With laptops getting more affordable, MSI’s first attempt at an all-AMD gaming machine is applause-worthy, both for beginners and those who don’t mind compromising in a few areas.
MSI has been making gaming laptops for a long time. And with more manufacturers jumping onto the budget gaming laptop segment, it was not long before MSI too wanted its fair share of the pie.
We received the top-end MSI Alpha 15 A3DDK unit for review. It did fairly well and seems like a really good budget gaming all-rounder. But it’s not the one you should be looking to buy as the A3DD variant, which sells for a lot less, seems like a more sensible option when you stack it up against the competition. Read on to know why.
DESIGN AND DISPLAY
The design does not scream gaming, and that’s a good thing. While it looks a bit chunky at first glance, you can lift this up with one hand; so at 2.3kg, it is light enough for a gaming laptop. There are two ridges on the stealthy matte-black display lid between which sits a rather affordable-looking sticker that peels off easily.
The lid attracts fingerprints quite easily, so you will need to carry around a cleaning cloth. Thankfully, the stains wipe off easily as well; it’s just that you have to be careful with that Alpha sticker – the only element that gives it the affordable gaming laptop feel.
Opening the lid, both the hinges and display feel sturdy and then you are greeted with the per-key RGB keyboard by Steelseries that’s surrounded by an inlay and palm rest made out of moulded plastic. Oddly, this didn't feel cheap, and the finish somehow was good at rejecting grime and fingerprints, which was impressive given this laptop’s price.
The Full HD 144Hz display is quite bright and showcases a more natural colour palette. Viewing angles of the matte panel are good too. There’s a bit of backlight bleeding around the corners, but this will vary from unit to unit. Overall, the display is quite good given its price. Just that the 144Hz feels a bit unnecessary here. More about this in the performance section.
KEYBOARD AND FEATURES
The keyboard on the A3DDK model features a per-key RGB lighting as opposed to the single colour lighting (red) on the more affordable A3DD model. The RGB lighting looks great, and both the patterns and brightness can be adjusted using the dedicated key near the power button or via the Steelseries app.
As for the keyboard itself, it felt great with decent travel and not much key pressure needed to activate. The trackpad was responsive but is not the clickable type. You do get two left and right click buttons for that, but they were a bit too stiff. However, this is forgivable given the Alpha is a gaming laptop and you will in all probability invest in a gaming mouse and ignore the trackpad altogether.
One odd detail is the placement of the two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, which can easily get in the way of your game by blocking your mouse movements on the right side.
On the left, everything’s in place with the ethernet, HMDI, mini display, USB 3.2 Type-A, USB 3.2 Type-C ports along with 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks. There’s also an SD card slot on the right side, if you ever feel the need to use one.
PERFORMANCE AND AUDIO
The all-AMD setup held up quite well during my game testing and the thermals were in check as well, thanks to the excellent heat dissipation at the back. There’s literally no cover with the grille taking up half of the back cover to begin with.
As mentioned earlier, the 2.3GHz AMD Ryzen 3750H gets the job done and is pretty much on par with the Intel i5-9300H. This all-AMD buffet for the first time ever also features the RX5500M GPU (with 4GB VRAM), which in short is good enough for playing most games at High settings at around 60fps.
The Alpha 15 handled Forza Horizon 4 well at High graphics settings at a steady 72fps with minor hiccups when loading maps, but could not handle Ultra settings as the loading would freeze the game entirely for a few seconds. Borderlands 3 ran best at Medium Video settings at a stable 70fps while Metro ran smoothly at Ultra with no glitches whatsoever.
And this raises the question as to when would you make use of that 144Hz FreeSync panel? To reach 144fps, you would technically need to run games that don’t rely heavily on the CPU – like Overwatch and CSGo that will easily run at the highest settings utilising that 144Hz panel to the fullest. Most AAA titles will work flawlessly provided you run games at Medium to High settings.
As for audio performance, you will need to plug in a good pair of gaming headphones. The speakers sound tinny and are just not loud enough. Add to this the roaring of the fans and it's good enough to get you killed in a round of PUBG.
MSI’s Alpha 15 is a great gaming laptop; it’s just that you need to buy this one online because the price difference is massive. The Alpha 15 A3DDK gets you a 144Hz display, 16GB RAM and RGB-keyboard lighting, and is priced at ₹99,990, while the sensible A3DD with a 120 Hz display, 8GB RAM and single colour keyboard lighting is priced at ₹89,990. But don’t fret at these price tags because they are priced a lot lower online at ₹89,990 for the A3DDK model and ₹74,990 for the A3DD 16GB RAM model. The 8GB RAM model is priced even lower.
You are better off with an Intel i7 + Nvidia 1660 Ti GPU if you want to get the complete gaming experience, which would be priced a few thousands over the Alpha. MSI’s own GL63 gets you an i7+1660 TI combo with a 120 Hz panel at ₹89,990 while Lenovo’s Y540 gets you the same combo at ₹99,990. Both will also get you 6GB of VRAM as opposed to the Alpha’s 4GB.
It all boils down to what you want from a gaming laptop? If you are chasing fps with better quality graphics for all your gaming titles, you are better off with a Y540 or the GL63. But if you are sticking to a budget and the Alpha 15’s MOP pricing fits your bill, then go for the A3DD version as it will get you decent gaming performance without burning a hole in your pocket.