MSI Modern 14 C13M review

MSI Modern 14 C13M Review

MSI’s Modern laptops are mid-range offerings that don’t excel at much but can offer great value as a general purpose, portable computer. The new, 13th Gen range has been modernised to a degree. But, are the updates are simply cosmetic and evolutionary? The Beige Rose MSI Modern 14 C13M certainly looks more than that. Let’s find out.

MSI Modern 14 C13M Specs

Screen14-inch, matte, 60Hz, 1,920 x1,080, IPS display
Processor3.4–4.6GHz Intel Core i5-1335U CPU
Memory16GB DDR4-3200 RAM
Graphics1.25GHz Intel Xe
Hard drive512MB NVMe
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.2
1 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (with Power Delivery)
2 x USB-A 2.0
3.5mm audio jack
HDMI 2.0
MicroSD card reader
Speakers2 x 2-Watt
MicrophoneUnspecified array
SecurityTPM 2.0
Webcam720p
Battery39.3Wh
Dimensions320 x 223 x 19mm
Weight1.45KG
SKUC13M-405AU
Full specs here.

Design, Features & Ergonomics

MSI’s Modern 14 C13M’s predecessors that we’ve seen have all been Onyx Black in colour. So, we were pleasantly surprised when this lavender-coloured variant appeared. It’s called Beige Rose(?!) but it’s also available in black and silver.

It looks good and immediately gives off vibes of the impressive MSI Prestige range. The underside even has vent grilles that (almost) resemble the Prestige’s cityscape design. It looks decent for a business laptop and will likely turn heads in most settings. However, it does feel rather plasticy.

Opening the Modern 14 up reveals the 14-inch screen. It’s surrounded by a thick bezel (at the top and bottom) which some people may think looks cheap. The top houses a basic, HD webcam. It can get a little grainy in low-light but it’s usable and the microphone array makes a decent fist of noise cancelling.

The twin, 2-Watt speakers are modest. They don’t get very loud but there’s reasonable audio fidelity in the mid-range However, they sound a bit tinny and there’s no bass to speak of.

MSI Modern 14 C13M review keyboard
We love the colour and most of the Modern’s ergonomics are passable, but while the squished arrow keys are annoying the dodgy space bar got infuriating. It might just be our review unit though.

The IPS, Full HD, matte screen is optimised to run at 150% zoom. This creates a display that’s very low on Desktop real estate. However, if you’re sick of trying to see tiny text and icons on small, high-resolution screens, it could prove attractive. Dropping it down to 100% view certainly adds more space but the Windows Desktop looks over-sharpened and isn’t comfortably crisp and clear to view for long periods.

Everything feels a little washed out, but that could be because we’ve seen a bunch of OLED laptops recently. However, viewing multimedia confirmed that colours aren’t very vibrant. Colour gradients and transitions frequently suffer a light banding while monochromatic equivalents are similar (which is good for monochromatic equivalents). Contrast is above average although blacks aren’t true black, due to being washed out, and details get lost in highlights a bit too frequently. It’s not the brightest screen but it’s fine for general, indoor usage.

MSI Modern 14 C13M review flat
The MSI Modern can fold down flat.

It’s no gaming laptop but the screen underlines this. The 60Hz refresh rate is standard but the pixel response time is slow and fast objects smear across the screen.

The keyboard is not great. While most of the Scrabble-tile keys are comfortable and accurate to type upon. The Space Bar failed to actuate frequently sowe kept havingto go back and add aspace to our text. The squished arrow key layout is awful too with the Page Up and Down keys nestled right up against the frequently used arrow keys.

The trackpad is smooth and accurate but, whenever you tap it, the whole chassis rattles cheaply – reminding you of the lack of quality materials in the palm-rest. Still, the buttons are usable despite being a bit stiffer than we’d like.

Ultimately, it’s a usable laptop but its average ergonomics and handling are starting to look a little long in the tooth.

Performance

Inside MSI’s Modern 14 C13M is a brand-new, 13th-Gen Intel 3.4–4.6GHz Core i5-1335U processor which houses two Performance cores and eight Efficiency cores that run across 12 threads. Next to it is 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and there’s a 512MB NVMe hard drive.

These combined to score 5,115 which is just behind its 12th-Gen (C12M) predecessor’s Core i7-1255U-based score and will keep most office tasks ticking along nicely. Impressively, it scored 1,527 in the Cinebench R15 test which is a smidge ahead of its 12th-Gen Core i7 ancestor. The two processors are eerily similar in specs but the older, 12th-Gen i7 variant is clocked a little higher at 3.5-4.7GHz so there are some 13th-Gen performance/efficiency gains on show despite the similarities.

In the longer Cinebench R23 rendering test, the newer i5 even managed to stretch-out a lead, scoring 9,707 to its predecessor’s 9,089. Impressive.

For 3D Performance, both use the integrated Intel Xe graphics running at 1.25GHz but the newer Core i5 was a way behind the older Core i7. In the Triple-A-gaming-title-like 3DMark Time Spy test, the Modern scored 1,274 which is an average of just 7fps. In the similar, Fire Strike Extreme test it scored 1,536 (average 7fps). These are 1fps behind the last-gen i7 and that’s likely down to lesser clock speed. Neither model is a gaming machine, though.

Neither could run the difficult Port Royal or Speed Way ray-tracing tests but the Modern did run the easier Night Raid test and scored 12,241 which is an average of 64.5fps. This illustrates that it can play casual and competitive games – just remember that the slow screen will hinder anything that’s particularly fast-and-frantic. For reference, the C12M scored 14,568 which is an almost-20-per-cent-faster average of 81.4fps.

We wanted to compare the two machines’ performance in the system-stressing CS:GO benchmark but we weren’t using it back then. Nonetheless, the Modern averaged a ‘playable’ 40fps in the test but this plummeted to just 7fps in the slowest one per cent of frames (1% Low test) when things got hectic.

Despite the low score here, it’s worth noting that the impressive, 12th-Gen, Asus Zenbook 14 OLED we recently reviewed – which had a beefier Core i7-1260P processor – averaged 33fps which dropped to 4fps in the 1% Low test. That a budget, 13th-Gen, business laptop is beating that score is impressive.

It’s also worth noting that this new, 13th-Gen Modern has quieter fans than the 12th Gen. There’s less heat and they ramp up less annoyingly and less loudly (albeit not less frequently).

Connectivity

The connectivity confirmed to us that the MSI Modern is essentially the same laptop as the C12M but with a newer engine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, we did note of the connectivity in the last review, “Generally it’s a good mix of modern and older connectivity.” One year on, it’s starting to look a little long in the tooth…

MSI Modern 14 C13M review left
On the left are HDMI 2.0, USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 and USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (with PD charging) ports plus a 3.5mm audio jack.
MSI Modern 14 C13M review right
On the right is a microSD card reader and two USB-A 2.0 ports.

Inside is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

Portability

At 1.45KG the MSI Modern 14 C13M remains ultraportable in terms of weight. We were also pleased to see the small, 300g power supply return.

The chassis does feel a bit plasticy though and we unfortunately managed to scratch it quite easily. It might be worth considering one of MSI’s more robust machines (like the Prestige) if you’re planning to compute while on the road.

MSI Modern 14 C13M review back-side
This backside view of the Modern 14 C13M’s gets quite eyebrow-raising the more you look at it.

Inside, there’s a 39.3Wh battery which seemed quite small. Nonetheless, it managed to run the PCMark 10 Modern Office test for an impressive 10 hours which is a full day out of the office. Impressive.

So, it’s relatively light, easy to carry around and work upon but it will need protecting.

Conclusion

The MSI Modern 14 C13M is available in early April but can be pre-ordered now for $1,399 which is the same price as its predecessor (note: MSI is also selling a Core i7 version of this laptop for $200 more). In an era of inflation that’s not bad. As we’ve noted about MSI’s Modern range in the past, the C13M is a capable, general-purpose, portable computer that doesn’t excel at anything… but that’s exactly what it’s designed to be.

Indeed, the Modern 14 C13M is practically a poor-man’s Prestige, but not plenty of people will pay the premium for that particular product.

Ultimately, the new engine in the old body makes it more power efficient and quieter but the old foibles are still there. Still, the Lavender-Beige-Rose colouring is at least relatively unique and interesting. There are plenty of better laptops out there but, especially nowadays, they’re generally significantly more expensive. This means MSI’s Modern 14 C13M is actually good value, but check you can live with its limitations before buying.

Pros

Relatively cheap
Looks pretty
Decent portable performance

Cons

Poor speakers
Modest build quality
Annoying space bar

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