- Most people understand that while Apple does
many things incredibly well and some things better
than anyone else, they're usually not the first
to do that thing.
So it shouldn't be a big surprise that despite rumors
for over a year now that Apple is moving
to mini-LED screens,
the first laptop to feature one isn't a MacBook.
Introducing the MSI Creator 17, a powerful
mobile workstation with a 4K, 1,000 nit mini-LED
display complete with full array local dimming.
How did they make this thing so thin?
And how are we gonna learn about our sponsor Elgato?
Elgato's new Wave:1 and 3 USB broadcast
microphones are here.
Use their Wave Link app to control your Wave mic
and up to seven other audio sources
and create independent mixes.
Check them out today at the links below.
What is a mini LED display?
Well, most displays, especially thin ones,
like on a MacBook or other laptop, are edge lit.
That means that their light originates
from LEDs at the edge of the screen that are diffused
and then reflected towards your eyes.
The main drawbacks of this approach are
that it's very difficult to spread the light out evenly,
resulting in hotspots, and it also limits the contrast
of the image.
Then there's your direct LED displays,
where the lights are right behind the pixels,
shining through them, well, directly.
This can address uneven lighting.
But to improve the perceived difference
between the darkest and brightest parts of the scene,
manufacturers need to go one step further
with a feature called full array local dimming.
Here, the display can tune individual zones
of these direct backlights depending on the scene,
allowing an object like the moon to be bright
without turning the entire screen into this grey
and washed out mess.
Mini-LED like on this laptop takes this concept
to the next level by enabling more and smaller
dimming zones, increasing contrast and reducing
the bloom or halo effect around bright objects.
Now, this puppy has 240 zones,
which might not seem that impressive
when you consider
that there's TVs out there with between 500
and 1,000 zones, but then you consider the density.
On just a 17-inch display,
each of those zones is under two centimeters wide.
Now, we've covered mini LED displays
on this channel before,
but they're usually found on thick desktop monitors,
and the fact that this display,
made by AU Optronics, has been integrated
into a totally normal-looking laptop lid is pretty cool.
Or, well, warm, because there's no cooling fans
behind the backlight like we found
in those chunky monitors.
Honestly, I can accept it, though,
considering we're getting 1,000 nits
of VESA DisplayHDR certified brightness
in a laptop form factor.
That is a first.
It also means we can expect a larger color volume
than your typical creator laptop,
as it has wide coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut
across more brightness levels, at least in theory.
While the screen's color accuracy was decent in SDR mode,
with HDR enabled, it's kind of all over the place.
And that's because of, well,
no real surprises here, Windows.
Apparently with inbuilt displays like on a laptop,
the HDR appearance varies according to both
the brightness setting with your keyboard shortcut
and the HDR/SDR balance setting
in Windows, so you can end up with more detail
in dark areas or more detail in light areas depending
on where you place the slider.
Unfortunately, nothing that we did to the slider got
us to a place where we felt like we could trust
the colors enough to create an HDR video on this thing,
even if the specs look great on paper.
In other, more promising news, though,
firing up a movie or game or really any other kind
of HDR content for consumption is
a much better experience.
I didn't find that, again,
with some tuning of the windows HD color slider,
that the colors were so far off that I wasn't able
to enjoy the content, and in fact, to my eye,
without having a reference display side by side,
it's not the kind of thing that I would notice.
So even though we only managed 45 frames per second
at the native 4k resolution
in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, that's fair enough,
since a 60 hertz panel anyway.
There are four variants of this machine,
each with a different GPU and storage configuration,
but all of them are very capable with strong
graphics cards and a 10th gen Core i7
Intel 10875H, boosting up to 5.1 gigahertz.
Ours put up very respectable numbers
in the usual benchmarks and sports an RTX 2070
Super Max Q, 32 gigs of DDR4 RAM, and one terabyte
of NVMe storage.
The two M.2 slots make storage easily upgradeable
once you pass the chassis's 14 screws,
but to max out your memory to 64 gigs,
you are gonna have to peel off this huge amount
of shielding, remove the motherboard,
and replace the existing SO-DIMMs with two 32 gig sticks,
as there are only two sockets.
But hold on a second,
because last time we complained about this issue,
MSI just flipped the whole motherboard over,
which resulted in the ethernet jack being
on the mouse hand side.
So pick your poison, I guess?
For video editing performance,
we're using an in-house benchmark
that we're calling MARKbench where we encode
high-resolution content with some basic effects
and Lumetri Color using Premiere Pro.
Our Creator 17 was able to do it in under eight minutes,
a strong result.
Speaking of strong, the I/O offers a ton
of flexibility for a laptop in 2020.
On the left, you've got RJ45, one USB 3.2,
a UHS3 microSD card reader,
and separate mic and headphone jacks.
That is a nice inclusion for something
that's focused on creators.
And then on the right you've got
HDMI, Thunderbolt 3 with 15 watts of power delivery,
two more USB As, and a non-Thunderbolt USB type C
that can carry DisplayPort and deliver 27
watts of charging.
Oh, and who could forget the battery reset pinhole?
On that subject, MSI advertises seven hours
of productivity, but our machine
and PCMark's office battery test measured just four
and a half hours,
and that's with the brightness turned down to 100 nits,
which is pretty dim.
With that said, this result isn't entirely unexpected,
so road warriors need not apply here.
The chassis has a sandblasted finish in a color
MSI calls Space Gray, which apparently is not
on Apple's trademark list.
And like many an MSI laptop,
it's a little on the flexy side.
But that's kinda the trade-off of getting hardware
as thin as possible in a package
that's as light as possible.
The trackpad is large with an integrated
fingerprint reader and very usable as far
as PC trackpads go,
although it can tend to get clicked by your right
palm when you're typing,
and the palm rejection only saves you some of the time.
I mean look at this.
You can even register a click just by pressing
on the chassis here.
The typing experience is decent as long as you don't
type like a triggered Karen.
There's 1.9 millimeters of key travel,
a full numpad and normal arrow keys,
so you shouldn't have much trouble getting up
to speed right away.
And this battery indicator light that you can still
see when the lid's closed are deserving of a fatherly nod.
Above the keyboard is a speaker grill that houses
the world-class Dynaudio sound system that frankly
sounds very much like the crap you get on any
ordinary laptop and is a far cry from the actually
decent audio coming out of the latest 16-inch
MacBook Pro, which you might say, well, that's not fair.
The MacBook Pro is so expensive.
But so is this.
Finally, there's the 720p webcam,
which shares the forehead bar with IR gear
for Windows Hello alongside otherwise slim side bezels.
So, the subject of price,
should you spend anywhere between 1,800 and $3,500
on this laptop?
Not before hearing my top three gripes in ascending order.
One, it's pretty loud.
Not taking a whole lot of marks off here though
because it's designed to get stuff done first
and foremost, and MSI seems to have put a lot
of thought and effort into cooling this thing
with three fans, seven heat pipes,
and perforations on just about every side of the machine.
So it is what it is.
Two, far less excusably,
why does it have a microSD card reader instead
of a full sized one?
It's much easier to convert down than up.
And again, guys, this is supposed to be
a mobile workstation.
Is this 1,000 nit HDR screen even necessary for you?
For content consumption, actually, I get it.
Movies and games look sweet on this thing,
and there's nothing else like it on the market.
But this is not only supposed to be for creators,
but creators on the go.
And you square that with the fact that not
that many people are making HDR content,
the workflow to make it is complex and kludgy,
the colors in HDR mode are less than trustworthy
thanks to Windows, there's blooming,
and there's a lack of the granular control
that you get on an external monitor,
and then suddenly all those things combine to make
this product come off as early adoptery at best
and at worst a marketing ploy to sell panels
that really should've been on gaming laptops, except for,
sorry, guys, we couldn't make a high refresh rate one.
So, I'm not not recommending this laptop.
Like I said, there is nothing else like it.
I'm just saying if you're gonna buy it,
buy it for the right reasons,
because you want a capable SDR workstation laptop
that's also great for watching HDR movies
on your extremely long daily train commute.
Speaking of commuting,
the Massdrop Objective 2 Headphone Amplifier,
aka the O2 amp, is really not very portable at all.
The amp was designed and created with feedback
from over 500 Massdrop members and serves
as an ideal baseline reference amplifier
powering everything from in-ear monitors to HD 800s.
You can adjust the input, output,
and power arrangement in two different gains,
medium and standard, and it delivers big, clear,
and accurate sound.
Check it out at the link in the video description.
If you guys enjoyed this video,
you might also enjoy our recent video on the future
of TVs that takes a bit of a deeper dive than usual
into the display technology that's gonna be powering
your big screen home movie watching experience
for the next few years.
Actually, probably more than that.