MSI Modern 15


Low-frills performance at the right price, and a design that doesn’t scream “cheap”, the MSI Modern 15 laptop is a sound buy if you can get on with its undersaturated display.

Pros

  • Affordable pricing
  • Good performance for the money
  • Looks quite slick for a budget laptop
Cons

  • Poor colour reproduction
  • 5.5-hour battery life
Availability

  • UKRRP: £599.99
Key Features
  • 12th Gen Intel CPUThe MSI Modern 15 is among the early wave of more affordable 12th Gen Intel CPU laptops, which can deliver up to double the peak performance of last-generation models
  • Matte displayA matte screen makes reflections less of an issue than they are on a glossy display: you won’t see a reflection of your face staring back at you
  • 180-degree hingeThis isn’t a hybrid laptop; there’s no touchscreen, but the hinge does fold back by 180 degrees as opposed to the usual 135 degrees

Introduction

The MSI Modern 15 is a budget laptop that performs similarly for everyday jobs and tougher productivity tasks to some models costing twice the price. 

It’s a classic “meat and potatoes” laptop – but, as the name suggests, those potatoes are more dauphinoise than bare boiled spuds. The MSI Modern 15’s casing looks sleek for what is a fairly pragmatic computer. And, for the most part, it feels good too. 

Intel 12th Gen CPU power and a 512GB SSD is a sound deal at £500. So where’s the catch?

The MSI Modern 15’s colour reproduction is poor, and battery life won’t stretch to a full day of work. In addition, if you’d rather a slim, light, aluminium laptop, then you should also check out the Acer Swift 3 line – although at the time of review, the price of Intel 12th Gen models is unknown. 

Keep your expectations in check and the MSI Modern 15 is a good way to get solid performance without spending a fortune. It costs £499 with a Core i5 CPU, £599 with a Core i7. 

Design

  • All-plastic, but fairly good-looking design
  • 1.7kg is a bit heavy for every day portable use
  • Good panel stiffness

MSI calls the Modern 15 an ‘ultra-slim’, ‘ultra-light’ laptop. But that may be a stretch: it weighs 1.7kg and is 20mm thick. That’s slim and light for a gaming laptop, but an ordinary one like this? Not so much. 

However, I think MSI approaches that ‘ordinary’ style from just the right angle. This is an all-plastic laptop, but I don’t think it looks much less slick than the far higher-end MSI Summit E16 Flip Evo. 

Its keyboard plate is smooth black plastic, as is the lid. This can often feel cheap, but doesn’t here because of the almost soft-touch finish. The rigidity of the screen and bottom half is great, too. 

MSI uses rougher plastic for the underside, but this isn’t really a concern.

The MSI Modern 15 viewed at an angleImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The MSI Modern 15 features a single USB-C port. There are also two very slow USB 2.0 ports – use these to plug in a mouse and keyboard for a desktop-style setup, but not external storage. Having just two moderately fast connections feels a bit stingy.

A HDMI port sits on the left side, and lets you plug in a TV or monitor easily – but, again, it’s a fairly low-spec connector. It’s rated for up to 4K/30 output only, suggesting it’s a HDMI 1.4 port, and not the far better HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 2.1 type. There’s also a microSD slot.

The MSI Modern 15 has a 720p webcam. Lots of manufacturers have started upgrading to 1080p this year, but there was no chance of that in an affordable laptop such as this. The image is quite soft, and becomes desaturated in anything but great lighting. However, I’ve seen worse in laptops that are significantly more expensive. Noise handling in poor lighting is solid.

The laptop folded flatImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Not surprisingly, the speakers aren’t great. There’s very little bass and maximum volume is conservative. However, as long as you steer clear of the sound-mangling EQ options, the MSI Modern 15 does at least sound coherent and inoffensive. It isn’t super-boxy or harsh; it’s just a bit of a wallflower. 

The lower you descend in price, the more notable features that we take for granted in high-end laptops become. Take the keyboard backlight. The MSI Modern 15 has a three-level white backlight that shines through the translucent sides of the keys. Some laptops at the price have no backlight at all. 

The MSI Modern 15’s keys feel decent, too. They have a solid 1.5mm travel (which is above average in 2022), don’t seem too spongy, and have a quiet depress response. No complaints here. 

MSI also fits in a NUM pad without making the main section of the keyboard too off-centre, using smaller scale keys. 

A view of the keyboard and trackpad.Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The touchpad is more obviously compromised by cost. It’s a plastic pad and, perhaps thanks to the internal construction of the Modern 15, the click resonance feels a bit hollow. 

However, for a cheaper laptop it’s perfectly decent. The surface is smooth, and it doesn’t have any pre-click wobble. This isn’t a great touchpad, by any means, but it could have been a whole lot worse. 

Display

  • Poor colour saturation
  • Good contrast
  • Brightness is largely only fit for indoor use

The slim borders of the 15.6-inch LCD screen also contribute hugely to the “modern” look that MSI is aiming for here. However, the quality of the MSI Modern 15 panel is mixed. 

Colour reproduction is poor; it covers only 58% of sRGB. This level of undersaturation is immediately obvious if, say, you have app icons on your desk that you also see regularly on your phone. The MSI Modern 15 simply can’t render deep, vivid reds, greens and so on, giving the display a slightly weak, pastel look. 

Maximum brightness is fairly low, too, at 270 nits. The MSI Modern 15 has a matte display, preferable for outdoor use, but with such limited brightness, it will likely struggle when there’s lots of ambient light. 

The MSI Modern 15 screenImage Credit (Trusted Reviews)

These should be deal-breakers for many – but, I have to say, I’ve found some ultra-vivid, 15.6-inch OLED screens far more disappointing than the Modern 15’s screen. 

There’s no obviously visible pixel structure, even though the 1080p resolution leads to a low pixel density at 15.6 inches. And contrast is as good as you could ask for in an LCD laptop, at around 1300:1. 

The MSI Modern 15 display is poor in a couple of key respects, but I still like it – at least in the context of a laptop that starts at under £500. 

Performance

  • Very good CPU performance
  • Lesser gaming performance than some 11th Gen slim-and-light laptops
  • Erratic fan behaviour in some performance modes

The MSI Modern 15’s whole reason to exist is to provide good performance for sensible money. You could spend this much and still end up with a Chromebook, a Windows model with 4GB of RAM, or – shudder – an Intel Pentium processor. 

There’s none of that in the Modern 15. My review laptop came with the Core i7-1255U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. 

The similarly priced Acer Swift 1 rival comes with a relatively puny Pentium N6000 CPU. In Geekbench 5, that laptop might score around 1300 points. The MSI Modern 15 scores 6900 points – a disparity so wide it’s almost comical. 

MSI Modern 15 Acer Swift 3 (2021) Surface Laptop Go 2
Processor Intel Core i7-1255U AMD Ryzen 5 5500U Intel Core i5-1135G7
PCMark 10 5307 5262 4380
Geekbench 5 single/multi 1758 / 6958 1119 / 5269 1364 / 3899

While you’ll find similarly powerful laptops at this price months (and months) after I’m reviewing the MSI Modern 15, it’s actually quite rare to see such complete laptops with an “RRP” this low. Take the Go to Source