TAIPEI—Ten years ago, what was then a sleepy Taiwanese motherboard company called MSI decided to branch out into gaming PCs.
Now, after a decade of selling them, it realized that some of its first customers—who bought one when they were in high school or college—are now grown up enough that their tastes have shifted away from ostentatious gaming rigs to sleek ultraportable laptops.
So rather than lose those customers to Dell or Apple, MSI decided to make its own, a company representative told me at Computex. The result is the MSI PS42, a 14-inch laptop that weighs just 2.6 pounds and comes in a rather un-gaming-like bright silver finish.
Its specs rival the midrange version of the Dell XPS 13 or HP Spectre 13, competitors for which it is clearly gunning. You can configure the PS42 with an Intel Core i7 processor, and it even comes with a discrete graphics card, the Nvidia GeForce MX150. It doesn’t offer enough graphics horsepower for respectable gaming, but then again, the target market already owns another MSI gaming laptop.
There are a few physical downsides to the PS42 that were immediately apparent during the brief time I spent with it on the Computex show floor. First, the touchpad is tiny, squished at the bottom of the keyboard, which itself has crept down the laptop to make room for a giant speaker grille. At least there are full-sized directional arrow keys.
Because the PS42 employs the industry-standard ultrathin bezels, or border around the display, the webcam is relegated to the bottom, which is an inconvenient location at the least. Your knuckles block it when you’re typing, and when you’re not, it has a great view up your nostrils.
Still, the build quality felt very good for such a thin and light machine, and the IPS display offered incredibly bright, vivid colors. Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is that MSI says it has plans to include an optional GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card in the next version of the PS42. That’s a lot of horsepower to cram in such a tiny package, so I’m not holding my breath.
If you’re an MSI fan in the market for an ultraportable from the company, the PS42 is scheduled to go on sale in the US this summer, although pricing hasn’t yet been announced.