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MSI Creator Z17 review

The MSI Creator Z17 is a portable but tough creative and gaming powerhouse

(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

From creativity to gaming, the MSI Creator Z17 offers a lot of versatile options for tasks. The phenomenal build quality and feature-rich 17-inch display ads to an admirable experience. Just be ready with deep pockets and expectations of low battery life when pushing the laptop to its limits.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent build quality

  • +

    Great performance

  • +

    Beautiful 17-inch screen

Cons

  • -

    Expensive

  • -

    Weak speakers

  • -

    Tricky magnet on stylus

MSI Creator Z17: Two-minute review

The MSI Creator Z17 is a slight vertical side-step forward for the Taiwanese manufacturer’s creative- and gaming-leaning line of high performance laptops. 

From the start, there’s a lot of improvement from what we saw in our MSI Creator Z16 review. The well-received 16:10 display with a 165Hz refresh rate gets stylus pen support which enhances its task capability (MSI touts the Creator Z17 as the world’s first 17-inch touch screen laptop with stylus support).

Meanwhile, the laptop has some seriously powerful specs. A 12th-Gen Intel Core i9-12900H, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, 64 GB of DDR5 RAM and 2TB storage are all packed into this military-grade chassis weighing a bit under 8 pounds.

Despite the upgrade in power, the Creator Z17 doesn’t sound as noisy as its predecessor when it comes to fan cooling. Be mindful that the quieter fans doesn’t help the audio quality of the Dynaudio speakers that also features DTS. Though there’s clarity in the sonic experience, the volume levels are exceptionally low even on the highest volume.

Then there’s the addition of an HDMI 2.1 port which was missing from the Z16 as well. Adding the port to the Z17 further enhances portability and frees up the three USB ports available. Like many high powered laptops of its ilk, battery life is fine for general tasks like web browsing or media consumption. However, heavy Adobe Suite work and gaming with high visual fidelity will drink the 90WHr battery dry. 

Beyond hardware-specific improvements, there is the MSI Center Pro app handling everything from maintenance to various settings options alongside SteelSeries Engine support to customize the per-key lit RGB keyboard. All of this is backed by an upgradable one-year warranty.

The MSI Creator Z17 is definitely expensive, which is par for the course for such a powerful and versatile laptop, as even its lowest configuration starts out more than most casual users would ever dream of spending on a laptop. 

Potential buyers who are willing to pay the high price of admission will walk away fairly satisfied by everything that comes with the MSI Creator Z17, though it is ultimately a meaningful evolution of its predecessor, but not a complete revolution.

MSI Creator Z17: Price and availability

(Image credit: Future)
  • How much does it cost? Staring at $3,049, £2,699, and AU$5,499
  • When is it out? Available now in the US, UK, and Australia
  • Retail price as reviewed? $4,499, about £3,700/AU$6,470

The MSI Creator Z17 is available now in the US, UK, and Australia, starting at $3,049, £2,699, and AU$5,499.

There are three configurations available now in the US, and they are expensive across the board. They all share the same aluminium Lunar Grey colored chassis, 16:10 QHD display, Windows 11 Pro OS, per-key RGB lighting, Dynaudio speakers, port layout, connectivity options, and include the stylus pen.

Spec Sheet

Here is the MSI Creator Z17 configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: Intel Core i9-12900H
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
RAM: 64GB DDR5-4800
Screen: 17.3-inch QHD+, 165Hz, IPS-Level thin bezel, 100% DCI-P3, 400 nits, touchscreen, support MSI active pen (MPP2.0)
Storage: 2 x 2TB NVMe PCIe Gen4 SSD
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x Type-A USB3.2 Gen2, 1x SD Card Reader, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1x Audio Combo Jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera: 1080p FHD
Weight: 7.40lbs | 3.36kg
Size: 15.04  x 10.24 x 0.75ins| 382 x 260.1 x 19.05mm

At the lowest $3,049 configuration, the Creator Z17 comes with the Intel Core i7, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti with 8GB of video RAM, 32 GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

The mid-range $3,799 option bumps the CPU to an Intel Core i9, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 with 8GB of video RAM, 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage space.

Rounding out the available options is the highest $4,499 configuration, which we reviewed, with the specs listed to the right.

In the UK, there are only two options available for the Creator Z17. The lowest £2,699 configuration features an Intel i9, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti with 8GB video RAM, 32GB of RAM and 1TB SSD. Meanwhile, the higher tiered £4,399 includes a similar CPU and RAM set up in addition to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti with 16GB of video RAM and 2TB in SSD storage space. Neither option includes MSI’s stylus pen, unfortunately.

Australian buyers only get one option that features an Intel i7, 32GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti and 2TB of SSD storage space at $5,499.

MSI Creator Z17: Design 

(Image credit: Future)
  • Military-grade build quality that’s attractive inside and out
  • Speakers sound low even at its highest setting
  • Magnetic stylus pen placement feels off

There’s a middle ground that blends elegance and hardcore gamer-aesthetic with the design of the MSI Creator Z17. 

Inside and out, everything about the creative-leaning laptop has a bite that matches its visual bark. Available only in a Lunar Gray color, the CNC-milled aluminum chassis is military-grade meaning it can take more than a few bumps and drops (we did not test this, however, and neither should you – not at these prices).

Once open, there’s much to appreciate with the beautiful looking display. For creatives, the screen features True Pixel which is verified by CalMan tools and includes 100 percent DCI-P3 color gamut. This is more than enough for creating content on Adobe Suite alongside watching video content and the added 165Hz refresh lends some serious gaming capabilities.

MSI did a phenomenal job in the user input department too. Compared to the Creative Z16, the touch pad is 50 percent larger and just as smooth with finger movements. The keyboard itself features per-key RGB lighting that’s customizable through the SteelSeries Engine app and is comfortable to use for long periods. Keystrokes feel tactile and springy but isn’t especially loud. Below the arrow keys sits a fingerprint scanner that almost sinks into the bottom panel. 

(Image credit: Future)

Port placement is pretty good with the right side holding single HDMI 2.1, USB-A, and SD card slots. The left side is where the power port, two USB-C ports and 3.5mm combo jack is located alongside a small LED battery life indicator.

The layout becomes questionable with the included stylus pen. Though it works very well, the magnetic section of the pen that attaches to the left side of the chassis ends up covering both USB-C ports, headphone jack and battery life indicator light.

(Image credit: Future)

Since the pen charges through USB-C, users are going to need a long enough cord to wrap around the laptop to charge on the free USB-A port on the right side. The pen can be stored magnetically on the base panel’s left side but may be prone to being accidentally knocked off with big hands.

The lack of noise from the keyboard and cooling fans is nice considering how low the speaker volume is. Having accompanying DTS software does help a bit as audio is clear in a quiet room, but outdoor activities are probably going to be better suited to a pair of headphones.

 MSI Creator Z17: Performance

(Image credit: Future)
  • Creative workloads are where the laptop shines
  • Gaming performance equally solid thanks to impressive hardware

Though MSI has a pedigree in the gaming laptop space, the MSI Creator Z17 takes a creatives-first approach. 

MSI Creator Z17 Benchmarks

This is how the MSI Creator Z17 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Cinebench R20 Multi-core: 10,769
3DMark Time Spy: 10,042; Fire Strike: 21,014; Night Raid: 41,239
GeekBench 5: 1,898 (single-core); 12,459  (multi-core)
PCMark 10 (Home Test): 7,527
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 7 hours and 14 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 7 hours 10 minutes
Total War: Warhammer III: 162 fps (1080p, Low); 64 fps (1080p, Ultra)
Cyberpunk 2077:
121 fps (1080p, Low); 67fps (1080p, Ultra)
Dirt 5: (1080p, Low)
149 fps; (1080p, Ultra) 59 fps
Handbrake (1080p, Fast): 61 fps
Blender Monster: 1,574, Junkshop: 883 Classroom: 818
PugetBench Photoshop: 1,217
PugetBench Premiere Pro: 985

For photo and video editors, this laptop is a joy to use, and it scores respectably well in our PugetBench Photoshop and Premiere Pro benchmark tests, delivering 1,217 and 985 points, respectively.

Photoshop can handle high-resolution photos with multiple layers and export to various file types quickly, and pen performance when trying to color in spots or use the spot healing brush was speedy as well.

Editing video on Premier Pro delivered the same fast functionality. The Creator Z17 did well with multiple video layers and special effects without any noticeable slowdown. Rendering and exporting a minute standard HD video for something like Instagram took about three seconds.

Given the overlap between creative and gaming hardware, it's no surprise that the Creator Z17 makes an excellent gaming laptop as well, as it was able to handle a number of AAA titles on their highest settings.

On their lowest settings at 1080p, Total War: Warhammer III, Cyberpunk 2077 and Dirt 5 all delivered frame rates well over 110 fps. Once the settings are pumped to max, they still managed to stay above or at the critical 60 fps mark.

Total War: Warhammer III pushed out an average 64 fps, while Dirt 5 with max settings at the same resolution averaged 59 fps. Surprisingly, Cyberpunk 2077 delivered a solid 67 fps average. Those who want to play the latter two games at a QHD resolution in addition to hardware-intensive rendering options like Ray Tracing may want to do some settings tinkering though.

 MSI Creator Z17: Battery life 

(Image credit: Future)
  • Battery life has improved over the Creator Z16, but not by much
  • Fast-charging gets to nearly 50 percent in less than an hour

Battery life was an issue with the MSI Creator Z16 and it continues with the MSI Creator Z17. Having all this power and portability usually means some sacrifices have to be made, though there are some slight improvements. 

The 90W battery inside the Creator Z17 managed seven hours and 14 minutes during the PCMark 10 Battery Life test. During our HD Movie loop test, the laptop battery burned down after seven hours and 10 minutes.. 

Thankfully, there are more options within the MSI Center Pro app to manipulate various settings to help in battery preservation. One thing is for sure, juice is going to drain quickly if doing some vigorous media editing and gaming. 

There is a quick charge capability that’ll charge to almost 50 percent in under an hour, though.

Should I buy an MSI Creator Z17?

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You are a media curator and gamer
The MSI Creator Z17 features a lot of powerful components for efficient media creation in Adobe Suite and playing some of the graphical intensive AAA titles. 

You need a powerful laptop that can take a beating
The aluminum chassis and military-grade protection mean that the Creator Z17’s portability is diminished by being easily damaged.

You want a feature-rich package
The MSI stylus pen included makes creating on Adobe Suite even easier while the Center Pro app makes maintenance and customization an easy task.

Don't buy it if...

You need something more affordable
With the lowest configuration starting around $3,000 and the highest at $4,499, this laptop is definitely for individuals with deep pockets.

You require better speakers
The Dynaudio speakers included in the Creator Z17 do offer clarity but the volume levels are seriously too low.

You want better battery life
Don’t expect on the Z17 to last a long time away from power outlet as the battery life is average at best.

Also consider

HP Omen 15
For creators and gamers looking for a more affordable solution, the HP Omen 15 Gaming Laptop offers adequate power and portability starting at $1,499. 

Read our fullHP Omen 15 (2021) review (opens in new tab)

Razer Blade 14
Razer may be known for their gaming prowess but the Razer Blade 14 does a fine job in the video and photo editing department as well. 

Read our fullRazer Blade 14 review (opens in new tab)

Lenovo Legion 7i
Creatives that lean more toward gaming might find the Lenovo Legion 7i a bit more suitable due to it offering similar power alongside monitors that can go as high as 240Hz in refresh rate. 

Read our fullLenovo Legion 7i review (opens in new tab)

  • First reviewed on June 2022

Ural Garrett is an Inglewood, CA-based journalist and content curator. His byline has been featured in outlets including CNN, MTVNews, Complex, TechRadar, LA Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and more.