MSI is making a statement with the PS63 Modern ($1,499 starting, reviewed at $1,599), a slim, lightweight 15.6-inch laptop designed for creators. With a powerful Core i7 CPU and discrete Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics, the PS63 Modern invades a competitive territory dominated by the likes of the Dell XPS 15 and Apple MacBook Pro.
MSI launched the PS63 Modern with a mouthwatering marketing message: 16 x 16 x 16 -- those numbers represent the size (16 millimeters), weight (1.6 kilograms) and battery life (16 hours) of the PS63 Modern. Unfortunately, the laptop doesn't live up to the promised runtime and its display is dim. Still, the PS63 Modern is a very good laptop if you want a portable, elegant machine with a dedicated GPU.
MSI PS63 Modern Price and Configurations
MSI sells the PS63 Modern in two configurations. The base model (running Windows 10 Pro) costs $1,499 and comes with a Core i7-8565U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU (Max-Q) with 4GB of RAM.
Our $1,599 review unit (running Windows 10 Home) is identical, except it boasts a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of RAM and a 512GB M.2 SATA SSD. The PS63 Modern has two M.2 slots for expandable storage and an extra RAM slot for upgrading to 32GB.
The PS63 Modern is a stylish laptop with a unique aesthetic. My eyes were immediately drawn to the PS63 Modern's blue/purple trim, which glistens under certain lighting, as if the laptop had been cut out of sapphire. At first glance, the shining trim looked like strips of light, but a closer examination revealed periwinkle, diamond-cut edges.
The PS63's ashen frame complements the vibrant adornments, turning what could have looked like a boy racer car into an elegant laptop that fits into an office setting or an art studio. A subtle Prestige logo is embossed on the laptop's aluminum deck, and a central power button resides above the keyboard. Black MSI branding is barely visible on the PS63 Modern's supernarrow display bezels.
The MSI Dragon logo is smartly concealed in matte black atop the notebook's dark-gray lid. The rest of the chassis has the same sandblasted slate finish, giving this slim machine a stealthy appearance. The color reminds me of the surface of a meteorite, which is appropriate considering the PS63 Modern was developed in collaboration with the Discovery Channel to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. Overall, the PS63 Modern is a refined, buttoned-up departure from the brash, aggressive aesthetic of MSI's gaming laptops.
I do have a few gripes with the design. While the PS63 Modern passed multiple MIL-STD-810G tests, its plastic hinge disrupts an otherwise premium chassis. Also, the PS63 Modern's aluminum lid is a fingerprint magnet.
The PS63 Modern is slimmer and lighter than its 15.6-inch competitors. At 14 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches and 3.6 pounds, the Modern is more portable than the Dell XPS 15 (14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches, 4.2 pounds) and the Asus ZenBook Pro 15 (14.4 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches, 4.2 pounds). As expected, the 13.9-inch Huawei MateBook X Pro (12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches, 2.9 pounds) has a smaller footprint than the PS63 Modern.
Complementing the laptop's portable chassis is a compact power adapter that fits into even my backpack's smallest compartment.
The right side houses two additional USB 3.1 ports and a microSD card reader.
The MSI PS63 Modern's 15.6-inch, 1080p display is detailed and vivid, but the panel fails to shine, both literally and figuratively.
When I used the PS63 to watch a trailer for the upcoming comedy film The Beach Bum, Matthew McConaughey's gaudy Hawaiian shirt burst with an odd assortment of mismatched colors. The detailed display revealed funky patterns in the mischievous protagonist's tattered clothing as he lay unconscious with a bottle of beer at his head. I just wish the display were brighter so that those vivid colors popped off the screen.
Capable of covering 136 percent of the sRGB color gamut, the PS63 Modern exhibits punchy, vibrant hues. Not only is the display more colorful than the average premium laptop (117 percent), but it also tops the FHD XPS 15 (115 percent) and the MateBook X Pro (124 percent), and it comes close to the supervivid 4K panel on the ZenBook Pro 15 (141 percent).
But those vivid tones are diminished by the PS63 Modern's very dim display, which reached only 228 nits of peak brightness on our lab test. That's a full 100 nits below the premium laptop average (328 nits) and dimmer than the displays on the XPS 15 (447 nits), MateBook X Pro (458 nits) and ZenBook Pro 15 (330 nits).
We reached out to MSI and made them aware of the PS63 Modern's poor display brightness. We will update this review if they provide a solution.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The PS63's keyboard offers a surprisingly comfortable typing experience despite its shallow and flat keys. With 67 grams of actuation force, the white, backlit keys overcome their low 1.2 millimeters of travel (below our 1.5mm preference). The large keys are also clicky and have just enough weight to provide tactile feedback without feeling stiff.
MSI moved some of the shortcut commands from the top row to the arrow keys. After some adjusting, I found it easier to access volume and display-brightness controls on the PS63 Modern than on other laptops.
I typed at 117 words per minute with an accuracy rate of 96 percent on the 10FastFingers.com typing test, which is more accurate but a tad slower than my typical averages (119 wpm, 95 percent accuracy).
The elongated, 5.5 x 2.5-inch touchpad on the PS63 Modern looks great with its blue-trimmed edges, and the surface responded swiftly and accurately to my swipes and gestures, including pinch-to-zoom and a three-finger swipe to switch apps.
The dual, bottom-firing speakers on the front of the PS63 are loud enough to fill a medium-size room with bright, clear audio. There was an airiness to Ben Howard's live acoustic track "Empty Corridors" that gave the high frequencies room to breathe. The speakers were so detailed that I could hear the raspiness in the English singer's voice.
Although I didn't hear a ton of bass in Kanye's soothing song "Street Lights," the hip-hop track thumped along with an accurate, albeit light thud. Complex songs, especially rock music, sounded congested at lower levels, so you're better off keeping the volume at around 75 percent.
You can use the included Nahimic software to adjust bass, treble and voice frequencies. The default settings were to my liking, but raising the treble and bass a few decibels improved the clarity and body of certain songs.
While this sleek machine doesn't employ the powerful H-series CPUs found in other premium 15-inch laptops, the PS63 Modern's Intel Core i7-8565U CPU and 16GB of RAM had no problems loading 20 Google Chrome tabs, several of which were playing 1080p Twitch and YouTube videos. I didn't notice any performance hiccups, even when I listened to tunes on YouTube Music and streamed post-Super Bowl analysis on ESPN's web-based streaming site.
With a score of 12,623 on the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance benchmark, the PS63 Modern couldn't keep up with the MateBook X Pro (Core i7-8550U; 13,769) or the premium category average (13,103). Armed with H-series CPUs, the XPS 15 (Core i7-8750H; 21,201) and ZenBook Pro 15 (Core i9-8950HK, 21,691) outperformed the PS63 Modern by an even wider margin.
The PS63 Modern rebounded somewhat on our Excel Macro Test, matching 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 1 minute and 25 seconds. That time tops both the MateBook X Pro (1:49) and the category average (1:31), but the ZenBook Pro 15 (0:40) and XPS 15 (0:44) were quicker to the finish line.
In our hard drive test, the PS63 Modern's 512GB M.2 SATA SSD sped past the competition by duplicating 4.97GB of mixed-media files in just 12 seconds for a rate of 424.1 megabytes per second. That matches the pace of the ZenBook Pro 15 (512GB NVMe, PCIe SSD, 424.1MBps) and tops both the Huawei MateBook X Pro (512GB NVMe, PCIe SSD, 282.7MBps) and XPS 15 (512GB NVMe, PCIe SSD, 391MBps). The category average is a blistering 525.3 MBps.
It took the PS63 Modern 19 minutes and 4 seconds to convert a 4K video into 1080p using the HandBrake video-transcoder app. That puts this MSI in the middle of the pack, ahead of the Huawei MateBook X Pro's time (27:18) and the premium average (21:45) but behind the results from the ZenBook Pro 15 (10:53) and XPS 15 (10:12).
Gaming and Graphics
The PS63 Modern wasn't made for gaming, but nonetheless, it stays true to its MSI roots. The laptop's entry-level Nvidia GeForce 1050 Ti (Max-Q) GPU, with 4GB of VRAM, can run most modern titles at low to medium settings, but your mileage will vary from game to game.
For example, the laptop maintained a smooth 60 frames per second on the Hitman benchmark (1920 x 1080p on Ultra), but it couldn't reach our 30-fps threshold when we ran Rise of the Tomb Raider (24 fps) on the Very High setting at 1920 x 1080 resolution.
The PS63 Modern outperformed the XPS 15 (GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, 60 fps) and ZenBook Pro 15 (GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, 60 fps) on the Hitman test and topped its Dell (22 fps) and Asus (21 fps) competitors on the Tomb Raider benchmark.
At 30 fps, Grand Theft Auto V (1920 x 1080 on Very High) is just playable on the PS63 Modern, which can't be said about the XPS 15 (27 fps). The ZenBook Pro 15 (31 fps) did slightly better than the MSI, but it couldn't catch the premium laptop average (39 fps).
When you aren't gaming, the PS63 Modern uses its integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU.
The PS63 Modern's battery life is shorter than expected. The laptop lasted 8 hours and 37 minutes on our Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), which is around half of what MSI promises. That's not a terrible result (the MSI's time even tops the 8:32 premium laptop average), but consumers may find MSI's advertised runtime misleading.
By comparison, the Dell XPS 15 (1080p display, 11:53) and Huawei MateBook X Pro (9:55) last several hours longer on a charge. The ZenBook Pro 15 powered down after just 6 hours of use, but it packs a battery-draining 4K display.
The PS63 Modern's aluminum chassis stayed below our 95-degree Fahrenheit comfort threshold after we played a 15-minute video in full screen. The hottest area on the laptop, near the hinge, warmed to 91 degrees, while the touchpad (81 degrees) and the center of the keyboard (87 degrees) were even cooler.
The tiny, 720p webcam MSI squeezed onto the PS63 Modern's top display bezel has good color reproduction, but the picture it captures is fuzzy and blotchy. In a selfie I shot, the details in my face were so smeared that my beard looked like a messy blob.
On a positive note, the camera accurately portrayed the red hue of my lips and the subtle warm tone of my skin, although the webcam failed to properly expose the bright lights behind me.
Software and Warranty
MSI loaded the PS63 Modern with some helpful programs that you can tinker with to improve performance and access important information.
The highlight is Creator Center, which is built to optimize the PS63 Modern's performance. To achieve this goal, the program recognizes when you're using a certain app, like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro, and adjusts the settings to improve your experience with that program.
The Creator Center also lets you monitor CPU, GPU, RAM and disk usage, and there are quick-access settings for adjusting the sound profile, touchpad DPIs and display-color modes. On another tab, you can access product registration and the user manual. MSI also included a Help Desk app, a separate (redundant) app for changing display-color modes and a program for keeping your laptop's drivers up to date.
Rounding out a rather exhaustive suite of programs is an Nvidia app with GPU settings and a pair of creators apps by CyberLink called PhotoDirector 8 for MSI and PowerDirector for MSI.
Unfortunately, the PS63 Modern is infested with Windows 10 Home bloatware. Cooking Fever, Microsoft Jigsaw and multiple Candy Crush titles are just a few of the casual games you'll find pre-installed on the PS63 Modern. Other apps include Phototastic Collage, Evernote and Fitbit Coach.
There's a lot I like about this unique laptop, including its portable chassis, strong performance and snappy keyboard. However, the PS63 Modern falls just short of its outstanding competitors. My biggest complaints with the machine are that its 15.6-inch display is tragically dim, and the real-world battery life, while decent, is shorter than that of the Modern's rivals.
If you're in the market for a 15-inch laptop, consider the XPS 15, which offers better performance than the PS63 Modern and lasts nearly 12 hours on a charge. The PS63 Modern doesn't have a nose cam, and it's smaller and lighter than the XPS 15, but the Dell is still a better overall laptop.
Alternatively, you could step down to a 13.9-inch display and go with the MateBook X Pro. Although that machine's MX150 GPU isn't great for gaming, it has a brighter display than the PS63 Modern and it lasts considerably longer on a charge without sacrificing performance.
Overall, the PS63 Modern is an excellent 15.6-inch laptop that offers discrete graphics in a slim chassis, but its dim display is a letdown.
Credit: Laptop Mag