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MSI Modern 15 B13M Review: 15-inch Laptop Falls Short


Pros

  • Appealing design
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Surprisingly sharp 720p webcam

Cons

  • Dull display
  • Weak speakers
  • Lacks Thunderbolt 4 support

The MSI Modern 15 B13M can be classified as modern in that it features a processor from Intel’s current 13th generation, but in many ways, this midrange laptop is a throwback. It’s based on a widescreen 15.6-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio when most mainstream laptops have moved to taller 16:10 displays. It also features a 720p webcam when 1080p or even 1440p cams have become the norm. Other modern amenities it lacks are DDR5 RAM, quad speakers and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.

These omissions aren’t deal-breakers, however, for the Modern 15 B13M, which costs $950 and offers competitive midrange performance wrapped in an attractive and sturdy metal-and-plastic chassis. Plus, its 720p webcam is surprisingly crisp and clear. The bigger problem for the Modern 15 B13M is the HP Pavilion 15t-eg300, which is very similar and can usually be found on sale for hundreds less. The Modern 15 B13M is available from a handful of online retailers, but the biggest discount I’ve seen for it is $50, which drops the price to $900. Meanwhile, the HP Pavilion 15t-eg300 lists for $1,010 but can often be found for roughly half off. A nearly $500 discount makes the Modern 15 B13M’s $50 price break trivial.

MSI Modern 15 B13M specifications

Price as reviewed $950
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920×1,080 LCD
CPU 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1355U
Memory 16GB DDR4-3200
Graphics 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Storage 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.2
Connections USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C , USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (x3), HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm combo audio jack, microSD card slot
Operating system Windows Home 11 22H2

Our MSI Modern 15 test system (model B13M-447US) is not customizable and features a Core i7-1355U processor, 16GB of memory, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics and a 1TB SSD. The 15.6-inch display features a 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution and lacks touch support. It has a list price of $950 but is frequently on sale at Newegg for $900. However, another configuration available from Costco is a considerably better deal, even compared to the HP. That model has a much faster 13th-gen Intel Core i9 processor, 32GB of memory and a 1TB SSD for $1,000, but is down to $800 at the moment. You’ll need a membership (or someone else’s), but that’s a bargain, especially if you want it as a desktop replacement connected to a better display. 

A similar Modern 15 H B13M model that swaps out our test system’s Intel Core U-series chip for a higher-powered H-series processor costs £749 in the UK. A Modern 15 B13M-251AU similar to our test configuration costs AU$1,499 in Australia

MSI Modern 15 B13M laptop turned to show blue lid

Matt Elliott/CNET

Performance and battery life

In testing, the Modern 15 B13M proved to be a capable mainstream performer. With an efficient, 1-5-watt Intel U-series processor and integrated Intel graphics, it’s not destined for outstanding performance. But with a sufficient 16GB of RAM, it offers a peppy experience for basic Windows use. The RAM is DDR4-3200 instead of the faster DDR5-6400 variety, which is increasingly more common in mainstream laptops.

On most of our performance tests, the Modern 15 B13M was toward the back of the pack of midrange laptops, but it still has enough oomph to run office apps, engage in multitasking without any lags, and allow you to carelessly open dozens of tabs in Chrome without much of a penalty. And getting 1TB of solid-state storage is appreciated since a 512GB SSD is usually what you get at this price.

Intel’s U-series processors are meant to extend battery life, but you don’t get an exceptional runtime with the Modern 15 B13M. It features a small 3-cell, 38-watt-hour battery that lasted roughly 5.5 hours on our online streaming video battery drain test. That’s slightly below average for this class of laptop; competing models offer 6 or 7 hours of battery life.

Blue chassis, dull display

MSI offers the Modern 15 B13M in either black or blue. We received the blue model. It’s a deep navy color that offers a different look than basic black but still won’t look out of place in an office. The lid and keyboard deck are made from aluminum, and the bottom panel is plastic. The laptop has a polished look with the deep navy surfaces contrasted slightly by the black keyboard and display bezels. The laptop feels sturdy and weighs 4.1 pounds, which is average for its size. 

For daily commutes and regular travel, I would recommend choosing a smaller and lighter laptop, such as the 13-inch HP Aero 13 or 14-inch MSI Modern 14 C13M, or spending more for something like the Acer Swift Edge 16, which features an exceedingly thin-and-light all-metal chassis that weighs only 2.7 pounds despite featuring a larger 16-inch, 16:10 display. The Acer Swift Go 16 is also more portable at 3.6 pounds.

The 15.6-inch, 16:9 display of the MSI Modern 15 B13M laptop

Matt Elliott/CNET

In the last year or two, 16-inch models with taller 16:10 displays have started to replace 15.6-inch models with wider 16:9 displays. The taller aspect ratio gives you a roomier display without significantly adding to a laptop’s overall footprint. The added vertical space is useful for document review and just browsing the web because the more lines of text that fit on the screen means you need to scroll less frequently. 

The change in going from a 16:9 display to a 16:10 panel, however, is more evident on smaller 13- and 14-inch laptops than on a 15.6-inch model where you still have plenty of room from top to bottom on a 16:9 display. I didn’t feel cramped when I was working on the Modern 15 B13M, but I still wasn’t impressed with its display. It’s a basic, non-touch LCD panel with a full-HD (1,920×1,080 pixels) resolution. Text is fairly sharp, but I did notice some pixelation and fuzziness with larger fonts. 

Viewing angles are poor from side to side and top to bottom, and this off-angle dullness is largely the result of the panel’s limited brightness. I measured peak brightness with a Spyder X Elite colorimeter at a mere 252 nits. To put that figure into perspective, a 250-nit display is commonly found on budget models with 300-nit and 350-nit displays not uncommon on a mainstream laptop. I had the display brightness set to the maximum at all times, and there were multiple times per day (and night!) when I tapped the brightness-up button, hoping for more. The display’s color reproduction was also limited, covering only 69% of sRGB and 51% of the AdobeRGB and P3 color spaces. 

Flip and share feature of MSI Modern 15 B13M

Matt Elliott/CNET

The display is subpar overall, but it does have one unique feature. MSI calls it Flip-n-Share. The display can rotate 180 degrees so you can lay it flat, and the F12 button then flips the image upside down so you can share it with the person sitting across from you. It’s easier than spinning your laptop around to show someone whatever’s on your screen, but the downside is the 180-degree display hinge is a bit too weak. On multiple occasions, when I picked up the open laptop, the display would droop and lie flat when all I wanted to do was carry the open laptop from one room to another.

Sharp webcam, solid keyboard

I was pleasantly surprised by the laptop’s webcam. Most 720p webcams deliver grainy images that are often poorly exposed. In contrast, the Modern 15 B13M’s camera’s image was nearly grain-free with accurate skin tones and properly exposed with details that weren’t washed out in the lightest and darkest areas. 

The Modern B13M’s audio output offered no such surprises. Outfitted with a pair of 2-watt speakers, the laptop’s sound is predictably underwhelming. Music playback will require headphones, and I also had trouble hearing dialog when attempting to watch Netflix or YouTube, and I had the volume all the way up and was sitting alone in a silent room.

Keyboard with number pad of the MSI Modern 15 B13M

Matt Elliott/CNET

I found typing on the Modern 15 B13M to be a pleasant experience. The keys felt firm and snappy with good travel, and they were very quiet. You also get three-level backlighting so you can choose just the right amount of keyboard lighting depending on ambient lighting conditions. MSI also outfits the laptop with a dedicated number pad, which number crunchers will appreciate. I appreciated getting four full-size arrow keys despite the presence of a numpad. The touchpad is slightly undersized but offers accurate and smooth mousing along with a solid click response. 

There’s an absence of biometrics on the laptop. With neither a fingerprint scanner nor an IR webcam, you can’t use fingerprint or facial recognition to log in. 

Ports on the left side of the MSI Modern 15 B13M

Matt Elliott/CNET

The Modern 15 B13M offers a wide selection of ports with one notable omission. There’s a USB-C and three USB-A ports, but the USB-C port is of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 variety and not a faster Thunderbolt 4 port. It’s not something we’d generally expect, were it not for our favorite budget 15.6-inch, the Acer Aspire 5, having one. There’s also only one USB-C port, but one ought to suffice since it’s not needed for charging — the Modern 15 B13M features a traditional barrel charger. An HDMI port, combo audio jack and microSD card slot round out the external connections.

Wait for a sale

I like the look and feel of the MSI Modern 15 B13M. The metal-and-plastic enclosure is sturdy, and the navy blue color looks sharp. The display and speakers, however, are disappointing and make the laptop less appealing for home use unless it’s spending most of its time on a desk connected to an external monitor and speakers. If you are reading this review and see the Modern 15 B13M on sale for hundreds less than its $950 list price, then it’s worth considering, assuming you can live with its shortcomings. Otherwise, I urge you to pass on it in favor of the similarly outfitted HP Pavilion 15t-eg300 that can usually be found at a steep discount. Or the Acer Aspire 5. Or spend a bit more for the $1,200 Acer Swift Go 16, which is lighter and faster and offers a larger and far superior OLED display.

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The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments. 

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Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Acer Swift Edge 16 9,420HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 7,779Acer Aspire 5 A515-57 7,254MSI Modern 15 B13M 7,073MSI Modern 15 B12M 6,562

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 6 (multicore)

Acer Swift Edge 16 10,302HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 7,965MSI Modern 15 B13M 7,431MSI Modern 15 B12M 6,972

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

JetStream2 (JavaScript and WebAssembly benchmark) in Chrome

Acer Swift Edge 16 313.055MSI Modern 15 B12M 278.156MSI Modern 15 B13M 273.596HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 249.332Acer Aspire 5 A515-57 223.462

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 (multicore)

Acer Swift Edge 16 12,319MSI Modern 15 B13M 9,836MSI Modern 15 B12M 8,668Acer Aspire 5 A515-57 8,144HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 7,071

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited

Acer Swift Edge 16 4,012HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 3,166MSI Modern 15 B13M 2,728Acer Aspire 5 A515-57 2,407MSI Modern 15 B12M 2,401

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition

Acer Swift Edge 16 6,838MSI Modern 15 B12M 5,328Acer Aspire 5 A515-57 5,272HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 5,234MSI Modern 15 B13M 5,053

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Online streaming battery drain test

Acer Swift Edge 16 434Acer Aspire 5 A515-57 420HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 356MSI Modern 15 B12M 337MSI Modern 15 B13M 335

Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

MSI Modern 15 B13M Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i7-1355U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 1TB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
MSI Modern 15 B12M Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i7-1255U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 512GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
HP Pavilion Laptop 15t-eg300 Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i7-1355U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 256GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Acer Swift Edge 16 SFE16-43 Windows 11 Home; AMD Ryzen 7 7840U; 16GB DDR5-6400 RAM; 1TB SSD; integrated AMD Radeon 780M Graphics
Acer Aspire 5 A515-57 Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i5-1235U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 512GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics



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