MSI PS42 8RB Review

MSI PS42 8RB review: Can MSI's ultrabook dethrone the MacBook Air and LG Gram?

Verdict

The MSI PS42 8RB offers a fantastic performance but a number of major flaws hold it back

Pros

  • Discrete graphics card
  • Ultra-portable weight and form
  • Solid display

Cons

  • Ugly and flimsy design
  • Poor battery life
  • Extremely tinny speakers

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £999
  • 14-inch Full HD, IPS LCD
  • Intel Core i5-8250U CPU
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU
  • 256GB SSD
  • Dimensions: 322 x 222 x 16mm
  • Weight: 1.19kg

What is the MSI PS42 8RB?

The MSI PS42 8RB is a super-lightweight laptop aiming to usurp the MacBook Air 2018 and LG Gram as the best mid-range machine to buy for on-the-go creatives.

MSI’s portable is actually lighter than Apple’s offering, weighing in at 1.19 kg compared to the 1.25kg MacBook Air. This is despite the MSI PS42 rocking a Nvidia GeForce MX150 dedicated graphics card, and the MacBook Air relying on integrated graphics – laptops with dGPUs tend to be heavier than those without by virtue of that extra baggage. 

MSI PS42 8RB

At 16mm thin, the MSI Modern PS42 is one of the most compact performance laptops available

With this graphics card under the hood, the MSI PS42 is capable of design work, photo and video editing and animation. And while this certainly isn’t a gaming laptop, it’s also able to play the likes of Fortnite, Overwatch and Dirt Rally following a few tweaks in the graphics settings.

Chuck in a fast-paced 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, nifty features like a fingerprint sensor and an army of ports able to meet any multimedia task, and you’ve got a savvy ultra-portable laptop that may well tempt you away from more expensive options. 

Related: Best Laptop 2019

MSI PS42 8RB – Design

The greatest feature of the MSI PS42 8RB is no doubt its weight and compact form. Hitting the scales at just 1.19kg, you’ll seriously struggle to find a laptop that weighs less and offers the same level of performance.

Picking up this laptop with one hand is a cinch, and my commute became a lot more enjoyable after plopping this in my rucksack instead of my Dell XPS 15. Plus, being just 15.9mm thin, you should easily fit this portable in any bag you fancy.

The super-thin bezel surrounding the screen keeps the MSI PS42 8RB up to date with modern trends, although since it’s made from a black plastic, it looks really odd compared to the silver metal shell of the chassis.

MSI PS42 8RB

The keyboard’s font and lilac back-light aren’t the most appealing features

That’s where most of the positives end in terms of design though. A number of peculiar design decisions have resulted in a laptop that just looks tacky and cluttered.

The keyboard is the biggest culprit here, sporting needlessly plump keys. While there’s adequate spacing between each key, the arrangement takes up so much space that the touchpad has consequently been squashed down. Not only is the size inconvenient, but the touchpad isn’t as responsive as I’d like either.  

The keyboard’s tacky font and the lilac backlight also combine for an even more divisive double act than pineapple and pizza. I’m not the biggest fan of the feel of the keyboard either. While there’s plenty of travel, it’s lacking a satisfying click. Of course, this isn’t a deal breaker but it leaves this MSI laptop feeling less premium compared to its closest competitors. 

MSI PS42 8RB

The touchpad has been reduced in size to make space for the chunky keyboard

Speaking of lacking a premium design, the laptop’s chassis has a concerning amount of flex. Gently push down on the keyboard or the above speaker grille, and you’ll notice immediately. The panel below the display caves in significantly from a press too. This gives me concerns about this laptop’s durability, but we don’t have the luxury to chuck the thing to the floor as a strenuous stress test.

On a positive note, the MSI PS42 8RB does look slick when the lid is closed thanks to the smooth brushed metal and subtle silver MSI logo.

Related: Best Ultrabook 2019

MSI PS42 8RB – Features

The MSI PS42 has a smattering of features to help give it a couple of bonus points. A fingerprint sensor – found on the top-left corner of the touchpad – gives the user the option of a speedy sign in via Windows Hello.

There’s no facial recognition option with Windows Hello here though. This is probably due to the placement of the webcam, as it’s been positioned underneath the display to accommodate a super-skinny bezel. Unless your relatives appreciate a view up your nostrils, this is an awkward compromise.

MSI PS42 8RB

The webcam’s below-display position is incredibly inconvenient

The webcam quality is very poor too, with video looking incredibly grainy. If you’re often find yourself in business conference call or video chats with a long-distance lover, the webcam’s so bad here that you’d likely be tempted to opt for an external one instead.

Not to be undervalued, there’s a wide selection of ports on the MSI PS42. There’s ports for two USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB Type-A, HDMI and an SD card reader. Not made the leap to Bluetooth? No worries, as there’s also a 3.5mm jack for headphones and speakers.

MSI PS42 8RB – Display

MSI has tried to really push its True Color Technology for the PS42’s 14-inch display. This is MSI’s fancy name for its range of display modes, which have all been optimised for various usage including ‘Designer’, ‘Movie’ and ‘Gamer’.

These profiles essentially play around with the RGB values, altering the intensity of red, green and blue light. For the designer profile, green seems to be the dominant colour in the expense of blue, while the office profile has an an even spread of RGB values, which should be easier on the eye for extended usage. The most useful profile is probably ‘Anti-Blue’ though, which creates a warmer screen temperature for easy viewing at night.

Out of the box, the MSI PS42 defaults to the sRGB colour profile. Here, you get an sRGB colour gamut coverage of 96.9%, which means this laptop’s panel is able to cover virtually every colour you’d need design or digital work.

MSI PS42 8RB

The MSI PS42 display is unremarkable yet solid

The range of colours isn’t so high for photography unfortunately, with the Adobe RGB
and DCI P3 gamut coverage only posting results of 67% and 69.3% respectively. That’s fairly disappointing for a laptop that’s mainly focused on creatives.

Elsewhere, the MSI PS42’s display meets the standards of similarly priced laptops. The peak brightness of 293 nits, for example, is just shy of industry-standard 300 nits. This isn’t problematic, unless you intend to use it outside in the eye-searing sun.

Contrast is above the norm though, with darkened scenes boasting extra detail compared to what you’d see with your typical laptop display. Meanwhile, the White Visual Color Temperature is near-enough pitch-perfect neutral at 6559K, so the display shouldn’t be distorted by exaggerated blue or red light.

Overall then, the MSI PS42 8RB has an unspectacular, yet solid display. With a Full HD resolution, this should be more than adequate for Netflix and the like. And for basic Photoshop tasks, the colour gamut coverage and accuracy is plenty fine. It’s only media work such as photography that will be wanting more here.

Related: Best Monitors 2019

MSI PS42 8RB – Audio

The MSI PS42 8RB has a domineering speaker grille stretching across the top of the chassis. It’s not the prettiest of things to ogle, and further contributes to the claustrophobic look.

The only thing that really matters here is the audio quality, and the speaker sounds… terrible. We played a variety of songs to test out the speakers, namely Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets, and while bass distortion was minimal, even at full volume, high end noises, like cymbal and snare hits, sounded incredibly squashed and tinny.

With the up-firing speakers, volume can be cranked up to adequate levels, but honestly, the not-great audio quality means you’ll be better off with some external speakers or a pair of headphones.

Related: Best Wireless Headphones 2019

MSI PS42 8RB – Specification 

The full spec sheet for the MSI PS42 8RB can be seen below:

MSI PS42 8RB
Display 14-inches Full HD LCD IPS
Processor Intel Core i5-8250U
Memory 8GB DDR4
Storage 256GB SSD
GPU Nvidia GeForce MX150
Dimensions 322 x 222 x 16mm
Weight 1.19kg
Price £999

Related: Best Ultrabook 2019

MSI PS42 8RB – Performance

In terms of performance, the MSI PS42 spat out outstanding benchmark results for both the CPU and graphics card.

With an Intel Core i5-8250U processor under the hood, the MSI PS42 saw a Geekbench 4 multi-core score of 11,267 and a PCMark 10 score of 3438. These are very competitive results in the lightweight laptop tussle.

With such results, the MSI PS42 should breeze through most tasks, including the likes of Photoshopping images and basic video-editing jobs. While using the laptop, I never noticed any stutters or slips while pacing through various software. The 8GB RAM also helps to keep performance slick.

MSI PS42 8RB LG Gram 14-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
Geekbench 4 single-core 4538 4085 3050
Geekbench 4 multi-core 11267 11888 10873
PCMark 10 3438 3170 2216

Even more impressive is the inclusion of the Nvidia GeForce MX150  graphics card, with 2GB GDDR5 of video RAM. This gives this laptop more muscle for light multimedia tasks and gaming when compared to other lightweight laptops such as the MacBook Air and LG Gram, as shown with the 70,305 3DMark Ice Storm result.

But while the MSI PS42 8RB offers a fantastic GPU performance for such a lightweight laptop, this isn’t a powerhouse media savvy. Its 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark result came it at an unremarkable 11,267, so you’ll get a far superior performance from a dedicated creative or gaming laptop.

MSI PS42 8RB LG Gram 14-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
3D Ice Storm 70,305 67,216 45,652

That’s not to say you won’t be able to play video games on this thing. With graphic settings set to ‘Epic’ the MSI PS42 8RB is capable of playing Fortnite at 25fps in Full HD. Even the likes of Middle-Earth Shadow of Mordor and Dirt Rally are just about playable at optimum settings, achieving 26fps and 31fps respectively in HD.

More modern games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider are out of the question though. I could just about get it to run by hammering down the graphic settings, but visuals were poor and performance flaky at best.

Stick to low-powered games such as old titles and indies, though, and the MSI PS42 8RB will happily keep ticking along. And if you really do yearn for more GPU power, MSI is offering a version, the PS42 Modern 8RC with a Nvidia GTX 1050 with Max-Q Design graphics card.


MSI PS42 8RB

You can’t fault the MSI PS42 for its wide selection of portsThe MSI PS42 is sadly guilty of a common sin among lightweight laptops, and that’s the size of its storage. Its 256GB SSD is just about acceptable, but any creator will want more storage for all of their video and pictures.

If you end up getting an external hard drive, the MSI PS42 at least has super-speedy read and write speeds at 3336 MB/s / 1845.2 MB/s respectively. These are some of the highest readings we’ve seen in a laptop in recent memory.

Related: Best Graphics Cards 2019

MSI PS42 8RB – Battery life

The MSI PS42 8RB has a very disappointing battery life. After running Powermark, which simulates web browsing and video streaming in order to deplete the tank, the laptop ran out of juice after five and a half hours.

That’s a rather dismal result, especially considering both the LG Gram and MacBook Air surpassed the 10-hour mark on the same test.

You could argue the reason for this lack of stamina is because it houses a Nvidia MX150 GPU, but the Huawei MateBook X Pro shares similar specs and can eke out an additional few hours. This really hampers the MSI PS42’s chance of becoming king of the ultrabooks.

Why buy the MSI PS42 8RB?

The MSI PS42 8RB is the kind of laptop that would write “it’s the inside that counts” on its dating profile. This laptop delivers a superb performance from both its CPU and GPU, while its read and write speeds are some of the fastest I’ve seen in a laptop.

Unfortunately, I can’t get over the ugly design and flimsy build quality. The large keyboard takes up too much space, resulting in a cluttered arrangement. The sci-fi font and lilac keyboard backlight are also divisive. You may well like this alternative design, but I’m betting you’d be in the minority.

MSI PS42 8RB

Photographers will be pleased to know MSI has ensured space for an SD card port

The short-lived battery life is also a major flag. With just over 5 hours of juice, the MSI PS42 8RB has half the running time of its major competitors. Plus the stingy storage is likely to be a sticking point for many creatives and office workers.

Despite its appearance and flaws, the MSI PS42 still offers great value. There are few better ultrabooks available at this price that are so outstandingly light and thin, yet capable of blitzing through everyday tasks with ease.

Verdict

Just shy of £1000, the MSI PS42 8RB represents great value. It’s near-enough the size and weight of a MacBook Air, but with added grunt for the GPU and CPU.

Sadly, its design and build quality lets it down massively, as does the disappointing battery life. So significant are these flaws that I’d recommend spending a little bit more cash on the likes of an LG Gram instead.

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