I have been the proud owner of an MSI Creator Z16 Laptop for just over 3 months now. Specifically the MSI Creator Z16 A11UE-203UK-LG71180H16GXXDX10MA Model. It is sleek and smooth with a 16" 2560x1600p screen. The keyboard is made and supplied by one of my favourite peripherals manufacturers Steelseries. It packs an Intel i7-11800H CPU and an RTX 3060GPU with 16GB RAM.
On all accounts, it was easily twice as powerful as the desktop I was using, while using half of the power. Which was one of the reasons why I went for it - with power prices as they and working from home, I needed to reduce my power usage. But my every day device had to run Adobe productivity software, play games, record and live stream, as well as music production. I don't ask for much, I know - but that's just what I needed.
Moving from a full gaming desktop setup was a difficult move - a move which I had to really convince myself was the right thing to do. I did my research and read many users experiences. Well, here is mine - because I want to help you make the right decision.
Why choose a gaming laptop over a gaming desktop PC?
These are the reasons why I chose a gaming laptop over a gaming desktop PC:
- Portability - I wanted to be able to use my device, whether in my office, in the living room, or from a hotel room.
- Power usage - I clocked that, on average, my gaming desktop PC was using between 200W - 450W, monitor included. Laptops generally use much less.
- Same, if not more, power - Mobile devices these days have an incredible amount of power inside of ever smaller cases. Gaming laptops are no different.
a question of price
Ultimately, everything comes down to price. How much is this going to cost me, and will I get value. The MSI Creator Z16 laptop is normally £1,399. I managed to buy one for £1,259. Given the price of upgrading the GPU in the gaming PC, the effort involved in doing so, and then no doubt upgrading other components in the next 12 months, I thought that price was spot on. I had a budget of £1,500, and this fell well within that.
What I like
Now that I have spent three months with my laptop, let me tell you what I like about it:
- Keyboard and trackpad - this by far is the best keyboard I've used on any laptop. The keys feel solid and I never have an issue getting around it. It also looks awesome - you can use the pre-installed Steelseries GG app to control the LEDs and their patterns. The trackpad is smooth and easy to use.
- The screen - I sometimes forget I'm using a laptop. The screen is spacious and crystal clear. The colours come through nicely and there is no shading anywhere. The pre-installed MSI Center Pro adjusts the brightness depending on what setting you are on and what apps you are using.
- The cooling - this was a big debater for me when deciding whether to purchase a gaming laptop. How does it expel all the heat that it is no doubt going to generate when under load, especially when gaming. I'm happy to inform you that, even for a thin chassis, this thing does a good job expelling heat - but only in Cooler Boost mode. Cooler Boost mode puts all the fans around the CPU and the GPU in full spin. There is an advanced option which automatically controls the fans depending on the heat level of the CPU or GPU, but more often than not I'm resorting to Cooler Boost mode. As a result, I'm able to play fast moving strategy games, driving games, as well as games that don't require so much power.
- Weight - if you are moving around a lot, this is ideal. It is light and easy moveable.
What I Don't like
- Noise - I knew that there would be some noise generated. But let me tell you, Cooler Boost mode makes a noise. While it is not so noticeable in larger environments, in my office or in a room in the house, you can hear it. That said, I've become accustomed to it, and with some headphones on it doesn't really matter.
- Characters get stuck when typing - the physical keys don't get stuck. But sometimes, when typing, the cursor freezes and then a long string of characters appear. I then hit delete, and then it deletes almost the whole line I've just typed. It's annoying, and I really wish I could pinpoint why it happens. It's happened at least ten times while typing this out.
- Difficult to upgrade - I purchased the laptop on the understanding that I'd be able to upgrade the pre-installed 512GB NVMe SSD and the 16GB RAM. I can, but I watched a breakdown video of the MSI Z16 Creator. I'm OK with most laptops. This one? You have to take almost everything out, motherboard and everything, to get to both. For now, I'm relying on external hard drives for gaming and media storage. While that is a suitable alternative, I'd rather not have to bother with that.
- Lack of Ports - 2 x Thunderbolt and 2 x USB3.0. More generous than some, less generous than most. No HDMI output - I use a Thunderbolt to plug into my Samsung Odyssey 27". Expect to be purchasing an external powered USB hub if you will be using this at a desk and you want to plug multiple devices in, such as a microphone, keyboard and mouse.
- Battery life - battery life sucks. There's just no other way of putting this. 2 hours max if you are just doing standard day to day stuff with the screen brightness at 70%. When gaming, you are going to need to plug it in.
So, how has my experience been?
- Day to day office activities - absolutely no issues here. Basic tasks like browsing the web, sending and receiving emails, writing documents and working with spreadsheets and reports.
- Web Design / Development - again, no issues here. Visual Studio Code works a breeze, no hanging, GIT works nicely. No problems running local test environments.
- Music production - No issues. Ableton and Reason work together very well. I can run VSTs (albeit from an external SSD) without any performance issues. Adobe Audition works as well as if it was on a desktop. Also, I'd hasten to say that the onboard speakers of this laptop are actually remarkably good, but I wouldn't go mixing and msatering through them.
- Gaming - Despite having to use Cooler Boost in some games, I haven't noticed a difference between the quality of games running on this device vs on my old gaming desktop PC. While I mostly play strategy games, first persons work just as well as they did on my old gaming desktop PC. 2D games and anything else not needing as much power, as expected, work without issues. They can also run on the lower fan speed modes.
- Recording and streaming - I was actually quite surprised by the quality of output, both in terms of recording and streaming. I used Streamlabs OBS, and so far I've not had any issues. I wouldn't try to do it wirelessly - and of course, with no RJ45 socket, you'll need - you guessed it - a USB to RJ45 adapter. I've been able to record gameplay from War Mongrels, HEAT, GUNNER, PC!, Shadow Government Simulator, even BeamNG.Drive, as well as stream Mechwarrior Online, Offworld Trading Company and Hell is Others.
- Can you play games on an MSI Creator Z16?
- Yes - I've not so far noticed a difference to playing games on this vs my old gaming desktop PC. I also use my Samsung Odyssey G7 as a second screen. No problems.
- Can I record and stream games with an MSI Creator Z16?
- Yes - I've not so far experienced any issues doing this.
- Can I do web design and development on an MSI Creator Z16??
- Yes, no problem.
- Can I do Music production on an MSI Creator Z16?
- Yes, no problem.
- Can I upgrade an MSI Creator Z16?
- Yes, but you'll have to be one brave person to take it all apart and put it all back together.
In conclusion, I love my MSI Creator Z16. It does everything that I want it to do, it is portable when I want it to be, but also makes a great device at the desk. Yes, it's loud when you want the maximum power out of it, and yes the sticky characters is very annoying. But these days, the amount of power we can fit into every smaller chassis' never fails to amaze me. I've also saved a lot of power in moving to a laptop - remember when I said earlier that my desktop was using between 250W-450W of power? This uses around 250W at full power on charge, 100W on average when doing basic day to day activities, monitor included. Just be prepared to buy a USB Hub (preferably powered) and some adapters if you have a lot of peripherals as I dooooooooooooooooooooooooooo (this genuinely happened just by hitting o, so I left it in).
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