MSI P65 Creator 8RE Review: It’s not for everyone and that’s a good thing

Rating: 8.5/10

Yay:

  • Stellar display
  • Clean looks
  • Snappy and powerful performance
  • Quite portable considering its hardware
  • Amazing thermal performance

Nay:

  • Build Quality could be better
  • A low repairability score and no upgradability
  • Slightly overpriced

Introduction

Being a gamer, I’ve always had a fancy for laptops from MSI, since they offer some of the best performing laptops on the market. However, gaming isn’t the only field that the company excels in. They also have their Prestige lineup of creator-oriented laptops. These laptops aim to provide powerful hardware in a slim profile with long battery life, to allow for content creators to work even while on-the-go. The company’s latest offering, the MSI P65 Creator 8RE aims to serve that exact purpose. However, with a price tag of Rs. 1,59,990, is the laptop really worth your buck? Let’s find out.

Design And Build Quality

In a world full of monstrous gaming laptops that look super flashy, the MSI P65 is a breath of fresh air. It looks clean, with a very blockish and symmetrical design. There are no flashy RGB lights or out-of-box lines and curves on the laptop. MSI has kept it quite neat, which is great since you can carry it to work or to a coffee shop without having everyone’s attention driven towards you. The laptop comes in this beautiful Silver color that really adds to the premiumness of the device. There’s a White Limited Edition variant of the laptop available as well, though, for me, I’d pick the silver any day. It features the MSI dragon logo on the back panel while featuring the MSI branding below the display panel. There’s also a Prestige branding embossed under the keyboard on the left side. 

However, that’s the design part. Top marks to MSI on that aspect. That said, coming over to the build quality, things aren’t looking as impressive as you’d expect. Usually, when you talk about laptops in this price segment, you’d expect them to be built out of premium materials. Unfortunately, such is not the case with the MSI P65. The build quality here is just not up to the mark. There’s a lot of flex around the area above the keyboard, and the laptop itself is built out of plastic. It may be high-quality plastic, but it is still plastic, and it shows. The sounds it makes while knocking it with your knuckles give you an idea of how poorly made the laptop’s quality is. One might presume that MSI had to cut corners somewhere, but we already have plenty of options in the market that are priced even below this and offer a much better build quality. 

One good thing about the material, however, is that it is light. The laptop weighs about 1.8kg, which is not too shabby for a device packing this much prowess. Add to that the fact that this laptop measures around 18mm with the lid closed shows how slim profile the laptop is. Sadly though, I wouldn’t recommend you going all hardcore with this. It is a laptop that does not feel sturdy, and I would recommend you give proper care to it.

Ports And Connectivity

In terms of ports and connectivities, the MSI P65 is a mixed bag. Before I talk about the exact number of ports, keep in mind that this is a laptop created especially for the content creators. Now, on to the left side, you get a Kensington lock, followed by the exhaust, followed by an RJ45 LAN port, 2x USB 3.0 ports, and dedicated 3.5mm ports for headphones and mic. 

On to the right side, you get another exhaust, followed by the DC charging port, a full-size HDMI port, a mini-Display port, a USB Type-C port, and another USB 3.0 port. 

While this all sounds pretty good, the fact that there is no SD Card slot here is genuinely questionable. Considering the market that MSI is targetting, that’s a basic necessity, and I know for a fact that the lack of an SD card slot would leave a lot of users fuming. While we are on that topic, I wanna take a minute to discuss the layout as well. Clearly, the setup here is to ensure that the thermals of the laptop are in check, something which MSI is known for. However, in that course, it seems like the company has made a couple of mistakes. With the current layout of the ports, using a dedicated mouse while having an external display attached is something that could be a hassle. Most creators make use of a secondary display, and with the current layout, it could prove to be a slight hindrance. That said, it definitely is not a deal-breaker, and apart from the SD Card slot, users would still appreciate the I/O here.

Display

Whether you need a secondary display or not is up to you, but I can for sure guarantee that you won’t need to hook this laptop to a monitor for a primary display replacement. The MSI P65 Creator comes with a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display. Now, while the refresh rate here is restricted to 60Hz, it comes with 100% sRGB value. Add to that the fact that the company has supplied the MSI True Color utility to fine-tune colors as per your requirement.

The display panel has minute bezels on all three edges and has just a massive chin which hides the display controller. The content on the display looks super crisp, and with 72% NTSC color gamut, it should work perfectly for almost every content creator out there. Also, usually with portable creator laptops, the display is mostly 13.3-, or 14-inches. The fact that the P65 comes with a 15.6-inch display makes it quite practical and easy to use, even while being on the go. 

Honestly, there is hardly anything to complain about the display as such. Full points to MSI for fitting in a nearly perfect display that’s clearly for creators. Yes, I mean that, coz with the hardware on this board, you could game on this, but the 60Hz refresh rate would hamper the experience. Content creators, on the other hand, wouldn’t care about it much, and as a result, the panel out of the box is great.

Keyboard

Okay, so this was a bummer. Having used a couple of MSI laptops, I am accustomed to them having some of the best keyboards on a laptop, thanks to their keyboards being powered by SteelSeries. The MSI P65 was a surprise here. Not only does it not have a SteelSeries keyboard, but it features a setup quite different than most laptops out there. First up, despite being a 15.6-inch laptop, the P65 does not feature a numpad. On the plus side though, you get a generously sized keyboard, which is great. That said, I have mixed thoughts about the typing experience.

First up, the keyboard here is a chiclet keyboard, with a very short key travel. Now, personally I’m not a fan of that, but the MSI won me over somehow. Another thing that was weird at first was the keyboard layout itself. The layout is slightly tweaked, with the positioning of the Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End keys on the right. It takes some time getting used to it, but that’s alright. What’s not alright is the fact that the Fn key is on the right side of the keyboard, just adjacent to the function hotkeys. I know this may sound like nitpicking, but using the function key while trying to change the brightness or adjust the volume feels like quite a task.

Also, one more thing that I want to talk about is the backlight here. Going with the overall look of the laptop, it was nice of MSI to have just a standard white color LED underneath. Sadly, this is highly underpowered and is only useable if the setup is pitch dark. The display is bright enough to shine on the keyboard so the end experience isn’t that bad, but I feel MSI could have done a better job with the LEDs. Also, as you’d expect, you cannot have the lights kept on during the day. The white lights with the silver keys make the key prints hidden, rendering you to rely on your muscle memory to figure out which key is where. 

Overall, the keyboard here isn’t bad. For the most part, it is actually good. That said, with a few tweaks here and there, MSI could have made this a perfect keyboard. Also, despite my overall decent experience, I’d still pick the SteelSeries keyboards. Just saying.

Touchpad

Coming to the touchpad, the P65 features a decent touchpad. I’d say decent because I expected a better quality product at this price tag. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, to be fair. Thanks to Windows Precision drivers, the gestures work just fine. The surface also, while not being glass, is smooth enough. With the lack of dedicated left and right-click buttons, the force touch experience is also decent. What’s more, is that MSI has also fitted a decently sized touchpad in here. Oh, and not to forget, there’s a fingerprint scanner in the top-right corner as well, which, for the most part, works pretty well with Windows Hello.

Now while that all sounds good, the fact is that this a very premium product. As such, the touchpad isn’t up to the mark. It doesn’t quite justify the quality. For a product priced at this level, you’d expect a slightly wider and more premium finished touchpad. An argument is to be made that MSI might feel that most serious users would use a mouse, and that’s not entirely wrong. Except that at the same time, the company markets this for content creation on-the-go. As such, I feel MSI could have incorporated a slightly more premium touchpad. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t feel that premium.

Audio

This is one segment where MSI has never gone wrong, but sadly, the MSI P65 Creator has very bad audio. That said, it won’t really matter to a lot of users. But before I address that, let’s talk about the sound performance itself. Judging by the design, the sound was deemed to be bad from the get-go. The MSI P65 features a blockish design with speakers underneath the surface. As such, they are very easily blocked, with no hinge or support lifting the laptop up to improve the performance. As a result, the audio is not only dull and lacking any details, but the overall volume levels are bad too.

That said, here’s why it won’t matter. Considering the target audience, the general user, regardless of whether on a desk or while using it on-the-go, would prefer to use a pair of headphones. And that is where the MSI P65 truly shines. Whether you rock the modern USB Type-C earphones or you prefer your studio-grade 3.5mm headphones, the P65 has ports for both. It also comes with Nahimic 3 support, to deliver 7.1 surround sound effect, should you require. Yes, the average consumer would have liked the speakers to be good too, especially for the price they’re paying, but then again, the P65 isn’t for the general consumer. 

Performance

So before I talk about the actual performance, let me get the spec sheet out of the way. My review unit here comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor with dual-channel 32GB DDR4 RAM clocked at 2667MHz. As for storage, it features a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD. Lastly, for the GPU, the P65 comes with a GTX 1060 with a Max-Q design. On paper, it sounds great. In real life, the story is, thankfully, quite similar.

There is absolutely no lag in terms of performance, and the laptop easies past with anything you throw at it. It’s not a gaming laptop, but that wouldn’t stop me from trying out a couple of games on it. Titles like Metro Exodus and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey pushed the system to its limits, resulting in about 60fps on high settings, while titles like DOOM and Watch Dogs 2 ran near the 80 fps mark. Yes, you cannot push it to Ultra, but that’s a given considering that not only is this a mobile variant of the GTX 1060, but also with Max-Q design. For creators out there, software like Da Vinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro ran without any hiccups, which is great. The CPU here is a 6-core processor, and the render times are pretty snappy, with special credits to the super-fast SSD onboard.

Thermals and Upgradability

One of the best bits about every MSI laptop is its thermal performance, and the P65 doesn’t let down here either. The thermal performance here is pretty damn good. Even after benchmarking it for about 2 hours, the peak temperatures were in the 75-degree mark, which is pretty impressive for a laptop this size. This is largely possible thanks to the triple fan system and a total of four heat pipes. Yes, you read that right. The MSI P65 has a triple fan setup, which is something that is not found on even some beefy gaming laptops out there.

Getting inside the system is a bit of a task though. You have to unscrew a total of 15 screws, including one hidden underneath the factory seal. Do note that unlike most laptops these days, trying to access the insides of the system will void the warranty. Once inside, you’d notice this black sheet for insulation. The actual components, however, are hidden on to the underside of the device. You can try and disconnect each and every ribbon cable and every other component, but even then, you’d find a system that is not upgradeable. As such, I’d recommend not voiding that warranty sticker, and in case something goes wrong, just visiting a service center instead of trying to fix it on your own. It isn’t meant for the average Joe, and while MSI is known for keeping its components working fine, digging through them is a hassle on this one. However, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Battery Life

So the MSI P65 comes with a 4-cell 82Whr battery, which is pretty beefy. However, when you put the hardware it sports in the same equation, things don’t really add up to great battery life. In my testing which includes a ton of web browsing, gaming on the sides, and even rendering a video or two on the side for our social media platforms, the device was able to last for about 4.5 hours, which sounds pretty good. Mind you, this was on High-Performance mode. That said, if you were to use the system solely for editing all day long, you should expect the laptop to die after about 3 hours of usage.

Now, while many users may find that atrocious, do keep in mind that there is no throttling anywhere, so you’d get similar performance, at least while editing your videos, whether you’re on battery or on DC power. For some users, that is all they want. However, I know creators who’d rather have their core speeds slightly underclocked while editing the timeline and need only the full prowess while taking out a render. On the whole, I’d say that while the battery is big enough, giving users a bit more control over their cores could prove to be better when using the system on the go. Essentially, my issue here in terms of battery life isn’t with the battery itself, but more with the software optimization.

Should You Buy the MSI P65 Creator 8RE?

So, should you buy the MSI P65 Creator 8RE? Well, the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. You see, the P65 does manage to get a lot of things correct, with its display, the form factor, and the overall performance. There are slight hiccups in the keyboard and the touchpad, not to forget the lack of an SD card slot, but they aren’t deal-breakers. Even the battery life is decent enough. However, the price tag of Rs. does make you want to explore other options. For about the same price, you can get an ASUS ROG Zephyrus, that would offer slightly better performance thanks to the latest hardware while being as portable as the P65. Also, if you decide to step out of the slim portable form factor, there are plenty of options out there, that can be outfitted to even an RTX 2060. 

Essentially, the thing to remember is what do you expect from your laptop? If portability is of the utmost importance and you want a laptop that isn’t as flashy as a gaming laptop but performs like one, the MSI P65 Creator is one to get. That said, it still comes with dated hardware, and you do have better options available in the market right now. Personally, I like the MSI P65 Creator 8RE. It isn’t for everyone, but the right consumer who buys it would be more than satisfied. That said, I still can’t recommend it wholeheartedly. Maybe with a new Intel 10th-gen upgrade, but right now, it’s a tough call.

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Varun Mirchandani
varun.mirchandani@u2opiamobile.com

Varun is your go-to guy for everything related to technology. Someone with a keen interest in the Android world, he installs a new custom ROM every week and is always living on the bleeding edge of technology. When not writing for Mr. Phone, you can find him gaming on his beastly gaming rig which is also his prized possession.