DPR

MSI Creator Z17 laptop review: Stealing Apple’s thunder

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Excellent design, powerful hardware, and solid display make the MSI Creator Z17 a compelling MacBook Pro alternative for creatives who don’t want to jump on the Apple Silicon bandwagon.

All product photography by DL Cade.

Ever since Intel debuted its 12th-Gen Alder Lake CPUs with a hybrid E (Efficiency) core + P (Performance) core architecture, we’ve been itching to get our hands on one. In theory, this new architecture should give 12th-Gen Intel laptops a boost in both performance and battery life, potentially giving Apple’s latest 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros a bit of competition for creators’ hard-earned money. Our first chance to test this theory comes in the form of MSI’s Creator Z17: a computer that’s targeted at creative types who want a PC laptop that doesn’t skimp on performance, design, or build quality. In other words: a jack of all trades, master of all… or at least a ‘master of most.’

You may remember the MSI Creator 17 (no Z) from our review earlier this year. That was an impressively powerful laptop, but it was still using last year’s 11th-gen CPUs and there were a few things about its design that left us wanting. The trackpad was small, the keyboard was mushy, the whole laptop was quite thick, and the RAM was basically inaccessible unless you were willing to remove the entire motherboard. The 4K miniLED display made some of that worth it, but from a day-to-day use perspective, it was designed as a desktop replacement that spent most of its time in the studio.

For a ‘creator’ laptop to truly compete against the latest MacBook Pros, it needs to be powerful, well built, well designed, and efficient—that’s a pretty high bar.

As it turns out, the MSI Creator Z17 ticks most of those boxes. It’s lighter and thinner than the Creator 17, features a much friendlier and sleeker design and, most importantly, it’s as fast or even faster than the equivalent MacBook Pro in many photo and video editing tasks.



Key Specifications

The MSI Creator Z17 comes in three different configurations depending on the CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage you’d like. The base model features a Core i7-12700H and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070Ti, 32GB of DDR5-4800 RAM and 1TB of PCIe 4.0 NVMe storage for $3,250, while the maxed out model upgrades you to a Core i9-12900H, an RTX 3080Ti, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of PCIe 4.0 storage for a much steeper $4,600.

No matter which configuration you choose, you’ll get a factory-calibrated 17.3-inch QHD+ Touchscreen LCD with a 165Hz refresh rate and approximately 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space:

As TestedMid Range

Most Expensive

Model NumberA12UGST-049A12UHT-048A12UHST-046
CPU

Core i7-12700H

Core i9-12900HCore i9-12900H
GPU

NVIDIA RTX 3070Ti

90W TDP

8GB VRAM

NVIDIA RTX 3080

90W TDP

8GB VRAM

NVIDIA RTX 3080Ti

90W TDP

16GB VRAM

RAM32GB DDR5-4800

32GB DDR5-4800

64GB DDR5-4800

Storage

1TB M.2 NVMe SSD

PCIe Gen4 x4

2TB M.2 NVMe SSD

PCIe Gen4 x4

2TB M.2 NVMe SSD

PCIe Gen4 x 4

Display

17.3-inch QHD+ Touchscreen IPS LCD Display

165Hz

100% DCI-P3

17.3-inch QHD+ Touchscreen IPS LCD Display

165Hz

100% DCI-P3

17.3-inch QHD+ Touchscreen IPS LCD Display

164Hz

100% DCI-P3

Price$3,250$4,000$4,600

The model that MSI sent over is actually the model that I would recommend to most creatives: the one with a Core i7-12700H and an RTX 3070Ti.

The additional performance that comes with a Core i9 processor or an RTX 3080/3080Ti simply isn’t worth the extra $750 – $1,350 for most photo and video editors, and the fact that this laptop is so (relatively) thin and does not use a vapor chamber means it would probably struggle to cool these components anyhow.

If MSI offered a 64GB version with a Core i7 and an RTX 3070Ti for $3,500, that would be a very tempting upgrade – some of the most impressive performance gains we’ve seen in this laptop are probably due to the DDR5-4800 RAM – but they do not. As it stands, our recommendation would be to pick up the A12UGST-049 and then upgrade your RAM and/or storage yourself (more on that later).

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Design, build and usability

The fit and finish of the MSI Creator Z17 is excellent, putting it right up there with the best from Apple or Dell.

The design of the Creator Z17 is, in my opinion, a big step up when compared to the Creator 17 that we reviewed in January. The Creator Z17 is thinner, the trackpad is much larger, the finish is more professional, the keyboard is much-improved, and the 16:10 aspect ratio of the display gives you more vertical screen real estate.

The one place where MSI fell flat is upgradability and, like virtually all of the high-performance 17-inch PCs on the market, battery life. But otherwise, the Creator Z17 represents a huge design and usability upgrade compared to the Creator 17 and a small-but-substantial step up over the smaller Creator Z16.

Build Quality

The Creator Z17 sports a CNC-milled aluminum chassis with basically zero deck or display flex and a clean ‘Lunar Gray’ finish that’s surprisingly resistant to fingerprints and smudges. Like the Creator 17, it feels solid enough to use to fend off intruders; unlike the Creator 17, the ‘Z’ model series is quite a bit thinner and feels much more portable as a result.

It’s not what we would call thin and light, but with this kind of performance, any truly ‘thin and light’ laptop would burst into flame during a long export run.

True, the comparison to the Creator 17 isn’t entirely fair – they are technically two different series in MSI’s lineup – but as of right now, the Creator 17 and the Creator Z17 are the only two consumer-grade 17-inch ‘Creator’ laptops that MSI sells. And if I had to pick between the two, I’d take the Z17 with its cleaner, sharper, and sleeker design language every day of the week.

It looks more professional, and while the MSI dragon logo is never going to scream ‘executive suite,’ the laptop hits a nice balance of cool styling and professionalism.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The Creator Z17 features a large glass-topped trackpad and a full-sized keyboard with per-key RGB lighting control.

The keyboard and trackpad were two of the most frustrating design elements of the Creator 17, and they have been much improved in the Z17. The Creator Z17 has a very large glass-topped trackpad and the full-sized SteelSeries keyboard is well-spaced, with a nice clicky feel and none of the mush we’ve experienced with many laptop keyboards that have this much key travel.

The layout of the keyboard is also improved, with a smaller number pad, which makes the main keyboard feel much roomier without removing any functionality.

If you’re into RGB lighting, this keyboard will let you customize the lighting effects key-by-key using the built-in SteelSeries software. If you’re not, the per-key backlighting still has the benefit of providing a bright and extremely versatile keyboard backlight that illuminates each key equally and shines clearly through each keycap no matter how bright the ambient light levels.

Connectivity

The Creator Z17 features most of the ports you’ll need for photo and video work. In addition to the proprietary power connector (not to be confused with a second USB-A port), the left hand side of the computer sports two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack:

While the right hand side features a USB Type-A port, HDMI 2.1 port, and an SD Express card slot:

Notably missing compared to the MSI Creator 17 we reviewed in January or the ASUS Studiobook 16 OLED we reviewed in March is an ethernet port. This is an unfortunate omission since many creatives like to plug in to high-speed networking when they’re at home or at the studio, where they might be working directly off of network attached storage. A 17-inch laptop like this is often used as a desktop replacement, and an RJ45 port would have been a nice addition.

Still, the Z17’s port situation is slightly better than the ports you get on the latest MacBook Pros, and much better than the ports in something like the Dell XPS 17. Neither of these machines have any USB Type-A ports, and the Dell doesn’t have an HDMI port either. That means carrying around a dongle or two depending on the peripherals you intend to use. With MSI’s configuration, I can confidently leave all the dongles at home.

Upgradability

As we mentioned at the top, upgradability is a big fat disappointment on the Creator Z17. Like the Creator 17, the Z17 hides your RAM where it is extremely difficult and stressful to reach.

If you want to access the two DDR5 RAM slots or the main M.2 slot, you have to remove the battery, take off the screen (yes, really), extract the WiFi card, disconnect at least 5 different extremely delicate ribbon cables, and then, finally, unscrew and gingerly remove the motherboard.

The MSI Creator Z17 is technically upgradable, but accessing the two RAM slots is a daunting process that requires removal of the entire motherboard.

Thankfully, you have one accessible M.2 slot (unpopulated in our model) if you want to add extra storage, and you have access to the WiFi 6 card as soon as you open up the back.

In other words, the Creator Z17 is technically user upgradable, but you’ll have to be comfortable completely disassembling your laptop if you want to do anything more than add storage. Removing the bottom panel and the battery is extremely easy on this model—easier than it was on the Creator 17—but everything else is a huge pain.

The Creator Z17 is technically user upgradable, but you’ll have to be comfortable completely disassembling your laptop if you want to do anything more than add some extra storage.

I do still think the best deal for photo- and video-editors is to buy the entry-level model and upgrade the RAM and/or storage yourself, but if you’re planning to replace the 32GB of RAM with a 64GB kit, be sure to reference a good step-by-step video tutorial online and be extremely careful. There are several points in this upgrade process where you could accidentally shred a tiny ribbon cable and find yourself without a functioning keyboard, touchpad, display, or speakers.

The Pen

One of the most hyped features of the Creator Z17 is the included pen, which boasts over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity and can be used for digital art or as a productivity tool that allows you to move the mouse by hovering up to 1 cm above the display. MSI’s marketing materials make a big deal about how this is ‘the world’s first 17-inch pen-touch laptop,’ but I’ll be honest: I don’t really have much to say about it.

I did try to use it, of course, but I quickly found the experience unnecessarily cumbersome.

For one thing, the pen is not battery-free and must be charged via a tiny little USB-A to USB-C cable that is just begging to be lost in a backpack or camera bag never to be seen again. Strike one. Then I discovered that when you magnetically attach the pen to the side of your computer, which is its intended design, it covers up all of the ports on the left side of the device. Strike two.

When the MSI Pen is magnetically attached to the side of the Creator Z17, it covers up both thunderbolt ports, the headphone jack, and the battery indicator light.

But it was the actual act of using the pen that turned me off from the experience entirely. There is simply no good way to draw on this display with the MSI pen, because the chassis isn’t designed to lie flat in any orientation. The screen does open a full 180 degrees, but even in this orientation, it’s not flat and will rock back and forth as soon as you put pen to display. Unless you find a way to ‘prop’ up the screen from behind, there’s no way to set up a usable drawing angle.

Strike three.

The pen itself works great – I have no real complaints about performance – and the battery lasts a very long time so that’s not as big of an issue as it first seems. But the actual usability issue above means that I defaulted right back to my usual workflow by breaking out my trusty pen tablet any time I had to do real photo editing work.

Battery Life

Finally, let’s talk battery life. One of the advantages of 12th-Gen Intel chips is that they attempt the same trick as Apple’s M-series chips: to try and save battery, they split the workload between E or ‘efficiency’ cores and P or ‘performance’ cores. The idea is that intense tasks like photo or video editing can take advantage of full-fat performance cores while lighter tasks like web browsing or editing spreadsheets will be thrown over to the efficiency cores where they’ll soak up less battery.

This is good in theory, but in my use, the Creator Z17’s 90WHr battery burned through 25% of its battery in just 1 hour of every-day use in ‘Balanced’ mode. That translates into just about 4 hours of battery life when doing simple tasks like writing this review or watching a few videos on YouTube.

This 4-hour battery expectation was confirmed with a simple video test. Streaming a 4K YouTube video at half brightness, the computer was dead by 4 hours and 15 minutes. That does bring this laptop on par with the AMD-based Studiobook 16 OLED, which lasted 4 hours and 17 minutes, but it doesn’t even come close to matching the 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Max, which lasted just over 10 hours.

The takeaway here is that high-powered 12th-Gen Intel laptops like this one do experience a small battery boost over their 11th-Gen counterparts, but it’s not a huge benefit. When you’re dealing with high-powered internals including a power-hungry GPU, squeezing a bit more efficiency out of the CPU just doesn’t make that big of a difference.

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Screen quality

The display on our MSI Creator Z17 covers 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut with solid color accuracy and a ton of control thanks to MSI’s ‘True Color’ app.

We spend a lot of time evaluating the screen of every device we review… probably too much. But the whole point is to decide if the Creator Z17 is worth buying for creative professionals who rely on their computers to do color-critical work.

To that end, we wanted to find out if the Z17’s 16:10 QHD+ panel is worthy of daily driver status for photo and video work, or if it’s just a high-refresh-rate gaming panel with good gamut coverage but poor color performance out of the box. What we found was a solid display with acceptable color performance, but with a few notable drawbacks.

Base Display Specs

The Creator Z17 boasts a 2560 x 1600,16:10 ‘QHD+’ display that’s factory calibrated and claims 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space. This a step down from the 4K miniLED display with 240 local dimming zones that’s found in the Creator 17, but only if you’re interested in HDR editing or need the extra resolution.

Using a more basic SDR display with no local dimming and a peak brightness of just under 400 nits is definitely going to be a disappointment for some, but it’s not all bad news. The QHD panel doesn’t just throw away resolution – it trades that resolution for speed. Where the Creator 17’s miniLED panel maxes out at 60Hz, this one can churn out up to 165Hz, making it a hybrid between a gaming display and a content creation display.

Just like HDR isn’t important to everyone, high refresh rate isn’t either, but I’d argue that it’s a fair trade. If you do a bit of gaming in between photo editing sessions, you’ll enjoy the high refresh rate of the display. And if not, you can always turn it down to 60Hz and earn a few extra minutes of battery life without sacrificing any color performance.

As for the drop in resolution, your mileage may vary, but I found it acceptable. I can comfortably use a QHD display at 100% scaling, but a 4K display, even on a 17-inch laptop, is simply too high-res to use at anything less than 150%, which can lead to scaling issues. Sure, the lower-res screen means you’re losing pixel density, but at this resolution and screen size the display becomes ‘retina’ quality at 19 inches viewing distance. I’d call that ‘good enough.’

Color Gamut and Accuracy

As for the color gamut and accuracy, we’re confident recommending the Creator Z17 for color-critical work, with some caveats.

One of the biggest positives about MSI’s ‘Creator’ laptops is that MSI gives you a ton of control out of the box. Using the built-in MSI True Color app, you can select from several pre-defined color space presets like sRGB, AdobeRGB, and Display P3, you can manually adjust your display’s RGB gains and choose the Native panel gamut through the Customize Panel, and you can use one of three supported colorimeters to re-calibrate your display at home.

We’re confident recommending the Creator Z17 for color-critical work, with some minor caveats.

This is about as close as you can get to the control you’d expect from a dedicated photo-editing monitor, with all of these adjustments applied through MSI’s proprietary ‘True Pixel’ technology before any sort of .icc or .icm profile is applied through Windows Color Management.

MSI’s True Color app allows you to choose between several color space modes, or you can adjust the Native panel gamut manually through the Customize tab.

This begs the question: how good is the ‘factory calibrated’ display out of the box, without any adjustments? And the answer: pretty good, but not perfect.

The display in our review unit did indeed cover 99% of Display P3 , with a Native gamut that’s just a tiny bit more saturated in the blues but otherwise sticks pretty closely to the DCI-P3 primaries. Uncalibrated, out of the box, the ‘Native’ gamut is already surprisingly close to Display P3, but you probably wouldn’t want to use it un-profiled. The factory calibration isn’t quite accurate enough.

This is the first caveat, and there are two reasons for it:

  1. The native blue primary is too saturated, which slightly throws off the panel’s color accuracy if we assign Display P3 as our display profile.
  2. The native white point and gray balance is quite poor.

We could get into a big technical debate about visual adaptation, reference white, and the best way to measure your gray balance’s Delta E here, but if we assume that you’re using this laptop on its own and are adapted to the display’s measured white point—in other words, your eyes expect pure white to look like your display’s current pure white—then the Native gamut logs an average Delta E of 2.4 with a maximum of 5.41 when simulating Display P3:

The MSI Creator Z17’s Native panel gamut covers 99% of the Display P3 color space.

As you can see, the biggest Delta E is at pure blue (see point 1 above) and all the rest of the values above a Delta E of 4.0 are all in the gray (see point 2 above).

But the Native panel gamut isn’t the setting you should use out-of-the-box. If you’re unable to calibrate or even profile the display, your best bet is to use one of the three factory-calibrated color space modes: sRGB, Display P3, or AdobeRGB. All of these perform a lot better than the Native profile if you set your display profile to match, and while the factory calibrated white point is still not properly tuned to D65, it’s not as bad as the Native gamut.

In our testing, the sRGB display mode covers 96.3% of sRGB and comes in at an average Delta E of 1.65 with a maximum Delta E of 3.6. The RGB primaries are a little bit off the mark, hence the lower coverage, but both the average and maximum Delta E values are within what we’d call nominal tolerance, with most of the issues arising in the gray balance:

The sRGB display mode covers 96.3% of the sRGB color space.

Ironically, those high Delta E values in the gray are actually more accurate to D65 in absolute terms. But if your eyes are adjusted to the display’s current white point—which is very blue compared to D65—the more accurate gray values will appear yellow.

The story is much the same with the Display P3 mode, which covers 97.1% of the Display P3 color gamut and comes in at an average Delta E of 1.64 with a maximum Delta E of 3.65. Again, we see that the primaries are slightly ‘twisted’ counter-clockwise from the expected values, but the overall color accuracy is quite high. Almost all of the Delta E values over 2 are in the gray balance.

The Display P3 display mode covers 97.1% of the Display P3 color space.

Finally, the AdobeRGB display mode – which is the worst of the bunch – comes it at 87.7% coverage in our testing, with an average Delta E of 2.16 and a maximum Delta E of 4.5.

These higher values are because the panel isn’t actually meant to cover AdobeRGB completely, which is reflected in the verification report below: the largest Delta E values are recorded for colors in the green and cyan regions, where the panel’s green primary can’t get saturated enough to create the colors between the dashed line (Adobe RGB color gamut) and the rainbow colored line (the panel’s actual output) that connects the Red and Blue points of the triangle.

The Adobe RGB preset covers 87.7% of the Adobe RGB color space.

Assuming you have a colorimeter that’s supported by MSI True Color, like the X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus (now sold as the Calibrite ColorChecker Display Plus), you have two options to get better accuracy than the reported values above.

  1. You can use the built-in calibration tool in MSI True Color to re-calibrate the display mode presets and white point of your display
  2. You could switch to the Native profile, calibrate your white point manually using the RGB and color temperature sliders, and then run a software calibration to dial in your tone curves and generate an accurate display profile

In theory, the best option would be to do both: use the built-in calibration tool to get an accurate white point and more accurate color space modes, and then use a piece of software like X-Rite’s i1Profiler or DisplayCAL to lay down an accurate profile and software calibration on top of that. However, you should not use Option 1.

This is the second caveat if you want to use the Creator Z17 for color critical work: MSI’s built-in calibration tool uses the wrong colorimeter correction, and you should not use it. Based on our testing, the built-in calibration tool uses the ‘White LED’ spectrum to determine how to automatically adjust your display to produce the appropriate white point and accurate sRGB/DisplayP3/AdobeRGB profiles.

MSI’s built-in calibration tool uses the wrong colorimeter correction, and you should not use it.

We don’t have time to dive into the technical details here, but the short version is that MSI tells your colorimeter that the laptop’s display primaries look like this:

Generic ‘White LED’ display spectrum used by most profiling software

But according to our measurements, they actually look like this:

MSI Creator Z17 panel spectrum, measured with a Konica Minolta CS-2000 at 100% brightness.

Unfortunately, there’s no option to change what backlight correction is applied when using MSI’s built-in tool.

This oversight means that improving the accuracy of the built-in presets is out. There’s just no way to do it. However, you can still calibrate your white point even if you don’t have a spectrophotometer or spectroradiometer handy. All you have to do is adjust your RGB gains manually, under the Customize tab, while measuring a white patch using the PFS Phosphor WLED IPS, 99% P3 (MacBook Pro Retina 2016) correction inside of DisplayCAL.

Obviously this laptop isn’t a MacBook Pro, but the display primaries and backlight are very similar, so that correction should give you more accurate results than the built-in tool. This way, you can get close to the appropriate white point manually so your calibration doesn’t have to work so hard.

Screen Quality Takeaways

Ultimately, the Creator Z17 is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to color-critical work.

On the one hand, MSI’s True Color app gives you more control over the output of your display than just about any other laptop we’ve tested, and that should be celebrated. Plus, even if you don’t have a colorimeter handy, the built-in color space presets already get you about 98% of the way there, allowing you to use this laptop confidently out of the box.

On the other hand, the factory calibration leaves something to be desired, missing the D65 white point by a lot, and the built-in calibration tool is basically useless for this particular laptop because (and I’m assuming here) MSI decided to use one single colorimeter correction for every laptop that ships with MSI True Color… the wrong one.

The conclusion is the same as the introduction: we can definitely recommend this laptop for color-critical work. Just be aware of its limitations, especially if you’re going to be using it alongside a high-end photo-editing monitor that’s been properly calibrated.

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Performance benchmarks

The MSI Creator Z17 puts up extremely impressive numbers in all of our performance tests across photo and video editing applications.

The final piece of the creator laptop puzzle is, of course, performance. It’s one of the main reasons we wanted to review the MSI Creator Z17: to see how Intel’s 12th-Gen laptop chips with dedicated ‘performance’ cores compare against the latest from Apple and AMD in a head-to-head showdown.

To that end, we compared the Z17 against three laptops we had available to us at the time of this review: the Apple MacBook Pro 16 with an M1 Max and 64GB of RAM, an Apple MacBook Pro 14 with an M1 Pro and 32GB of RAM, and an ASUS Studiobook 16 with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, an NVIDIA RTX 3070, and 32GB of RAM:

MSI Creator Z17Apple MacBook Pro 14ASUS Studiobook 16Apple MacBook Pro 16
CPU

Intel Core i7-12800H

M1 Pro

10-core CPU

AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX

M1 Max

10-core CPU

GPU

NVIDIA RTX 3070Ti

8GB VRAM

M1 Max

16-core GPU

NVIDIA RTX 3070

8GB VRAM

M1 Pro

32-core GPU

RAM32GB DDR5-4800MHz32GB Unified Memory32GB DDR4-3200MHz64GB Unified Memory
Storage

1TB M.2 NVMe SSD

PCIe Gen4 x4

1TB Integrated NVMe Storage

2TB M.2 NVMe SSD

PCIe Gen3x4

2TB integrated NVMe Storage
Display

17.3-inch QHD+ IPS LCD Display

165Hz

100% DCI-P3

14-inch Retina HDR miniLED Display

120Hz

100% DCI-P3

16-inch 4K OLED Display

60Hz

100% DCI-P3

16-inch Retina HDR miniLED Display

120Hz

100% DCI-P3

Price$3,250$2,900$2,200$4,300

This should give you a good sense of where this laptop stacks up – both in terms of price and performance – against a good range of options.

Dollar-for-dollar, the best comparison would be an Apple MacBook Pro 16 with an M1 Pro, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage ($3,100). Unfortunately we didn’t have one handy, but the MacBook Pro 14 in our comparison should perform almost identically to its big brother, so keep a close eye on that particular comparison in the charts below.

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Our Lightroom Classic test involves importing, generating 1:1 previews, editing, and then exporting 100 RAW files from the Canon EOS R6, the Nikon Z7 II, the Sony a7R IV and the Fujifilm GFX 100, to see how the laptop handles increasingly larger files. For consistency, we simply use 100 copies of the studio scene image from each of these cameras, and before exporting we apply the same custom-made preset to every single image.

At import—a CPU-heavy task—the MSI Creator Z17 cleans up. Both the M1 Pro and M1 Max have the same number of CPU cores, so they perform identically, while the ASUS laptop’s Ryzen 9 5900HX is showing its age. This allows the Intel i7-12700H to breeze through and take a big win at every single file size.

Canon EOS R6 ImportNikon Z7 II ImportSony a7R IV ImportFujifilm GFX 100 Import
Creator Z1700:561:351:454:04
MacBook Pro 141:232:172:225:53
Studiobook 161:292:462:536:09
MacBook Pro 161:232:172:235:54

Exports are a different story. The latest version of Lightroom Classic (11.4) introduced GPU-accelerated exports, and the MacBook Pro 16 with its 32-core M1 Max GPU and 64GB of shared unified memory runs away with the win. However, the MSI with its combination of DDR5 memory and RTX 3070Ti GPU one-ups the ASUS across the board and beats the MacBook Pro 14 in all but the smallest export.

All in all, we measured very impressive performance that stacks up well against the M1 Pro that the Core i7 is meant to be competing against.

Canon EOS R6 ExportNikon Z7 II ExportSony a7R IV ExportFujifilm GFX 100 Export
Creator Z172:054:275:4713:58
MacBook Pro 141:454:566:5414:47
Studiobook 162:154:466:1217:10
MacBook Pro 161:112:383:509:14

Capture One Pro 22

For Capture One Pro, we use the same tests as Lightroom Classic. The only difference is that we set the preview size to 2560, since there’s no option for creating 1:1 previews in Capture One, before editing and exporting the results using the same custom-based preset converted to a Capture One Style.

Imports are a big win for the Apple devices, which churn through preview generation much more quickly than either of the Windows machines. The ASUS with its older AMD processor takes up the rear:

Canon EOS R6 ImportNikon Z7 II ImportSony a7R IV ImportFujifilm GFX 100 Import
Creator Z1700:3500:4800:541:19
MacBook Pro 1400:2700:3400:4000:57
Studiobook 1600:4000:581:131:55
MacBook Pro 1600:2700:3400:3900:55

Exports again go to the MacBook Pro 16 with its high-powered 32-core GPU and copious RAM. However, the MSI Creator Z17 still bests the MacBook Pro 14 overall: beating it when exporting the large Sony and Fujifilm files and matching it when working with the Canon or Nikon files.

The real surprise here was that the ASUS Studiobook 16, which sports a slightly weaker RTX 3070 (non-Ti) and slower DDR4 RAM. Despite these handicaps, it outperformed the Creator Z17 in every single task. This is probably down to optimization in the latest version of Capture One Pro, which may not be using the DDR5 memory to its full capacity yet, but that’s pure speculation. For now, just note that 12th-Gen Intel chips and DDR5 memory isn’t performing as well as we’d expect in C1 Pro.

Canon EOS R6 ExportNikon Z7 II ExportSony a7R IV ExportFujifilm GFX 100 Export
Creator Z171:263:033:396:18
MacBook Pro 141:203:073:476:56
Studiobook 161:252:563:335:56
MacBook Pro 161:032:162:414:39

Adobe Photoshop

To test Photoshop performance, we use an older version of Puget Systems‘ excellent ‘PugetBench for Photoshop’ benchmark. We’re using v0.8 instead of the current version, because this older version still includes a PhotoMerge test (obviously relevant to photographers) and because it runs as a script, which allows it to run on the Apple Silicon optimized version of Photoshop, making this a fair comparison.

The Creator Z17 has an excellent showing in Photoshop, using its more powerful CPU and faster DDR5 RAM to jump well ahead of what we’ve seen from previous high-powered PCs. It still can’t quite best the two Macs in two of the four category scores, but the General and GPU scores are the best of the bunch, bringing it within spitting distance of both Macs overall.

This is far better than we’ve seen from previous PC laptops, which all performed much closer to the Studiobook with far lower General, GPU, and PhotoMerge scores.

OverallGeneralGPUFilterPhotoMerge
Creator Z171201.4132.2126.794.8146.7
MacBook Pro 141211.5120.9108.6105.2153.5
Studiobook 16994.9100.6103.691.0114.1
MacBook Pro 161265.8121.5115.4113.7162.5

Adobe Premiere Pro

To test Adobe Premiere Pro, we manually render and export a 2 minute and 43-second Sony a1 test video shot by our own Richard Butler in 8K ProRes 10-bit 4:2:0. This footage is placed inside a 4K timeline and heavily edited using various LUTs, titles, and effects. As a final test, we also take a 14-second clip from this video and apply Warp Stabilize.

You can see the test video below:

The Creator Z17 can’t quite match up to the more powerful (and expensive) MacBook Pro 16 in our comparison, but it far surpasses both the MacBook Pro 14 and the ASUS Studiobook 16. For MSI, this is the biggest win of all, showing that the Creator Z17 punches well above its weight in the most time-consuming video editing tasks.

This is a huge step up from the 11th-gen laptops we tested, even those with more powerful GPUs. The Creator 17, for example, took almost 4 minutes to render this same project, and about 3:30 to export it to H.264, despite having a Core i9 CPU and RTX 3080 GPU. Some of this performance difference may be accounted for by Adobe updates to Premiere Pro, but most will be due to the faster CPU and faster RAM used by the Z17.

Given the similar price tag, it’s hard to recommend the M1 Pro for video editing when you can get so much more performance out of a laptop like this. The only reason to go Mac in this case is efficiency.

Render AllExport Master FileExport H.264Export HEVC/H.265Warp Stabilize
Creator Z172:4700:112:392:391:55
MacBook Pro 143:4900:153:093:242:12
Studiobook 165:1000:114:314:252:35
MacBook Pro 161:4800:081:421:452:08

Performance Takeaways

Performance is one area where the MSI Creator Z17 really shines, showing off what Intel’s latest CPU can do when its paired with DDR5 RAM and a powerful NVIDIA RTX GPU. We were only able to test it against the laptops we had on hand, but put these numbers up against any of our previous PC reviews and you’ll see just how much of a leap this new hardware provides.

Especially for video editing, where we thought Apple Silicon was going to be untouchable for a while, the MSI Creator Z17 proved us wrong.

Sure, it can’t run at this speed on battery, the way the Apple Silicon Macs can. But if efficiency isn’t your main concern and you’re usually near a power outlet, the MSI Creator Z17 gives you more performance bang for your buck in many applications—especially when video editing.

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Stealing Apple’s Thunder

The MSI Creator Z17 is an excellent all-around laptop that’s equally good as a productivity laptop, a gaming machine, or a creative tool.
What We LikeWhat We Don’t Like
  • 16:10 QHD+ display runs at 165Hz and covers 99% of DCI-P3
  • 12th-Gen Intel CPU and RTX 3070Ti GPU deliver great performance
  • Lots of ports, including an SD Express card slot, HDMI 2.1, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and USB-A
  • Storage is easily upgradable
  • Excellent full-sized RGB keyboard and large glass-topped trackpad
  • Display is QHD, not 4K
  • Factory calibration could be better
  • Built-in screen calibration tool is inaccurate
  • Upgrading your RAM requires extensive disassembly
  • Powerful hardware drains the large 90WHr battery quickly under heavy workload
  • Pen is not very useful for photo editing

The MSI Creator Z17 is an excellent laptop that has a good chance of keeping some potential Apple Silicon converts over on the Intel bandwagon. Performance is essentially neck-and-neck with the equivalent MacBook Pro and far exceeds what we’ve seen from the 11th-Gen Intel and AMD Ryzen 5000 laptops we’ve tested.

When you combine this with excellent build quality, a well-designed layout, and a 16:10 QHD+ display good for gaming and creative work, you get a laptop that’s well-suited for everything from Excel to Elden Ring, and of course, Adobe CC.

Thanks to Intel’s 12th-Gen chips and some very smart design decisions on the part of MSI, the Creator Z17 is the MacBook Pro 16 competitor we were hoping for.

It’s not a perfect device. I’ve already griped about the high difficulty level of RAM upgrades, the mediocre battery life, gimmicky pen, and wonky factory calibrated display. Taking into account that MSI is basically charging the same price as Apple for equivalent specs, and it drops the Creator Z17 down to 4 out of 5 stars.

But if you were worried that nobody would seriously challenge Apple Silicon on the creative front for many years – as we were – it seems that those worries were misplaced. Thanks to Intel’s 12th-Gen chips and some very smart design decisions on the part of MSI, the Creator Z17 is the MacBook Pro competitor we were hoping for. For users who value upgradability and gaming performance, it’s almost certainly the better buy.

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