MSI Katana 15 review — Phenomenal performance in a lackluster display

The MSI Katana 15 makes some sacrifices for its superb gaming performance

MSI Katana 15 Review
(Image: © Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The MSI Katana 15 boasts excellent RTX 4070-gaming performance and solid productivity scores in a machine that doesn’t cost a fortune. But if you’re looking for long-lasting battery life and an excellent display, you will come out disappointed.


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    Superb RTX 4070-performance

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    Solid productivity scores

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    Satisfying keyboard

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    Affordable for its specs

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    Decent sound system


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    Low peak brightness

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    Lackluster display

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    Abysmal battery life

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MSI Katana 15

Price: $1,599
CPU: Intel Core i7-13620H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS 144Hz
Battery: 2:48
Size: 14.1 x 10.2 x 0.98
Weight: 8.8 pounds  

The MSI Katana 15 blew my mind at first—I thought this $1,599 gaming laptop was a miraculous piece of hardware with its staggering RTX 40-series gaming performance and awesome productivity scores. That is still somewhat the case, as I was impressed by its minimalistic yet sleek design, clicky keyboard and solid speakers, but MSI was clearly willing to sacrifice other elements for the sake of its positive qualities.

The Katana 15 has an abysmally dim and colorless display, turning the films and games I threw at it into a desaturated, unsatisfying mess of flat colors and surprisingly low brightness levels. Beyond that, its battery is so short-lived that it won’t survive a few hours away from a charging station. 

This still might be one of the best gaming laptops for what it accomplishes, but you are sacrificing important elements of an immersive gaming experience for the sake of high frame rate and great performance.

MSI Katana 15 price and configurations 

Our model of the MSI Katana 15 can be found on Amazon for $1,599 and is built with an Intel Core i7-13620H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage space, and a 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate.

The cheapest model of the Katana 15 can be found on Micro Center for $1,099, it’s identical except for the drop to a GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, while other configurations include a RTX 4060, i9 processor, or up to 32GB of RAM. 

MSI Katana 15 design 

The Katana 15 feels like a spaceship in your lap, and while it’s not as flashy as other gaming laptops, it does a good job presenting minimalistic design flairs to give it much needed personality.

The lid features a black engraved version of the iconic MSI shield logo encased by two vertical lines shifting at a slight angle away from the center. On each corner of the lid is a small engraving that makes it look like it is a freshly plated piece of steel engraved onto a hull, while a small arrow with a quote above it at the bottom says “Engineered and Designed by Micro-Star International” in a jagged, futuristic font.

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

Lifting the lid reveals a full keyboard with a number pad, boasting fun accents like the half-transparent dotted arrow with a logo in the center of each arrow key, indicating their alternate uses. The space bar also features this design, while the WASD keys are fully transparent. I also love that there is a small engraving above the power button that encompasses the key with text that says “POWER,” conjuring this feeling that the user is within the pilot’s seat of a spaceship.

This is only more potent as you look at the space where the trackpad is nestled, each corner of the lower deck features a faux-screw hole to give it the appearance of a metal plate bolted onto the laptop. Above the keyboard lies a series of rectangular exhaust vents located amongst a collection of dark and light gray reflective circles with the same faux-screw holes on the left and right side.

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

While I do enjoy the Katana 15’s physical design, I wish it boasted slightly more colorful accents, even if those colors were on the darker side of the spectrum. Everything I’ve described is black hued outside of the colorful RGB backlight, which makes the finer details difficult to appreciate.

The Katana 15 comes in at ‎14.1 x 10.2 x 0.98 inches and ‎8.8 pounds, which makes it the heaviest laptop by far among its competitors, although not quite the largest. The MSI Crosshair 15 R6E (14.1 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches, 5.4 pounds) and the Dell G16 (14.1 x 10.7 x 1.1 inches, 6 pounds) are larger but lighter, while the Origin EVO16-S (14.4 x 10 x 0.8 inches, 5.4 pounds) is wider and lighter. 

MSI Katana 15 ports 

The Katana 15 boasts a decent selection of ports, with the inclusion of an 8K-compatible HDMI port especially useful as the laptop’s display isn’t good on its own. 

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

On the left, there’s a USB 3.2 Type-A and USB 2.0 Type-A port. 

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

On the right, there’s an HDMI (8K 60Hz/4K 120Hz), USB 3.2 Type–C, USB 3.2 Type-A, RJ45 Ethernet port, and audio jack. 

MSI Katana 15 display 

When looking at the Katana 15’s specs in contrast to its price, I sincerely wondered if MSI had crafted a masterpiece, but after some time with the laptop’s matte display, it becomes abundantly clear that this is the section where the company cut costs. Not only is this laptop’s display brightness and color depth poor, but it is almost entirely behind its competitors.

I watched the Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken trailer and was stunned by how faded the Katana 15’s display looks. From the opening where a series of jellyfish swim through the sea, it appeared as if an ever present gray filter was plastered over every frame. 

One scene in particular showcases a gorgeous tentacle tower with tons of blue lights glowing amidst a dark expanse of nothingness. When I pulled this same scene up on my monitor, I noticed that a glowing purple entity (the main character) was visible on the lower right of the screen. But on the Katana 15, it blends with the background, looking far too faded and barely recognizable as purple to begin with.

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

I booted up Elden Ring to see if the Katana 15 would do any better while gaming, but that wasn’t the case. It was especially offensive to see such a visually enchanting world reduced to an unsatisfying mess of faded colors. While overlooking the iconic view of Liurnia at a cliff’s edge, an area that is typically overwhelmed with this subtle blue glow over a foggy expanse, was barely visible. And when I visited the mountains of Volcano Manor, I was shocked at how much radiance was sapped from the flowing lava and how muted its glow against the submerged buildings appeared.

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DCI-P3 color gamut
Row 0 - Cell 0 DCI-P3 color gamut percentage
MSI Katana 1546.1%
Origin EVO16-S45.4%
Dell G1675.3%
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E116.6%

Unsurprisingly, the Katana 15 performed abysmally in our color tests, reproducing only 46.1% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. Not only is this worse than the category average (70.2%), but it’s also significantly worse than the Dell G16 (75.3%) and Crosshair 15 R6E (116.6%). By some miracle, however, the Katana 15 squeezed by the EVO16-S (45.4%), although the scores are close enough to make them equally bad.

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Display brightness
Row 0 - Cell 0 Brightness
MSI Katana 15248 nits
Origin EVO16-S280 nits
Dell G16335 nits
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E300 nits

However, the Katana 15 couldn’t get a single win in our brightness tests, boasting an average of 248 nits, putting it far below the category average (292 nits). Competitors Dell G16 (335 nits), Crosshair 15 R6E (300 nits) and the EVO16-S (280 nits) were also superior. 

MSI Katana 15 audio 

I had doubts about the Katana 15’s bottom-firing speakers, but those were somewhat put to rest after testing songs and games on the system. Music comes through with enough punch and bass to offer an impact alongside mostly clear vocals, but the sound is at times lacking intensity and is low in volume.

I launched Elden Ring and was pleasantly surprised by the Katana 15’s performance. As I began an upward climb up the stairs of the Altus Highway, the impact sound of ballistas skewering the ground near me alongside the ambient crackling of leaves and a soothing violin wonderfully encapsulated the atmosphere of this gripping world. Every enemy growl, rain drop and sword strike boasts a sufficient intensity that will make gaming without headphones or a high quality external speaker more than acceptable.

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

I then put the Katana 15 up against my latest obsession, “The Last Lost Continent” by La Dispute, and was satisfied with how the speaker system handled this multilayered epic. The opening guitar comes across with potency alongside Dreyer's vocals, but as the beginning two minutes exponentially increases in intensity, the laptop wasn’t quite catching the growing volume and bassiness of the backing instrumentals. 

Thankfully, the instruments are clear against one another, with audible vocals and individual guitars and drum hits coming together in a satisfying way. But whenever the song gets loud and abrasive, a tinge of intensity is missing.

I then tested “astrid” by Glaive to see if the Katana 15 could handle something more on the poppy, but still intense side, and it did a far better job presenting this fast-paced track. Glaive’s voice comes across loud and clear alongside the hyperactive electronic and acoustic instruments, with each beat boasting a decent amount of impact as the track progresses.

Although the Katana 15’s speakers are decent, you will get a lot more out of your gaming experience by investing into a quality peripheral. We recommend taking a look at the best computer speakers or one of the best gaming headsets or best headphones

MSI Katana 15 keyboard and touchpad 

The Katana 15 features a full-sized keyboard with satisfying 1.7mm key travel and glorious 4-zone RGB backlighting. It also has a number pad (World of Warcraft players rejoice!), which means it sacrifices the possibility for larger keys, but I’m personally more comfortable with keyboards on the smaller end. As you’d expect from any gaming laptop, it has tons of useful keys like FN lock, which toggles the function keys between their gaming uses and laptop uses.  

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

The trackpad can be turned off entirely with F4, although I predict that will make many go into a panic when their trackpad isn’t working. Other keys switch between performance modes, work the fan at hyperspeed, turn off the display (this freaked me out a few times), pause/play whatever is being watched or listened to, turning off the microphone or webcam and one that puts a giant crosshair in the middle of the screen.

During the typing test, I managed an average of 117 words per minute with an accuracy of 98%. When trying the same test on my mechanical keyboard, I achieved 124 words per minute with a 95% accuracy. I enjoy typing on the Katana 15 quite a bit, as the size suits what I’m used to, although I normally like the right shift key a bit bigger.

The Katana 15’s trackpad feels smooth and responsive, but the right click doesn’t function all that well. Half of the times I put both fingers on the keyboard and click, it doesn’t register my command. Besides that issue, however, I had no trouble zipping around the screen, selecting documents and opening up new windows with the trackpad.

MSI Katana 15 gaming and graphics 

The MSI Katana 15 is packing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card with 8GB of VRAM, which results in astounding gaming performance metrics, especially for such an inexpensive laptop. Spoiler alert: The Katana 15 unsurprisingly demolishes the competition with its latest-gen graphics card.

I launched Elden Ring to get a taste of what RTX 40-series performance can look like from Nvidia. I had a blast running around The Lands Between as I mounted my trusted steed, battling enemies and exploring this distraught land without a care. I never experienced a moment of stutter, and although the display could certainly be better, this performance is seriously beastly. I saw a consistent 50 to 55 frames per second while riding through the world at 2K resolution.

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Borderlands 3 (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080
MSI Katana 1599 fps
Origin EVO16-S88 fps
Dell G1674 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E82 fps

On our Borderlands 3 test, the Katana 15 hit 99 frames per second at 1080p resolution and maximum graphic settings. The category average sits below it at 74 fps, while the Crosshair 15 (Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070, 82 fps), Dell G16 (Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, 74fps) and EVO16-S (AMD Radeon RX 6650XT, 88fps) couldn’t touch this MSI.

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080
MSI Katana 15106 fps
Origin EVO16-S86 fps
Dell G1669 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E78 fps

Its performance got even more impressive with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, running at an average of 106 fps at 1080p. Not only is this superior to the category average (70 fps), but the Crosshair 15 (78 fps), Dell G16 (69 fps) and EVO16-S (86 fps) didn’t stand a chance. 

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Dirt 5 (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080
MSI Katana 15103 fps
Origin EVO16-S85 fps
Dell G1675 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E86 fps

Racing game fanatics will appreciate its steady 103 fps at 1080p in Dirt 5, absolutely smashing the Crosshair 15 (86 fps), Dell G16 (75 fps), and EVO16-S (85 fps). 

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Far Cry 6 (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080
MSI Katana 1594 fps
Origin EVO16-S70 fps
Dell G1690 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E90 fps

The Katana 15 still did better than the competition in our Far Cry 6 test, but it was a little closer this time, managing a steady 94 fps at 1080p. The category average (73 fps) and EVO16-S (70 fps) were far below it, but the Dell G16 (90 fps) and Crosshair 15 (90 fps) weren’t that far behind.

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Grand Theft Auto V (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080
MSI Katana 1596 fps
Origin EVO16-S83 fps
Dell G1694 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E113 fps

Although this laptop has pulled ahead in every game thus far, it didn’t do quite as well on Grand Theft Auto V, with 96 fps at 1080p. While this is ahead of the category average (91 fps), Origin EVO16-S (83 fps), and Dell G16 (94 fps), it couldn’t overtake the Crosshair 15 (113 fps). 

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Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080 High1920 x 1080 Ultra1920 x 1080 Extreme
MSI Katana 1591 fps74 fps48 fps
Origin EVO16-S63 fps49 fps30 fps
Dell G1670 fps55 fps35 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E76 fps61 fps40 fps

Running the Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition test, the Katana 15’s 1080p scores were 91 fps on High, 74 fps on Ultra and 48 fps on Extreme. The Crosshair 15 (76fps, 61 fps, 40 fps), Dell G16 (70 fps, 55 fps, 35 fps) and EVO16-S (63 fps, 49 fps, 30 fps) couldn’t match up to it. 

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Red Dead Redemption 2 (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080
MSI Katana 1572 fps
Origin EVO16-S53 fps
Dell G1660 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E67 fps

It also did moderately better than its competition in Red Dead Redemption 2, hitting 72 fps at 1080p. This is higher than the category average (60 fps), Crosshair 15 (67 fps), EVO16-S (53 fps) and Dell G16 (60 fps). 

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1920 x 1080)
Row 0 - Cell 0 1920 x 1080
MSI Katana 15113 fps
Origin EVO16-S73 fps
Dell G1676 fps
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E92 fps

Our Shadow of the Tomb Raider test was demolished by the Katana 15, bolstering 113 fps at 1080p. This is greater than the category average (80 fps), Crosshair 15 (92 fps), EVO16-S (73 fps) and Dell G16 (76 fps). 

MSI Katana 15 performance 

The Katana 15 is built with an Intel Core i7-13620H processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage, making it more than capable of handling any sorts of productivity tasks you might throw at it. I pulled up dozens upon dozens of tabs open on pages like YouTube, Twitch, Google Docs, and Sheets while blasting music on Spotify, and at no point felt the computer slow down. 

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Geekbench 5.5 results
Row 0 - Cell 0 Mutli-core score
MSI Katana 1511,581
Origin EVO16-S9,696
Dell G1612,043
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E10,578

On the Geekbench 5.5 overall performance test, the Katana 15’s multi-core score of 11,581 reigned over the category average of 5,643. The EVO16-S (AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPU, 9,696) and Crosshair 15 (Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, 10,578) couldn’t survive against it either, but the Dell G16 (Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, 12,043) pulls ahead into first place. 

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Handbrake (Video transcoding)
Row 0 - Cell 0 Time (min:sec)
MSI Katana 155:04
Origin EVO16-S5:41
Dell G166:23
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E6:44

The Katana 15 converted a 4K video to 1080p resolution using the HandBrake app in 5 minutes and 4 seconds, which is just barely faster than our category average (5:09). This is a lot faster than the Dell G16 (6:23), Crosshair 15 (6:44) and EVO16-S (5:41). 

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SSD speed test (in MBps)
Row 0 - Cell 0 Score
MSI Katana 15784
Origin EVO16-S1,722
Dell G16745
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E728

While the Katana 15 has been great thus far, it was a few steps behind in our file transfer test, duplicating 25GB of multimedia files in 34 seconds for a 784 megabytes per second transfer rate. While this is a little faster than the category average (765MBps), Dell G16 (512GB PCIe SSD, 745MBps), and Crosshair 15 (1TB SSD, 728MBps), every competitor here is less than half as fast as the EVO16-S (2TB SSD, 1,722MBps). 

MSI Katana 15 battery life 

The Katana 15’s incredible low-cost performance comes at the price of abysmal battery life. On the Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits, the Katana 15 only lasted 2 hours and 48 minutes. 

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Battery life results
Row 0 - Cell 0 Time (hours:mins)
MSI Katana 152:48
Origin EVO16-S6:48
Dell G164:00
MSI Crosshair 15 R6E7:03

This is significantly below the category average (5:49), which means you will likely not survive with this thing on the go, unless you’re always by an outlet. The Dell G16 (4:00), Crosshair 15 (7:03) and EVO16-S (6:48) all survived far longer.

MSI Katana 15 heat 

The Katana 15 gets a little warm even when it isn’t gaming, so we recommend keeping this thing as far away from any vital body parts even if you’re not playing anything.

In our non-gaming tests, which involved playing a 1080p video for 15 minutes, the hottest point reached 103 degrees Fahrenheit at its underside. This is far above our 95-degree comfort threshold, and although the touchpad remained cool at 77 degrees, the G/H key hit 98.5 degrees.

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

In our gaming tests while playing Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition, the laptop’s underside hit 115 degrees, with the touchpad remaining a cool 78 degrees, but the keyboard was as high as 107 degrees.

MSI Katana 15 webcam 

I don’t expect much when testing out a built-in webcam, and the Katana 15 solidifies why. This 720p camera turned my relatively low-light room into an oversaturated nightmare, with the light orange glow emanating from my lamp becoming indiscernible from a blinding LED.

If you care about looking good whenever you turn your webcam on, we highly recommend checking out our best webcams page.  

MSI Katana 15 software and warranty 

The Katana 15 has Windows 11 pre installed along with the typical Microsoft software, alongside a full suite of apps from MSI. Nahimic is also preinstalled, which offers speaker customization from SteelSeries. 

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

MSI Center is the company’s leading software that grants access to many services in one spot. This app shows how much of your CPU and GPU is in use, details on remaining storage space, fan speeds, CPU temperature, GPU temperature, and more. You can even utilize MSI Recovery, Gaming Mode, General Settings, User Scenario, Smart Priority, System Diagnosis, Game Highlights, MSI Companion, Smart Image Finder, and Wi-Fi Analysis.

With User Scenario, system performance can be altered between extreme performance, balanced, silent and super battery depending on what you’re doing. You can also swap between discrete graphics and integrated graphics on a whim, alongside a combination of both. But Game Mode is probably the most useful as it can adjust that system performance, key backlight and display colors depending on what you’re playing.

MSI Katana 15 Review

(Image credit: Future)

You can also activate the Windows Key, Switch Key, WebCam, Display OverDrive, Crosshair Display, HDR, Display Power Saver and USB Power Share from the General Settings section. There’s also the MSI App Player, which allows the user to emulate a mobile device (specifically Android) to download apps and play games.

The Katana 15 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how MSI performed on our Tech Support Showdown.

Bottom line 

The Katana 15 is a beast of a gaming laptop for those who refuse to spend anything over $2,000. With its phenomenal RTX 40-series graphics performance and great productivity scores, it’s hard to say no when faced with such powerful hardware at this price. We were also impressed by its aesthetically alluring design, satisfying keyboard, decent sound system, and its additional functionality that will make nitpicky gamers happy.

The $1,599 price tag isn’t some sort of miracle, however, as the Katana 15’s incredible performance comes at the detriment of its battery life and display. Graphics performance is important, but it will feel nowhere near as impactful if the screen it’s attached to presents environments without their luster, while also being held back by shockingly dim peak brightness. Its sub-three hour battery life does it no favors, either. 

While you could just connect the laptop to a superior monitor or TV, if you’re looking for something with a gloriously colorful display and are willing to deal with worse gaming performance, we recommend the MSI Crosshair 15 R6E. If you don’t particularly care, the Katana 15 is an otherwise phenomenal gaming laptop. 

Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.