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Review: MSI Prestige 14 EVO laptop (2021, Tiger Lake) – can you game on integrated graphics?

A solid midrange laptop with surprisingly good integrated graphics.

msi prestige 14 flatlay
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

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As games have become more complicated and resource-hungry, dedicated graphics cards became the norm, with integrated graphics being relegated to less graphically challenging or older games and word processing duties only.

Intel’s trying to change that with its new Xe Graphics architecture, aimed at bringing playable frame rates to 1080p gaming on your laptop – without needing a more expensive model with a discrete graphics card.

We’re looking at one such Intel Xe graphics-equipped laptop today, the $1,000 MSI Prestige 14 EVO. It features the top mobile chip from Intel’s 11th-gen, the Intel Core i7-1185G7, which came out in the last part of 2020. Has integrated graphics got to a point where you can do some AAA gaming after your workday? Let’s test Intel’s 1080p assertions.

What exactly is ‘Prestige’ anyways?

msi prestige 14 open on desk
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

Okay, so the MSI Prestige 14 is built to the specs from Intel’s new “Evo” initiative, which outlines what Intel deems a premium laptop after extensive research into how people use laptops and which features are ‘pinch points,’ that is, annoy the users the most. That means you can be assured to get at least nine hours of battery life on an FHD (1080p) screen, it will wake from sleep in less than one second, will have fast charging (4hrs usage from 30min charge), and have Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4.

In addition to the quad-core Intel Core i7-1185G7 that runs at 3.0GHz with a 4.8GHz turbo, the Prestige 14 has 16GB of RAM, a non-touch 14-inch 1080p screen, a 512GB NVMe drive as reviewed, and Iris Xe integrated graphics. It weighs 2.66 lbs, which is very lightweight to carry around. It could do with a little more weight adding back though, as some of the chassis panels flex a little more than we’d like to see. It’s no solid-as-a-rock MacBook, for sure, but don’t let that put you off, as the keyboard deck is pretty sturdy when typing.

msi prestige 14 touchpad
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

That keyboard is good, with nice backlighting, well-spaced chiclet-style keys, and feels roomy, even with the small 12.6-inch width of the laptop. It’s usable for gaming, but we’d recommend using a controller or external mouse and keyboard. The touchpad is responsive enough and has a nifty fingerprint reader on the top-left corner but does flex down more than we like along the bottom edge.

msi prestige 14 webcam
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

The 14-inch, 1080p screen is a standard 16:9 ratio, and it’s adequate. The colors look pretty accurate, and you can always run a colorimeter to calibrate it for detail work. It’s not very bright, though, and the matte anti-glare coating makes everything wash out in direct sunlight, which is disappointing next to my usual MacBook Pro’s beautiful screen.

It does have a 720p IR webcam on the top edge, which can be used to set up Windows Hello if you prefer face unlock of your laptop. After using Face ID on my iOS devices, I love that I can unlock this laptop by sitting in front of it if I don’t want to use the fingerprint sensor. The onboard speakers are about what you’d expect from a midrange laptop. That’s to say, use headphones if you value your music quality.

msi prestige 14 thunderbolt ports
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

Two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left side also do dual-duty as charging ports for the laptop, while you get a USB 2.0 Type-A port, a microSD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right side. Yes, that does mean you’ll need a dongle for Ethernet if you can’t use WiFi. That WiFi is version 6, which gave us 370 Mbps tested speeds to our AC router.

Time for some games

laptop playing doom
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

While this laptop is firmly aimed at the midrange business user, it’s also the first generation to use Intel’s new Xe graphics architecture. Intel says that there’s enough power for AAA games, albeit at less-than-60fps for more demanding titles. Let’s test that with a selection of AAA, classics, and eSports titles.

GameAverage Frame Rate
Apex Legends58
DOOM 201640
DiRT Rally 2.060
Rocket League120
Shadow of the Tomb Raider34
Skyrim Special Edition44
All graphics are set to in-game Low preset unless specified. Ingame benchmarking tools used where possible

The Intel Xe Graphics in the MSI Prestige 14 honestly surprised me here. Gaming on integrated graphics has long been something that only worked for less demanding titles, and the Xe posted some decent framerates from AAA titles.

eSports games like Rocket League ran happily at 120fps when on low settings, and I probably could have dialed up the visuals and still stayed above 60fps easily. Apex Legends showed off just how well optimized it is, with an average of 58fps and often ran at over 60f[s while still looking pretty nice on low settings.

DOOM 2016 is well-optimized, even with the amount of chaos and weapon fire on screen at any given time, and the Xe happily churned out an average of 40fps throughout a level. It did get toasty, with the CPU temp spiking up to 95C on occasion, although it mostly stayed below 90C while gaming. I’ve seen 105C in the past with integrated graphics under extended gaming sessions though, so the cooling solution MSI has used here is decent, if noisy.

DiRT Rally 2.0 was also pegged to that 60fps target while on low settings, although it did suffer visually from turning everything down. Skyrim Special Edition isn’t the most optimized title, but with an average of 44fps, it’s playable on the Xe graphics chip. The surprise to me was Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which still looked great at low settings and had a very playable average frame rate of 34.

biomutant screenshot of a fight
Image: KnowTechie

I didn’t expect Biomutant to even run, as it struggles with frame rates even on my desktop RTX 3070, so I was surprised when the Xe Graphics could do over 30fps in places, with a 24fps average. If you really wanted to play demanding games, you could turn the resolution down to 720p and gain enough frames to play smoothly at over 30fps.

While it’s mostly good news about being able to game on the Xe integrated graphics, it wasn’t without some issues. Horizon Zero Dawn (HZD) refused to run for any reason, and Destiny 2 wouldn’t go past the title screen. Maybe the shader-heavy HZD was just too much. Destiny 2 doesn’t mention integrated graphics at all on its minimum specs, and there’s no mention of it on the Intel Graphics site, so keep that in mind if Bungie’s epic is your main game.

So, should I buy one?

For its current price of just under $1,000, the MSI Prestige 14 EVO ticks most of the boxes for an office-focused laptop. It’s got Windows Hello support, a fingerprint reader, and a decent, oversized trackpad, and enough power for daily tasks.

While the MSI Prestige 14 has a pretty good battery life while doing office tasks, you’ll want to keep the charger close (and plugged in!) if you decide to use it for gaming. The bonus here is that the Intel Xe Graphics integrated graphics are a huge improvement over the prior Iris Integrated Graphics, allowing you to play less-intensive games during your downtime.

Editors’ Recommendations:

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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