Expert Review

Top 10 things to consider when buying a laptop

Traditionally, choosing a laptop has been about compromise.

Credit: MSI

Traditionally, choosing a laptop has been about compromise. You either chose a fast machine that was bulky, noisy and had poor battery life, a super-svelte ultraportable that looked great but struggled to even open large Excel files or found a middling all-rounder that excelled at nothing except exuding disappointment. Recent years have seen the situation improve, with some great all-round, highly-portable gaming machines hitting the market, but they tend to look like something that would light-up a local area network (LAN) and raise eyebrows in the office – either because of  to their ostentatious looks or the noise they made.

Here are the top 10 things to consider when you want a laptop that does it all …

Looks

How a laptop looks is incredibly important. It needs to be both cool, professional and capable of fitting into professional, event and personal environments. There are now models that will impress just about everybody. The MSI Prestige 15 has a seriously cool chassis – a laser-cut, grey-with-blue-trim, aluminium affair. Its understated cool would perfectly suit a stuffy boardroom or chic designer office and yet still manage to attract an admiring crowd at a LAN. Even MSI’s lid-mounted Dragon has evolved into a discreet, laser-etched, sophisticated logo.

Build quality

It’s all very well looking good, but if a laptop falls apart on your travels then it’s little more than a portable paperweight. The aluminium chassis of the Prestige 15 is tough enough for the most demanding road warrior: something the military grade MIL-STD-810G specification attests to. It will withstand drops, vibrations and extreme temperatures.

Screen

A large screen can improve productivity and help deliver increased success at gaming. However, some laptops have large bezels around the display which not only reduce a screen’s real estate but mean the chassis must be unnecessarily large. The bright, uniformly-lit, 15.6-inch screen on the Prestige 15 is available in 4K and Full HD versions and has been individually tuned in the factory for colour accuracy. The bezel is so thin the chassis’ footprint is comparable to that of a 14-inch notebook. It displays 100 per cent of the Adobe RGB colour gamut, has True Colour technology that’s certified by CalMan and has a Delta-E rating of <2. Professional designers can be confident that what they see on the screen is what they’ll get. It also folds down completely flat so you can quickly show clients and colleagues what you’re working on (a quick tap of F12 will flip the screen).

Usability

Some laptops tick every box but are horrible to use thanks to off-centre keyboards, confusing layouts, oddly-sized keys and unresponsive trackpads. The Prestige 15’s keyboard has full-sized keys that are comfortable to type on for prolonged periods and responsive enough to keep  hardened gamers happy. It’s also backlit so you can see what you’re doing in darkened aircraft cabins or low-light studios. And the large trackpad houses a built-in fingerprint reader that’s compatible with Windows Hello and Fido 2 cryptography-based secure log-ins.

2D power In the past, ultraportables have struggled with opening modestly sized Excel files. At the same time, gaming laptops have tended to be large, noisy, heat-emitting monsters. Fortunately, we’re now at a point with Intel’s top-end, 10th Generation, mobile, hexa-core processors, that even sleek ultraportables can blitz through 2D processing-heavy applications, with minimal power consumption. The Prestige 15 combines these mighty CPUs with up to 64GB of speedy DDR4-2666 RAM and two lightening quick M.2 PCIe drives (one of which can support SATA).

3D power

Power and efficiency stretch to the 3D space too. This is great news for designers and gamers. While you’ll always need a big chassis or desktop for the fastest GPUs, Nvidia’s latest GTX 1650 GPU packs enough portable power for designing in 3D or owning noobs in Fortnite and Overwatch. That is why it’s featured in the Prestige 15.

Battery life

Everybody loves the idea of a powerful laptop, but that power comes with compromises – especially when it comes to battery life. The battery in the MSI Prestige lasts 10 hours which is longer than most working days. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology, lifted from Microsoft’s business-grade Azure, means the more you use the laptop the more it learns efficiencies such as turning off components and background services when they’re not needed to save power.

Heat dissipation

Another power-related concern comes from heat dissipation – powerful chips can get very hot. If a laptop doesn’t cool components efficiently then it will crash. However, using too many fans creates noise and consumes unnecessary power. The Prestige 15 is impressive in this area too. In addition to Nvidia’s Max-Q thermal technology, there’s MSI’s Cooler Boost 3 which uses two fans and three heat-pipes to hurry heat out of the system. It does this at less-than 30 decibels – enough to earn it a Quiet Mark certification.

Connectivity

Recently, some laptops makers have been removing very useful ports. In some cases, that means what you lose in bulk you make up for in adapter dongles. This isn’t the case with the Prestige 15 which sports two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports, a DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 (with Power-Delivery charging), two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, HDMI and a UHS-II MicroSD card reader. Two 3.5mm audio jacks support digital and analogue audio connections. It also has the latest, super-fast Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) chip. Bluetooth is version 5. Finally, the increasing importance of Web conferencing is catered to by an HD webcam nestled into the screen’s tiny bezel plus two, 2-Watt speakers.

Weight

The more you pack into a fully-featured laptop, the more it’s going to weigh. Or so you might think. Despite being a 15.6-inch model with military grade toughness, the Prestige 15 only weighs an  1.6kg. This places it firmly in ultraportable territory!

Conclusion

It’s rare that you’ll find a laptop that can do it all, but MSI’s Prestige 15 fits that bill. Whether you’re rendering, compiling, trying to impress colleagues or surreptitiously sneaking in some gaming when you shouldn’t be, it won’t let you down. Add to this MSI’s reputation for build quality plus a two-year international warranty and you’re left with the peace of mind of somebody who knows they have bought one of the best laptops ever made.

To learn more, visit MSI.

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IDG Online Staff

PC World
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