Mixing power, poise, and portability – MSI Summit E15 review

Mixing power, poise, and portability – MSI Summit E15 review

The first thing that comes to mind when hearing the name “MSI” is the company’s suite of gaming laptops and other related hardware. Thanks to its aggressive MSI Dragon logo, this has been the company’s wheelhouse. Yet, with the notebook market being so diverse, leaving all those stones unturned isn’t something MSI would want to do. One of such unexplored avenues by the company was the premium business laptop market. While its competitors like Apple, Dell, and Lenovo have found success in this region, MSI has now taken baby steps with the Summit series. 

And the Summit E15 A11SCS is the absolute best in this category from MSI. It comes with a couple of configurations which maxes out at Intel Tiger Lake i7-1185G7, GTX 1650 Ti (Max-Q) Graphics, 15.6” 4K non-touch display, 16GB RAM, and 1TB NVMe SSD. 

The first thing you look for on a premium business laptop is the build quality. For the most part, MSI has nailed it with the Summit E15. It has an aluminum chassis with a carbon finish, contributing to a lightweight build at just 1.65 kg. The 180-degree hinge is pretty solid and you can easily open the lid with one hand. Here, the exhaust vents blow air directly towards the screen but with the considerable bottom bezel, there’s not much to worry about.

Likewise, the back of the laptop hosts the air-intake vent and the speaker grills. Summit E15 is also compliant with the MIL-STD-810G standard and you can thus take this laptop to any weather condition without a care in the world. Also when it comes to port selection, this laptop does a pretty good job. The left frame houses two Type-C with Thunderbolt 4 support, one HDMI, and one mic/headphone combo jack. Similarly, the right side holds the two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports and a MicroSD card reader.

On to the display, as I mentioned earlier, our unit comes with a 15.6” 4K UHD non-touch screen. It boasts 100% Adobe RGB color space with Delta E less than 2. Out of the box, this display has excellent color calibration and thus didn’t require further work. Everything looks crystal clear on this 4K screen and the colors are quite vibrant and punchy.

The anti-glare panel also makes it easy to look at in a room with multiple light sources. Moreover, brightness isn’t much of an issue with this display either. So, even if you’re someone who prefers working outdoors on a bright sunny day, visibility isn’t going to take a hit.

Getting to the keyboard, I found typing on this chiclet-style keyboard to be quite enjoyable. The keys are well spaced-out and the key travel is adequate enough. Plus, the keyboard chassis doesn’t flex much either. Furthermore, to maintain the professional design of the laptop, MSI has gone with the plain white backlight.

The trackpad, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It features integrated left/right keys, whose clicks feel rather plasticky. Additionally, for some weird reason, it would briefly be incapable of scrolling. Besides this, the trackpad does a nice job. 4-finger gestures work like a charm and the bronze accent around the edges adds a certain bit of a character as well.

The embedded fingerprint scanner could’ve seen a better implementation too. It often tends to misread my fingerprint inputs and is placed in a rather uncomfortable position as well. For performance, MSI Summit E15 has the latest Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1185G7 CPU with 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM clocked at 3200MHz and 1TB of NVMe PCIe Gen4 SSD.

The PCIe 4.0 support is one of the highlights of Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors, which is a big feat for Team Blue seeing how AMD is still sticking with the older PCIe 3.0 standard—even in the latest Ryzen 5000 series mobile processors.

Apps load fast and the device boots up in no more than 7-8 seconds. During my test, I clocked apps like LibreOffice Writer and Adobe Photoshop to launch at 2.5 and 9 seconds, respectively. Additionally, the new Iris Xe integrated graphics is a major leap from the Intel UHD graphics of the past—easily outperforming the Radeon graphics in AMD’s 4000 and the newer 5000 lineup of mobile processors.

Now, talking about real-life performance, as you’d expect, regular everyday apps run perfectly fine. And multitasking’s no slouch either. You can have multiple tabs open on Google Chrome while doing some light editing on Photoshop and there’s no lag or stutter. There are also multiple performance modes to choose from to match your use case—high performance, balanced, silent, and super battery.

Here, because it’s a business-focused device, the Silent mode is what most of its target users would prefer. It does an exceptional job of keeping things quiet and unless you’re blocking the vents on the bottom by placing the laptop on your lap, it doesn’t get that hot either. Still, things will get warm after a while—especially on the top-left portion of the keyboard chassis.

Here, the fans do a surprisingly good job of handling the thermals and I’m quite satisfied with its performance. You can even choose from different fan-speed presets but most of the time, I left it at Auto.

As I mentioned earlier, MSI Summit E15 boasts a 4K screen so when you’re gaming, you’d want to dial down the resolution to 1080p for best performance. Under this, you can get playable fps in most eSports and AAA titles with ease. However, unlike photo/video editing, gaming does take a toll on its cooling system.

After about 45 minutes to an hour of continuous gaming, just like with productivity tasks, the upper area of the keyboard chassis—but more so here. This is obviously not a gaming-centric machine so that’s to be expected. Still, this endurance is more than acceptable for casual gaming.

And talking about business-first features, the Summit E15 features enterprise-grade security functions like Windows Hello login, TPM 2.0, and device lock to manage the access to the USB ports, SD card slot.

Now let’s talk about battery life. Featuring a 4-cell 82Wh cell, I managed to net out up to 6 hours of screen-on time. My usage mostly consisted of browsing Google Chrome with multiple tabs open, editing word documents in LibreOffice, and light photo editing on Adobe Photoshop every now and then. Likewise, I would generally keep the brightness level to 20-30% and set the performance mode to High, and occasionally switch to Silent.

Charging up the device can take somewhere from 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes and yeah—you can hook up the USB-C cable to either port on the left. However, the 90W power adapter is rather bulky than I would’ve preferred for a portability-focused machine, but it is what it is.

Moving on, the Summit E15 lets you down on the speaker front as well. It features two 2W speakers on the bottom and they get completely muffled when laying the laptop flat on a surface. Summit E15’s webcam is not good either. The quality of this 720p webcam with IR support is just bad. Subjects look incredibly grainy, smooth and it completely butchers on any possibility of detail on the photo/video.

To conclude, the Summit E15 A11SCS is at the very least a commendable attempt from MSI to break into the business laptop market. It has a fairly nice build quality and the 4K screen like on our review unit is something to be amazed by. The performance department of this machine isn’t all that bad either. However, a few shortcomings like the trackpad, speakers, webcam, and the battery endurance could’ve used a little work.