MSI Katana 15 (2023) – Assessment 2023

The MSI Katana 15 is likely one of the firm’s new value-oriented gaming laptops, beginning at a low $999, although our step-up take a look at unit involves $1,599. The machine sports activities an unexciting design solely barely adorned by easy RGB lighting. Whereas the display screen easily shows video games at a 144Hz refresh charge, it is not a looker. The true worth of this laptop computer is in its inner {hardware}, with highly effective elements that give it an edge towards rivals just like the Lenovo Legion 5i Gen 7 or the HP Omen 16 in relation to gaming efficiency. The Katana 15 is an thrilling choice if you happen to’re seeking to get the latest-generation {hardware} for a lower cost than the flagship machines we have seen to date, incomes it an earnest suggestion.

One Hilt, So Many Edges

As I stated, the MSI Katana 15 (mannequin B13VGK-484US) is not a visible standout, staying true to its funds trappings. The laptop computer is nearly completely lined in black plastic with just a few carbon-fiber stylings across the edges. Among the plastic is made to appear like steel sheets, nevertheless it’s not convincing. The entire thing is a little bit of a bit, weighing 4.96 kilos and measuring virtually an inch thick (0.98 by 14.1 by 10.2 inches).

MSI Katana 15 left angle

Its width is typical of 15.6-inch laptops, nevertheless it’s on the tall facet as a result of it has sizable bezels above and beneath the display screen. The bottom feels pretty sturdy, and the 4 rubber ft on the underside present a stable grip on a desk or desk, although the show hinge wiggles a bit.

MSI Katana 15 keyboard

MSI made room for a shrunken numeric keypad subsequent to the keyboard. Sadly, it needed to transfer the mathematical operation keys from their ordinary locations, requiring some readjusting to study. The corporate additionally made the curious choice to not offset the cursor arrow keys, that are tucked tightly between the primary keyboard and quantity pad, however as a substitute shrink them. That design choice, I discovered, not solely did not assist me keep away from by accident hitting the mistaken keys but in addition made them that a lot tougher to make use of after I did discover them. The RGB keyboard backlighting may need helped if it was per-key customizable, nevertheless it makes use of a less complicated four-zone lighting system.

MSI Katana 15 rear view

The Katana 15 has a substantial and complicated array of accessible configurations, mixing twelfth and thirteenth Era Intel Core processors and Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 sequence GPUs. CPU selections vary from the Core i5-12450H to the Core i9-13900H, and graphics choices span from the RTX 4050 to RTX 4070. Curiously, the bottom CPU choice is not paired with the bottom GPU choice.

All configurations include 16GB or 32GB of DDR5 reminiscence working at 4,000MHz on twelfth Gen techniques and 5,200MHz on thirteenth Gen fashions. Virtually all embrace a 1TB PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe solid-state drive, although one mannequin will get solely a 512GB drive. MSI identifies the totally different fashions with difficult codes; B13V signifies thirteenth Gen Intel and Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 sequence elements, whereas B13U signifies thirteenth Gen Intel and GeForce RTX 30 or 20 sequence. The B12V designation refers to twelfth Gen Intel and RTX 40 sequence, and B12U to twelfth Gen Intel and RTX 30 or 20 sequence.

MSI Katana 15 right angle

Each Katana 15 comes with the identical mediocre show: a 15.6-inch display screen that MSI calls “IPS-level,” that means it provides viewing angles roughly on par with an IPS panel. Full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) decision on a panel this measurement is ample for readability in superb particulars and presents the GPU with much less of a problem when gaming on the go. The show has a 144Hz refresh charge for smoother gameplay, although no variable-refresh-rate or sync know-how is included. Total, the show might be seen as one thing of an afterthought; it is helpful for getting work carried out and occasional gaming classes, however players who need the most effective expertise the {hardware} is able to ought to prioritize utilizing an exterior monitor at residence.

With neither a fingerprint reader nor face recognition webcam, the MSI Katana 15 has no biometrics for Home windows Whats up; you may be typing an old school password or PIN to unlock it or maybe utilizing a USB key. The webcam is a straightforward 720p unit, and whereas it presents a tender image it is not too dangerous even in dim lighting.

MSI Katana 15 right ports

MSI does an okay job with port choice, placing one USB 3.2 Gen 1 Sort-A port on all sides of the laptop computer plus a retro USB 2.0 port on the left facet. The fitting flank holds a USB-C port, nevertheless it’s disappointingly not Thunderbolt-capable, merely one other USB 3.2 Gen 1 choice (although it does work with a DisplayPort monitor adapter as a video-out). You may discover an HDMI 2.1 port able to 4K/120Hz or 8K/60Hz output, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and a headset jack on the proper facet as nicely.

MSI Katana 15 left ports

Figuring out that the Katana 15 falls on the funds facet amongst gaming laptops, it was a nice shock to see a comparatively premium Wi-Fi 6 adapter with 2×2 MIMO. Downloading recreation information for benchmarking was a snap over a Wi-Fi 6 connection to my fiber web.

Utilizing the MSI Katana 15 (2023): The Arms-On Expertise

Given a budget construct of the laptop computer, I did not have excessive expectations for the keyboard, however MSI shocked me right here: The keys have little wiggle to them, present respectable journey, and are delightfully snappy. Whereas the keyboard structure is not best, I’ve used worse, and readily managed 95 to 105 phrases per minute with 95% to 99% accuracy in Monkeytype. If something held me again from breaking 100wpm, it is the laptop computer’s thickness. Textual content enhancing is extra tedious due to the small arrow keys and lack of devoted House and Finish keys, although at the very least the backlighting successfully lights your entire character of every key.

The touchpad was a tad disappointing given how nice the keyboard is. It is small even by thin-and-light (not to mention full-size) laptop computer requirements. It does keep out of the way in which, so I did not run into any palm-rejection points, nevertheless it’s not a pleasure to make use of. Avid gamers can be happier with an exterior mouse.

On the plus facet, the Katana 15 proved comparatively comfy to make use of. Regardless that the floor of the laptop computer measured as scorching as 121 levels F within the space ahead of the keyboard when working at full tilt, the WASD keys and palm space remained cool to the contact. The cooling is even ample to cross 3DMark’s Time Spy stress take a look at, which runs that graphics benchmark 20 occasions in a row and fails techniques that may’t preserve 97% frame-rate stability. The Katana scored 99.3% stability.

Once more, nevertheless, the display screen isn’t spectacular. Whereas it is sharp sufficient for on a regular basis use and simple to see in typical circumstances, it is not vibrant sufficient for out of doors use. (The all-black chassis design would take in the solar and get scorching, anyway.) The show can also be not almost colourful sufficient for precision artistic work and leaves one thing to be desired when watching movies or films.

MSI Katana 15 underside

MSI places a pair of 2-watt audio system beneath the entrance corners, a standard location that is not at all times the most effective for readability in contrast with top-mounted audio system. The Katana’s audio system really work fairly nicely, producing a modestly bassy sound that is loads loud and clear for many makes use of.

I give big props to MSI for its pre-installed software program—since you’ll discover subsequent to none. The buckets of bloatware that too many funds and gaming laptops are loaded with is essentially absent. MSI Heart is included, nevertheless it’s a significant app for controlling the laptop computer’s efficiency profiles and switching GPU modes. You may additionally discover a Nahimic app for managing particular audio options; whereas some laptops’ audio apps are pointless, this one is vital to getting the most effective sound, as disabling the app sucks the life proper out of the audio system.

Testing the MSI Katana 15 (2023): Midrange Meets New {Hardware}

The MSI Katana 15 B13V hits a candy spot within the gaming market; it is not the most affordable gaming rig round, however it’s positively on the worth facet for a laptop computer with highly effective thirteenth Gen Intel and Nvidia RTX 40 sequence silicon. Even at $1,599 as examined, it is significantly extra reasonably priced than whopper fashions just like the MSI Titan GT77 and the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18. As a substitute, the Katana competes extra naturally with Lenovo’s Legion 5i Gen 7, which runs on last-gen {hardware}, or the newer Lenovo Legion Professional 7i Gen 8 working on the same-gen {hardware} however with higher-end elements at a better worth. 

With such a low worth, the Katana additionally competes with some funds rivals just like the HP Omen 16 and Dell G16. Nevertheless, as these two fashions are barely older now, you may discover reductions that give them a slight worth edge to offset their lower-power {hardware}.

Productiveness Exams

To guage a laptop computer’s capacity to deal with on a regular basis duties, we use UL’s PCMark 10 to simulate workplace and content-creation workflows and measure total efficiency for office-centric duties reminiscent of phrase processing, spreadsheeting, internet looking, and videoconferencing. We additionally analyze the efficiency of the boot drive utilizing PCMark 10’s Full System Drive take a look at.

Three CPU-focused benchmarks charge a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 makes use of that firm’s Cinema 4D engine to render a posh scene, whereas Geekbench 5.4 Professional by Primate Labs simulates well-liked apps starting from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine studying. Lastly, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to transform a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p decision (decrease occasions are higher).

Any rating above 4,000 factors in PCMark 10’s productiveness benchmark signifies a machine that can simply deal with on a regular basis workplace apps like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. Given the strong elements of those gaming rigs, it is no shock to see that they almost doubled that rating. The MSI did a superb job, trailing solely the Lenovo Legion Professional 7i Gen 8, which has a significantly extra highly effective CPU and GPU pairing. It is equally spectacular to see the Katana do nicely within the storage take a look at, as that is an space that is straightforward for funds techniques to stint on.

Our HandBrake, Cinebench, and Geekbench exams spotlight one shortcoming of the MSI Katana 15’s selection of CPU. Whereas the Core i7-13620H is definitely succesful, its six Efficiency cores and 4 Environment friendly cores did not fairly sustain with the 14 cores of the Legion 5i’s and Dell’s Core i7-12700H or the 24 cores of the Legion Professional 7i’s Core i9-13900HX. The Katana did handle to outpace the HP and its eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 6800H, nevertheless.

Graphics and Gaming Exams

To get a measure of every system’s graphical efficiency, we take a look at Home windows PCs with a pair of DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark: Night time Raid (low-intensity) and Time Spy (extra demanding). We additionally run two cross-platform GPU benchmarks from GFXBench 5 that stress each low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like picture rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Automobile Chase exams, rendered offscreen to accommodate totally different show resolutions, train graphics and compute shaders utilizing the OpenGL programming interface and {hardware} tessellation, respectively. The extra frames per second (fps), the higher. We observe up these artificial exams with a collection of real-world video games to see how the techniques stack up.

The MSI Katana 15 confirmed the ferocity of its new elements in these exams, handily beating three of its rivals in each 3DMark and GFXBench. That CPU shortcoming that confirmed up in earlier benchmarks is erased when the highly effective GeForce RTX 4070 GPU comes into the image. Solely the Legion Professional 7i Gen 8 got here out forward because of its superior CPU/GPU mixture. 

We discovered the MSI held up nicely in our 1080p gaming exams, too. Whereas the Lenovo Professional 7i was the champion, the Katana cleared the 100fps threshold in each recreation en path to the silver medal. Its efficiency distinction merely makes the HP Omen 16 and Dell G16 look extra dated than they really are. The Legion 5i earned credit score for preserving the race pretty shut, particularly in Murderer’s Creed Valhalla whose large open world rewards a robust CPU regardless of an older GPU.

The Katana 15 has a secret weapon, nevertheless, in DLSS 3 Body Era. I examined the function working Cyberpunk 2077 at 1080p with Extremely settings with and with out DLSS and Body Era. It managed a playable 41fps with out DLSS lively. Even when the Lenovo Legion 5i Gen 7 might carry out equally there—which I did not take a look at—it might certainly lag behind the staggering 111fps the MSI managed with DLSS 3 enabled.

Battery and Show Exams

To see how lengthy a laptop computer can run away from an influence outlet, we conduct a battery rundown take a look at enjoying a domestically saved 720p video file (the open-source Blender film Tears of Metal) with show brightness set to 50% and audio quantity at 100%. We make sure that the battery is absolutely charged earlier than the take a look at, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off. 

We additionally use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Home windows software program to measure a laptop computer display screen’s coloration saturation—what proportion of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 coloration gamuts or palettes the show can present—and its 50% and 100% brightness in nits (candelas per sq. meter).

The MSI Katana 15 B13V offers you a large number on your cash, however a high-quality show and vitality effectivity should not a part of the package deal. This gaming laptop computer had the bottom battery lifetime of the bunch and produced the worst visuals by far.

To make certain, the Katana is not horrible, lasting for 5 and a half hours in our battery rundown because of its capacity to disable the discrete GPU and use extra environment friendly built-in graphics. (After I pressured the usage of the GeForce graphics, the MSI lasted for lower than two hours. Annoyingly, switching between discrete and built-in graphics modes requires a reboot, so going from a desk setup to moveable productiveness is not seamless.) The opposite laptops managed barely higher runtimes, although the Lenovo Legion 5i’s spectacular consequence wasn’t apples to apples as a result of its display screen at 50% brightness was noticeably dim.

The Katana 15 loses extra factors for coloration high quality. None of those laptops has a panoramic, creative-workstation-quality show, however they’re largely at the very least respectable, with almost full protection of the sRGB coloration area and greater than 70% of the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB palettes. The MSI lined a paltry 64% of sRGB and solely 48% of the opposite two coloration areas on our exams, and its display screen was additionally a lot dimmer than the remaining, maxing out at solely 235 nits. It positively feels as if you happen to’re meant to make use of the laptop computer’s LCD just for on-the-go productiveness and stick to an exterior monitor when having fun with the superb gaming that the GeForce RTX 4070 provides.

Verdict: An Glorious PC Gaming Deal With Some Vital Additions

In case you’re a strict utilitarian in relation to gaming {hardware}, you possibly can go proper forward and purchase the MSI Katana 15. This gaming rig has substantial energy and a superb worth to match. Even when its design leaves lots to be desired, it is not flimsy or frail or starved for cooling. Discovering a equally configured Lenovo Legion will seemingly present a greater all-around expertise, nevertheless it’s laborious to disregard the value/efficiency ratio MSI brings to the desk right here (particularly with a lower-end configuration promoting for $999 at Micro Heart). For that, we extremely advocate the 2023 MSI Katana 15…if you happen to can see previous the display screen shortcomings.

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