MSI Crosshair 15 review

MSI Crosshair 15 review (B12U)

The MSI Crosshair 15 is one of MSI’s upper mid-range gaming laptops. This is an attractive proposition as the company’s top-tier models can get prohibitively expensive while this seeks to offer good all-round features, ergonomics and performance at a reasonable price. It also sits in Special Edition territory with a funky, yellow, internal livery and design elements. So, how good is it in the world of high-performance laptops?

Pros
Funky design
Very good performance
Great ergonomics
Well-built
Good price
Good thermal management

Cons
Average battery life
Sticks out in an office
Audible whoosh under load

Key specs of the MSI Crosshair 15 B12UGZ-438AU

15.6-inch, matte, 165Hz, 2560 x 1440, non-touchscreen, IPS LCD; 3.8-5GHz Intel Core i9-12900H CPU; DDR5-4800 RAM; 1TB HDD; Nvidia RTX 3070; 90Wh battery; 2.25KG. Dimensions: 35.9 x 25.6 x 27mm. SKU: B12UGZ-438AU. Full specs here.

Features and handling

The MSI Crosshair 15’s lid has subtle etchings and flourishes that are somehow simultaneously understated and yet reminiscent of a spaceship. While it might get away with these looks in a stuffy office – if that was all there was to it – the intentionally brash interior (cleverly) shows through a gap at the bottom, giving the game away as to what’s inside. Opening it up reveals the high-concept, space-marine-style, yellow-spray-paint design. There’s also a yellow patch on the wrist-rest with hexagonal pattern that extends out from it in the form of a texture. It feels very sports-car cool.

The UHD, 2560 x 1440 screen is very impressive. It’s bright and well lit and shows a crisp and clear Windows Desktop. It’s also very fast thanks to both a 165Hz refresh rates and fast pixel response time – there’s very little ghosting so it’s great for fast-and-frantic gaming. Not only this, it supports 100 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour gamut meaning its vibrant colour reproduction is very accurate for demanding designers too. Contrast is impressive with details remaining in both bright and dark areas and both colour and monochromatic gradients are relatively smooth and impressive.

MSI Crosshair 15 front
The MSI Crosshair 15’s screen is great at everything including gaming and design work.

We really like the MSI Crosshair 15’s RGB keyboard with the complementary, yellow, RGB keys. They’re very comfortable for typing on and accurate for gaming. There’s a number pad and arrow keys which are reduced in size but still very usable. The trackpad has additional design flourishes, is very smooth, accurate and has a good, shallow clicking action.

Above the screen is a decent HD webcam. Inside, the twin, two-Watt speakers offer impressive fidelity from the top to bottom end. They don’t get particularly loud though and there’s only a modicum of bass – still they’re better than many rivals.

Performance

The MSI Crosshair 15’s CPU is the 14-core (20 thread), 3.8-5GHz Intel Core i9-12900H. It’s flanked by 16GB of DDR5-4800 RAM and a 1TB hard drive. These combined to score 7622 in PCMark 10 which is high, but below the level of some, same-generation, overclockable flagships. It also scored 2463 and 15,570 in the Cinebench (R15 and R23 respectively) rendering tests. These are very good scores but perhaps not as high as we’d expect from a top-end, 12th Gen, Core-i9 CPU.

3D performance comes via the impressive Nvidia RTX 3070. We were perhaps surprised that it wasn’t the newer Ti version which we’ve seen on other, recent, 12th Gen, Intel laptops but it makes sense to use the older version to help keep the price down. In 3DMark Time Spy it scored an impressive 10,409 which is an average of 63.8fps. In Fire Strike Extreme it scored 12,580 which is an average of 57.8fps. In the difficult, Port Royal ray-tracing test it scored 6202 which is an average 28.7fps.

These are all well-above average scores and we envisage there being no problem playing all but a few AAA games at full settings on the UHD screen.

The cooling system is also impressively efficient. When under sustained load it can certainly make a noticeable, sustained whoosh, but it’s a low whoosh and not an annoying whine. We’ve certainly heard worse. It also doesn’t get very hot, which surprised us. The power brick does, though.

Connectivity of the MSI Crosshair 15

On the left...
On the left is a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port and a USB-A 2.0 port.
On the right
On the right there’s Gigabit Ethernet, an HDMI 2.0 port, a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port.

Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2. There’s little missing.

Portability

The MSI Crosshair 15 feels very solid and well built. It should easily survive being carted around to LANs and such like. The 90Wh battery only lasted 5hrs 9mins in PCMark 10’s Modern Office test (we ran it a few times). This is perhaps a little low, but it’s a solid score for a gaming beast. The 2.25kg weight is quite light for a 15-inch gaming laptop. Also, the power brick is much smaller than larger machines but still adds another 780g to the weight.

MSI Crosshair 15 underneath
We were very impressed with how cool the Crosshair remained. The thin power brick takes the brunt of the heat retention.

Should I buy the MSI Crosshair 15?

Quite simply, the MSI Crosshair 15 is arguably the best all-round gaming machine we’ve seen… for the money. While MSI’s flagship GE76 Raider is still our number one choice, the extra power and features come at a huge premium. We’re still looking forward to testing the new 15-inch GE66 Raider though, as it will likely be a great rival for this. Meanwhile, Asus, Acer and Alienware are still struggling with supply chain issues when include getting us their latest models. Conversely, you can by this MSI Crosshair 15 right now for $3,229 and that means it’s fantastic value.

A final thing to add is that there’s also a Special Edition of this Special Edition laptop. It’s generally very similar but the Crosshair 15 Rainbow Six Extraction Edition has Rainbow 6 flourishes, comes with a themed gaming mouse and ultra-wide gaming mouse pad plus a Deluxe version of the game itself. Find out more about it here.

Competition time

To celebrate the launch of the Rainbow Six Extraction Edition, MSI is giving 5 lucky readers a free Ubisoft Connect code for Rainbow 6. The contest is open globally… just sign-up to our newsletter to be in with a chance!

MSI Crosshair 15 review (B12U) results
  • 2D Performance
  • 3D Performance
  • Ergonomics
  • Stability
  • Portability
  • Value
4.3

Summary

Quite simply, the MSI Crosshair 15 is arguably the best all-round gaming machine we’ve seen… for the money.

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