Something that gaming notebooks have not been entirely known for are their value factor. Unfortunately, even when we take the portability factor into account, the excess premium for a gaming notebook compared to a desktop just hasn’t really been justified. However, MSi has sought to bring value back to their gaming notebook line-up thanks to the use of AMD components. Introducing the Alpha 15 - has it paid off? Let’s take a look.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3750H
Display: 15.6" FHD (1920x1080) 120Hz IPS-Level
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5500M 4GB GDDR6
Memory: DDR4, Max 64GB, 2 SO-DIMM Slots
Storage: 1 x M.2 SSD, 1 x 2.5" SATA HDD
Webcam: HD, 30fps@720p
Communication: Killer GB Lan, 802.11ac Wifi, Bluetooth 5
Audio: 2 x 2W speaker
Audio Jack: 1 x Mic-in, 1 x Headphone-out
I/O Ports: 1x Type-C USB3.2 Gen1, 3x Type-A USB3.2 Gen1, 1x RJ45, 1x Micro SD, 1x (4K @ 60Hz) HDMI, 1x Mini-DisplayPort
Battery: 6-Cell, Li-Ion Battery (Type), 51 Battery (Whr)
AC Adapter: 180W Adapter
Dimension (WXDXH): 357.7 x 248 x 27.5 mm
The MSi Alpha 15 A3DDK sports an AMD Ryzen 7 CPU, paired with a Radeon RX 5500M 4GB GDDR6 GPU, and supports up to 64GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM. The notebook is equipped with a 15.6” FHD IPS-Level monitor which supports 1920x1080p resolution, at either 144Hz or 120Hz - the model we tested offered the latter.
MSI has equipped our review unit with a Picasso architecture APU - the aforementioned Ryzen 7. The quad-core processor has a 2.3 GHz base clock, which it can boost up to 4 GHz. It also supports Simultaneous Multithreading, a feature that allows the Ryzen 7 to execute up to two threads per core simultaneously. Testing showed that the CPU can operate around 3.6-3.8 GHz in multi-threaded tasks while plugged-in, and at 2.4Ghz on battery power. That being said, the CPU can go from 2.6-4GHz in single-thread tests while plugged-in and sustains a cool 2.4GHz on battery power.
Storage solutions max out at a single M.2 SSD and support for a single 2.5” SATA drive. Other notable features include an HD webcam - 30fps@720p - a 51Whr battery life, and two 2W speakers. For connections, MSi has provided a single USB3.2 Type-C, three Type-A USB3.2 connections, a single RJ45 connection, a single Micro SD slot, along with a single 4K@60Hz HDMI out port, and a single Mini-DisplayPort connection.
Design And Aesthetics:
The MSi Alpha 15 A3DDK has a fairly mixed build between metal and plastic - with the lid being the only metallic component - however, the plastic feels firm and rigid throughout. While not recommended, holding or carrying the notebook on the corner of the device with the lid open hold firm, with no bending or twisting of the chassis. Thanks to the increased rigidity of the lid, when closed, the notebook holds its shape even more.
All around, the MSi Alpha 15 boasts a clean black finish with a bright green logo on the lid, with the only exceptions being the keyboard, which is dark silver and grey. The somewhat matte finish does leave the lid open to picking fingerprints up quite easily, and they can be a tad difficult to clean off. Making up for this, though, is the fact that MSi was able to shove high-end 1080p gaming, and excellent cooling, into a chassis that is no thicker than 28mm.
As you open the lid, you are greeted with thin bezels around the display, aside from the thick bottom-bezel with a large logo engraved into it. The bottom of the notebook boasts an edgy cooler grill cut, no doubt adding the gaming aesthetic. The rear of the notebook follows a similar trend, with large fins on each side, and a central grille reminiscent of an Italian supercar. All in all, the MSi Alpha 15 offers a sturdy build construction with a premium and edgy design.
The MSi Alpha 15 does boast the most powerful components around but it does promise a fantastic 1080p gaming experience - which it delivers. We tested the Alpha using five titles, namely: Far Cry 5, Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Control, and The Witcher 3. All games were tested at 1080p at the highest settings possible
Far Cry 5 came in at an average 60fps, with a marginal performance boost at Very High settings. Rise of the Tomb Raider came in at an average of 60fps as well, with a larger improvement at Medium, coming in at just over 90fps average.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order came in a respectable 50fps at Ultra settings, with the Alpha 15 pushing 60fps closer to Medium settings. Control was slightly disappointing, though, coming in at just under 40fps at the highest possible settings, but leaped massively to just over 50fps at medium settings. After our test with Control, we were slightly concerned with what the results would be for The Witcher 3 but we were pleasantly surprised - at the highest settings possible the title ran at roughly 45fps, but redeemed itself heavily at one setting group lower, averaging 75fps, and 130fps at Medium.
Thankfully, the 144Hz IPS display did a wonderful job and translating those figures in a vibrant, and beautiful manner. The panel delivers fast response times too and supports AMD FreeSync. The technology dynamically adjusts refresh rates of the display and GPU to maximise smoothness. Those who plan to game on the go will appreciate this more and it means that players have a better experience overall.
While temperatures on the Alpha 15 were pretty low, the fans told you exactly why that was. Unfortunately, the Alpha 15 was rather loud, even at idle, and while it was not deafening, it was certainly noticeable at all times. Gaming was the most impactful task - for obvious reasons - so you can’t sneakily get some gaming time in during a boring meeting, sadly. Everyday performance, such as admin work, was an absolute breeze, and the mostly-minimal aesthetic would not leave you standing out like a sore thumb in a public area - aside maybe from the bright green logo. Lastly, thanks to the low-weight 2.3kgs total weight of the notebook, it was super-convenient and easy to carry around wherever you may be going.
Overall, the MSi Alpha 15 A3DDK proves why AMD should be investing more in the portable gaming market, and while it may not boast the powerful performance figures, it certainly offers a great 1080p gaming experience, and is an excellent all-round notebook. Only let down by the noisy fans, and the fact that it picks up fingerprints like a goblin and shiny things, the MSi Alpha 15 is a fierce competitor - and a better offering - than the Nvidia alternative.
The MSi Alpha 15 A3DDK will be available from FNB for R1399.00 incl. VAT for 24 months.
Workflow optimisation has become a necessity in today’s fast-paced lifestyle, and the easiest way to solve this problem with a traditional desktop is by having a second screen/monitor. Asus has opted to reinvent the notebook with the ZenBook Pro Duo, by incorporating a second screen to keep work performance high and multitasking a priority; all with the convenience of taking the machine where you need to go.
Finish / Color: Celestial BlueOperating System: Windows 10 ProProcessor: Intel® Core™ i9-9980HK processor, 2.4GHz octa-core with Turbo Boost (up to 5.0GHz) and 16MB cache Graphics Card: NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2060Video memory: 6GB GDDR6 VRAMDisplay: 15.6” OLED 4K (3840 x 2160) 16:9 touchscreen5mm-thin bezel with 89% screen-to-body ratio
178° wide-view technology
Memory: 8GB / 16GB / 32GB 2666MHz DDR4Storage: 1TB NVMeInterfaces: 1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 USB-C™ (up to 40Gbps and DisplayPort), 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A (up to 10Gbps), 1 x Standard HDMI 2.0, 1 x Audio combo jack, 1 x DC-inKeyboard: Full-size backlit with 1.4mm key travelScreenPad Plus: 14” 4K UHD (3840 x 1100) touch display, 178˚ wide-view technologyTouchPad: Precision touchpad (PTP) technology supports up to four-finger smart gesturesNumberPad: Integrated LED-backlit numeric keypad on touchpadAudio: ASUS SonicMaster stereo audio system with surround-sound; smart amplifier for maximum audio performance, Array microphone with Cortana and Alexa voice-recognition support, 3.5mm headphone jack, Long-travel voice coils for improved low-frequency response, Certified by Harman KardonCamera: IR webcam with Windows Hello supportWireless Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Intel Wi-Fi 6 with Gig+ performance (802.11ax)Bluetooth®: Bluetooth 5.0Battery and Power: 71Wh 8-cell rechargeable Li-Polymer battery pack, 230W power adapterPlug Type: ø6 (mm)Output: 19.5V DC, 11.8A, 230W), (Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz universal)Weight and Dimensions:Height: 2.4cm (0.94 inches)
Width: 35.9cm (14.13 inches)
Depth: 24.6cm (9.68 inches)
Weight: 2.5kg (5.51 pounds)
Included in the Box: ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581), Discrete palm rest, ASUS PenIncluded Software: ASUS Number Key, ASUS Handwriting, ASUS Quick Key, ASUS Battery Health Charging, ASUS AppDeals
Design and Features:
The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo take its inspiration “from the future” and that theme is recognisable from the moment you take out of the box. The aluminium frame gives the notebook a sturdy feeling, and the pristine spun-metal finish gives it that premium feeling. The Celestial Blue colour scheme adds a feeling of innovation, and truly represents the “futuristic” feeling that Asus takes inspiration from.
The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo take its inspiration “from the future” and that theme is recognisable from the moment you take out of the box
Upon opening the ZenBook Pro Duo, you are greeted with an immaculate 15.6” 4K OLED, Pantone-certified main display, along with a 14-inch 3840 x 1100 second display placed above the keyboard, both of which are touch-capable. The keyboard has been brought all the way down to the bottom of the notebook to make as room as possible for the touch screen above, and the tracking pad has been moved to the right side of the keyboard, doubling as a full NUM-pad.
The ZenBook Pro Duo is equipped with an Intel Core i9 eight-core processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card for powerful rendering, a 1TB NVMe drive to speed up workloads, and 32GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM. For connectivity, the ZenBook Pro Duo comes equipped with a single HDMI port, Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, and two USB Gen 3.1 Gen 2 slots. Lastly, the Pro Duo also features Alexa integration, which you can use to make your day a smidge more convenient, as well as a sound solution that has been tuned by Harman/Kardon.
The ZenBook Pro Duo is equipped with an Intel Core i9 eight-core processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card for powerful rendering, a 1TB NVMe drive to speed up workloads, and 32GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM
The ZenBook Pro Duo streamlines multitasking and work performance tasks thanks to the two screens on offer. The main 4K OLED HDR panel makes colour accurate design work easier to achieve, offering beautiful video and vivid imagery. When editing, using the second screen as the editing table, and the main display as the video, gave us an enhanced editing experience, and the touch functionality of both panels made navigation easier and more immersive.
The ScreenPad Plus allows any programme to be shifted into it, sharing the screen pace in an unorthodox take of the multi-monitor setup. This makes any creative tasks such as 3D animation or video editing a breeze, by giving you more room to work with. Due to the inclusion of the RTX 2060, gaming can also be achieved on the ZenBook Pro Duo, with the ScreenPad Plus doubling as a stream deck for you to control and live-monitor your stream. The ease of switching between apps thanks to the ScreenPad Plus was as simple as a few touches of the screen, effortlessly moving between Spotify and work programmes.
The ScreenPad Plus allows any programme to be shifted into it, sharing the screen pace in an unorthodox take of the multi-monitor setup. This makes any creative tasks such as 3D animation or video editing a breeze, by giving you more room to work with
The Second Screen has an easy-to-navigate menu, called the Launcher, which you will be tutorialised with when first powering the laptop on. The Launcher is used to effortlessly navigate between multiple apps, and is customisable to tailor to your preference. Another method of control for the Second Screen is the Action Menu, which allows you navigate apps to be split between the two screens, or solely on the ScreenPad Plus.
Of course, with all this comes excellent and powerful computing systems, thanks to the 9th Gen, eight-core i9 CPU from Intel, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GFX, 32GB RAM, and 1Tb NVMe drive, all working together to bring seamless multitasking in work performance tasks, as well as gaming. The combination of powerful gaming and work-centric components offers better numbers in synthetic benchmarks compared to its competitors, and makes the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo a much more formidable and versatile machine.
Sadly, this does lead to a pretty hefty impact on the battery life of the ZenBook Pro Duo. This wasn’t too surprising, to be honest, as this is a pretty beefy system that the internal 71-watt-hour battery has to power. Our battery testing came in at roughly 2 hours playing a 1080p film at full brightness, and work performance tasks took a dip when using Power Saving Mode, and only lasted about an hour. Unfortunately, this is the trade-off when you have a powerful rendering desktop in a convenient notebook.
The combination of powerful gaming and work-centric components offers better numbers in synthetic benchmarks compared to its competitors, and makes the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo a much more formidable and versatile machine
Overall, the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is a powerhouse of a notebook, and probably one of the best notebooks you could choose a creative professional. The addition of gaming and work performance components provides a stellar balance of both, and doesn’t compromise on the performance of either. The ScreenPad Plus is an innovation in multi-monitor workloads in a portable device. The only let down here for us was the battery life, but that is to be expected.
The MSi Radeon RX 5700 XT is one of MSi’s most premium Navi graphics cards from AMD, boasting a high-end but simple design aesthetic, and flawless 1440p gaming. However, can the MSi Radeon 5700 XT Gaming X deliver the performance we have been expecting from the AMD line-up? Let’s find out.
MODEL NAME: Radeon RX 5700 XT GAMING X
GRAPHICS PROCESSING UNIT: Radeon™ RX 5700 XT
INTERFACE: PCI Express 4.0
CORES: 2560 Units
CORE CLOCKS: Boost: Up to 1980 MHz Game: Up to 1870 MHzBase: 1730 MHz(Game Clock is the expected GPU clock when running typical gaming applications, set to typical TGP (Total Graphics Power). Actual individual game clock results may vary.)
MEMORY SPEED: 14Gbps
MEMORY: 8GB GDDR6
MEMORY BUS: 256-bit
OUTPUT: DisplayPort x 3 (v1.4) / HDMI 2.0b x 1
HDCP SUPPORT: Y
POWER CONSUMPTION: 225W
POWER CONNECTORS: 8-pin x 2
RECOMMENDED PSU: 750W
CARD DIMENSION(MM): 297 x 58 x 140 mm
WEIGHT (CARD / PACKAGE): 1406g / 2037g
DIRECTX VERSION SUPPORT: 12
OPENGL VERSION SUPPORT: 4.6
MULTI-GPU TECHNOLOGY: Y (Bridgeless)(DX12)
MAXIMUM DISPLAYS: 4
VR READY: Y
DIGITAL MAXIMUM RESOLUTION: 7680x4320
The MSi Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X features an all-new board by the third-party manufacturer, with a hefty cooling design to maximise performance efficiency, and keep the card as quiet as possible. The new RX 5700 XT is based on AMD’s new RDNA compute units and leverages the new 7nm Navi architecture, which offers better power delivery, keeping power draw low compared to performance offered.
The MSi Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X offers 2560 Shader Units, a standard core clock of 1730MHz, and a boost clock of 2025MHz - making it one of the most impressive factory boost clocks of any 5700 XT to date. The 5700 XT Gaming X also sports a 1750MHz memory clock, with 8GB GDDR6 256-bit VRAM, all sitting on the Navi 10 GPU.
Design And Aesthetics:
Out of the box, the MSi Radeon RX 5700 XT offers a beautiful and sleek design, with a brushed aluminium finish, mixed with black accents and a red trim around the fans. The simple, yet stunning, design is a perfect amalgamation of both MSi and AMD, making the RX 5700 XT Gaming X card seems as though it was perfectly made for both companies. Also, it makes for a seamless integration into most gaming towers, able to fit in with all MSi AMD motherboards.
Taking a look around, the the RX 5700 XT Gaming X features two large fans to cool the massive three-slot graphics card, with an impressively sturdy backplate, sporting a similar finish to the front of the card. On the side we see the two 8-pin power connectors to the right, and on the left we have the RGB display that illuminated the MSi logo and brand name. At the rear of the card we can see the display connections, featuring three DisplayPort 1.4a connections and a single HDMI 2.0b port.
With this being a gaming card - hence the Gaming X - we used six gaming titles to test the MSi Radeon RX 5700 XT, namely: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Metro Exodus, Devil May Cry 5, Monster Hunter World, Hitman 2, and The Witcher 3 to give a varying idea of graphically demanding titles. All games were tested at the highest graphical fidelity on both 1080p and 1440p resolutions. It is also important to note that max temperatures came in at 72℃ under load, accounting for ambient room temperature.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey came in at roughly 72fps on average at 1080p, and just under 60fps at 1440p, both using the DX11 API. This was rather impressive considering the serious strain Odyssey can put on even the highest end hardware. Metro Exodus - this time using the DX12 API - averaged at 105fps at 1080p, and 85fps at 1440p. Moving back to the DX11 API, we tested Devil May Cry 5, and we were seriously impressed with the 160fps result on 1080p, as well as the just over 100fps result at 1440p.
Monster Hunter World is a fairly well-optimised title on PC, and the Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X managed to hold just over 100fps at 1080p, and an average 65fps at 1440p. This isn’t at all surprising considering the massive maps that need to be rendered out, along with all the particle effects, and detailing on the monsters, gear, and weapons. Hitman 2 can be rather taxing on a system as well but the Gaming X managed a constant 85fps at 1080p and an average 60fps at 1440p. Finally, The Witcher 3 - renown for its taxation on graphics cards, even after four years, rendered beautifully at just over 120fps at 1080p and 90fps at 1440p.
Overall, the MSi Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X is an excellent 1440p card, or for those who are chasing the 144Hz refresh rate at 1080p. It is quiet, temperatures were way below expected for its performance, and it has great potential for stable overclocking, over-and-above its factory overclock. We loved the premium design and robust build quality for such a hefty card, and while it is slightly more demanding on your electricity bill, the Radeon RX 5700 XT is a worthwhile competitor to its Nvidia counterpart.
The MSi X570 Unify motherboard is a premium unit for the latest Ryzen 3000 CPUs, offering every feature under the sun - except for RGB. A blacked-out board for an edgy aesthetic, to be sure, but does its menacing presence equal its performance? Let’s find out.
CPU (MAX SUPPORT): RYZEN 9
CHIPSET: AMD® X570 Chipset
DDR4 MEMORY: 1866/ 2133/ 2400/ 2667/ 2800/2933 /3000 /3066 /3200 /3466 /3600 /3733 /3866 /4000 /4133 /4266 /4400 /4533 /4600 /4733 /4800 /5000+ Mhz by JEDEC and A-XMP OC MODE
MEMORY CHANNEL: Dual
DIMM SLOTS: 4
MAX MEMORY (GB): 128GB
PCI-E X16: 3
PCI-E X1: 2
M.2 SLOT: 3
TPM (HEADER): 1
LAN: 1x Realtek® RTL8125 2.5 Gbps LAN controller
USB 3.2 PORTS (FRONT): 1(Gen2, Type C), 4(Gen1, Type A)
USB 3.2 PORTS (REAR): 1(Gen2, Type C), 3(Gen2, Type A), 2(Gen1, Type A)
USB 2.0 PORTS (FRONT): 4
USB 2.0 PORTS (REAR): 2
AUDIO PORTS (REAR): 5+ Optical S/PDIF (Realtek® ALC1220 Codec)
FORM FACTOR: ATX
OPERATING SYSTEM: Support for Windows® 10 64-bit
Design And Aesthetics:
The MSi X570 Unify seems fairly bland out of the box, with the only noticeable difference being the increased heat sink sizes, the pre-installed IO shield, and the built-in fan near the bottom. Moving around the board, the MSi X570 Unify features 4 x DIMM slots, 3 x M.2 slots, LED troubleshooting display, a power button, and a reset button. The pre-installed IO shield makes installation much easier - and safer - and is also where the Clear CMOS and BIOS switches are located.
The MSi X570 Unify features a sturdy and rugged build construction, with a server-grade PCB equipped with PCIe 4.0, outfitted with aluminium heatsinks across the board. The SATA plugs have been placed directly adjacent to the USB3.0 connection, and - thankfully - all connections face to the left of the board, making cable management easier, and cleaner. Each M.2 slot comes equipped with M.2 Shield Frozr, ensuring maximum performance by limiting thermal issues.
Most importantly, however, is the dedicated chipset heatsink, which increases performance thanks to it enhances cooling capability. Typically, we would see RGB lighting splattered all over a board such as this, but it seems as though MSi has considered performance over looks in this minimalist motherboard, as there is no RGB lighting in the MSi X570 Unify.
One of the biggest improvements with the new line of X570 motherboards, and the Unify in particular, is the increased bandwidth between NVMe drives, as well as the Ryzen 3000 CPUs. Using AIDA64, we used the “Queens Problem” to benchmark how the motherboard and CPU interact. The “Queens Problem” is a simple integer benchmark that scores the components tested for branch predictions, using a 10x10 chessboard. The MSi X570 Unify scored an impressive mark using this test, coming in at just over 100 000 points.
A standard AIDA64 test was also performed, where the system was run under 100% load for 30 minutes - at out-of-the-box settings - testing the temperature values. Impressively, the system never ran over 51℃, and even at a slight overclock - 4.5Ghz on a Ryzen 2700 - the system didn’t reach 60℃.
Memory cache and bandwidth tests were performed using SANDRA from SiSoftware, and the results were only slightly lower than the MSi MEG X570 ACE which we tested before. However, the differences were so negligible that you probably wouldn’t see the differences between the two in real-world applications.
Boring integer tests and benchmarks aside, one of the biggest - and noticeable - benefits of the MSi X570 Unify included the number of storage devices I could have connected at the same time. On top of this, no drive - which included four SSDs and two NVMe drives - suffered from bandwidth limitations thanks to the new PCIe Gen 4 solution. In a simple File Transfer test, I was able to transfer a 30GB file off a Seagate FireCuda 2TB NVMe drive to a Seagate BarraCuda 1TB SSD, at roughly 1GB/s.
File editing using Adobe programmes was only limited to my RAM capacity - which is still no small feat at 16GB - but transfer speeds and rendering times were significantly improved by the enhanced PCIe Gen 4 solution. Unfortunately, gaming performance was not really impacted, for better or worse, as no gaming application currently comes close to the maximum transfer speeds of PCIe Gen 3, so the upgrade to Gen 4 had no real impact.
Overall, the MSi X570 Unify is an absolutely phenomenal motherboard, packed with features way ahead of its time, showing that MSi wanted to maximise the bandwidth capacity of Ryzen 3000 CPUs. My only issue with the X570 Unify is that the lack of RGB - which I am sure many will praise - does prevent you from customising it so you are limited to a minimalist/blacked out build but that’s all down to personal preference. With results only slightly lower than the MEG X570 ACE, the Unify is a worthwhile addition to the MSi X570 lineup, and one of the better Ryzen 3000 motherboards you can buy.