MSI Modern 15 B12M

Affordable 15” laptop with the latest Intel silicon inside

MSI Modern 15 B12M
(Image: © Mark Pickavance)

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In use

As laptops costing less than $1000 go, the Modern 15 is a very nice system to use once you’ve scraped away the software detritus that MSI foolishly placed on it with Windows 11.

Why someone thinks having Norton Security whining like a failing clutch from the first moment you open the machine creates a positive impression is beyond this reviewer's comprehension.

MSI also pre-loaded Office and a bunch of other Microsoft apps of more dubious use to a business user.

Unless they work for a game developer, the Xbox Game Bar is probably not necessary, but they do at least include LinkedIn, so that the person who gets the machine can use it to find another job more easily.

The positive side of the Modern 15 experience is that the machine is generally very snappy, excellent for browsing and easily enough power for all the Microsoft Office applications.

I’m sure there are potential customers who might find the 8GB of RAM constraining, but for general users, it's more than enough, and the NVMe drive delivers rapid booting and a smooth exit from sleep states.

The only major reservation that an IT manager might have about this hardware is how long it might survive when it’s deployed to staff that don’t care if it breaks. The construction doesn’t exude robustness, and it will need a padded sleeve to keep it from becoming scratched in short order.

MSI Modern 15 B12M

(Image credit: Microstar International)



Here's how the MSI Modern 15 scored in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Wild Life: 9,092; Fire Strike: 3,321; Time Spy: 1,526
Cinebench R23 CPU: 1773(single-core); 6,979 (multi-core)
GeekBench 5: 1,669 (single-core); 6,668 (multi-core), 15,723 (OpenCL)
CrystalDiskMark: Sequential Read: 2,540MB/s; Sequential Write: 1,209MB/s
PCMark 10: 4,976 points
PCMark 10 Battery Life (Modern Life): 4 hours and 45 minutes
Windows Experience Index: 8.2

With a new processor series to put through its paces, we eagerly sent the Modern 15 through our software tests to see how it compared to previous Intel mobile designs.

There are two significant takeaways from these results, the first of which is that the new mobile processor line is a dramatic improvement over the previous two generations.

Single-thread results are especially good, and the multi-threading results put many desktop processors to shame. The snag here is that with only 8GB of RAM, the Modern 15 has the processing power for some heavy lifting but not the memory.

It’s also striking how much better the Iris graphics are when compared with the older Intel GPU offerings, with respectable scores on all the video-challenging tests. However, that said, the Modern 15 still isn’t anything we’d play games on or use as a 3D modelling system.

It works well for rendering video, even up to 4K with an external monitor, but the gulf between what this GPU can offer compared with discrete hardware is still very large.

The two elephants in the benchmarking room are that MSI picked a very disappointing NVMe drive with only 2,500MB/s reads and 1,200MB/s writes that owners need to ditch for something better. And, in this SKU, the 39Whr battery doesn’t take you much more than halfway through a working day.

That the American SKU, although more expensive, has a much larger battery might be better, and we hope MSI offers a bigger battery option in Europe.

Even with a slow NVMe drive and Intel’s lack of understanding about how all computers need good graphics these days, the Modern 15 is a decent performer and shows that the new 12th Gen mobile silicon is certainly worth having over the extremely lacklustre predecessors.

MSI Modern 15 B12M

(Image credit: Microstar International)

Final verdict

There are a few minor things, like the single USB-C port and the soldered RAM we wish were different on the Modern 15. However, this is a serviceable piece of hardware that delivers excellent value.

Only time will tell if it can survive deployment in a business environment for more than the limited warranty period, but that’s also true for some of the most expensive laptops.

At this price, this might be an excellent choice for a student if they can be convinced to take care of it.

The highlight of this design is the Core i7-1255U, a major improvement over some of the remarkably mediocre mobile chips that Intel has produced in recent years.

Having the Iris graphics core is also very helpful for those that want to do anything graphical or output video playback in 4K to a TV, but not anything useful for CAD or game development.

A single year of warranty isn’t great, and neither is the stickers that attempt to restrict internal upgrades, even if these are mostly reduced to replacing the NVMe drive and the battery.

With such a short warranty, we’d encourage any owner to find a branded Gen 3 NVMe drive of at least 1TB capacity and sling the Kingston OEM drive that MSI imposed on it as soon as it expires.

Overall, a great machine that could give many years of good service to a careful owner.

Mark Pickavance

Mark is an expert on 3D printers, drones and phones. He also covers storage, including SSDs, NAS drives and portable hard drives. He started writing in 1986 and has contributed to MicroMart, PC Format, 3D World, among others.