MSI’s Creator 15 laptop has a lot of similarities to their popular GS66 gaming laptop, but there are some nice changes here for content creators. My model has an 8 core Intel processor with Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics, but there are quite a few different configuration options.
It’s got a matte carbon grey exterior both on top, bottom and for the interior. The aluminum build feels pretty good, only minor keyboard and lid flex when going out of my way to look for it, and like the GS66 this has MSI’s new and improved hinge design. The weight distribution felt good, allowing for one finger opening. The screen goes the full 180 degrees back, and the F12 key has a shortcut for flipping the screen for sharing. MSI lists the weight as 2.1kg or 4.6lb, though mine was heavier than this. We’re looking at 2.8kg or about 6.2lb with the 180 watt power brick and cables included.
It’s not too big for a 15” laptop and is under 2cm thick, making it fairly portable. My unit has a 15.6” 1080p 60Hz touchscreen, though there is also a 4K option with higher colour gamut, and both of these aren’t options with the GS66 gaming laptop, which makes sense given these are more creator orientated features.
I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 97% of sRGB, 70% of NTSC, 75% of AdobeRGB and 76% of DCI-P3, so fair for content creation but there’s the 4K option with 100% AdobeRGB if you need better. My panel got bright enough at around 364 nits at max brightness, though the 800:1 contrast ratio wasn’t impressive. I had no problems with backlight bleed, though this will vary between laptops. The touchscreen worked alright for me, though this means it’s got a glossy finish so fingerprints will show up.
There’s a 720p camera above the display, and it’s got IR for Windows Hello support which worked well.
The keyboard has a single zone of white backlighting which illuminates all keys and secondary key functions. There are 3 levels of key brightness or you can turn it off with the F8 key. The precision touchpad is extra wide and works well, though my right hand would press down on it while typing, but the palm rejection was good and this never caused any problems, it just felt strange. It’s got 1.5mm of key travel and was ok for typing.
There’s also a fingerprint scanner in the top left corner of the touchpad, it worked alright but wasn’t as fast as some others I’ve used. The power button is part of the keyboard, but by default pressing it doesn’t put it to sleep unless you hold it down, and there are some air vents above the keyboard. There are two 2w front facing speakers on either sides down the front, they sound alright with some bass but weren’t too clear at higher volumes, they sounded loud maxed out as they’re facing you, and the latencymon results looked good.
Fingerprints and dirt don’t show up too easily, and the smooth finish is easy to clean with a microfiber cloth.
The left has an air exhaust vent, the power input, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port with DisplayPort output and it can also be used to charge the device, HDMI 2.0 output and USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port. The right has a 3.5mm audio combo jack, another USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, no thunderbolt, display output or charging on this side though, followed by UHS-III SD card slot something the GS66 gamer model is missing, and a gigabit ethernet port facing the preferred way, easy to remove without lifting the machine, though the location might get in the way of right handed mouse users.
Both the HDMI and Type-C ports on the left connect directly to the Nvidia graphics, bypassing optimus. The back has air exhaust vents towards the corners, while the front is clean with glossy plastic trim. Underneath has air ventilation holes on the back half. Getting inside involves taking out 9 phillips head screws, and the one down the front in the middle is shorter than the rest. Once inside we’ve got the large battery down the front, two M.2 storage slots above it, both do NVMe PCIe while only one also does SATA, WiFi 6 card to the left of those, and two memory slots near the center towards the right. It’s worth noting that MSI are using slower DDR4-2666 memory here despite Intel 10th gen supporting faster.
The Creator 15 is powered by a 4-Cell 99.9Wh battery. I’ve tested it with keyboard lighting off, background apps disabled and screen at 50% brightness. It lasted for more than 10 hours in the YouTube playback test, an amazing result considering the specs inside, and it lasted for just under 2 and a half hours in the gaming test, a new record out of the machines I’ve tested.
You can also set the charge threshold in software, though even with this set to 100% after hours of running stress tests mine did dip down to 87% charge.
Let’s check out thermals next. The MSI Creator Center software lets you pick between three main performance modes, which from lowest to highest are silent, balanced and high performance. None of these apply any GPU overclock, they just modify power limits and fan speed. High performance mode also lets you set the fan to advanced which gives you some customization, or coolerboost which sets the fan to full speed.
Undervolting is disabled by default, but if you boot into the BIOS and press MSI’s epic cheat code, Right Shift + Right Control + Left Alt + F2, to access the advanced BIOS you can enable it under the overclocking performance menu.
The temps are fine at idle with a 21 degree celsius ambient room temperature. The rest of the results are worst case stress tests with Aida64 and only stress cpu only checked and the Heaven GPU benchmark run at the same time. There was some thermal throttling present on the CPU in high performance mode, enabling cooler boost didn’t remove the throttle but the GPU lowered by 10 degrees, then adding a cooling pad was able to remove the throttle and undervolting the processor further assisted.
These are the clock speeds during the same tests. The GPU speeds in green were very low in silent mode, so probably not useful for gaming or doing graphically intensive tasks, then they improve as cooling improves. CPU speeds also improve as we step up through the different modes. Although coolerboost previously made no difference to the CPU temperature, we’re seeing a decent clock speed increase as the faster fan speeds make us throttle less. With the cooling pad and undervolt it’s possible to maintain the full 4.3GHz all core turbo boost speed of the 10875H.
The 2060 seems to be capped to 35 watts in silent mode which is why the performance is so bad, otherwise in any of the other modes it had no problem running to the full 80 watt limit. The CPU power limit is also looking good, better than others that are capped to the intel spec of 45 watts anyway.
Here’s how CPU only performance looks in Cinebench with the GPU now idle so it is possible to get a reasonable improvement by making some simple tweaks with the result at the top where I’ve raised the power limit and undervolted with Intel XTU. It’s stacking up fairly well compared to others with the tweaks in place, well for an Intel option anyway, far ahead of the Blade 15 Advanced with the same processor as it’s capped to a low power limit, but also not as good as cheaper Ryzen based options.
When idling, the keyboard is below the 30 degrees or so I usually so, so quite cool. It gets to the mid 40s with the CPU plus GPU stress tests running then balanced mode is in the low 50s as it’s now performing better. High performance mode was around the same, getting to the mid 50s in the middle then with the fans maxed out in cooler boost mode it’s around 5 degrees cooler worst case.
The fans were still audible when idling in silent mode which helps explain the cool temps noted earlier. With the stress tests it’s still on the quieter side, though if you recall the GPU is capped to 35 watts here, so GPU heavy tasks won’t run well. High performance mode with the fans on auto mode was similar to balanced mode and is quieter compared to most gaming laptops tested, then coolerboost is way louder. I look at this as a good thing though, as we saw higher fan speeds boost performance by lowering thermal throttling under heavy workloads, and as there is user customizable fan control, you’ve at least got the option of tuning it how you like to get a mixture of noise and performance.
Let’s check out some content creator workloads, you know, the thing this machine is actually made for. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one of my laptop review videos at 4K. In this test a lower time is better, and the Creator 15 was the fastest out of the 2060 laptops, though it does have that 8 core Intel processor, and that offers an advantage of quicksync here. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark. In these tests a higher score is better, the ASUS G14 with Max-Q version of the 2060 and Ryzen processor was ahead, and a few other Ryzen based machines were scoring higher here. In Adobe Photoshop though the Creator 15 was one of the best scoring laptops tested close to the top of the stack. This one seems to favour CPU power, and as we saw earlier the 8 core processor has a fair power limit. DaVinci Resolve is more GPU heavy than the last test, and the score puts it around many of the other 80 watt GPU options, but it still gets beaten by lower 1660 Ti plus Ryzen options. I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads. I’ve used Crystal disk mark to test storage, and the 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD was doing great for both read and writes. The SD card slot was also doing well, basically maxing out my v90 rated card, and the card clicks in and sits most of the way into the machine.
Although not a gaming laptop, with these specs it’s definitely capable of playing games well, so let’s see how it stacks up.
I’ve tested Battlefield 5 in campaign mode at ultra settings, and the Creator 15 is highlighted in red. It’s not that far behind higher wattage 2060 laptops like the RP-15, but only slightly ahead of most of the 1660 Ti laptops that have the same 80 watt power limit.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. This tends to be more of a CPU heavier test, which probably explains why the result is more inline with other 8 core processors despite in many cases those having higher GPU power limits.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also tested with the games benchmark tool with the highest setting preset. As we’re back to being GPU dependent the Creator 15 drops down a couple of positions, and the higher wattage 2060s are ahead as expected, not counting the older 8th gen Triton 500 result.
Here’s what we’re looking at in terms of 3DMark benchmark results.
As for prices, in the US it’s available for around $1800 USD for the same specs I’ve tested here. Meanwhile here in Australia we’re looking at $4000 AUD for the configuration I’ve tested, but there are both lower and higher spec options for less or more money. Let’s summarise to help you decide if the Creator 15 is worth considering. The build quality is pretty good and similar to MSI’s GS66, but with some extras for creators including full size SD card slot and touch screen.
The screen was decent, but the optional 4K panel offers better colour gamut should you need it. The performance was good, especially in content creator workloads due to the high CPU power limit, though the trade off of that is always going to be higher temperatures, however as shown it was possible to lower temperatures by increasing fans, undervolting, or using a cooling pad to get even better performance. The battery life was amazing, one of the best laptops I’ve ever tested in that regard despite the good specs.
The I/O is decent, there’s Thunderbolt, and the advanced BIOS gives us lots of control. The only things I didn’t personally like was typing sometimes felt a bit strange when your right hand presses the touchpad down, it wasn’t an issue in a practical sense, it just felt a bit weird to me with my larger hands. The memory is DDR4-2666, so upgrading that could result in a little speed boost and it would have been good for MSI to offer that out of the box for a premium machine like this.
Other than that, with the 4K panel the Creator 15 looks like a good option for content creators, and is a machine I wouldn’t mind using myself.
Let me know what you thought about it down in the comments.