MSI Modern 15 review: A mostly middle-of-the-pack machine that sometimes swings above its weight

MSI Modern 15
  • MSI Modern 15
  • MSI Modern 15
  • MSI Modern 15
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Good performance
  • Lighter than you expect

Cons

  • Conventional design
  • No discrete graphics

Bottom Line

The MSI Modern 15 doesn’t compromise performance in the name of aesthetics or form but nor does it really stand out.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

For the longest time, MSI have been known for their gaming laptops. Gradually, that identity expanded to include stuff like peripherals, graphics cards, gaming monitors and more. Most recently, they’ve looked to distinguish themselves with graphically-intensive workstations that fall under the umbrella of Nvidia’s Studio initiative.

Now, the MSI Modern 15 tries to see them sharpen their appeal among professional users. It doesn’t have the grunt found in powerbooks like the Creator series nor does it have the form-factor of the Prestige series. Instead, it opts to find a balance between portability and performance and while the results of that approach are - by their nature - a little uneven and unpolished, the sum of parts here still makes for a pretty versatile laptop.

Price

In Australia, pricing for the MSI Modern 15 starts at AU$1499. 

Specs

  • Processor:  Intel i7-10510U

  • Operating System:  Windows 10 

  • RAM: 16GB

  • Storage: 512GB SSD 

  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX250

  • MicroSD slot: Yes

  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD, IPS level Anti-Glare Wide View Angle Thin Bezel 100%sRGB 

  • Battery:  52wHr

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth

  • Front-Facing Camera: 720p HD webcam

  • Dimensions:  365  x 233 x 16 mm

  • Weight: 1.6kg

Design

The MSI Modern 15 is a matte black behemoth wrapped around a 15.6-inch IPS screen with thin bezels and 100% sRGB color gamut. 

Like many aspects of the overall package, the screen on the MSI Modern 15 is more functional than anything else. As someone who usually relies on something closer to a 13-inch screen, it felt a little large but if a big screen is what you’re after, it’ll probably fit the bill.

Credit: MSI

Much the same could be said for the form-factor of the thing. It’s slim enough, even if that thinness is often offset by the sheer dimensions involved. At 1.6kg, it’s probably lighter to handle than you’d expect but the dimensions involved keep any claims around portability to a minimum. It’s compact but not exceptionally so. 

Likewise, the sleek aluminum chassis of the MSI Modern 15 isn’t particularly original but it works well enough. The trackpad is wide, the keys are generously backlit (though not all that customizable) and the modern-looking machine comes with many of the usual perks and comforts found in the brand’s gaming laptops. You get Nahimic-powered hi-res audio. You get Cooler Boost 3, which keeps the thing cool under heavy load, and you get MIL-STD certification for drop damage. All of these are nice to have, especially in a laptop at this price-point. None of them are particularly game-changing.

Credit: MSI

For the record, the MSI Modern 15 features a total of eight ports:

  • 1x USB Type-C 

  • 3x USB Type-A 

  • 1x HDMI-Out

  • 1x Power

  • 1x MicroSD

  • 1x headphone jack

At the end of the day, the MSI Modern 15 is a nice enough laptop that you probably won’t complain unless you’re in too deep. If you compare it to alternatives by brands like HP or Dell, it hardly holds its own but, then again, that’s always been the story with MSI. They’ve never been the brand for those who want their laptop to look pretty. They’ve always been more concerned with end-user value and this installment in that saga doesn’t break the pattern.  

While MSI Modern 15 is nice enough that you’re unlikely to take umbrage with its lack of creative flair. It looks and feels like a laptop that any of a dozen PC OEMs could have made, which is to say it looks and feels like most MSI laptops. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but let’s not pretend otherwise. 

Performance

In terms of everyday performance, the MSI Modern 15 delivered about what you’d expect. It doesn’t strain and show the seams too often but nor is it best in class when it comes to responsiveness. 

There’s a fair bit of bloat on the initial install and once you go past a dozen or so tabs when you’re web browsing, things really do slow down. Still, the 10th Gen Core CPU here delivered the goods. I rarely found myself straining against the limits of what the Modern 15 could deliver. 

Credit: MSI

One welcome inclusion here is the Creator Center software found in MSI’s Prestige and Creator series laptops. This provides you with a dashboard for fast and easy system management. There’s a dedicated creator mode that promises optimised performance for relevant apps including Lightroom, Premiere Pro and AutoCAD.

Benchmarks

  • PC Mark - 4495 

  • 3DMark TimeSpy  - 1268

  • 3DMark FireStrike - 3498

  • 3DMark FireStrike Ultra - 520

  • VRMark Orange - 1884

  • VRMark Blue - 343

  • Gears Tactics - 59.6FPS

  • Geekbench Single - 1095

  • Geekbench Multi - 3375

  • Geekbench Compute - 11749

  • Total War: Warhammer 2

    • Battle - 30.3FPS

    • Campaign - 35FPS

    • Skaven - 34.9

When it comes to benchmarks, some of the seams are shown here. 

The MSI Modern 15 has an Nvidia MX250 inside it, which swings well above the capabilities of Intel’s baseline integrated graphics but can’t compete with a fully-blown discrete setup. 

Credit: MSI

The sum total here is that, while the MSI Modern 15 isn’t a gaming laptop, there are definitely some games you can probably get away with playing on it even if that experience is probably going to feel a little bit compromised. 

Battery Life

Though the fast-charging was a blissed inclusion, the MSI Modern 15 fared only okay when it came to battery life. 

The fast charging is a nice inclusion but, subjected to our usual Battery Eater rundown test, it only took 2 hours and 1 minutes to run down from 100% to zero. This isn’t necessarily indicative of everyday, regular usage but it is a metric by which we consistently measure the minimum battery life of any given laptop. 

The Bottom Line

The MSI Modern 15 sits in the middle of the spectrum when it comes in modern laptops. It doesn’t compromise performance in the name of aesthetics or form but nor does it really stand out. 

In terms of specs, it swings above its weight class and walks out with a cheaper-than-you’d retail price. If those are the key vectors through which you look to decide on your next laptop purchase, the MSI Modern 15 is well-poised to make its case. 

On paper, the MSI Modern 15 provides plenty of bang for buck. In practice, it’s as likely to disappoint you as surprise you. MSI have made a more-than-competent workhorse of a laptop but, on some level or another, it feels like most consumers buy around the possibilities of what they might do with their next PC over what they actually do. And on the metaphorical metrics of might and maybes, the MSI Modern 15 struggles to keep up.

Credit: MSI

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