MSI P65 Creator – The Laptop For Creators?

MSI’s P65 is their laptop for content creators,
but is there more to it than just being a white version of the GS65 gaming laptop? Let’s
find out in this detailed review and see if it’s a laptop you should consider. Starting with the specs I’ve got the 8RF
model, so there’s an Intel i7-8750H CPU, Nvidia GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics, 16gb of memory
in single channel, 15.6” 1080p 144Hz screen, and a 512gb M.2 NVMe SSD. For network connectivity it’s got gigabit
ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5. I’m covering the older 8th gen model here,
however I’ll note the differences between it and the newer 9th gen models as we go.
The 8RF model I’ve got here is the limited edition version which comes in white and in
a wooden box, otherwise the 8RD and 8RE with lower graphics come in silver, and you can
find examples and updated prices linked in the description. The P65 is very similar to MSI’s GS65 gaming
laptop, it’s basically using the same design and chassis with a few differences. On the matte white metal lid we’ve got the
MSI logo in the center near the top, while the inside is also a matte white metal. There
were no sharp corners or edges anywhere and the machine felt fairly well built. MSI list the weight at 1.88kg, and mine was
a little under this. Once we add the 180 watt power brick and cables the total rises above
2.3kg, so quite lightweight for the specs. The dimensions of the laptop are 35.7cm in
width, 24.7cm in depth, and 1.8cm in height, so on the smaller side for a 15” laptop.
The smaller footprint gives us very thin bezels, MSI list them at 4.9mm however from edge to
the actual screen I measured them at 7mm. The 15.6” 1080p 144Hz IPS-level screen has
a matte finish and good viewing angles, and it goes all the way back if that’s important
to you. MSI note the panel is “close to 100% sRGB”.
I’ve measured the colour gamut with the Spyder 5 Pro and got 97% of sRGB, 67% of NTSC,
and 73% of AdobeRGB. At 100% brightness I measured the panel at 297 nits in the center
and with an 810 to 1 contrast ratio, so decent results but pretty close to most other 144Hz
gaming laptops I’ve tested. Unfortunately there’s no 4K option with
the 8th gen model, something I’d like to see as an option for a creator laptop, however
the newer 9th gen model does have that available, though neither have the new OLED panel as
an option. Backlight bleed wasn’t too bad here, just
some minor imperfections that I wasn’t actually able to notice while viewing darker content,
but this will vary between laptop and panel. Screen flex was around average, the metal
panel felt fairly solid, and the hinges being out towards the far corners help with stability. Absolutely no problems at all opening it up
with one finger, it felt quite well balanced and no problems using it on my lap. There
were magnets on the sides that help keep the lid closed as well, though they were hardly
strong enough to notice this while opening. Despite the screen bezels being on the thinner
side MSI were still able to fit the 720p camera up the top. The webcam looks about average and it sounds
ok. Here’s what typing sounds like, so a little clicky, and here’s what it sounds like when
we set the fan speed to maximum. So you can hear it pretty easily but you can still also
hear me over the fans as well. The keyboard has no numpad and white backlighting
which lights up all keys and even secondary key functions. The white lighting can be adjusted
between four levels or turned off using the function and page up or down keys. While the
lighting looked fine in a dark room, in a well lit room, it looked a bit uneven and
just not very good, at least compared to the GS65. Key presses were a little shallow feeling
but have a sort of click to them, here’s how typing sounds to give you an idea of what
to expect. There was some keyboard flex while pushing
down hard, however it felt fine while actually using it normally day to day. The precision touchpad was smooth to the touch
and worked quite well. It clicks down almost anywhere, just not the top left corner which
is unusable as a touchpad due to the fingerprint scanner. I found the fingerprint scanner to
work well though, it was fast enough. Due to the white finish fingerprints weren’t
really viewable, however as this isn’t a new machine I can see dirt on it that’s
built up over time and was harder to clean off. On the left from the back there’s a kensington
lock, air exhaust vent, ethernet port, and I prefer it being this way so you can unplug
without lifting the machine, two USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports, and 3.5mm headphone and mic
jacks. On the right from the front there’s a USB
3.1 Gen2 Type-A port, USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port with both DisplayPort and Thunderbolt
3 support, mini DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0 output, power input and another air exhaust vent. In total all of these display outputs allow
you to run three external monitors at once. It’s worth noting this is with the 8RF in
white only, the silver 8RE and 8RD models are limited to two external screens, as they
do not have the Type-C port, so no additional DisplayPort or Thunderbolt there. It’s a
bit odd that it differs, however with the newer 9th gen models all variants have the
Thunderbolt port. The back just has some air exhaust vents,
while the front has a battery status LED towards the right. Underneath there are just air intake holes
towards the back half of the machine. The bottom panel can be removed by taking out
15 Phillips head screws, then once inside we can see that the motherboard is upside
down, just like the GS65. All we get access to here is the WiFi card and battery. Access
to the memory and two M.2 slots requires removal of the motherboard, which is an annoying process
and likely necessary for this machine given it came with single channel memory, so ideally
you’d want to upgrade that. The two speakers are found towards the front
left and right corners, they sound ok, a little above average for a laptop though minimal
bass and a bit tinny sounding. They get loud enough at maximum volume, and the Latencymon
results didn’t look great. Powering the laptop is a 4 cell 82 watt hour
battery. I’ve tested it with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled,
and all lighting off. While just watching YouTube videos it lasted for 5 hours and 40
minutes, a pretty good result for this test, and it was using the Intel integrated graphics
due to Nvidia Optimus. While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings
and Nvidia’s battery boost set to 30 FPS the battery lasted for a massive 2 hours and
12 minutes, however after the first hour and 30 minutes with 27% charge left the frame
rate dipped down to 12 FPS, still 90 minutes is a good result for this test. Let’s move onto the thermal testing. MSI
note that the 8th gen P65 uses 4 heatpipes and 3 fans, though it’s worth noting the
newer 9th gen model has an improved cooling design with 6 heatpipes, so we can probably
expect better temperatures from the newer 9th gen model, which is great considering
that one also goes up to an 8 core i9 CPU. Like MSI’s gaming laptops, the Dragon Center
software suite is installed to allow you to manage the system, however there are less
options available here. For example while we can set the fan speed to maximum at least,
there’s no turbo mode like the gaming laptops have to boost performance. Thermal testing was completed in an ambient
room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, so expect different results in different environments.
At idle the temperatures were looking fine. The rest of the results are from running combined
CPU and GPU workloads at the same time for extended periods of time and are meant to
represent worst case results. The gaming results towards the upper half
of the graph were tested by playing Watch Dogs 2, as I find it to use a good combination
of processor and graphics. The stress test results shown on the lower half of the graph
are from running the Aida64 CPU stress test with only the stress CPU option checked, and
the Heaven GPU benchmark at max settings at the same time to fully load the system. Straight away, I want to note that any time
the CPU, shown by the blue bar, is at 90 degrees Celsius, it’s thermal throttling, and we
can see this was happening in pretty much all tests. This doesn’t change regardless
of if we set the fans to maximum speed using cooler boost mode, undervolt the CPU or use
a cooling pad. While gaming the averages do drop a tiny bit once undervolted, but it was
still spiking into thermal throttling territory. The GPU temperatures on the other hand drop
quite a lot once we set the fan speed to maximum. These are the average clock speeds for the
same tests just shown. There’s no real difference to the GPU clock speeds regardless of these
changes, however we can see changes to the CPU. As thermal throttling is always happening
on the CPU, we are seeing an increase in performance by setting the fan speed to maximum. By undervolting
the CPU we’re able to gain additional performance, and with the cooling pad while under stress
test this helps out a little more, but it made no difference while playing this particular
game as the undervolt removed most of the thermal throttling. These are the average TDP values reported
by hardware info during these same tests. Basically we can see lower than expected CPU
power limits being hit due to the thermal throttling that prevents it raising higher. As for CPU only performance, here’s what
we’re seeing with Cinebench. By applying the same undervolt as before it was possible
to achieve a 14% higher multicore score in this test, as this helped reduce the thermal
throttling that was still taking place, even under this CPU only workload. As for the external temperatures where you’ll
actually be putting your hands, at idle it was in the low 30s in the center, about average.
While gaming with the fan on auto it gets to the low 40s in the center and mid 45s on
the back side. While under stress test it’s similar on the keyboard, but hotter on the
back left side. With the fan at maximum it does drop back a few degrees despite the CPU
temperatures being unchanged. As for the fan noise produced by the laptop,
I’ll let you have a listen to some of these tests. At idle it was completely silent, then with
the fan set to automatic it was on the quieter side compared to most other machines I’ve
tested, so you do have the option of limiting how loud it gets, however as we saw thermal
throttling was capping performance earlier so lower levels of performance are expected
like this. Maximum fan on the other hand is significantly louder in comparison. Overall the P65 was running hot, mainly on
the CPU. It’s worth considering that this is a thinner machine, so higher thermals under
these worst case workloads are kind of expected, and as mentioned the newer 9th gen version
does appear to have improved cooling so I’d be expecting higher clock speeds with that
model as a result in these particular tests where thermal throttling is the limit. Keep
in mind these are worst case multicore CPU and GPU tests, though a creator would expect
similar results while say exporting a video as that hits both CPU and GPU in Adobe Premiere. Next let’s take a look at some gaming benchmarks.
While not explicitly advertised as a gaming laptop, given it’s got a standard i7 CPU
and GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics it’s definitely going to be capable of playing modern games
if you want to, so let’s see what it’s capable of. Battlefield 5 was tested in campaign mode.
Overall performance is down due to our single channel configuration, and we’ll see this
throughout all upcoming game tests, so keep in mind that performance could be improved
significantly with that upgrade. I’ve got a video linked in the description showing
how much of an improvement this can make. Anyway in this configuration we’re still
able to reach 60 FPS averages at ultra. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with
the built in benchmark, again the results are down significantly for this hardware configuration
due to single channel memory, however 60 FPS averages were still possible at max settings. CS:GO was tested using the Ulletical FPS benchmark,
and while we’re still seeing high frame rates here, we’re around 100 FPS lower at
max settings compared to most other dual channel laptops. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was tested with
the built in benchmark, and from my experience seems to be a fairly CPU heavy game. Once
more the frame rates were down significantly due to the single channel memory, though as
a game that doesn’t need super high FPS to play it should still work well enough. The Witcher 3 tends to be more of a GPU heavy
game, and in this title ultra settings still played alright, with around 70 FPS average,
but higher possible at lower settings. Let’s also take a look at how this config
of the MSI P65 compares with other laptops to see how it stacks up, use these results
as a rough guide only as they were tested at different times with different drivers. In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the P65 highlighted
in red near similarly specced machines. It’s coming in at last place out of the machines
I’ve recently tested simply due to the memory configuration, all others on this graph were
tested with dual channel. It’s not actually that far behind the Alienware m15 with same
specs as that one thermal throttles, however we see a larger difference in 1% low performance,
which is exactly where we’re going to see the biggest hit with single channel memory. Here are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra
settings in the built in benchmark. As a CPU heavy test the lack of dual channel memory
is going to be an issue here in particular, which is why it’s so much behind all other
machines as they were tested with dual channel memory. It’s a similar story in Shadow of the Tomb
Raider at highest settings with the built in benchmark, though still 60 FPS at max settings
isn’t exactly terrible, just notably lower compared to other machines. While the P65 was playing games just fine,
as we’ve seen it’s performing worse compared to other lower specced machines simply because
there’s only one stick of memory installed which is why I haven’t bothered testing
as many games as usual. You’d definitely want to consider upgrading to two sticks for
dual channel for significant performance improvements, and that applies outside of gaming too. Given the machine is targeted towards creators
I’ve also tested Adobe Premiere video exporting. While the P65 has the same CPU and GPU as
my Aero 15x, we can see it’s taking a fair bit longer to export the exact same video
project, which seems to be a result of both the CPU thermal throttling covered earlier
but also due to my P65 having single channel memory. Mostly the single channel memory would
be my guess, given the Aero thermal throttles too. If you’re able to buy it with two sticks
in dual channel or otherwise upgrade it yourself, keeping in mind that upside down motherboard,
then I’d expect more comparable performance. I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the
storage, and the 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD was performing alright, alright read and write speeds. For updated pricing check the links in the
description, as prices will change over time. At the time of recording in the US the MSI
P65 Creator laptop with similar specs is going for $2300 USD, though this one does have double
the memory. Just for comparison, the GS65 gaming laptop with same specs is available
for a fair bit less money. All you really seem to be missing is the fingerprint scanner
and limited edition white colour, while you’re also getting the RGB keyboard with the GS65.
I’m guessing the 8RF costs more as it’s the limited edition model. That said if you don’t need that much GPU
power and are happy with the silver colour, the lower priced 8RD and 8RC are options too. Here in Australia I’ve only been able to
find the P65 8RE with 1060, which is around $2100 AUD, while the newer 9th gen models
seem to start at $3000 AUD With all of that in mind let’s conclude
by looking at the good and bad aspects of the P65. Overall, I’ll say that I did like the laptop,
the build quality seemed fair for a thinner machine and it’s on the smaller side for
a 15 inch device and isn’t too heavy, something I can definitely appreciate as someone that
travels with a laptop and uses it for content creation. The battery life was quite good,
there’s a decent selection of I/O including Thunderbolt 3 support, and the screen looked
nice. The main issue I have with the P65 Creator
laptop is just that, for a machine that’s got creator in the name it doesn’t really
seem to differ too much from the GS65 gaming laptop. When it comes down to it, we’ve
got a white GS65. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I know a lot of people like having
white options, but for a machine that’s meant to be for creators, personally I was
hoping for some extra features that weren’t present in the GS65 including an SD card slot
and better screen options. I haven’t been able to find out if MSI will
be adding the new 15” OLED screen to the P65 lineup in future but that would make it
stand out more by having that as an option. The fingerprint scanner was a nice addition,
and you do have the option of a higher quality 4K panel with 100% AdobeRGB coverage in the
newer 9th gen model, something which would probably be enough alone for me to look at
the newer offerings compared to the 8th gen model I’ve tested here. That newer 9th gen model should in theory
have better cooling too, and also the option of more powerful graphics and 8 core CPUs
as well, which depending on you’re doing are things that will be useful for creator
workloads such as video editing. MSI also have the WS65, which is basically
their workstation version of this machine, so again very similar chassis but with Quadro
graphics, so if you’re after the next level in terms of specs that’s going to be it. Back to the P65, while nothing groundbreaking,
if nothing else it’s nice to have a white model available without the flashing RGB lighting
of the GS65 for those that want a more subtle look. In terms of performance despite both the CPU
and GPU in my model now being last gen they both still perform quite well. I actually
use the exact same combination in my Aero 15x to edit 4K video while I’m travelling
with Adobe Premiere and it works quite well. The only issue with my specific configuration
of P65 is that it came to me with single channel memory, and while you can upgrade this yourself
for improved performance, the process is made more difficult due to the upside down motherboard. Otherwise the only other thing I didn’t
personally like was the patchy white backlighting on the keyboard, overall it’s a decent machine,
despite it missing some creator specific features I’d personally be after. Let me know what you thought about MSI’s
P65 Creator laptop down in the comments, if you create content is this a machine you’d
be interested in? Why or why not? Or would you just get it as a replacement to the GS65
for the different colour options? Let me know, and if you’re new to the channel consider
getting subscribed for future laptop reviews and tech videos like this one.


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