When MSI recently unveiled several new lines of general-purpose laptops, it turned more than a few industry-savvy heads. This was MSI, widely acknowledged as making some of the world’s best gaming computers, the kind of finely tuned, high-performance machines that often require liquid cooling to tame the high temperatures generated by a boxful of blazing-fast chips being pushed to their limit—and whose notoriously spec-obsessed users argue about millisecond-response times. So why is MSI making computers targeting…students and office workers?
According to Clifford Chun, MSI’s product management director for system products in North America, it’s due to a wealth of research data, along with the inexorable march of time. “We’re constantly studying our customer base, asking questions to better understand what’s going on,” he explains. “As our users got older, their computer habits changed—there was a big and predicable shift in how much time they spent on work versus games.” But even as they began reordering their priorities, MSI users retained an enviable level of brand loyalty. “They put tremendous value in our machines, in the quality of our builds, and in our strong customer service,” Chun adds. Having identified a new and sizable segment of users—who loved the brand but wanted machines designed for everyday tasks—MSI designers and engineers went to work.
LISTENING TO THEIR USERS
MSI’s two foundational laptop lines are the Prestige (which includes the Prestige 14, Prestige 14 EVO, and Prestige 15 models) and the Modern (Modern 14 and Modern 15). Both reflect a wealth of consumer-driven data, as well as years of industry-wide improvements, and they incorporate system-enhancing software to boost everything from battery life to sound quality, and redesigned interfaces, such as wider keycaps for increased typing speed and comfort. (Yet another user-steered change: the dragon-emblazoned shield that represents the MSI gaming-rig brand has been replaced by a sleek new logo.)
The Prestige line can stand toe-to-toe with today’s class-leading office laptops—but with the added “attitude and juice,” says Chun, found in their highly regarded gaming brethren. “They have the premium features and finishes,” he continues, “that tells your friends and colleagues you know something about computers.” The budget-friendly Modern provides a winning combination of price and performance. “It’s a great first laptop for collegians and those with casual business needs,” Chun says, pointing out that it equips them with all the tools—such as fast connectivity and a newly designed keyboard—to seamlessly transition from work meetings during the day to video chats in the evening.
Both the Prestige and Modern series offer plenty of muscle under the hood: All models use Intel’s latest Tiger-Lake U Core i7 processors, which offer a 20% boost in performance over the previous generation’s chips in this line. “They consume less power and don’t run as hot,” Chun says, “which means longer battery life and cooler laptop surfaces.”
BUILT TOUGH TO RUN FAST
Toughness and durability were important to the Prestige and Modern teams. “Gamers pamper their rigs and can obsess over small dings and blemishes,” Chun explains. “But our new users want laptops that can take the punishment of everyday use.” This explains why Prestige and Modern laptops have all-metal construction and military-grade durability to better withstand the kind of abuse (like drops, temperature extremes, and dust contamination) encountered in home-office environments.
Being a newcomer to this segment has its advantages: All the computers in MSI’s debut lineups will include improvements that are only now starting to roll out in the latest computers. Wi-Fi 6, for example, offers single-stream speeds of up to 2.4 Gbps (a 300% jump over Wi-Fi 5)—”faster than a wired Ethernet connection,” Chun points out. When it comes to data transfer, both Thunderbolt 4 and PCIe Gen 4 provide huge boosts in speed over their respective previous generations.
One model in the new series, the Prestige 14 EVO, recently joined the small handful of computers that meet the high-bar performance requirements worthy of earning Intel’s EVO (previously Project Athena) certification. “This laptop incorporates AI optimizations that boost performance and battery life,” Chun says. “MSI was greatly honored to see it take its place inside the EVO program.”
One of Chun’s favorite features is the suite of audio enhancements created by Nahimic, a company that helps French military pilots overcome the noisy environment of fighter-jet cockpits. Chun observed younger colleagues (“marketing kids”) who listen to music nonstop and were impressed by the real-time signal processing that improved “even crappy-sounding music files.” And new color options—four metallic finishes in each line—demonstrates MSI’s understanding of users who see their devices as a means of expression. Rose Pink (a new color in the Prestige series) is a nearly seismic departure from the dark hues of past MSI models. “Of course,” Chun says, “we can’t keep them in stock.”