This year, several companies, primarily known for their gaming laptops, have entered the portable business and productivity segments. It’s already a crowded field, but the Razer stands out with its elegant chassis, 16:10 screen, and the outstanding Razer Book 13 that touched the company’s signature RGB lighting.
In this review I’m looking at the Summit Series, where MSI is trying to get into the same space. The series includes the priced Summit E line, which includes discrete GPU options and can compete with top dogs like Dell’s XPS 15, and the Summit B line, which started at $999 and settled in the mid-range market.
We are discussing Summit B15 here. We looked at the Summit E15 last fall. Base B15 includes Core i5-1135G7, 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD. It costs $1,249 and tested a more expensive configuration with a Core i7-1165G7 (one of Intel’s top 11th generation processors), 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD. The system offers a sturdy specification in a nice chassis, but there are a few omissions that make it a bit pricey compared to what it offers.
The most attractive aspect of Summit series laptops is the look and build. It features a smooth black finish, aluminum construction, a luxurious backlit keyboard, and a shiny new MSI logo on the lid and bottom bezel (Dragon Not Found, MSI First). MSI claims the B15 is “military-grade durable,” a hard claim to test, but barely bends over the B15’s cover and keyboard. At 3.53 pounds and 0.67 inches thick, it’s lightweight for its size.
But on the whole, the B15 has a slightly more practical appearance than the E15 in particular. The latter has a small prosperity that adds to the luxurious atmosphere. For example, if the B15 is a straight black color, there are gold accents around the touchpad and hinge edges. Another thing about the B15’s chassis is one of the worst fingerprint magnets I’ve ever seen. One touch of the lid leaves a noticeable stain. While taking pictures, I used the flanks of my fists to reposition the laptop, but I had to wipe it off every time I took a picture.
do not misunderstand. It’s a nice and feel-good chassis. However, there is nothing interesting about it, and if you want to keep it in a clean look, you will wipe it a lot.
A useful port selection is a highlight when considering a thin chassis. This includes USB-C (Thunderbolt 4, powered, DP 1.4a and USB 4.0 support), 2 USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 1 USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1 combination audio jack, 1 microSD reader and HDMI jack Includes 1 piece. , In addition to the barrel plug power port. There is also an RJ45 Ethernet dongle in the box, which is convenient. It’s also a good idea to have USB-A ports on both sides.
I also like the keyboard backlight that looks pretty classy and won’t go out of place in an office environment. The height is well textured and has a travel distance of 1.5mm. Three key things to note: First, I found that the Fn key is half the size and that tapping is painful. Secondly, it’s annoying to have some rattles inside the deck sometimes. Third, the keys are softer than clicks and a bit shallower than the best keyboard keys. Subjectively, I made more errors than usual on this keyboard.
Likewise, the display works with warnings. It covers 98% of the sRGB area and 76% of AdobeRGB, up to 258 nits. It’s an acceptable range of colors and functional enough for office use, but too dark for easy use in bright settings. I would expect more from the $1,249 laptop. It also uses a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is out of fashion on premium business laptops for a reason. It’s a cramped case for multitasking.
The part I really hate is the touchpad. It’s a bit smaller for a 15-inch laptop, and when scrolling, I sometimes hit the fingerprint sensor (built in the top left corner) and the top plastic. It’s also not the softest I’ve ever used, and my fingers will slip pretty much. Both the material and the clicks feel a bit plastic compared to what you can find on the better models.
Summit’s performance is good. There were no problems during my usual business. The integrated Iris Xe graphics aren’t great for serious gaming, but if that’s your job, you can run a lighter fare. Sometimes I could feel the system sway under the keyboard during more strenuous work, but it didn’t get too big or too hot. If you are concerned about the fan noise, you can switch to the “silent” cooling profile in the MSI control panel.
With that said, two disappointments emerged during my testing. Firstly, the audio coming from the B15’s two speakers is not terrible and is great for video calls, but gives you little percussion and little bass. I also heard the distortion occasionally at maximum volume, but I was able to get rid of it by lowering the sound a notch. The microphone on my test device worked for other applications, but not for Zoom calls. I have asked MSI about this issue and will update this article once I figure it out.
Second disappointment: battery life. I ran the B15 as a daily driver at 200 nits of brightness, but it only took me 5 hours and 13 minutes on average. At this point, this is not at all unexpected as it only has a 3-cell 52Wh battery similar to some 13-inch laptops. On this 15-inch laptop, if your workload is like me, it’s not enough to power up all day (about 12 Chrome tabs, Slack, occasional zoom calls, etc.). One thing to note is that the B15 comes with Norton. I used to see that the battery was exhausted a lot. I ran the battery trial before removing that software and it only took me 4 and a half hours. After breaking through the bloatware, the B15 got close to 6.
All in all, the Summit series is a great first step for MSI. In a market where business-focused laptops typically cost thousands of dollars, a lightweight, attractive and functional product like the B15 has absolutely customers for just over $1,000. It looks and feels like a laptop to take to a business meeting and has some of the best Intel processors with cooling to handle it. Professionals on a budget can definitely be worse.
However, given the unobtrusive audio, battery life, and other areas of the chassis, I think it will still benefit those who want to spend a little more, especially those who can live with less RAM and storage. Better screens, better speakers, and better battery life can make a big difference to your everyday experience, and the B15’s awesome chassis, rich storage, and business-specific features are worth a premium for some, but not everyone’s. First priority.
Monica Chin / The Verge’s photo