, there’s also a smaller sibling – the PS42 Modern 8 MO. That one doesn’t have a dedicated GPU and is an i5 model. But most of the things remain the same. And that comes at a price of Rs.115,000.
So, strictly speaking, the MSI PS42 Modern 8RA is not the best one out there. But it certainly gets the work done.