MSI Summit E15 laptop review 2021 | Model A11SCS

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MSI Summit E15 laptop review 2021 | Model A11SCS

Is this really the laptop that "Business Elites" are looking for?

MSI’s Summit range of laptops targets 'Business Elites' and seeks to marry high performance, style and portability together in order to create a desirable all-round-laptop. There’s even a reasonable graphics chip included which allows for some gaming and rendering plus a professional-grade screen for design work. This latest 2021 model also features some cutting edge technology in the form of USB 4.0 and a PCIe Gen.4 SSD. So how does it all stack up?

This is what happens when the silvered logo catches the light.

Key Specs of the MSI Summit E15 Laptop   

15.6-inch, matte, 3840x2160, non-touchscreen LCD; 1.2-4.8GHz 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor; 16GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM; 1TB NVMe hard drive; Nvidia GTX 1650Ti GPU; HD IR webcam with Windows Hello; Wi-Fi 6; BlueTooth 5.1; 82Wh battery; 357 x 234 x 17mm 1.74kg. SKU: A11SCS-091AU. 

Ergonomics and design

The “Ink Black” chassis with gold trim looks sophisticated and classy while the aluminium frame makes it feel solid. However, the coating feels a little plasticy and is one heck of a fingerprint magnet.  

Our model had a 4K matte display with a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution (Full HD touchscreen variants are also available) that utilises MSI’s True Pixel technology to deliver 100 per cent of  the Adobe RGB colour gamut. t offers superb colour reproduction and smooth video performance but perhaps isn’t the brightest screen.

The keyboard and mouse feel a touch hollow and rattly.

Above this is an HD IR webcam that supports Windows Hello face recognition login. Below the screen is a large, backlit, low-travel keyboard. While the keys don’t feel as solid as other models it’s generally comfortable and accurate to type upon for extended periods. Below that is a touchpad with integrated fingerprint reader (which is linked to a TPM 2.0 module for enhanced security). We weren’t great fans of the trackpad for although it was accurate to navigate, left and right clicking required a bit too much pressure to activate and it felt hollow and cheap. Ultimately, the Summit E15 offers good usability, but not great. Note that the keys are also a magnet for fingerprints. 

Connectivity 

The MSI Summit E15 offers the most important ports with the exception of Ethernet. On the left are a 3.5mm audio jack, HDMI port and two USB 4.0 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 4. On the right is a UHS-III MicroSD card reader plus two USB 3.2 gen 2 Type-A ports. Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. 

The first USB 4.0 ports we've seen.
A high speed MicroSD card reader joins two fast Type-A USB ports.

Performance 

Under the hood is Intel’s top-end 11th Gen Core i7-1185G7 quad-core processor which operates between 1.2 and 4.8GHz. This combined with 16GB DDR4 RAM and a 1TB NVMe Gen 4 SSD to score 4,832 in PCMark 10. While this score is very high for a laptop, it’s not as high as we’d expect for such top-end components.  

The discreet Nvidia GTX 1650Ti GPU graphics might be getting a bit long in the tooth but they’ll be able to play casual and competitive games if not the latest AAA titles. In the challenging 3DMark FiresStrike Extreme test it only managed 3,704 which is an average of 17fps. However, in the less-difficult Night Raid it managed 16,185 which is an average of 92fps. Frankly, it's a bit of an odd choice to add this Nvidia GPU when Intel's integrated Xe GPU offers comparable performance.  

Portability 

For a laptop with a 15.6-inch screen and top-end technology it’s relatively light at 1.74KG, but it's no ultraportable. Meanwhile, the rather chunky power brick (which uses up one of the USB 4.0 ports) adds a noticeable 420g to the mix.

When we tested to see whether the battery life claim matched the 16-hour promise, it only managed to run PCMark 10’s Modern Office battery test for 10 hours. We suspect that this number is lower than it should be so we’ll run the test again after bedded-in the battery some more. [UPDATE: We re-ran the test but it still only managed 11 hours.]

The power brick is a bit chunky for an elite laptop.

The Summit E15E also supports the MIL-STD-810G standard for robustness. It certifies that it can withstand harsh environments, vibrations, drops, sand and dust but not water. 

Other features 

MSI offers internal 'Hires audio' to match high-quality audio connections. However, the built-in speakers are mediocre: they sound tinny and don’t get very loud which is disappointing when compared with rivals like the smaller Dell XPS 13 and other MSI laptops. 

We’re usually fans of MSI’s laptop management software which lets you easily tune you laptop for different scenarios – whether that’s high performance or battery life, but all the overclocking and fun settings in Dragon Centre (which appears on MSI's consumer-oriented laptops) are replaced with office-oriented software management in this Business & Productivity version. 

Overall  

The MSI Summit E15 A11SCS can be had for $2,899 and comes with a two-year warranty. To be frank, that feels expensive: the laptop promises greatness but doesn't to achieve it. The high-end business laptop market is crowded with great choices – including from MSI's own stable – and we’d choose all of them over this. There's also the mid-range, $1,499 MSI Modern 15 which, at half the price, is not far behind the Summit at all. We much prefer the resplendent MSI Prestige anyway (despite being a 14-inch model) and that's $800 less.

Verdict
It's good, but not as great as it should be.
Overall
Specs
$2899 AUD
15.6-inch, matte, 3840x2160, non-touchscreen LCD; 1.2-4.8GHz 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor; 16GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM; 1TB NVMe hard drive; Nvidia GTX 1650Ti GPU; HD IR webcam with Windows Hello; Wi-Fi 6; BlueTooth 5.1; 82Wh battery; 357 x 234 x 17mm 1.74kg. SKU: A11SCS-091AU.
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