MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: A refreshing change of pace

MSI’s business-focused workhorse shines across the board

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£999 exc VAT
  • Strong performance
  • High-quality screen
  • Good value
  • Attractive design
  • Noisy fans

If you're familiar with Taiwanese manufacturer MSI, it's most likely through its popular range of gaming products. You may be surprised to learn that it also produces hardware for the business market too - and the MSI Prestige 14 Evo is one such example.

Combining a sleek design with the company's traditional focus on high performance, the Prestige 14 is MSI's effort to challenge the likes of Huawei and Acer as a producer of enterprise-grade laptops. It's going up against stiff competition, but this laptop has more than a few tricks up its sleeve.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Design

On first glance, the Prestige 14 is a surprisingly sedate-looking laptop considering MSI's gaming heritage. The company's usual devices often suffer from being a touch over-designed - even supposedly more professional models such as the P65 Creator - but this machine is about as understated as one could reasonably expect.

The semi-gloss charcoal finish is particularly attractive, broken only by the logo subtly picked out in gloss relief on the lid. It's also a different logo to the dragon-based one the company usually uses; this one is a classier, more angular affair that suits the businesslike tone this machine is aiming for.

MSI claims it uses an aluminium chassis, but the exterior shell feels more like plastic. On the other hand, while the build quality doesn't feel especially sturdy (particularly compared to robust devices like the Dell XPS 13), it is of high enough quality that the device doesn't feel particularly cheap.  

When we say the Prestige 14 doesn't feel sturdy, we should clarify that it's far from insubstantial. Indeed, with a weight of 1.3kg and a 16mm thickness, it's among the bulkier business notebooks on the market. Part of this is to support the keyboard and cooling mechanisms, both of which we'll come to in more detail later, but suffice to say that while it's still eminently portable, this isn't exactly a feather-light laptop.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Display

The quality of the screen, on the other hand, is much more uncompromising. The 14in panel uses a 1080p resolution, and features a matte coating to minimise reflections, while the 0.5mm side bezels maximise screen space without inflating the laptop's footprint. That's alongside a creditable contrast ratio of 1814:1 and a maximum brightness of 316cd/m2.

It's technically proficient too; our tests showed a 95% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut and an average Delta E of 1.54, indicating strong colour representation and accuracy. The only thing keeping it from a perfect result is a slight oversaturation of some red tones, but otherwise it's an excellent panel for design-focused work. 

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Keyboard and trackpad

It's a shame, then, that the keyboard is so frustrating. Part of the frustration is that it's almost perfect - the backlit keys have a 1.55 of travel distance and relatively firm feedback, resulting in a satisfying typing experience, while the laptop's hinge mechanism elevates the keyboard at a five-degree angle similar to the Asus ZenBook UX425J. It's also got a dizzying array of function keys for tasks like adjusting volume and brightness, as well as toggling the microphone and webcam.

The problem is that the navigation keys - delete, insert, page up, page down, et cetera - are arranged in a vertical column on the right-hand side of the keyboard. This unusual layout has resulted in some slight rejigging of the keys which threw off our muscle memory somewhat; for example, the right shift key sits beside the up arrow, rather than sitting above it as it does on most laptops. It's not a dealbreaker, and you'll likely readjust after a little while using the laptop, but it's a little counterintuitive at first.

 The trackpad, however, we can praise with no qualifiers. Measuring 15cm across the diagonal, it's ultra-wide and vastly expansive, almost rivalling the superb MacBook Air for sheer space. The glass-coated surface is as smooth as butter, and clicks have just the right amount of depth and feedback to be firm and satisfying.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Specs and performance

MSI's gaming pedigree might not be on show in the Prestige 14's design, but you can certainly see it in its performance. The manufacturer has fitted it with 16GB of RAM and a meaty Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor - a quad-core Tiger Lake model that came out towards the end of last year.  

As expected for a general-purpose business laptop, there's no discrete graphics chip, but despite that, the Prestige 14 sailed to a rather stonking overall score of 134 in our benchmark tests. While that doesn't come close to the results achieved by Ryzen-powered machines like the Lenovo ThinkPad T14s or the Honor MagicBook Pro, it's still incredibly impressive for an Intel chip; for the purposes of comparison, the latest Dell XPS 13 only managed a score of 120.

The reason for this impressive performance is obvious once you start actually using the machine: its cooling fans could put a moderately-sized jet turbine to shame. Put this laptop under any significant strain, and the fans will quickly whirr into action, generating anything from a quiet hum to a distractingly loud whine.

Thankfully, you can use the awkwardly-named 'MSI Center for Business and Productivity' - which is actually a system control utility, despite sounding like a regional conference venue - to switch it to the 'silent' profile. This minimises fan activity by limiting performance, and works well to dampen the noise. The fans do their job effectively though - there's barely a hint of any thermal throttling unless you're absolutely hammering the processor, which means performance is likely to remain fast and stable regardless of what you're throwing at it.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Battery life

Performance has historically been a strength for MSI's laptops, but like most gaming laptops, battery life is where they usually fall down. Thankfully, however, this is not the case here; despite its speedy performance and relatively powerful chip, the Prestige 14 clocked up a highly respectable battery life of 10hrs 15mins in our video playback benchmark test. 

While that's not quite as good as the monster 22hr battery life offered by the Asus ExpertBook B9450F, it's ahead of both the latest Dell XPS 13 and the HP EliteBook 840 G7 by a couple of hours. In practice, it should be able to sail through a full workday with minimal complaints, assuming you're not pushing it particularly hard. Even if you do run out of juice, the included adapter will get you charged back up in no time - we managed to go from 20% battery to 86% after just an hour of charging.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Ports and features

The Prestige 14 also has an acceptable complement of ports and connectors. A pair of USB-C ports offer power, data and display connectivity - and they're Thunderbolt 4-compatible, which means faster data transfer rates in addition to a handful of quality-of-life improvements. 

Elsewhere, there's a full-size USB 2.0 port and a microSD card slot for expanding the storage capacity, as well as Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. Biometric login is handled courtesy of a fingerprint reader embedded in the expansive trackpad, and a facial recognition camera. The camera itself is a 720 affair, and while it won't be winning any prizes, it's functional enough for video calls without making you look like a pixellated mess.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo review: Verdict

Building a capable business laptop is surprisingly difficult, but with the Prestige 14 Evo, MSI shows how it should be done, blending powerful internals with an eye-catching design that stops just short of overdoing it. On top of that, it's got a handful of genuinely useful features and a screen that can go toe-to-toe with more expensive and established rivals.

It's not without niggles, however. The keyboard layout takes some getting used to, and the cacophonous fans will take a lot of getting used to, but these are minor gripes. They're especially easy to overlook when you consider the sub-£1,000 pricetag. It's not bargain-basement territory, but it's great value for a machine that that hits all the right notes as a productivity powerhouse.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo specifications

Processor

Intel Core i7-1185G7

RAM

16GB

Graphics adapter

Intel Iris Xe

Storage

512GB NVMe SSD

Screen size (in)

14in

Screen resolution

1920 x 1080

Screen type

IPS

Touchscreen

N/A

Pointing devices

Trackpad

Memory card slot

microSD card

3.5mm audio jack

Yes

Graphics outputs

2x Thunderbolt 4

Other ports

1x USB 2.0

Web Cam

720p

Speakers

2x 2W speakers

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 6

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5.1

NFC

N/A

Dimensions, mm (WDH)

319 x 219 x 15.9mm

Weight (kg) - with keyboard where applicable

1.29kg

Battery size (Wh)

82Whr

Operating system

Windows 10 Home

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