The MSI Alpha 15 gaming laptop features AMD’s new Radeon RX 5500M graphics combined with an AMD CPU. In this detailed review, you’ll find out the good and bad sides of this combination, and there are definitely some important things you’ll want to know before buying.
MSI Alpha 15
Source: MSI

Overview:

I'll review A3DDK version of the Alpha 15, so there’s an AMD Ryzen 7 3750H quad core CPU, the new Radeon RX 5500M graphics, 16gb of memory in dual channel, a 1080p 144Hz screen with FreeSync, and 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD. For network connectivity, it’s got gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 5.

The Alpha 15 is also available in a cheaper A3DD model with some small changes, you can find updated prices to both linked in the description.

MSI Alpha 15 Weight and Dimensions:

The weight is listed at 2.3kg on the MSI website and mine was exactly on this. With the 180 watt power brick and cable for charging included the total rises to just over 3kg.
The dimensions are similar to many other 15” laptops in terms of width and depth however it’s not exactly thin, hopefully, that extra space gives us some good thermal performance. This thinner footprint gives it 8mm thin screen bezels on the sides. The 15.6” 1080p 144Hz IPS-Level screen has a matte finish, viewing angles looked fine, and it’s got FreeSync with a 48 to 144 range. It’s also available with a 240Hz or 120Hz option too, so these results are only valid for the 144Hz panel.

MSI Alpha 15 Screen:

I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 98% of sRGB, 68% of NTSC, and 73% of AdobeRGB. At 100% brightness, I measured the panel at 320 nits in the center with a 500:1 contrast ratio, so overall it’s pretty decent, a bit lower on the contrast but otherwise not bad.

MSI Alpha 15 Keyboard:

The Steelseries keyboard has per-key RGB backlighting, and in my opinion, it looks better than most other RGB keyboards as the sides are clear to allow light to shine through. There are plenty of effects and changes that can be made through the software, and the product page on the MSI website gives us some examples of what it can do. The brightness can be adjusted between 4 levels by holding the function key and pressing the plus or minus keys on the Numpad, or turned off completely if you prefer. I liked typing with the keyboard, here’s how it sounds to give you an idea of what to expect. There are some extra buttons above the keyboard next to the power button, these let you enable cooler boost for max fan speed, or cycle through keyboard lighting effects. There was some keyboard flex when pushing down hard due to the plastic interior, but I thought it felt solid enough, and I found the letter keys needed 62g of force to actuate.

MSI Alpha 15 TouchPad:

The precision touchpad doesn’t actually click down when pressed as it’s instead got physical left and right-click buttons which makes fairly loud audible presses. I thought the size was ok and didn’t have any problems using it. Fingerprints and dirt show up on the matte black lid and were a little harder to clean off, however the smooth silver plastic interior did a good job of hiding them, and it was much easier to clean in comparison.

MSI Alpha 15 Body:

There is some flex to the metal lid as it’s on the thinner side, however, the hinges felt quite sturdy and are placed out towards the far corners which should aid stability. You can’t quite open it up with one finger, because like many other MSI laptops both the battery and cooling are up the back, so it’s more back heavy, however, it still felt stable using it on my lap.

The lid is a matte black aluminum and the interior is silver plastic. The build quality seemed fair and there were no sharp corners or edges anywhere. The design is a little different to most other MSI laptops, it’s a bit less gamer red which is a welcome change.

Despite the thin screen bezels, the 720p camera is found above the display in the center.

The back just has air exhaust vents on the left and right corners and there’s nothing at all on the front. The matte black metal lid has a couple of grooved lines and the new green logo for the Alpha 15 in the center rather than MSI’s usual dragon. You can see there are some grooves within the circular area.

MSI Alpha 15 Ports:

On the left from the back, there’s a Kensington lock, air exhaust vent, gigabit ethernet port, HDMI 2.0 and mini DisplayPort outputs, both of which are wired directly to the Radeon graphics, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C port, no Thunderbolt here though, and 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks. On the right, there are two USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports right down the front, which are seriously going to get in the way of your mouse hand if you’re right-handed and plug anything in with a cable, full-size SD card slot, and the power input. No air exhaust here, so it’s a bit strange the USB ports weren’t pushed back. All three USB Type-A ports light up red when the laptop is powered on, however, you can control them in the dragon center software to either solid color, breathing or flashing, with the option of full brightness, half brightness, or turned off.

MSI Alpha 15 Inside:

To get inside you need to remove 12 Phillips head screws. Once inside we’ve got the single 2.5” drive bay on the left, WiFi card right next to that, battery right up the back, two memory slots towards the right in the middle, with the single M.2 slot to the right of that, and it supports both NVMe PCIe or SATA storage.

MSI Alpha 15 Speaker:

The two 2 watt speakers are found towards the front on the left and right. They sound ok, pretty average but no bass and a little tinny, however, they got loud enough at maximum volume and the latency on results looked alright.

MSI Alpha 15 Battery:

The Alpha 15 is powered by a 6 cell 51wh battery. I’ve tested it with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled, and keyboard lighting off. While just watching YouTube videos it lasted for 4 hours and 23 minutes, and this was with the Vega graphics which are built into the CPU. While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings it was limited to 29 FPS for the first 57 minutes and was playable, however with 5% a battery left it dropped down to 14 FPS, lasting for 61 minutes in total. The 180-watt power brick that’s included with the Alpha 15 was adequate, I never had any battery drain during any of my testing. 

Other:

The MSI dragon center lets us swap between these different performance modes, I’ve tested silent, balanced, and extreme performance. The main difference was silent mode caps the GPU power limit, otherwise the higher modes have a higher fan speed. We can also set the fan speed between auto or cooler boost, which is maximum, but we can quickly enable this with the shortcut button above the keyboard.

All testing was done with an ambient room with a temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. Stress tests were done with Aida64 CPU stress test and the Heaven GPU benchmark at the same time and gaming results are from playing Watch Dogs 2. The CPU never passed 81 degrees, which is quite cool under this heavy load, there was never any thermal throttling. The GPU is cooler in silent mode due to the harsh power limit cap, otherwise increasing fan speed lowered temperatures a bit and adding a cooling pad helped a bit more.

We can see why GPU temps were down in silent mode, the power limit cap restricts it from performing well. Otherwise balanced and extreme modes performed very similarly. No undervolting was done here as the AMD Mobile platform doesn’t currently support this.


Specifications are:
Display size:                    15.6 inch full HD
Display type:                    IPS Level, 144 HzAntiGlare display (60Hz Refresh Rate)
Processor:                        Ryzon 7 3750H
RAM:                                 16(8*2)GB DDR 4
Storage:                            512 SSD
Graphics:                          AMD Radeon RX5500M 4GB
Preinstalled Software:    Windows 10
Ports and CD drive:         USB 3. 2 Gen1 *2 USB 3. 2 Gen1 *3 LAN AzureWave AW-CB375NF (2x2 802. 11 ac)
Other features:                 Full sized back-lit keyboard, BT 5 720p HD Webcam



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