MSI Modern 15 (B12M) review

MSI is really trying to promote the artists that help with the creation of their laptops. In this case, the company has paired with Lorraine Sorlet, who has absolutely nothing to do with the performance of the device. However, she has created some really “graceful” artwork to compliment your Modern 15 (B12M).

What we, nerds, are more interested in though is numbers, scores, and results. Let’s start with the first one – up to Core i7-1255U, which has 2 P-cores and 8 E-cores. This is one of Intel’s latest ULV processors, which should make a big disturbance in the mobile force.

As you can imagine, its name is quite self-explanatory – the laptop is aimed at young individuals, who want to express themselves, but still aim to be productive. Well, MSI has a more suitable series for productivity – the Prestige, which brings the more powerful Alder Lake-P processors. However, if you need something to edit a bunch of photos, or work on your school project (diploma, or other), the Modern 15 should be good enough. Or is it? Well, let’s find out.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-modern-15-b12mx/

Contents


Specs Sheet

MSI Modern 15 (B12M) review - Specs

  • AUO B156HAN02.1
  • Color accuracy  4.4  3.7
  • HDD/SSD
  • up to 8000GB SSD
  • M.2 Slot
  • 1x 2280 M.2 NVMe Gen 3 slot  See photo
  • RAM
  • up to 16GB
  • OS
  • Windows 11 Home, Windows 11 Pro
  • Battery
  • 52Wh, 3-cell, 39.3Wh
  • Body material
  • Plastic / Polycarbonate
  • Dimensions
  • 359 x 241 x 19.9 mm (14.13" x 9.49" x 0.78")
  • Weight
  • 1.70 kg (3.7 lbs)
  • Ports and connectivity
  • 2x USB Type-A
  • 2.0
  • 1x USB Type-A
  • 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-C
  • 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps), Power Delivery (PD)
  • HDMI
  • Card reader
  • MicroSD
  • Ethernet LAN
  • Wi-Fi
  • 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth
  • 5.2
  • Audio jack
  • 3.5mm Combo Jack
  • Features
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Web camera
  • HD
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Microphone
  • Speakers
  • 2x 2W, Stereo Speakers
  • Optical drive

What’s in the box?

Inside the package, we found some paper manuals, as well as a 65W power adapter.


Design and construction

There are no bells and whistles when you take the device out of the box either. It has a very calm design, while its single color option is called “Classic Black”, which is more than suitable.

The Modern 15 is pretty thin and light – 19.9mm in profile and 1.70 kilos in weight. Also, it is surprisingly rigid, considering the fact that both the body and the lid are made out of plastic.

Opening the lid is an easy task even for one hand, and the lid acts as a lever by lifting the backside of the base gently off the ground. This provides more airflow to the cooling setup and an arguably better typing posture. Above the matte display, you will find an HD Web camera.

The next thing we have on hand (or under our hands) is the keyboard. It sports a White backlight as well as a NumPad, and good spacing between the buttons. Ultimately, the key travel is pretty average, but the feedback is on the clicky side, which makes the typing experience pleasant.

We were very surprised by the touchpad, or more precisely – by its size (that’s what she said). It also offers a smooth gliding experience, while the tracking is really accurate and fast. We would love to see more of this in other MSI laptops.

Turn the laptop upside down to see the tiny speaker cutouts, as well as the interestingly-shaped ventilation grill. The hot air is exhausted through a slit in between the lid and the base, which is not ideal.


Ports

On the left side, there is the charging plug, an HDMI connector, a USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 2) port, a USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 2) port (with Power Delivery), and an audio jack. The situation on the other hand is a bit underwhelming, as the two USB Type-A ports are only 2.0s. On the bright side, you get a MicroSD card reader.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

To take this laptop apart, you have to undo 11 Phillips-head screws. After that, pry the bottom panel and lift it away from the chassis.

We got the smaller of two battery options, which has a capacity of 39.3Wh. It lasts more than 7 hours of Web browsing, or above 5 hours of video playback. To take it out, unplug the battery connector from the motherboard, and undo all four Phillips-head screws keeping it in place.

Here, the memory is soldered to the motherboard. You can configure the laptop with up to 16GB of RAM. Storage-wise, there is one M.2 PCIe x4 slot, which supports Gen 3 drives.

However, the cooling looks quite decent. There are two heat pipes, as well as a heat spreader over the VRMs. A single fan then blows the heat away.


Display quality

MSI Modern 15 (B12M) in our configuration is equipped with a Full HD IPS panel with a model number AUO B156HAN02.1 (AUO21ED). Its diagonal is 15.6″ (39.62 cm), and the resolution is 1920 х 1080 pixels. The screen ratio is 16:9, and we are looking at a pixel density of – 142 ppi, and a pitch of 0.18 х 0.18 mm. The screen turns into Retina when viewed at distance equal to or greater than 60cm (24″) (from this distance one’s eye stops differentiating the separate pixels, and it is normal for looking at a laptop).

Viewing angles are excellent. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.

Also, a video with locked focus and exposure.

The measured maximum brightness of 281 nits in the middle of the screen and 271 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 5%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen is 6930K – practically matching the sRGB standard of 6500K.

In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective. In other words, the leakage of light from the light source.

Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work. The contrast ratio is good – 1320:1.

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows MSI Modern 15 (B12M)’s color gamut coverage.

Its display covers 54% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.

Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can compare the scores of MSI Modern 15 (B12M) with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale, and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.


Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 26 ms.

After that, we test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “Gray-to-Gray” method from 50% White to 80% White and vice versa between 10% and 90% of the amplitude.


PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

MSI Modern 15 (B12M)’s display doesn’t use PWM to adjust its brightness levels at any point. This makes it comfortable for use during long work periods, without harming your eyes in this aspect.


Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Gloss level measurement

Glossy-coated displays are sometimes inconvenient in high ambient light conditions. We show the level of reflection on the screen for the respective laptop when the display is turned off and the measurement angle is 60° (in this case, the result is 66.5 GU, which is not too glossy).


Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for MSI Modern 15 (B12M) configurations with 15.6″ FHD IPS AUO B156HAN02.1 (AUO21ED).

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at bg.laptopmedia@gmail.com.

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Drivers

All drivers and utilities for this notebook can be found here: https://www.msi.com/Business-Productivity/Modern-15-B12X/support

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with the Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. We got the laptop with a 39.3Wh battery pack. It lasts for 7 hours and 18 minutes of Web browsing, or 5 hours and 17 minutes of video playback.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.


CPU options

As of the time of writing this review, the Modern 15 (B12Mx) can be found with a Core i5-1235U or the Core i7-1255U.


GPU options

Since there are no dedicated GPU options, you are “left” with the integrated solution inside of your CPU.


Gaming tests

cs-go-benchmarks

CS:GO HD 1080p, Low (Check settings) HD 1080p, Medium (Check settings) HD 1080p, MAX (Check settings)
Average FPS 106 fps 93 fps 48 fps

DOTA 2 HD 1080p, Low (Check settings) HD 1080p, Normal (Check settings) HD 1080p, High (Check settings)
Average FPS 100 fps 69 fps 42 fps

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average P-core frequency; Average E-core frequency; CPU temp.; Package Power

Intel Core i7-1255U (15W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
MSI Modern 15 (B12M) 3.63 GHz @ 2.68 GHz @ 78°C @ 44W 3.63 GHz @ 2.65 GHz @ 86°C @ 44W 3.26 GHz @ 2.40 GHz @ 85°C @ 35W

Here, a key part of the high clock speeds is the MSI Center, which lets you use an Extreme Performance preset. This allows you to get the maximum out of the Core i7-1255U, which can maintain a power draw of 35W. Of course, this would have been impossible without a good cooling solution, and the two heat pipes here are definitely doing miracles.

Comfort during full load

In our experience using this laptop, the laptop was never too loud, even under extreme loads. Even the highest temperature of the keyboard was within reasonable values.


Verdict

We don’t yet know what the pricing of this model would be, but we are expecting it to be pretty affordable. After all, we are talking about a plastic body, and two out of three USB Type-A ports being at 2.0 speeds.

MSI Modern 15 (B12Mx)’s IPS panel has a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, a good contrast ratio, and a non-flickering backlight. On the other hand, the display covers only half of the colors found on the Web. Which is another factor leading us to think that the device will receive fair pricing.

We also have to address the fact that there are two battery options – a 39.3Wh and a 53.5Wh unit. We got the smaller one, which is indeed really small for a 15-inch productivity device. However, the 7+ hours of Web browsing were nothing short of impressive. Still, we would advise you to get the larger battery if possible.

And in terms of performance… boy, does it deliver! The 15W chip can be expected to run at 35W thanks to the great work in the cooling department. That makes the laptop an absolute beast in photo editing, putting to shame some of the most powerful mobile processors of the last couple of years. Intel really outdid themselves, and manufacturers like MSI are here to reap the benefits.

So, we mentioned that we are not entirely happy with the I/O, because of a couple of USB Type-As that run at slow speed. Well, on the bright side, there is a MicroSD card reader, as well as an HDMI connector, and a pretty fast USB Type-C port. Unfortunately, there is no Thunderbolt certification, which is a bummer – and another prerequisite for an affordable price tag.

Of all things, we saw with the Modern 15 (B12M) the most unsettling one was the lack of memory upgrades. Once you purchase your machine – that’s it. Finito. The RAM – motherboard marriage will last longer than the longevity of the marriage of the average American. For your peace of mind, get the maximum 16GB out of the store and never think about it again.

Quite frankly, the Modern 15 (B12M) has its quirks. But it feels like a good purchase (once we know the pricing we’re going to solidify our statement). Until then, you can check out how the MSI Prestige 15 (A12Ux) did when we put it through its paces.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-modern-15-b12mx/

Pros

  • MicroSD card reader
  • A backlit keyboard with big keycaps, and a large touchpad
  • Doesn’t use PWM for brightness adjustment (AUO B156HAN02.1 (AUO21ED))
  • Has a good contrast ratio and comfortable viewing angles (AUO B156HAN02.1 (AUO21ED))
  • Sleek design with rigid structure
  • Great cooling


Cons

  • 54% sRGB coverage (AUO B156HAN02.1 (AUO21ED))
  • No Thunderbolt
  • Two out of three USB Type-As work at 2.0 speeds
  • Soldered memory

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