As laptops go higher up the price band, there is a sense of a lack of forgiveness for what’s missing on the spec sheet. The expectation is for top-notch performance, versatility, and longevity (particularly considering the big bucks being spent).
Not many PC makers have been able to achieve this sort of precision on the spec sheet. There is also the complication of positioning, with a new PC category very much in development.
It is called the ‘creator’ category. These are folks who’ll be busy with video and photo editing quite extensively. Thus, the requirements for power. Still in a nascent stage, but the ingredients include powerful specs and large displays that are as good as they can be. Much like gaming laptops? Not exactly – creator focused laptops are slimmer in comparison. And have none of those shouty design and lighting elements which gaming laptops tend to have. Not many have been able to get this formula. There’s the new MSI Creator Z16 which does, but competition is sparse.
The HP ZBook series may do well to offer variants that get close, but they’ll have a slightly smaller 15.6-inch display. Dell’s XPS 15 (they really do think this is an all-in-one laptop) gets you there to an extent, but with tops out with the Intel Core i7 processors (MSI gets you to Core i9) while having a graphics chip that’s a step lower – lesser headroom when stretching the limits for video editing. Asus and Acer will put forward their gaming laptops as options.
The more powerful the specs, the more the urge to give it a “gaming” tag. A personality that’s often filled with colourful LEDs and a thick design. But that doesn’t always work, for all users. The requirements for remote work have put more emphasis on the laptop, and there’s the still nascent ‘creators’ genre that’s attempting to walk the fine line. They wouldn’t compromise on performance but want something that isn’t as bulky.
MSI’s Creator Z16 laptop that’s got a 16-inch pre-calibrated display and can pitch in with gaming if that’s what you need. There are very few laptops out there still, which come with a colour-calibrated display out of the box. The HP Envy 14 laptops are another rare example of pre-defined calibrated displays.
You don’t need to do anything—it’s all done, which should appeal to those who are looking for a powerful laptop for photo and video editing. The MSI Creator Z16 is tuned for the Delta-E < 2 calculation metrics as well—this is to allow the display to reproduce colours so finely that the human eye cannot even perceive the difference. Photo editors will be the happiest that they’ll have a large 16-inch display to work with.
Speaking of which, the real estate is made of what MSI calls an “IPS-level” panel. Which means it isn’t the in-plane switching (IPS) tech, but something that comes close. We found it hard to nitpick, though an actual IPS panel (and a good quality one at that, mind you) wouldn’t have been out of place. The native resolution is QHD+ (this is 2560 x 1600 resolution) and the refresh rate is as high as 120Hz, depending on what’s on the screen.
A few gaming and premium laptops offer screens with as high as 144Hz refresh rates, but to be fair, that really isn’t something you should worry about. This is a smooth display, for fast moving visuals (gaming or video edits).
You’ll notice that the MSI Creator Z16 has a square-er screen. That’s because this is the 16:10 aspect ratio, and not the 16:9 aspect ratio that laptops have had for years now. If you are used to having more horizontal width for opening apps side-by-side, this may offer just a bit less space. In theory, that is. Yet, do factor in this has the advantage of a large 16-inch display, as against a 14-inch screen.
It is a touchscreen too, but we are yet to (even after years of trying) find a use case for regular touch display use in Windows (first Windows 10 and now Windows 11).
Power isn’t in short supply, whichever variant of the MSI Creator Z16 you pick. Your choices include an 11th generation Intel Core i7 processor and an 11th generation Intel Core i9 processor. Both paired with 16GB RAM and 1TB SSDs, and the Nvidia GeForce RTX3060 graphics. So much so, you can play the Forza Horizon 5 game and you’ll not feel that this isn’t a thoroughbred gaming laptop. The performance is maintained for longer, with the active cooling aggressively speeding up the fans much in advance to prevent the clocking down of responsiveness.
This is also when (we revisit the display again for a moment) you’ll appreciate the True Pixel display’s colour prowess. There is a definite vividness to the overall colour reproduction, but it is appreciable that the finer differences are well distinguished. Teal wouldn’t meld with blue, for instance. Fast moving visuals don’t compromise colour too.
Back to how the MSI Creator Z16 performs as a powerful laptop, and it is worth pointing out that the 1TB SSD that is in use here is a fast solid-state drive. Not just large dumps of data that you may occasionally want to copy or move, there’s a positive uptick on even the heaviest of applications’ loading times.
For the creator audience, all the editing suites will be in good hands even as you deal with multiple streams of 4K videos, for instance. To be honest, we were not able to make this stutter even the slightest as a regular machine for a lot of work (replicating a carefree person who would end up with 73 Microsoft Edge tabs open) applications all vying for resources.
If you are thinking of the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (or indeed the MacBook Pro 16) right now, this is where the parallels end. While those do many more hours of battery life at such blazing performance consistently, the MSI Creator Z16 drained out in just less than 6 hours and 32 minutes. This is when used as a laptop for office work, with the display brightness at 40%. You cannot leave the charger behind if you are stepping out of home with this.
For anyone looking for a gaming laptop-esque performance but doesn’t want to be seen with those gaudy and flashy gaming laptops, the MSI Creator Z16’s design will be a refreshing change. There is a heavy blend of sophistication and understatement. The aluminum body, the colour (they call it Lunar Grey) and that it is 15.9mm at its thickest point (no gaming laptop can match this) isn’t exactly bulky. Yet, it is 2.2kg which means you’ll know when you are carrying this around. No shortage of ports, just because the thickness has been kept in check—two full sized USB ports (the Type-A ports), two USB-C ports and a microSD card reader.
We walk away from the MSI Creator Z16 with the feeling that this is one workhorse laptop that seems to not exactly have a direct rival at this time. There is no easing off on the spec sheet, with the latest generation processors and graphics that sit a notch above Nvidia’s mid-spec chips. There is enough performance headroom to tick off the longevity bit. And looks good while at it. There’s the small matter of the premium pricing though. That’s ₹2,40,990 (Intel Core i7 variant) and ₹2,57,990 (Intel Core i9 variant). The versatility as a gaming and creation laptop perhaps justifies this better than anything else.
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.