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Laptop Review: MSI Creator 17


The MSI Creator 17 is a large, powerful laptop with an exceptional 4K miniLED HDR display.

All product photography by DL Cade.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen tens if not hundreds of ‘creator’ laptops crop up on the market. If you want to appeal to digital artists and creatives of all stripes, just slap an NVIDIA GPU inside, use a panel that covers at least 100% sRGB, make sure there’s an SD card slot, and you can call it a ‘creator’ laptop.

True creator laptops that have all of the bells and whistles that photo and video editors actually need are fewer and further between.

Fortunately, the MSI Creator 17 that we’re looking at today is one of those laptops. It combines some of the most powerful hardware on the market with tons of connectivity and a gorgeous 4K HDR miniLED display – a first for any laptop when it was originally announced.

The MSI Creator 17 combines some of the most powerful hardware on the market with a gorgeous 4K HDR miniLED display

In other words: the Creator 17 has all of the features many photo and video professionals need, want, and use on a daily basis. And while it doesn’t come without its faults, this 17-inch workhorse is worth a close look if you’re interested in a powerful desktop replacement with a professional-grade display that can chew through almost any creative task.



Key specifications:

The Creator 17 series is split into three main model tiers based on the NVIDIA GPU inside. There’s the B11UE, B11UG, and B11UH that come with an RTX 3060, RTX 3070, and RTX 3080, respectively.

Beyond that, each of these computers can sport up to an Intel Core i9-11900H CPU, up to 64GB of 3200MHz DDR4 RAM, and two M.2 NVMe SSDs (one PCIe 3.0, one PCIe 4.0). Finally, all three models can be configured with one of two displays: a photo- and gaming-friendly 120Hz 4K IPS panel that claims 100% coverage of Adobe RGB, or an HDR- and video-editor friendly 60Hz 4K miniLED display that claims 100% coverage of DCI-P3.

The build we’re testing is pretty much the most expensive configuration of the Creator 17 that you can actually find available: with a Core i9-11900H, NVIDIA RTX 3080, 32GB of DDR4-3200, 2TB of PCIe 4.0 M.2 storage, and a price tag of $3,800.

As Tested Best for Photo Best for Video

Model Number B11UH B11UG B11UH
CPU Core i9-11900H Core i7-11800H Core i7-11800H
GPU

NVIDIA RTX 3080

16GB VRAM

NVIDIA RTX 3070

8GB VRAM

NVIDIA RTX 3080

16GB VRAM

RAM 32GB DDR4-3200

16GB DDR4-3200

(upgrade at home as needed)

32GB DDR4-3200

(upgrade at home as needed)

Storage 2TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0
Display

17.3-inch 4K HDR miniLED Display

100% DCI-P3

17.3-inch 4K IPS Display

100% AdobeRGB

17.3-inch 4K HDR miniLED Display

100% DCI-P3

Price $3,800 $2,550 $3,500

Obviously you don’t have to spend $3,800 in order to get good photo or video-editing performance out of this machine. You can safely choose less storage or 16GB of RAM and upgrade these later at home, or opt for the more affordable 120Hz non-HDR display if you’re not interested in HDR content or video editing.

We’ve listed our recommended configurations for photo and video editors above, based on builds that are currently available online.

Whichever variant you choose, you’ll be getting a high-powered laptop that has a lot to offer in terms of both performance and usability. Even the most ‘affordable’ variant still features an excellent display and a CPU/GPU combo that can churn through big projects in Photoshop, Capture One or Premiere Pro.

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Design, build and usability

The Creator 17 is a big, heavy laptop with lots of ports and a full-sized keyboard.

The MSI Creator 17 is a bit of a tank. Partly because of its size, but also because of its build quality and miniLED display, this is neither a light nor portable device. The bezels around the 17.3-inch display are tiny, measuring just 1/4 of an inch, but the overall weight and dimensions are still quite large: the laptop is 15.6 inches x 10.2 inches (39.6cm x 25.9cm) and it weighs in at just over 5.4 lbs (2.4kg).

Fortunately, the added size hasn’t been wasted.

Lots of ports

In addition to the large high-quality display, the Creator 17’s large chassis allowed MSI to include a bunch of ports that have all-but disappeared from many of this laptop’s competitors. This is the kind of port selection we expect when we review a 17-inch laptop, but that’s not always what we get.

The Creator 17’s large chassis allowed MSI to include a bunch of ports that have all-but disappeared from many modern laptops

On the left-hand side, you have the barrel port for power, a 2.5G ethernet port for networking, two USB Type-A ports and an audio combo jack. On the right-hand side, you get one Thunderbolt 4 port, one USB Type-C port with DisplayPort capabilities, an HDMI 2.1 port, and the requisite SD card slot.

On the left side of the Creator 17 you’ll find a power plug, a 2.5-gigabit ethernet port, two USB Type-A ports, and an audio combo jack.
The right side of the laptop comes equipped with a USB Type-C port, an SD card slot, a Thunderbolt 4 port, and an HDMI 2.1 port.

This is just about the most comprehensive I/O we’ve seen for a laptop that isn’t marketed to gamers, especially when you consider the Ethernet port.

It’s this port selection, when paired with the large and color-accurate 4K display, that makes the Creator 17 a great desktop replacement for creatives. Not only can you off-load your SD cards, use your USB-A peripherals, take advantage of Thunderbolt 4, or use HDMI 2.1 to power a 4K 120Hz display, you can quickly and effectively back up your files over the network as well.

Keyboard and trackpad

Excellent port selection aside, the rest of MSI’s design choices were a bit more ‘hit-or-miss’ for me. The keyboard is solid, but the keycaps are a bit smaller than I’m used to and they take a more travel than most of the low-profile keyboards that I’ve used. This makes for a slightly ‘mushy’ feeling that translates into a slower typing experience for me personally.

The number pad is another questionable design choice. I don’t find myself using it very much, but it forces the rest of the keyboard to the left, which means that one of my palms is constantly resting on the trackpad whenever I’m typing. Palm rejection worked well – I only ever moved or clicked the mouse by accident a few times – but it’s a less comfortable experience overall, and I’m not sure a number pad is worth it.

The MSI Creator 17 comes with a full-sized keyboard, number pad included, but a rather small and skinny trackpad.

Speaking of the trackpad, I could have done with something a bit larger. For the sake of cooling, MSI put a big grill at the top of the device, but this forces the keyboard deck downwards and crushes the trackpad into a long and skinny orientation. The result is a touch surface that’s about twice as wide as it is tall, so while you can comfortably move from one side of the screen to the other without lifting your finger, you can only get about 2/3 of the way up the screen before you run out of trackpad.

The surface and click mechanic are smooth and precise, but it’s very small compared to the massive trackpads you find on competitors like the Dell XPS 17 or the MacBook Pro 16, and I found myself reaching for a wireless mouse far more often.

A note on upgradability

The final thing I want to mention about the design of the Creator 17 is its upgradability. On paper, two user-accessible M.2 slots, two user-accessible RAM slots, and a user-upgradable WiFi card make this a very tempting system for anyone who wants to buy a cheaper configuration and upgrade it later at home… but there are a couple of catches.

First, in order to open up the the Creator 17 you need to tear through a ‘Factory Seal’ sticker and void your warranty. I understand why some companies do this, but in my opinion, if you’re going to allow users to replace key internals you shouldn’t punish them for doing so.

The Creator 17’s RAM slots are located on the underside of the motherboard, making at-home upgrades much more difficult.

Second, while the computer can support up to 64GB of DDR4-3200, the RAM slots are located on the underside of the motherboard, making them really difficult to reach if you want to save some money and upgrade your memory at home. I’m fairly confident in my abilities to take apart and put a laptop back together – I’ve done it many times – but I quit partway through disassembling the Creator 17.

While the computer can support up to 64GB of RAM, the memory slots are located on the underside of the motherboard, making them really difficult to reach.

After removing the back panel and the battery, one of the ribbon cables coming off the motherboard simply wouldn’t budge – the little metal bracket holding it in place refused to flip up and release the cable. Any more pressure might have snapped the bracket, torn the cable, or otherwise left me holding the bill for a $3,800 loaner PC.

It’s unfortunate, because buying a Creator 17 with only 16GB of RAM and upgrading it yourself is a great choice for any budget-savvy photographer who wants a powerful laptop with an excellent display. We couldn’t even find a pre-built version with 64GB of RAM already installed, so that option is basically only available to do-it-yourself types. But upgrading the RAM yourself is far more daunting than I expected, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who doesn’t have ample experience.

Design and usability takeaways

The design and usability of the MSI Creator 17 can best be described as a series of tradeoffs:

  • It’s built like a tank, but it’s very heavy
  • It has tons of great I/O and a miniLED display, but it’s got a very thick chassis
  • It’s got a full-sized keyboard, but the main part of the keyboard is awkwardly placed and the keycaps are kind of small
  • The design ensures plenty of cooling for top performance, but this forced MSI to use a relatively tiny trackpad
  • It’s very upgradable, but not all of your components are easily accessible

These are all tradeoffs I can live with. I often carry a wireless mouse around with me anyway, and as a long-time Apple user any upgradability is a win. But your needs (and mileage) may vary.

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Screen quality

The Creator 17’s ‘True Pixel’ 4K miniLED HDR display is bright, color accurate, and covers almost 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.

One of the main reasons we wanted to review the MSI Creator 17 is that it was the first laptop with a miniLED display. Long before Apple announced the new MacBook Pros, MSI unveiled this bad boy with a factory calibrated display that claims a maximum sustained brightness of 1000 nits, 100% coverage of DCI-P3, an average Delta E of less than 2, and full-array local dimming for enhanced contrast.

It’s a proper 4K HDR display that earns VESA’s stringent DisplayHDR 1000 certification, putting it right up there with some of the best HDR monitors on the market.

The Creator 17 features a 4K HDR display that earns VESA’s stringent DisplayHDR 1000 certification, putting it right up there with some of the best HDR monitors on the market.

But we’ve been burned by advertised specs before, especially where HDR performance is concerned, so we put the Creator 17 through a few basic display tests to see if it’s genuinely ready for color-critical photo and video editing, both SDR and HDR. The short answer: yes it is.

Gamut and Color Accuracy

At a glance, the colors coming from our MSI Creator 17 were already quite good out of the box thanks to the factory calibration, but we did end up re-calibrating the display to get the best possible results. When I first powered on the computer, MSI’s ‘True Color’ app automatically set the display to the AdobeRGB color mode. I’m not sure how it decides this – especially since this panel is better suited for DCI- or Display-P3 – but that was the default setting for me.

To get the widest possible gamut out of the display, you need to open up MSI True Color, select the Customize tab, and choose the ‘Native’ color space:

From here, if you’re not happy with the factory calibration and you want to adjust your white point so it matches your other displays, you have a couple of options. You can calibrate your display using an app like DisplayCAL, adjusting your RGB gains manually inside the Customize tab; or, if you own an i1Display Pro colorimeter, you can use the Calibration Tool built into the ‘Tools’ tab under Customize, which will re-calibrate and re-profile the display automatically.

We tried both, and were pleasantly surprised by the built-in calibration system. According to MSI, this does not constitute proper hardware calibration – there’s no hardware LUT sitting on a chip between your display and the graphics card, it’s all being handled in software – but the MSI True Color app will automatically set your white point to D65, generate a new Native profile, and create a bunch of color space presets without you ever having to touch a slider.

As it happens, the system works well. In fact, the results from the self-calibration using MSI’s built-in tool were actually better than what we achieved manually.

Before calibrating the display, the measured gamut coverage and Delta E were already pretty great: 82.6% AdobeRGB, 98.5% DCI-P3, and a maximum Delta E of just 1.17 according to DisplayCAL and an i1Display Pro Plus. However, our color temp was a bit cooler than we’d like, sitting right around 6200K, and the white point was a Delta E of 3.74 from the daylight locus (where the Red, Green, and Blue primaries are balanced).

After adjusting the red, green, and blue gains manually in MSI True Color, things get much better. The display’s white point is now almost right on D65: with a color temperature of ~6500K and balanced RGB primaries. For our panel, this required adjusting the RGB primaries by -5, -6, and -3, respectively:

After profiling the re-calibrated display and running a fresh measurement report, you can see the difference immediately. We ended up with a slightly higher maximum Delta E and a slightly lower average Delta E, but our white point was much closer to daylight. The Delta E of our measured white point vs the daylight locus was just 0.54. Gamut coverage was unchanged.

It’s nice to have this kind of control over your RGB gains, even in software. But the real surprise came when we reset all of the color settings and used the MSI True Color calibration tool instead of doing it manually.

After running the built-in calibration, we changed the display back to the Native preset, profiled the display without applying any sort of calibration, and checked the results. The white point, without any RGB adjustment, was just about perfect. Red, Green, and Blue primaries are balanced and the color temp is much closer to 6500K:

When we ran our measurement report, we found that every quantitative measure of color accuracy had improved. Maximum Delta E dropped to 0.97, average Delta E dropped to 0.2, and the white point was only 0.38 away from the daylight locus.

These are some of the best results we’ve seen from any laptop display, and the fact that MSI’s built-in app can do all the work for you is a nice bonus.

However you choose to calibrate and profile your display, the Creator 17 delivers professional-grade color-accuracy, with gamut coverage and Delta E that just about matches this laptop’s main competition: the M1 Max MacBook Pro 16 that we reviewed in November.

The Creator 17 delivers professional-grade color-accuracy, with gamut coverage and Delta E that just about matches Apple’s new MacBook Pro 16

In our tests, the MSI Creator 17 has slightly worse gamut coverage but superior color accuracy. Allowing for a bit of variation from measurement to measurement and panel to panel, I’d say these these two displays are basically identical, putting the MSI Creator 17 on par with one of the best laptop displays on the market.

HDR Performance

Most high-end laptops with ‘HDR capable’ displays have no business putting HDR on the box. With no full-array local dimming, most of the LCD displays in modern laptops can’t generate the contrast required for true HDR. On the other end of the spectrum, OLED displays have perfect contrast, but they simply can’t get bright enough. They may be able to hit 500 nits or higher on a 10% patch, but that number drops to 200 nits or less for full screen white.

The MSI Creator 17 is one of the very few laptop displays on the market that is truly HDR capable. With an advertised full screen brightness of 1000 nits and a measured peak brightness of ~1150 nits in our tests, it can definitely get bright enough. And thanks to the excellent native color gamut and 240 local dimming zones, it can produce the saturated colors and contrast you need to view or edit HDR content.

In short: the MSI Creator 17 is one of the few Windows laptops that can be used for proper HDR photo or video editing.

This capability benefits hugely from the HDR improvements recently implemented in Windows 11, which no longer washes out your entire desktop and SDR apps when HDR mode is turned on system-wide. For the first time on a Windows PC, I was able to leave the laptop in HDR mode for long stretches, even when I wasn’t viewing HDR content. It’s not quite as seamless as Apple’s implementation with the new MacBook Pros, but it’s big step up from the Windows 10 experience.

The Creator 17’s HDR display makes a perfect companion for a high-end HDR monitor like the miniLED-backlit ASUS PA32UCG pictured here.

Unfortunately, there is one way that the Creator 17 display falls short of the very similar miniLED HDR displays inside the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros from Apple: local dimming zones.

Where Apple was able to fit over 2,500 local dimming zones into the backlight on the 16-inch MacBook Pros, the Creator 17 only has 240 dimming zones to its name. While both of these displays will show some blooming, also known as the halo effect, it is far less prevalent on the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The MSI Creator 17 is one of the few Windows laptops that can be used for proper HDR photo or video editing

It’s easy to understand why: where the Creator 17 has one dimming zone for every 185 x 185 block of pixels, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has one dimming zone for every 55 x 55 block of pixels. This fact becomes painfully obvious the moment you put the two side-by-side and open up some HDR content where you have a bright object against a black screen. The photo below – a 1-second exposure taken in a darkened room after loading up the same HDR ‘blooming’ test on both laptops – highlights the performance gap between these two displays:

We loaded up the same HDR blooming test on the MSI Creator 17 (left) and the M1 Max MacBook Pro (right) and photographed the results in a darkened room.

Source: https://youtu.be/AYtvehF9-Z8

MSI deserves praise for being the first manufacturer to put a proper miniLED display inside a laptop. Their attempt pre-dates Apple, and the Creator 17 is still one of the few HDR laptops you can actually use for HDR editing. We just know that better is possible.

If you need a Windows laptop for HDR editing today, this is one of the best and only viable options on the market, but keep in mind that this technology is still in its early stages. Apple already raised the bar with the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, and if this year’s CES was anything to go by, there are lots more miniLED laptops on the way in 2022.

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Performance benchmarks

The Creator 17 can be configured with a lot of CPU and GPU horsepower, making it one of the fastest photo- and video-editing machines we’ve tested.

If you’ve been following our laptop reviews, the Creator 17’s performance shouldn’t surprise you: it’s exactly as good as the hardware inside suggests it should be. Put it up against any other laptop with an Intel Core i9-11900H, 32GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, and a 95W RTX 3080 laptop GPU with 16GB of VRAM and you’ll get very similar results, give or take a few seconds.

The specs I just mentioned are some of the best you can get inside a PC laptop, and having such a large and well-cooled chassis means that MSI is trying to squeeze every ounce of performance out the CPU, GPU, and RAM inside this machine. Whether you’re editing in Lightroom Classic, Capture One Pro, Photoshop, or Premiere Pro, you can expect this laptop to chew through your workflow as fast or faster than any of its immediate competitors in the PC space.

For comparison purposes, we tested the Creator 17 against two of its main rivals we happened to have on-hand: the Dell XPS 17, and the MacBook Pro 16. Unfortunately, we couldn’t match these computers spec for spec for this showdown – the MacBook Pro Apple sent over has twice the RAM, and the XPS 17 is using a slightly less powerful Core i7-1180H CPU – but the results should help place the Creator 17’s performance in context.

MSI Creator 17 Apple MacBook Pro 16 Dell XPS 17
CPU Intel Core i9-11900H

M1 Max

10-core CPU

Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU

NVIDIA RTX 3080

16GB VRAM

M1 Max

32-core GPU

NVIDIA RTX 3060

6GB VRAM

RAM 64GB Unified Memory 32GB DDR4-3200MHz 32GB DDR4-3200MHz
Storage 2TB PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSD 2TB Integrated SSD 1TB PCIe 3.0 M.2 NVMe SSD
Display

miniLED 4K HDR Display

1000 nits

100% DCI-P3

miniLED 4K HDR Display

1000 nits

100% Display P3

4K UHD+ LCD Display

500 nits

100% AdobeRGB

Price $3,800 $4,300 $2,800

As usual, all of our benchmarks are run with the laptops plugged in and fully charged, with all accessible power management settings set to the highest performance setting available. Each benchmark was run a minimum of three times, then averaged to produce the results that are reported in the tables and graphs.

Whether you’re editing in Lightroom Classic, Capture One Pro, Photoshop, or Premiere Pro, you can expect this laptop to chew through your workflow as fast or faster than any of its immediate competitors in the PC space

Note: You’ll notice the numbers below are different from the results reported in our MacBook Pro review, which featured this same trio of laptops. That’s because we re-tested them after a clean Install of Windows 11 (on the PCs) and an upgrade to Capture One Pro 22 (on all three).

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Our Lightroom Classic benchmarks involve importing 100 copies of the DPReview studio scene RAW photo from the Canon EOS R6, Nikon Z7 II, Sony a7R IV, and Fujifilm GFX 100, generating 1:1 previews, applying the same preset, and them exporting each batch of RAW files as full-sized, 100% quality JPEGs. We split these results into two different tests: the time it takes to import and generate 1:1 previews, and the time it takes to export the fully edited files at 100% JPEGs.

Lightroom import is pretty much a CPU-bound task, so we expected the MSI Creator 17’s Core i9 to best the Dell XPS 17’s Core i7 and either match or outperform the M1 Max MacBook Pro. That is more or less what happened:

Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
Creator 17 1:24 2:19 2:31 5:38
MacBook Pro 1:24 2:17 2:23 5:55
XPS 17 1:29 2:23 2:39 5:28

Exports, on the other hand, rely heavily on the amount and the speed of the RAM used by your system.

The MacBook Pro has more RAM and much faster RAM than either of the PCs, so it’s no surprise that it comes out on top. Meanwhile, the Creator 17 and XPS 17 trade blows, posting times that are within a few seconds of each other on three of the four exports. We’re not sure what happened on that fourth run, but it appears that the faster CPU and/or the more powerful GPU is somehow giving the Creator 17 a leg up over the Dell, shaving nearly four minutes off the Fujifilm GFX 100 export time:

Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
Creator 17 3:34 7:46 9:54 21:09
MacBook Pro 2:27 5:11 6:39 11:06
XPS 17 3:33 7:40 9:56 24:51

In both tests, the MSI Creator 17 is extremely quick, hampered only by the fact that Adobe doesn’t use GPU acceleration to speed up either imports or exports. If it did, the XPS 17 would have a much harder time keeping up.

Capture One 22

Our Capture One Pro tests are the same as Lightroom Classic, with one exception. On Import, we can’t create 1:1 previews, so we generate the default 2560px previews instead. The benchmarks are otherwise identical, including the preset (or, in this case, the ‘Style’) that we apply to each batch of RAW files before we export 100% JPEGs.

Because Capture One uses the GPU to accelerate both imports and exports, the MSI Creator 17 makes up some serious ground on the MacBook Pro and outperforms the Dell XPS 17 in every test. This is where the NVIDIA RTX 3080 GPU can flex its combination of additional CUDA cores and VRAM.

Imports are a big win for the Creator 17 across the board:

Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
Creator 17 00:41 00:55 1:04 1:33
MacBook Pro 00:42 1:03 1:16 2:01
XPS 17 00:49 1:14 1:32 2:10

And exports were a much closer battle, despite the MacBook’s faster and more plentiful RAM. As expected, the Dell’s weaker CPU/GPU combo see it falling to third place in this particular benchmark:

Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
Creator 17 1:34 3:19 4:00 6:23
MacBook Pro 00:54 2:01 2:23 4:20
XPS 17 1:48 3:49 4:28 7:13

It costs a pretty penny to upgrade to a laptop with an RTX 3080 over something like the Dell’s RTX 3060, but this is where you’ll start to see the benefits of that upgrade. If you use apps like Capture One Pro and Premiere Pro (see below) that actually take advantage of a powerful GPU, it’s worth considering that upgrade. If not, you may as well opt for a configuration with a more affordable GPU.

Photoshop

To test Photoshop performance, we use an older version (v0.8) of Puget Systems’ PugetBench benchmark. This comes with two main advantages.

  1. Version 0.8 was the final version of this benchmark that included a Photo Merge test, which checks how fast the computer can stitch together two different 6-photo RAW panoramas.
  2. Because it’s a script and not a plugin or separate piece of software, this older version takes full advantage of the Apple Silicon-optimized version of Photoshop.

The benchmark produces an Overall score that’s based on five category scores: General, GPU, Filter, and PhotoMerge. Higher scores are better.

You can see the results from our three laptops below:

Overall General GPU Filter PhotoMerge
Creator 17 1033.8 111.5 116.5 87.1 119.8
MacBook Pro 1253.9 123.9 115.9 108.8 161.4
XPS 17 996.9 108.2 109.8 84.2 113.7

The MSI Creator 17 is one of the first PCs we’ve tested that breaks the 1000 mark overall, and the GPU score of 116.5 is the highest we’ve seen from any computer that we’ve tested thus far. There are a few laptops out there with 140-150W RTX 3080 GPUs that could probably outpace the Creator 17 on this benchmark, but those are even thicker, heavier, and usually targeted at gamers.

Among creator PCs, this is the best Photoshop performance we’ve seen.

Premiere Pro

Our fourth and final set of benchmarks shift over from photo to video editing, where we check to see how quickly the laptops can render and export a 4K Premiere Pro project made up of 8K Sony a1 footage.

You can see the video we’re using here:

This is another application that takes full advantage of the RTX 3080 GPU inside the MSI Creator 17, giving it a leg up over the XPS 17 in every single test.

Neither computer can keep up with the fully loaded M1 Max MacBook Pro – partly because of the increased RAM, and partly because its GPU has access to all 64GB of unified memory – but the Creator 17 still manages to post the fastest render and export times we’ve ever clocked from a PC.

Render All Export Master File Export H.264 Export HEVC/H.265 Warp Stabilize
Creator 17 3:53 00:12 3:27 3:06 2:32
MacBook Pro 2:04 00:05 1:42 1:42 1:48
XPS 17 4:12 00:15 3:57 3:41 2:32

Performance takeaways

As I said at the top of this section, the performance of the Creator 17 isn’t surprising… but it is impressive. It consistently outpaced the XPS 17 and posted some of the fastest import, export, and render times of any PC we’ve tested at DPReview.

Overall, these results highlight the kind of performance improvement you can expect when you upgrade from the Core i7 and RTX 3060 in the Dell to a beefier Core i9 and RTX 3080. That upgrade will cost you a chunk of change, and the benefits you see depend largely on the apps you use to edit photos and video, but hopefully tests like these can help you make a wiser buying decision when it’s time to upgrade.

Performance isn’t everything, and there are definitely faster PC laptops out there, but as of this writing the MSI Creator 17 is undoubtedly one of the fastest ‘creator’ PCs you can buy.

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A desktop replacement with an excellent HDR display

The MSI Creator 17 is a big laptop that makes the most sense as a desktop replacement for creators who want to work with HDR content.
What We Like What We Don’t Like
  • Excellent 4K miniLED display with proper HDR 1000 certification
  • High performance internals, with up to an Intel Core i9-11900H and NVIDIA RTX 3080 GPU
  • Tons of ports, including 2.5G ethernet, an SD card slot, HDMI 2.1, Thunderbolt 4, and multiple USB-A ports
  • Up to 64GB of RAM that is (sort of) user upgradable
  • Two M.2 slots for up to 8TB of storage
  • Full size keyboard with number pad
  • Big and heavy, not a very ‘portable’ laptop
  • Upgrading RAM requires removing the whole motherboard
  • Tiny trackpad and slightly cramped keyboard (due to num pad)
  • Powerful hardware still drains the large 99.9WHr battery very quickly with heavy workload

The MSI Creator 17 is a 17-inch creator laptop that’s not afraid to lean in to that identity. It’s big, bulky, and heavy, but it’s also packed with ports, powerful hardware, and one of the best and brightest displays in any laptop currently on the market. It’s a laptop that’s meant to be used plugged in – maybe even docked to an external HDR monitor and wired up to your home network – about 90% of the time. The other 10% is just another one of those trade-offs I mentioned.

The MSI Creator 17 is one of the most powerful creator laptops on the market, and one of the very few that isn’t abusing the term ‘HDR’ for marketing purposes

It’s not a perfect laptop (is there such a thing?) and MSI will no doubt improve on the design in future iterations. The keyboard, trackpad, and especially the RAM accessibility could and should all be improved, and the miniLED display could do with a few more local dimming zone to decrease blooming.

But in the meantime, I can confidently say that the MSI Creator 17 is one of the most powerful creator laptops on the market, and one of the very few that isn’t abusing the term ‘HDR’ for marketing purposes. It’s a proper desktop replacement that’s worthy of that ‘Creator’ title.

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