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MSI Creator Z16 Professional Laptop Review

MSI continues its path in content creator devices, a consolidated branch of its line-up, like those dedicated to gaming. The Taiwanese company here treasures the experience gained with a complete device, which has only one major flaw. Indeed, let’s do two.

PROSCONS
Stylish and elegant designUnderperforming CPU
Speedy performanceHigh price
IR face recognition + fingerprint reader
Double biometric unlocking

General Info

MSI Creator Z16
$CHECK PRICE
ReleasedJune 1, 2021
BrandMSI
ModelMSI Creator Z16 – 11th Gen Core i9 (2021)
Processor11th Gen. Intel Core i9
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060
OSWindows 10
Weight2.175 grams
Display16 inch
ColorsLunar Gray
MaterialAluminum
Dimensions359 x 256 x 15.9 mm
TypeLaptop

MSI Z16 is made entirely of metal: the laptop has a sturdy and rigid body to meet the military standard MIL-STD-810G. It isn’t particularly greedy for fingerprints either and is also foldable up to 180 °, as shown above.

MSI Z16 getting closer to the leaders in the sector, such as MacBook and XPS, which is undoubtedly good, especially since MSI had not always been flawless from this point of view in the past. Perhaps a stronger identity is missing from the design point of view, clean but anonymous, not very distinctive. But getting to that point takes even longer; what matters is that the path is the right one.

The number of doors is also good; just a pity for the microSD, which is a 16 inch “long hips” (the screen is in 16:10). We hoped it was full size.

Display

Display TypeIPS
Display Size16 inch
TouchscreenNo
Display Resolution2560 x 1600 Pixel
Display FeatureQHD+ 120Hz

MSI Z16’s screen looks good right away. Thanks to the 16:10 aspect ratio, which combined with the generous diagonal, allow you to do true multitasking on a notebook. It is not trivial because often, due to the small size, it is easy to find applications only on full screen, while here, there is space to put 2 or 3 side by side without excessive sacrifices.

The resolution is, therefore, a QHD +: full HD “looked bad,” 4K (probably) “seemed too much”, even if an optional UHD version would not have clashed anyway. The 120Hz of this display is also pleasing in everyday use, but they are not vital from a production point of view. At the same time, instead, an even higher resolution could have been significant, at least for a specific slice of users.

Good brightness, which reaches around 450 constant nits. An above-average value, but certainly not unsurpassed, leaves room for reflections to show themselves conspicuously against the screen’s glossy finish, which does not do too much to counter them. 

The primary color spectra are also good, with almost all DCI-P3 and AdobeRGB just under 90%. All values ​​are in line with expectations and of a reasonable level.

Too bad, however, for the factory calibrationfar from flawless, as evidenced by the Calman analysis below. Probably the fact that it’s a sample that runs for so many newsrooms may not have helped, and luckily with a colorimeter you can always fix things.

Overall, in short, a display of a reasonable level, but not excellent, in practically no respect.

Performance

ProcessorIntel Core i9-11900H
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 3060 Mobile with 6GB GDDR6
RAM32GB DDR4 3,200MHz
Storage2 TB NVMe PCIe Gen4x4 SSD

There are multiple variations of the MSI Creator Z16, illustrated on the official website. Here is the flagship model, with hardware at the top for its category, but there are variants even with i7 and less memory.

Considering that we are dealing with a laptop for content creators, the thing that perhaps stands out is the absence of a 4K variant: the display is the same in all versions, a 16 ” QHD +, which for charity is acceptable in most uses and is also at 120 Hz, but a 4K version, maybe at 60Hz (and better calibrated – but we’ll talk about it later) could still be there.

ASUS equipped with the same i9-11900H with 32 GB of RAM and 2 TB of storage, but the GPU is an RTX 3080 Max-Q, and the difference is noticeable, not only in the play sphere but also in the business sphere. (which, in this case, is the one that interests us most).

MSI is now a guarantee when it comes to content creation. The company has refined its offer over the years, and we are not talking only from a hardware point of view but also a software point of view. The MSI Center suite still offers a per-app optimization able to maximize the performance of software such as Premiere, Photoshop, and in general, all the main applications dedicated to content creation and not.

The absolute difference is not always as sensitive as in the past. Still, anything that saves time is always welcome. The software is now a complete management system for adjusting all PC settings, from performance to battery to audio, passing through support and system analysis.

Speaking of performance, these are adjustable in four modes: super batterysilentbalanced, and high performance; the latter is the only one that allows you to adjust the fans as well (auto, advanced – where you can manually define thresholds for CPU and GPU – and cooler boost, which fires the fans at maximum always and in any case).

The only negative: the silent mode is not as much as we would have liked. The fans tend to turn on “in fits and starts”: they start very fast (and therefore quite noisy) for a few seconds, then stop, and restart after a while or in case of need. It would have been better to keep them active longer but at lower revs rather than this stop-and-go.

Under load, then the noise of the fans becomes sensitive, very sensitive in cooler boost mode, even if fortunately it is a hiss without treble and not annoying. Above all, it is an effective noise in contributing to a stable system even under prolonged stress. With the CPU alone at 100% on all cores, the clock settles around 3-3.1 GHz, while adding the GPU also drops to 2.5-2.6 GHz, just above the base clock of 2.5 GHz. 

Mild thermal throttling core temperatures tend to remain in the 90 ° orbit even when fully operational, and this is not penalizing in the long run. In addition, the heat is dissipated well to the outside and is not annoying at the keyboard level.

All this is also possible because the GPU, as we said before, does not absorb an excessive amount, with peaks around 65 Watts , all to the advantage of heat dissipation. The price to pay, in some areas, can be somewhat longer processing times, especially on very prolonged loads. However, we are not dealing with a gaming machine, but for content creators, so we support MSI’s choice to focus more on stability than on the exasperation of graphics performance.

If anything, the choice of the i9 variant over the i7-11800H variant could be questioned: the latter is also an octa-core, with slightly lower frequencies, and given that the i9 at full load is not pushed much further than the 3GHz, we have the impression that in the long run, the difference in performance between the two may be of little significance for most users.

In the software field, we forgot to point out that Norton is pre-installed, in a trial version with a 60-day expiration; luckily, you can uninstall everything, just in case you don’t care.

On the gaming side, however, we took away some satisfaction: with the necessary compromises, you can play a bit of all the most recent titles, even of the caliber of Cyberpunk. However, especially in ray tracing, MSI’s implementation shows the side with rather significant performance drops, which probably an RTX 3060 with a larger TPD would not have presented.

Multimedia

Webcam 720p
Audio1x Mic-in/Headphone-out Combo Jack
NetworkKiller ax Wi-Fi 6E 
BluetoothBluetooth 5.1
Ports1x Micro SD
2x Type-A USB3.2 Gen2
2x Type-C (USB / DP / Thunderbolt 4)
Keyboard NumpadNo
Keyboard TypeRGB MiniLED keyboard by Steelseries

There is no particular observation about the rest: the connectivity department is good, with Wi-Fi speeds in line with expectations. Just a shame 720p webcams are die-hard, but that seems to be a common evil. We come instead to the benchmarks, which reserve some surprises.

  • Wireless Connectivity : Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Ports : 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen2, 2x Thunderbolt 4, microSD, audio jack, power supply

Keyboard

The keyboard is large, without a Numpad, allowing you to center everything perfectly. The keys are sufficiently rigid and the support base, not shaped and with little feedback. The real problem, however, is the layout. From the ù above the enter key to the directional arrows so perfectly camouflaged with the rest of the keyboard that you will often get them wrong, passing through fn and ctrl which share the same key and the <>moved to the right, up to the extra column of keys on the far right. There are many weird elements, different from the standard and uncomfortable for anyone with the minimal muscle memory of an Italian keyboard.

Too bad because the backlighting is also good, with nice mini LEDs for a single key visible even during the day, but if you often switch from this keyboard to another “more standard” one, you will not be able to help notice all these things.

Thanks to the keyboard’s relatively low position, the touchpad is not too wide, but above all, there is too much travel. Before both left and right clicks, there is a large margin of nothing, and clicking will go even deeper, with an overall stroke that is too high and will cause you to lose precision. What’s more, the click is also very soft. In the long run, it is a touchpad that tires and does not give great precision.

Too bad, because especially in a notebook for creators, the input devices are essential; otherwise, with what do you “create”?

Battery

Battery Type
Battery Capacity90 Battery (Whr)
Battery life
AC Adapter180W Slim adapter

MSI Creator Z16 will certainly not go down in history for its significant autonomy, and neither would we have expected it, even if we hoped for a little more. Getting to 6 working hours is a record that we have not always been able to repeat, but above all, there is a constant battery drain that does not allow you to go further even with a light load and minimum brightness.

As you can also see from the PCMark 10 tests below, you don’t get to 10 hours in idle, which is a meager value; while under stress, in just over an hour, you will be dry. It is true that, even only for its size, the Z16 is undoubtedly not a notebook devoted to extreme portability. Still, we regret, however, that it cannot give a few more hours of serenity, also considering the generosity of the battery, from almost 90 Wh. Maybe the i7 version could do a little better, but we’re not expecting miracles.

  • Idle: 9 hours 47 minutes (minimum brightness, silent mode)
  • Gaming: 1 hour and 45 minutes (maximum brightness, turbo mode)
  • Office  (writing, browsing, video conferencing):  6 hours and 50 minutes (25 brightness, silent mode)
  • MS Office: 6 hours and 39 minutes (25 brightness, silent mode)
  • Video: 5 hours and 46 minutes (25 brightness, silent mode)

Conclusion!

MSI Creator Z16 is a laptop devoted to productivity. Its large and beautiful screen is the centerpiece of everything: there is room for true multitasking, as you can rarely do on a laptop, the performances are there and are convincing: you can stress it for as long as you want. And when you have finished working, you can also play with it or watch a good movie: the choice is yours. The keyboard and touchpad are not up to the general care, and the price is still high.

Z16 is quite expensive concerning the hardware. Legion 5 Pro was launched last spring at 2300 USD. Indeed, the comparison is uncomfortable for MSI. 

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