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MSI Creator Z16 review: thin isn’t everything

MSI’s Creator Z16 is one among a brand new cadre of “creator” laptops which have been popping up from corporations which are historically gaming-oriented over the previous two years. They have an inclination to take the types of specs that you just may see in a gaming laptop computer and cram them right into a thinner chassis that appears extra like one thing one may deliver right into a boardroom.

When you might definitely use the Z16 for gaming — it has an RTX 3060 discrete GPU and a heavy-duty “Cooler Increase” cooling system — it additionally has a extra delicate look than even essentially the most subdued of MSI’s gaming laptops, with a silvery-gray end, a barely seen dragon brand, and MacBook-esque rounded corners. There’s a 16:10 QHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh fee (my much-preferred facet ratio for productiveness units). It ships with Home windows 10 Professional. And the video conferencing options — the audio system, specifically — are a strong improve from what I usually anticipate to see on a gaming laptop computer. The system would make a improbable multimedia machine.

Good Stuff

  • Nice audio
  • Highly effective chips in a thin chassis
  • 16:10 QHD+ 120Hz show

Dangerous Stuff

  • No HDMI port
  • Ships with bloatware
  • Keyboard is a bit flimsy
  • Dangerous battery life

Sadly, it’s not priced like a multimedia machine — it’s priced like a workstation. That makes it a usually tremendous laptop computer that’s in a little bit of an odd spot price-wise. It’s beneath the worth of the main laptops on this zone. My take a look at unit (the cheapest one listed on MSI’s site, although I’ve discovered a couple of cheaper SKUs floating round different retailers) has a Core i7-11800H, a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, a 2560 x 1600 contact show, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage for $2,599.99 (presently listed at $2,349.99 for what MSI claims is a restricted time).

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A comparable Dell XPS 17 (with a bigger screen, but lower resolution) has the same MSRP, and a 16-inch MacBook Pro with comparable RAM and storage is $500 extra at $3,099. However the Z16 is definitely nonetheless an costly laptop computer — a Gigabyte Aero 15 with the identical specs goes for a couple of hundred much less at Walmart (although it’s offered on the market as of this writing — there’s a 16GB model at Best Buy for $1,899 which you might simply improve). And it comes with some flaws which are uncharacteristic of a laptop computer of that value caliber. Whereas I can see this product having an viewers, those that can afford to spend extra completely ought to.

The MSI Creator Z16 seen from the back, half open on a wooden table.

4.85 kilos, 0.63 inches thick.

The very first thing to concentrate on: this laptop computer is loud. The Z16’s followers bought going the moment I fired up Cinebench, they usually trucked alongside all through the whole benchmark run. The noise wasn’t audible from the following room over, however it was definitely loud sufficient to be distracting as I labored on the identical desk.

“The world’s thinnest 0.1mm sharp-edged fan blade”

MSI has made a giant deal of the brand new cooling system, which is alleged to comprise “the world’s thinnest 0.11mm sharp-edged fan blade.” These followers didn’t appear fairly in a position to deal with the ability of those specs, even with the Excessive Efficiency profile (which optimizes the Z16’s energy limits and cooling conduct for heavy workloads) chosen in MSI’s management middle. (This management middle, by the way in which, has been a lot smoother to make use of than iterations I’ve had to make use of on earlier MSI laptops, so props to MSI for that.) The Z16’s 30-minute Cinebench rating was decrease than the 10-minute Cinebench rating, and the CPU was very constantly hitting 95 levels Celsius all through the benchmark. Principally, this wasn’t a MacBook situation the place the Z16 took no matter we threw at it with no sweat — it was working arduous.

That warmth wasn’t as a lot of an issue on our real-world Premiere Professional 4K export take a look at, which the Z16 accomplished in three minutes and 9 seconds. That’s a aggressive rating and quicker than virtually each Home windows laptop computer I’ve ever examined. However the Z16 solely bought a 769 on the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Pro, which exams reside playback and export efficiency. The Aero 15 beat that handily.

Temperatures had been extra manageable throughout the Geekbench suite, and notably, the Compute benchmark, which leverages the GPU greater than the CPU. Geekbench Compute, apparently, was additionally the one take a look at that the MacBook Professional fashions didn’t blow the Z16 out of the water on.

General, whereas the Z16 isn’t completely topping its class, you’re getting some actual graphics energy — and definitely greater than you’ll anticipate from a thinner and lighter big-screen system. It looks like a compelling bundle — however that’s earlier than we discuss battery life.

The MSI Creator Z16 speakers seen from above.

There’s an audio jack to plug peripherals in, a properly as 4 2W stereo audio system.

The battery life is unhealthy. Even on the Z16’s Battery Saver profile and with the keyboard backlighting and the GPU turned off, I used to be nonetheless getting beneath 5 hours of steady work at medium brightness — near 4 and a half hours on common. And my workload isn’t something near what this pc is able to — I used to be principally leaping round between a dozen-ish Chrome tabs and operating occasional Zoom calls overtop. It’s best to definitely anticipate much less in the event you’re doing something extra demanding on battery.

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The Z16 simply isn’t real looking as a transportable laptop computer with this battery capability. We wouldn’t essentially anticipate a laptop computer on this class to final all day, however this result’s disappointing even large-screened opponents. I usually bought between seven and eight hours out of the final Dell XPS 17 I reviewed. And, in fact, even the extra highly effective 16-inch MacBook Execs final a minimum of twice as lengthy. We’re not in an period the place hefty energy means chopping hours off a tool’s battery life, even for thin and lightweight merchandise.

MSI Creator Z16 Benchmarks

Benchmark

Rating

Benchmark

Rating

Cinebench R23 Multi

10350

Cinebench R23 Single

1437

Cinebench R23 Multi looped for half-hour

9991

Geekbench 5.3 CPU Multi

8613

Geekbench 5.3 CPU Single

1555

Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL / Compute

89287

The Z16 is usually a well-built and nice-looking system

Efficiency apart, the Z16 is usually a well-built and nice-looking system. It’s pretty thin, at simply 0.63 inches thick. It’s sturdy with a snug end — a step above most MSI units I’ve reviewed earlier than in terms of construct high quality. The show, specifically, is beautiful, and the 120Hz refresh fee makes scrolling a really easy expertise. Particulars are crisp — I had no downside sifting via a batch of pictures for some gentle enhancing. I additionally respect that there’s a row of helpful sizzling keys on the fitting facet of the keyboard, which is barely extra handy to achieve than the perform row.

The fingerprint sensor of the MSI Creator Z16.

You possibly can log in with fingerprint or facial recognition.

However the greatest nice shock, to me, was the audio system. There are 4 of them, they usually sound nice, simply reaching the quantity of a good exterior speaker. I might hear each the bass notes and quieter midrange tones that I don’t often hear from laptop computer audio. Do you know there’s some cute, delicate concord within the first refrain of Harry Kinds’ Falling? I didn’t till I heard it on the Creator Z16 for the primary time.

These options, once more, make the Z16 a strong machine for productiveness and leisure. However they is probably not as necessary to the Z16’s audience as a few of its glitches. And there are a couple of dings which are shocking to see in a tool at this value level.

The webcam of the MSI Creator 16 up close.

There’s a kill swap for the digital camera, although I want bodily shutters.

For one, whereas the port choice needs to be tremendous for common use (two Thunderbolt 4, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Kind-A, one microSD reader, and a headphone jack, along with a DC-in for the barrel charger), there’s no HDMI. This can be inconvenient for folk who want sure exterior shows or tablets for his or her work — which is a minimum of a piece of the Z16’s skilled audience.

I additionally had a horrible time with the keyboard on my unit. The spacebar would sometimes not register my proper thumb’s faucet — my colleagues can attest that I used to be always sending Slack messages with lacking areas. MSI didn’t have a alternative unit obtainable to ship me however says it’s not a problem they’ve heard about earlier than. Nonetheless, the truth that I obtained a unit with this challenge makes me barely frightened concerning the sturdiness of the keys.

There’s additionally no 4K display possibility. There are some upgradeability hassles as properly — teardowns have shown that the RAM is a complete tablet to get to because of the placement of the motherboard. And — most frustratingly to me — there’s bloatware. I used to be getting antivirus nagware popups as quickly as I opened this factor, and I needed to shut all my tabs and reboot the unit with a view to uninstall it. I complain after I see this sort of factor on $1,000 units. It’s unacceptable for MSI to be transport $2,600 laptops with crapware preinstalled on them — it’s the equal of Hulu shoving adverts on people who find themselves shelling out for his or her highest subscription tier. Whereas this received’t impression your expertise long-term in the event you uninstall it immediately, it leaves a bitter style in my mouth nonetheless.

The keyboard of the MSI Creator Z16 seen from above.

It’s a miniLED per-key RGB keyboard by SteelSeries.

Finally, the strongest argument in favor of shopping for the Creator Z16 is the ability it packs into such a thin and engaging chassis. Many workstations of this dimension, together with the Aero 15 and the XPS 17, are noticeably thicker — and the MacBook, which is equally thin, can be considerably costlier.

The strongest argument in favor of shopping for the Creator Z16 is the ability

However I’m unsure that argument is sort of sturdy sufficient. The battery life, specifically, is a big compromise for anybody who may wish to use this away from their desk for an prolonged time frame. And given the variety of different issues I’ve with this system, that are actually uncharacteristic in such a premium tier, I feel most people who find themselves wed to this value level and don’t thoughts unhealthy battery life may have a greater time with the Aero, which we’d anticipate to ship related efficiency, however with a significantly better port choice and higher reparability (albeit in a clunkier chassis) for even much less cash. Those that are in search of a general-purpose multimedia machine and don’t fairly want the Z16’s energy can anticipate higher battery life and a extra premium expertise from the XPS 17. And people who can afford to spend extra money will get an enormous enchancment on all fronts from the MacBook Professional. That doesn’t make this a nasty system, however it does imply it’s principally geared in the direction of folks for whom thinness is the highest precedence.

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