The MSI Prestige 14 Evo A11M may be the most powerful thin and light laptop I’ve tested to date. Powered by an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor, the laptop also features speedy memory and storage and a decent cooling system that allow it to notch some of the highest benchmark scores I’ve seen from a laptop that weighs less than 3 pounds.
While it doesn’t have discrete graphics, the notebook’s Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics are good enough for light gaming and content creation tasks.
When Intel asked if I wanted to review a laptop featuring a Core i7-1185G7 processor, I can see why the company chose the Prestige 14 Evo. In addition to offering strong performance, the laptop is also a nice looking device – the aluminum chassis has a matte finish except for a slim ring shiny blue metal that surrounds the lid and which almost looks like it’s glowing when it reflects light.
But the notebook isn’t a slam dunk. It has a limited selection of ports. The stereo speakers aren’t great. And battery life is underwhelming.
So does the good outweigh the bad? I guess it depends on your priorities… and your budget.
An MSI Prestige 14 Evo configured like the model featured in this review has a list price of $1149, although it’s on sale for as little as $999 at the moment.
|MSI Prestige 14 EVO A11M|
|Display||14 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel matte LCD|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-1185G7|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe (96eu)|
|Storage||512GB PCe Gen3x4 NVMe|
|Ports||2 x Thunderbolt 4|
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x 3.5mm audio
1 x microSD card reader
|Speakers||2 x 2W|
|Dimensions||12.55″ x 8.46″ x 0.63″|
Overview (Design & features)
MSI is a computers hardware maker that’s at least as well known for its desktop motherboards and graphics cards as it is for its PCs. But the company has also been making laptop and desktop computers for years, often with an emphasis on high-performance systems designed for gaming and content creation, and more recently for business and enterprise markets.
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is a premium laptop that balances performance with portability. Measuring 0.63 inches thick and weighing 2.84 pounds, it would be tough to equip this laptop with NVIDIA RTX 30 series graphics or a 45-watt Intel Tiger Lake-H processor.
But as companies like One Netbook and GPD have shown, you don’t always need discrete graphics for a decent gaming experience. And while most laptops with Tiger Lake-U chips are designed for the processor to run at 15-watts, the chip is capable of running at much higher power limits.
In fact, the MSI Prestige 14 Evo comes with software that lets you switch between four different power modes with the press of a button – at the lowest setting, the computer’s Core i7-1185G7 is limited to 10 watts to extend battery life, while at the highest, it runs at close to 33 watts under heavy load (with a PL2 power limit of 64 Hz for short bursts of “Turbo Boost” speed).
All of which is to say, it comes as no surprise that the MSI Prestige Evo scores better in most benchmarks than the vast majority of thin and light notebooks I’ve tested in the past. Not only does it have one of Intel’s most powerful U-series processors, but that chip is able to punch above its weight class in this notebook.
But CPU and graphics performance isn’t everything. And there are a few other important things to know about this laptop before deciding if it’s worth your money.
In terms of design, it’s a nice looking laptop, with a dark gray aluminum body, fairly slim bezels around its display, and the aforementioned shiny metallic blue embellishment around the notebook’s lid (and also around the touchpad).
The MSI logo is etched subtly into the lid of the laptop and in the bottom bezel below the display – and when I say subtly, I mean you might not even notice it at all under some lighting conditions.
The lid is also a bit of a fingerprint magnet, and you’ll either have to learn to live with that, or wipe it down constantly.
There’s also a bit of flex to the lid – push your finger into the center of the lid when the laptop is closed and it doesn’t take much pressure to see the metal move downward. The same is true for the keyboard area.
If you’re the sort of person who hammers hard on the keys, you might feel the keyboard moving a bit beneath your fingers. It’s not something I noticed much in day-to-day use, but I know keyboard flex is a non-starter for some folks, so you should know that the Prestige 14 Evo definitely has some flex.
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo has a 1920 x 1080 pixel matte non-touch display that the company describes as “IPS level.” That’s a fancy way of saying it has excellent viewing angles. Colors don’t appear washed out if you look at the screen from the side.
And since it’s a matte screen rather than glossy, you won’t see much glare if the screen is pointed toward a bright light.
Since the notebook also has a 180-degree hinge, you can also adjust the angle of the screen so that it’s comfortable to use whether you’re sitting in front of the notebook or standing over it. You can even flip the screen so that it lies flat against the same table or desk that the laptop’s keyboard is resting on.
When the screen is opened to a more conventional angle, the hinge allows the back of the laptop’s lid to work like a bit of a stand, propping up the back of the keyboard by a centimeter or so, giving the keyboard a bit of an angle that slopes down toward the user.
Speaking of the keyboard, just like most modern thin and light notebooks, MSI’s laptop has chiclet-style flat keys that don’t travel very much when you press them, but overall I found typing to be comfortable.
It did take me a while to get used to the location of the Fn key. It’s on the right side of the keyboard, next to the right Ctrl key. Most other laptops I’ve used in recent years have a Fn key on the left, so I find myself having to constantly remember where to put my finger when I want to hit a key combo that requires Fn… and since that includes the Home and End keys (which are the secondary functions of PgUp and PgDn keys), that’s something I have to remember pretty often.
The good news is that if you’re bothered by the Fn key placement, there’s a software fix. The same MSI Center software that allows you to quickly adjust power modes also includes a feature that will let you swap the Windows and Fn keys. While this doesn’t change the labels printed on the keyboard, with this feature enabled you can use the Windows button on the left side of the keyboard as a Fn key, while using the Fn key as a Windows key.
There’s also an AltGr key on the keyboard, something which I don’t often see on laptops sold in the United States, but which can be useful for typing symbols and characters that are less commonly used in the area where the notebook is sold.
The keyboard is backlit, and you can adjust the brightness of the white LED illumination by pressing the F8 button. It supports three different brightness levels, or four if you consider “off” to be a level.
MSI also includes Fn keys that let you toggle the touchpad, camera, and microphones. Press the camera button once, for example, and any app that requires camera access will report that it’s unable to find the camera, much as it would if you unplugged a USB webcam.
There are also status lights on the Mute and Mic keys to let you know if the speakers and/or mic have been disabled. There’s no such indicator on the camera or touchpad toggles, but you’ll probably figure out quickly that the touchpad isn’t working when it doesn’t respond to touch. And since an LED lights up next to the camera when it’s active, I suppose an extra light on the keyboard might have been redundant.
The laptop’s 720p camera is about as good/bad as what you’ll find on most laptops. It captures grainy images and doesn’t look great in low light environments, but I guess it’s better than not having a camera at all.
Still, these days webcams are becoming essential features for many folks working from home, and it’d be nice to see laptop makers up their game on that front.
The notebook does have an IR camera that can be used for Windows Hello-compatible face recognition, allowing you to login to Windows just by looking at the notebook’s screen.
Another option for password-free login is the fingerprint reader built into the upper left corner of the notebook’s (very) large touchpad.
During my time with the notebook, I found that both face and fingerprint recognition work pretty well, but logging in with my face is often quicker and easier since I don’t actually have to touch the laptop to use that feature.
The touchpad has a smooth surface, support for multi-touch gestures including two, three, and four-finger taps and swipes, and you can press down anywhere on the pad to register a left-click (you’ll need to use a two-finger tap for a right-click).
On the left side of the laptop there are two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a pair of LED lights that indicate power and battery status.
You can charge the notebook by connecting a USB-C charger to either port (the notebook comes with a fairly compact 65W power adapter, but I was also able to charge the Prestige 14 Evo using the 45W USB-C charger that came with my HP Spectre 13 laptop).
Both ports should also be able to handle 40 Gbps data transfer speeds, allowing you to connect an external display, graphics dock, or other accessories, although you may need to by adapter cables and/or docks depending on the gear you want to connect.
On the right side of the notebook you’ll find a 3.5mm mic/headphone jack, a microSD card reader, and a USB 2.0 Type-A port.
There are no HDMI or Ethernet jacks, but you an use the Thunderbolt ports for video output, and MSI includes a USB Type-A to Ethernet adapter in the box that you can use for a wired network connection. I have no idea why the company opted for an adapter that uses the notebook’s only USB-A port rather than one of the Thunderbolt/Type-C ports. And I also have no idea why the company included as USB 2.0 port on a notebook that sells for over $1,000. But both of those things are true.
On the bottom of the laptop you’ll find a pair of downward-facing speakers that aren’t very loud and which don’t provide much bass. So you may want to use a set of headphones or an external speaker if you plan to use the laptop for media consumption. But the speakers should be good enough for casual use and/or video conferencing.
Also on the bottom is an air intake system that’s actually kind of nice to look at. Rather than a simple grate covering an air intake vent, the laptop’s bottom cover features hundreds of tiny holes arranged in a pattern that looks a bit like musical waveform.
Air is drawn in through the vent, circulated through the insides of the laptops with the help of two internal fans, and blown out through a vent in the back of the notebook.
While the system seems to do a decent job of keeping the system cool enough to run for extended periods of time without noticeable throttling, the keyboard area can get a little warm during periods of extended use, and the bottom of the laptop gets even hotter.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, the MSI Prestige 14 Evo performs very well on synthetic benchmarks – it’s one of the fastest laptops I’ve used to date.
But not only does this laptop have a fast processor, it also has one of the fastest SSDs I’ve used, which means that operations that involve a lot of reading and writing to disk fly by quickly.
For common activities like web browsing or document editing, you might not notice much difference between this laptop and another with a less powerful Core i7-1165G7 or even core i5-1135G7 chip. But the extra horsepower can come in handy when you’re running resource-intensive tasks like photo or video editing or other activities that require performing complex calculations.
Copying or moving large files and folders feels very zippy… as does zipping or unzipping archives. And while this isn’t a gaming notebook by any means, its speedy processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics do allow it to come within striking distance of an entry-level discrete GPU like NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1050 in some gaming benchmarks.
Since the laptop supports four different power modes, I could have spent weeks performing benchmarks under different conditions, but out of the box the laptop was set to “Balanced” mode and the Windows 10 performance settings were set to “Better Performance.” So those are the settings I used when running synthetic benchmarks, for the most part (I did reduce the screen brightness to around 50-percent).
Here’s an overview of what the different modes do to change the PL1 and PL2 power limits, display and keyboard backlight brightness levels, and fan speed:
|PL1||PL2 (battery)||PL2 (plugged in)||Displ brightness||KB brightness|
Fan speed is set automatically for most power profiles, with the Silent mode designed to try to keep noise below 29 decibels. But High Performance mode does offer the option to choose between Auto, Cooler Boost, and Advanced modes. Cooler Boost seems to kick the fans into high gear, while Advanced lets you design your own cooling scheme by adjusting the speeds at which the fans will run when the CPU and GPU hit specific temperatures.
You may be able to eke out a little extra performance by switching to “High,” or extend your battery life at the cost of some CPU and graphics performance, by switching to one of the other power modes.
With the default “Balanced” settings, the laptop scored 1515 points in GeekBench 5’s single-core performance test, and 5532 in multi-core performance. That was enough to put the notebook ahead of a ONEXPLAYER handheld gaming PC with a 28W Core i7-1165G7 processor, an Acer Swift 3 laptop with a 15W Ryzen 7 4700U processor, and even my Dell Vostro 15 7590 laptop with a 45W Intel Core i7-9750H processor.
The results were similar when I ran PCMark, a general-purpose benchmark that tests performance across a range of common productivity tasks.
The picture gets a little more complicated with the Cinebench R23 graphics rendering benchmark. In this test. the MSI laptop came out on top for single-core performance, but Acer’s laptop with a Ryzen 7 4700U chip scored higher in multi-core performance, which makes sense since that chip is an 8-core, 8-thread processor rather than a 4-core, 8-thread chip.
But since the Acer Swift 3 sells for around $400 less than the MSI Prestige 14 Evo, it’s a little embarrassing.
The MSI laptop does have one of the fastest SSDs I’ve ever used though, with sequential read speeds as high as 4,9198 MB/s and write speeds as high as 2,517.2 MB/s according to CrystalDiskMark.
And when you combine that with the laptop’s Iris Xe graphics and LPDDR4x-4266 memory, it’s enough to give the MSI Prestige 14 Evo an edge in all-around performance tests like PassMark, even when the Acer Swift 3 notches a higher CPU-specific score.
In terms of gaming, the MSI Prestige 14 Evo comes out a little ahead of the ONEXPLAYER with a Core i7-1165G7 chip and Iris Xe graphics in 3DMark’s Time Spy, Fire Strike, and Night Raid tests.
Since my Dell Vostro laptop has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 discrete graphics card, it scores higher in all of those tests… but not by as much as you might expect.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the core i7-1185G7 processor… particularly when used in a laptop like the MSI Prestige 14 Evo which allows you to tap into the chip’s full potential with support for adjustable TDP settings and decent cooling.
But that performance does come at the cost of battery life. MSI fits the laptop with a 52 Wh battery which just isn’t powerful enough for all-day battery life when running in Balanced or High Performance modes.
With the power configuration set to Balanced, the laptop was able to stream FHD video from YouTube for just 7 hours and 20 minutes before the battery died, which is much lower than I’ve come to expect from thin and light laptops with Intel Core U series chips in recent years.
And video streaming isn’t exactly the most demanding of tasks.
When I used the laptop as a work machine, the battery gave out just before I hit the 4.5 hour mark. That seemed low to me, so I tried again another day with similar results.
While I know my work routine can be tough on laptop batteries (opening up to two dozen Chrome browser tabs at a time, often while streaming music and doing some light image editing with GIMP and Irfanview), that’s much shorter than I had anticipated.
For the sake of comparison, when I tested the Acer Swift 3 with a Ryzen 7 4700U processor last year, it managed to run for nearly 10 hours during video streaming for longer than 7 hours during work. Last year’s Dell XPS 13 notebook with a Core i7-1065G7 processor also managed about 7 hours of battery life for work usage, but it lasted for a whopping 15.5 hours of video streaming.
Compared with those laptops, the MSI Prestige 14 Evo may come out ahead in terms of raw horsepower… while it lasts. But it does not last nearly as long on a charge.
Can I upgrade it?
If you want longer battery life, then your best bet is to switch to Silent or Super Battery modes to limit resource usage, because like most modern thin and light laptops, the MSI Prestige 14 Evo comes with a battery that’s not designed to be removed, replaced, or upgraded.
And if you want more than 16GB of RAM, then you’re out of luck because the memory is soldered to the motherboard and there’s no way to upgrade it.
But if you remove the seven small screws holding the bottom cover in place, you can open up the laptop and access its single M.2 2280 SSD slot, which opens possibility of replacing the included 512GB SSD with a higher capacity storage module.
Just keep in mind that you’ll probably need to use another device to clone your drive if you want to keep your files, settings, and software intact.
Can I run Linux on it?
Yep. I loaded Ubuntu 20.04 LTS on a USB flash drive, hit Del to enter the BIOS/UEFI settings utility, and managed to boot from the flash drive without any difficulty.
Once Ubuntu was up and running, I was able to confirm that most basic features worked as expected. WiFi, audio, and video all work without any problems. And I could use the keyboard shortcuts to adjust screen brightness and audio volume.
There are a few things that didn’t work out of the box. Unsurprisingly, the power mode switching key doesn’t do anything in Linux – that’s a button that seems to be designed for use with MSI’s Windows-only software.
The touchpad and mic toggle keys also didn’t do anything. And Ubuntu didn’t detect the laptop’s webcam at all, so I can’t tell if the webcam enable/disable key does anything.
The undetected webcam is most likely due to a driver issue. I suspect folks who are willing to do a little digging may be able to find a away to enable it, and it’s possible that other Linux distributions might support it automatically. But I just took one Linux distro for a quick spin to see what does and doesn’t work.
The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is a thin, light, and powerful laptop with all the features you’d expect from a modern PC (like multiple biometric security options) and some things you might not (like a matte display and support for adjusting processor thermals and performance without entering the BIOS).
But it also delivers underwhelming battery life, has quiet speakers, and has an attractive, understated design that also happens to include a lid that collected fingerprints. The port selection is limited, but the inclusion of two Thunderbolt 4 ports almost makes up for that, since you can easily connect a Thunderbolt or USB-C docking station or dongle to connect external devices including displays to graphics cards.
As a mobile computing enthusiast, I’d find it hard to justify spending $1,149 on a laptop that doesn’t provide all-day battery life on the go. But some folks don’t mind having to plug in once or twice a day, and for those users, there’s a lot to like about the MSI Prestige 14 EVO… especially since it sometimes sells for well below the list price.
Thank you to Intel for lending Liliputing the demo unit featured in this review. You can find more information about the MSI Prestige 14 Evo at MSI’s website, and the laptop is available for purchased from retailers including Amazon, B&H, Best Buy, Newegg, Staples, Walmart.