At Computex 2021, in addition to the mobile GPU generation Radeon RX 6000M, AMD also officially introduced a new standard called the AMD Advantage Design Framework. It is the result of a collaborative effort between AMD and global PC manufacturing partners to set a common standard for top gaming laptop models and the performance they deliver. And our MSI Alpha 15 review unit is also one of the first AMD Advantage standard laptops.
Laptops that meet AMD Advantage standards must meet at least the following requirements: Equipped with Ryzen 5000 APU, Radeon RX 6000M graphics card, 100 fps or more at Full HD resolution to meet gaming needs, IPS/OLED display with AMD FreeSync Premium support, Full HD resolution with 144Hz refresh rate, 300 nits brightness, 512 GB NVMe SSD, and battery capacity is enough to play videos continuously for 10 hours. And you will get all these features in our MSI Alpha 15 review unit.
If you find the Alpha 15’s design somewhat familiar there’s a reason: MSI often uses the chassis of the series models with minor changes in appearance, and the Alpha 15 shares its design with the MSI Pulse GL66 (REVIEW) and MSI Katana GF66. That way, MSI can cut manufacturing costs and focus more on the processing power and overall experience of the device.
The main difference to the MSI Alpha 15 is that the A-side (lid) is made of sturdy metal with two protruding ribs on either side and in the Alpha, Bravo, and Delta models, MSI uses its own stylized Phoenix logo. Instead of a dragon, we think the new logo is beautiful, but it might disappoint longtime “dragon” fans a bit.
The MSI Alpha 15 is a 15.6-inch gaming laptop with a matching body, 24 mm thick, and weighs around 2.3 kg. For those of you gamers, who are accustomed to “carrying weight” in games, it’s still not “for anything,” and in return, we have a solid, sturdy built quality laptop, like there is almost no flex phenomenon in the keyboard and lid areas.
The number of ports on the MSI Alpha 15 meets what is most needed for a gamer. On the left side, next to the power port, we have a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port and a USB 2.0 Type-A port. The other side is the appearance of a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port that supports output DisplayPort, one more USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, and one HDMI 2.0b port that supports 4K60Hz video output, a 3.5mm combo jack, and one Gigabit RJ-45 network port. Of course, using AMD’s hardware platform, the Alpha 15 MSI notebook will not have a Thunderbolt 4 port. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 are the built-in wireless connections inside the AMD gaming laptop.
The rear edge of the device is two large heat sinks designed in the style of the exhaust pipe of a supercar, in addition to having no other connection ports. We think many laptop manufacturers are missing this area when wired connections such as LAN, charger, USB, etc. can be placed here so that the two sides of the laptop are not affected when in use.
Below the bottom, MSI Alpha 15 continues to use a honeycomb design to get air for the CoolerBoost 5 cooling system. we counted a total of 6 copper pipes, 2 for CPU, 3 for GPU, and 1 for VRM rig. MSI Alpha 15 also has a fairly “stable” hardware upgrade when you can upgrade to up to 64GB of RAM with two slots and add an M.2 SSD if you feel that 512 GB available is not enough for you. Most of the remaining space is reserved for the 90 Wh battery.
MSI Alpha 15 owns a 15.6-inch IPS Full HD screen, AMD Advantage standard with 144Hz refresh rate, 300 nit brightness, thin border design on both sides, thick bottom border to push the screen up to avoid impact and desired temperature when in use. The top edge of the screen houses a webcam and mic cluster, there’s no infrared for the Windows Hello feature and no privacy switch covering the webcam, but you can turn it on and off with the F6 key on the keyboard.
After doing a little research, we found out that the MSI Alpha 15 uses the AUO’s B156HAN08.0 panel, which is also the panel that MSI comes equipped with on the Katana GF66. From practical experience, we think this panel has good display quality, vivid colors, and high contrast suitable for gaming and entertainment needs in general. The panel’s color coverage is about 92% sRGB, 72% NTSC, and 67% AdobeRGB, white balance is a bit cold, and editing photos posted on social networks is comfortable, but with graphic needs, you may need to rebalance. Take into account screen color or secondary monitor usage.
The MSI Alpha 15’s two external speakers are placed below, providing a larger total volume and better mid and treble range than we expected. However, due to the small size of the speaker, there is no area for the passive drivers to produce bass, so the bass range is non-existent. MSI offers Nahimic software to optimize sound quality, but you should still invest in a quality headset for the best gaming experience.
Keyboard and touchpad
MSI Alpha 15 has a full-size keyboard, but the Numpad has been “squeezed” to fit the size of the machine. The typing feel of the keys is very good, the key travel is deep with distinct tactile feedback, the letter keys are sized and spaced just right, and the keyboard has no flex when pressed down.
The keyboard also has RGB LEDs to increase aesthetics and use at night, you can customize the mode and color through the MSI Center software, but this is not an RGB LED per key but an LED single region. Even so, the LED bulb has good brightness, and the characters printed on the keycap allow large amounts of light to pass through easily.
The touchpad is not something gamers care too much about on gaming laptops, but the MSI Alpha 15 still fulfills its role with a large enough touchpad, smooth scrolling, and full Windows Precision support for scrolling and swiping.
1080p 100 fps is the goal it should achieve, or more accurately, for a laptop in the AMD Advantage program. While the Ryzen 7 5800H is a very powerful APU from AMD with 8 cores/16 threads built on TSMC’s 7nm process, the Radeon RX 6600M itself is a somewhat unfamiliar GPU when the MSI Alpha 15 is a laptop. It is the first time we are experiencing this GPU. With 8GB GDDR6 memory, 28 compute units (CUs), and 224 GB/s memory bandwidth, we expect the Radeon RX 6600M to be able to compete fairly with Nvidia’s mobile RTX 3060.
Two “perks” of laptops in the AMD Advantage program are AMD Smart Access Memory and AMD SmartShift. Smart Access Memory technology allows the processor to access the entire VRAM (graphic memory) instead of being limited to 256 MB as before, helping to improve performance in games by up to 15%.
Meanwhile, SmartShift will automatically adjust the power for the processor and GPU according to each specific application, so that the device always maximizes performance while saving energy, even when playing good games or working with heavy graphics software.
We mentioned the MSI Center software in the ability to customize the keyboard LED, but it’s an “all-in-one” software where you can monitor system health, activate gaming mode, and more. You can choose from profiles that MSI calls “User Scenario” which includes Extreme Performance, Balanced, Silent, and Super Battery. Along with benchmarking and measuring gaming performance, we always choose Extreme Performance.
Starting with CineBench R23, a tool to measure CPU performance through rendering tasks with single-core and multi-core tests. Ryzen 7 5800H scored 1392 single-core and 11,505 multi-core. Compared to Intel Core i7-11800H, Ryzen 7 5800H is slightly better in multi-core, but slightly worse in single-core due to the maximum clock at only 4.4 GHz.
Geekbench 5 is a well-known cross-platform benchmark software that we used in this MSI Alpha 15 review. With the CPU test, the Alpha 15 scored 1442 single-core and 7971 multi-core points, while the Radeon RX 6600M GPU scored 58,146 points in the OpenCL test.
PCMark 10 is a toolkit to evaluate the overall performance of your computer in everyday tasks, from surfing the web, and online meetings to photo/video editing. MSI Alpha 15 scored an average of 6,655.
3DMark emulates and calculates laptop performance when playing games, with FireStrike Extreme based on the DX11 library and TimeSpy based on DX12. MSI Alpha 15 scored 9,209 points in the FireStrike Extreme test and 7,424 points in the TimeSpy test, both high compared to our expectations.
Mainly playing eSports games as the main, MSI Alpha 15 very well meets its needs in two games Fifa Online 4 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, when the fps is always at 144 (except for the cutscenes in Fifa Online 4, then the fps is always at 144). frame rate pushed to 60 fps by the game).
What about more “heavy” games? In a quick test with three games, Far Cry 6, GTA V, and The Witcher 3, MSI Alpha 15 can maintain fps above 100 with the condition that the graphics setting is High or lower. If you are determined to push the graphics settings to Ultra, Alpha 15 still reaches fps above 60, playing smoothly.
Our MSI Alpha 15 review unit features 512GB of Kingston’s NVMe SSD, with 460GB of available capacity. Measured with the Crystal Disk Mark tool, this SSD gives sequential read/write speeds of 1974 MB/s and 975 MB/s, and random read/write speeds of 39MB/s and 138 MB/s. With this speed, Alpha 15 handles tasks such as opening applications and copying data quickly, without bottlenecks.
The CoolerBoost 5 cooling system proved to be effective, when we looped Cinebench R23 for 15 minutes and played games, the temperature recorded on important components did not exceed 92 degrees Celsius. However, because there are two cooling fans, MSI should Alpha 15 can make a loud noise when under heavy load for a long time.
Regarding the battery, AMD Advantage requires a minimum of 10 hours of continuous video playback, but of course, in daily use, no one does. Using a mixture of tasks including surfing the web, watching Youtube, and playing Esports games continuously at a 50% brightness level, our MSI Alpha 15 review unit can last about 4 hours and 30 minutes.
In MSI Center, there is a Super Battery profile, when activated, the CPU only runs at about 2 GHz, the battery life will be extended, but we find that a bit of a waste of the machine’s power, so you should only turn it on when you need it.
AMD Advantage is an exciting and necessary initiative, as it requires a common standard for users to know what they should expect from a product. As one of the “flagships” for AMD Advantage, the MSI Alpha 15 has shown that even the “Red Team” hardware products can deliver a powerful performance that is no less than Intel and Nvidia’s. We expect the AMD Advantage to be even more well-received in the future.
MSI Alpha 15 price and availability
Our MSI Alpha 15 review unit is powered by a Ryzen 7 5800H APU with Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics and Radeon RX 6600M discrete GPU 8GB, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB SSD, with the price of $1,129 on the Amazon.com. There is also 32GB RAM with 2TB SSD and 64GB RAM with 1TB SSD for $1,499, and 64GB RAM with 2TB SSD model cost $1,699.